Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Devotion- Norman Vincent Peale Tithing

A large part of my life is my religious faith. One of the reasons I want to get out debt is so I can give more. In The Complete Cheapskate by Mary Hunt, giving is her first major principle in getting out of debt. (The other two in order are saving and paying off debt.) A basic belief that she has and I share is that we are stewards of what God has given us and we are to give back. It is not the give-to-get-rich philosophy touted by several others. She had a great story by Norman Vincent Peale included in her book about tithing.

Back in 1930, I was a young married minister in Syracuse, New York. My salary, which had been a handsome (in those days)$6,000 a year, was cut twice-first to $5,000, then to $4,000. We had no manse or home supplied by the church. Everyone was frightened and depressed. Businesses were failing. Nobody could borrow money; there was no money to be had. Men used to greet one another grimly by saying, "Have you had your pay cut yet?" Everyone had to take several cuts before that depression ended, and many people lost their jobs altogether.

With a salary of $4,000 a year, I just didn't see how we could get by. My salary was the only income we had. I was helping my younger brother with college expenses, and I knew he had to count on that. The pressure got worse and worse. I hated to burden Ruth (my wife) with my fears. One night I went out alone and walked through Walnut Park near our little apartment, and for the first time in my life I felt icy terror clutching at my mind and heart. I was terrified. When I finally went home, I said to Ruth, "We're in a desperate situation. We can't pay the bills. What are we going to do?"

And her answer really startled me. She said, "We're going to start tithing."

"Tithing?" I echoed. "We can't! It's impossible!"

"Not impossible," Ruth said. "Essential. You know what the Old Testament promises to those who give 10 percent of everything to the Lord." I can see her yet, standing in the kitchen and quoting, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse... and prove Me now herewith said the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachai 3:10).

"We're going to do that," she said stoutly, "because tithing is an act of faith and the Bible says that if we have faith even as small as a grain of mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for us. We have to start imagining God's prosperity."

So we did it. And Ruth was right. Money didn't pour in, but there always was enough. Furthermore, the act of tithing calmed my fears and stimulated my mind so that I began thinking. I started imagining. I knew I had one small talent: public speaking. And so I offered myself as a public speaker wherever one was needed. I spoke at civic clubs and garden clubs and graduations and community gatherings Sometimes I was paid 5 or 10 dollars, sometimes nothing at all. But it helped. What a thrill I felt when I received the first $25 fee. Then someone who heard me speak offered me a chance to go on radio. Again, I received no money for this, but the number of speaking invitations increased. So one thing led to another and gradually we began to get our heads above water.

I am convinced that tithing did it. Ruth and I have been tithers ever since. Through the years in sermons and talks I have recommended tithing to thousands of people and hundreds have been persuaded to try it. Of those hundreds, not one has ever told me that the experiment failed, that he regretted it, or that it was a mistake. Not a single person.

It's almost as if there is an invisible reservoir of abundance in the universe that can be tapped if you will just obey certain spiritual laws. The word abundance, I'm told, come from a Latin phrase meaning to "rise up in waves." When you tithe, it does seem as if little waves of abundance start rising up all around you.

So if you have financial difficulties, face up to them not just with courage and intelligence, but also with warm-hearted generosity and concern for others.

Why have that long story? I told you I live by faith. I obviously have made my mistakes so why not realize my weaknesses and failures and turn to my faith? Another thing that happened to Peale was that he didn't focus on what he didn't have (money), and focused on his gifts (public speaking) and what he had (wife).

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