Some time ago, a friend told me she felt it was best to pay all her bills first, then pay her tithing. I could understand her feeling: I know how hard it can be to make ends meet. Sometimes we feel we are in never-ending debt.
Most of us, at one time or another, have felt the temptation to pay important bills before tithing and catch up later, maybe next month. But an experience I had some years ago has convinced me that no excuse is good enough for making tithing a second priority.
In the spring of 1978 I opened my own typesetting business in Denmark. Suddenly my earnings doubled what they had been when I worked for someone else. I made a budget and kept careful books and tax records. Then I conceived the idea of opening a tithing bank account. It was actually a savings account, but I called it my tithing account and thought it to be a tremendously good idea. After just a few months, I was shocked to see how much money my tithing account contained.
“Someday I’ll make a check out for the whole amount and give it to my bishop,” I thought. But the more the account grew, the harder it became to make out the check. Besides, it became fun to add up the figures.
After six months with lots of work and lots of money, orders suddenly stopped coming in. As day after day passed with no new orders, I began to worry as my savings grew low. “Well,” I consoled myself, “you can always borrow from your tithing account should this continue much longer.”
When I told my mother my idea, she immediately said, “You don’t touch the money you owe to the Lord!” My mother was a strong-willed woman, and even as an adult I felt rebellious if I didn’t obey her. She continued, “The sooner you get your tithing money to the bishop, the better. Make out a check today for the full amount and take it to him.”
I explained that my rent, car payment, taxes, and utility payments were all due and the only money I had was in my tithing account. “Never mind,” my mother said, “You had better pay the bishop today.”
Even though I didn’t like it, I knew she was right. So I went straight to the bank. Never have I been so tempted in all my life as I was that day to make the check out for cash to myself, but I prayed to the Lord to make me strong.
Still, I felt so heavy when I handed the check to the bishop. How could I save my business and my home without money coming in? My mother said, “Your oldest daughter is old enough to fast with us. Let us pray and fast together for twenty-four hours.” And so we did. After the fast, three days passed and nothing happened. “Let’s repeat the fast,” my mother said. Again we fasted, and the very next day the mailman knocked at my door with an order from a brand-new customer—a big order that would keep me busy every day for the next month. Tears came to our eyes, and my mother, two daughters, and I bent our knees to thank the Lord for his mercy.
But then an inexplicable thing happened. Every time I tried to code the job on my computer, I couldn’t get it right. I tried over and over again, but the computer wouldn’t accept the codes—codes I had used a thousand times before.
I felt I had to pray about this odd experience. After I prayed, I picked up the manuscript and suddenly had the strange sensation that my hands were dirty and greasy. I scrubbed my hands, then went back to work on the manuscript. As soon as I touched it, my hands felt filthy again, although it was printed on clean paper.
By this time I was so disturbed that I began to cry. Once more I went to my knees and asked the Lord to help me. When my prayer ended, I stayed on my knees for a little while and felt that I should read the manuscript—not from the beginning, but from the very last page.
In my eagerness to get this job done, I had never thought to read it. I found that it was a proposed student manual for state colleges throughout Denmark.
As I began the book from the back page, I was shocked to find on the second-to-last page the worst blasphemy of Jesus Christ I have ever read. And the author had used verses from the Bible to support his libelous claims. I wept to think that thousands of young students throughout the country I love so much would be exposed to this blasphemy.
Suddenly I froze. One voice within me said, “Don’t typeset this, Mette. You’ll forsake Christ if you do.” Another voice said, “The book will be printed whether you typeset it or not. And you will be able to pay your bills for the next month if you do the work.”
Again I had to pray for strength. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so much as I did in those days. Then I called the bookprinter and told him I was sorry but I could not do this job for him. He was surprised but admitted he hadn’t had time to read the manuscript himself. I asked if I could read the offensive passage to him. After I did, he asked if I was a religious person. I briefly told him of my background as a member of the Church. He respected that and asked me to return the manuscript so that he could find someone else to typeset it. I thought surely I had lost him as a customer forever.
Once more my mother, daughter, and I fasted and prayed. Four days went by with no orders, no work. During these terrible days, I almost regretted sending the job back. I pleaded with the Lord. I even accused him: “How can you forsake me now? I paid all I owed in tithing, I got an offer to carry me over, but returned it because of my faith in you. Where have I failed? Please help me.” Even my children would ask, “Mom, how can we go to church on Sunday if the Lord refuses to help us?”
Then on the fifth day, when even my steadfast mother had begun to doubt, the doorbell rang. The mailman standing outside said, “I’ve got so much stuff for you it will take me two trips.” He had brought me eight big orders from different customers all over Denmark, orders that would take me six months if I worked night and day.
Truly, we felt the Lord had opened the windows of heaven for us. Never after that time did I want for work. The bookprinter I had returned the manuscript to became my greatest customer.
Never since have my daughters and I felt it hard to pay our tithing. Occasionally I am tempted when times are hard, but I can never deny the blessings the Lord has so generously poured out. Nor can I forget the lesson He gave: paying tithing is the first priority on money earned.