The Power of a Story Shared

As my roommate burst through the door I wondered what his excitement could be all about. “We really don’t believe God!” he announced; “we really don’t.”

“Really,” I retorted. “You better explain this one.”

“Here in Malachi, God challenges us to put Him to the test, to see if He is as good as His word. I don’t think we really believe God. If we did, we’d seize this opportunity.”

Testing God seemed like a novel idea, and the challenge intrigued me. As a Christian, returning tithes and offerings was a way of life, but it never occurred to me that this could be used as a test of God’s faithfulness. What would happen if I did?

I was a grade-12 student working hard to pay tuition and meet other financial demands associated with life at a boarding academy. I had my tithe automatically deducted at payroll, attended church faithfully, and regularly put a little money into the collection plate; little because I had little. Never had it occurred to me to give all, to give sacrificially.

I covenanted to give God everything I had—a whole $5! It had been earmarked for some desperately needed personal items, but I was interested in knowing how God would respond, if at all. So the next Sabbath, ceremoniously between God and me alone, I yielded the entire amount.

Mission accomplished, I waited for that feeling of peace I was sure would follow. There was none. Instead a nagging conscience censured me for my foolishness. I felt empty-handed, frustrated, and even angry.

Sunday and Monday passed expectantly. By Tuesday the importance of the test diminished. Routinely I went about my duties until I pulled a curious-looking envelope from my mailbox. The words “just thinking of you today and thought you could use this” were neatly written on a card that contained a $5 bill. The postmark was dated the Friday before I had put God to the test.

I was elated. God is real! True, I had wished for a little more, but it was sufficient evidence for me. To me, this was not coincidental, since this aunt had never written before and was neither a member of the church nor wealthy. In my opinion God had passed the test.

Seven years later I was conducting home Bible studies in my first pastoral district with Mrs. Dyck, a widow and welfare recipient. During our weekly studies I covered most of the Bible doctrines and was now sharing the importance of faithfully returning tithes and offerings. Midway through, she rose from her place, opened her cupboard doors, and emphatically retorted, “My cupboards are empty, there are still two weeks until my welfare check arrives, and you’re suggesting I return tithe and offerings! IMPOSSIBLE!”

Her dilemma was obvious, and I had to agree. Then God’s challenge to me seven years earlier flashed into my memory. I relayed my experience, but she remained unconvinced and unmoved. My attempt was unsuccessful.

At seminary one year later, my wife and I received a letter from Mrs. Dyck. “I was in church on Sabbath,” she began, “and as the minister called for the offering I felt impressed to put God to the test, as you had done. I had $1.35 and originally decided I’d give the 35 cents, but instead I put in the $1. I needed the 35 cents for bus fare home. You’ll never believe what happened! As I stepped off the bus, at my feet lay a $20 bill. Since no one else was around to whom it might belong, I picked it up and that week bought a much-needed pair of shoes. That week my daughter sent a letter with $15. Although she doesn’t have much money, she said because I am the only mother she has, she wants to share her little bit with me. And then when the lady in the apartment next to me replaced her stereo, she offered me her old one. Now I can even play my Sabbath records. Thank you for helping me to know that God is real.”

“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1, RSV).

By Kenneth Wiebe

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