Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Will a man rob God? I heard this every Sunday for the first 12 years of my life. I always knew when it was time to dig deep and produce what ever change my mother put in my squishy red plastic wallet, as the deacons passed the offering tray around. I also knew to only put a few coins at a time so that each time the tray came down the aisle I would have something to give. I always felt terrible when I had nothing to give.
Shortly after joining the LDS church my parents decided they would return to our family church (Pentecostal). Although they felt they should return to the pentecostal church, they allowed me to continue to attend the LDS church. Every Sunday my parents would drop me off at the ward building, and they always made sure I had a few dollars for the offering tray - a couple of times I even got twenty dollars! YEP... I said they gave me money for the offering tray.
Remember I was only 12, so I did what most 12 year olds would have done, I pocketed the money. What? I never asked for money for the offering tray, my mother assumed that the LDS church collected offerings and tithing like some of the other churches did. My parents always told me never to assume anything! "When you assume" they'd say. "you make an "a&&" out of "u" and me. I guess that doesn't apply in a situation like this?
In the LDS church, tithing is more of an honor code thing, those who are going to pay it will and those who aren't won't. Nobody is beaten over the head with how much we give or needed to raise for the day. Unlike the church I had grown up in, where if not enough was collected, we kept passing around the tray until the desired amount was reached. At the LDS church, there was no preacher that was going to get up every Sunday and ask the thought provoking question "Will a Man Rob God"? So I justified my actions by conducting my Sunday transactions like a military officer. "Don't ask, don't tell". My parents never asked if I paid offerings. My Bishop never asked me if I would "rob God" so I continued to justify my actions. It was easy and I was rich, until that "Great and Dreadful Day".
The Great Day Of The Lord:
14: The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
15: That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16: A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.
17: And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.
The day started off like any other day. School was great, the walk home was typical. As I approached my house I was excited to see that the missionaries had stopped by. When I walked in the house the energy in our home seemed a little weird. Everyone looked like they were going to cry. I thought that Elder Young (name change) our fav missionary was getting transfered. Elder Young was fun, knew his scriptures and was cute. He was fun to be around because he joked a lot. "What's up, Young"? He didn't really look at me, he just glanced, and shrugged his shoulders. Not the usual response, he didn't even smile, and there were no jokes. When I turned to address his companion Elder Green, I noticed that it wasn't Elder Green at all, it was the Bishop. Hey Bishop! I was excited to see the Bishop, he hadn't ever been to my house before. "Hello", the Bishop seemed happy to see me too. Everyone looked so serious, I didn't really know what to say so like a dummy I asked "what are you doing here?" I don't know why I asked that question, but I wish I hadn't.
"Your mom called me this morning, she wanted to know why I hadn't cashed any of her tithing checks. (Note to self and all others listening, always give the Bishop the tithing checks!).
Personal thoughts: Can a 12 year old have a heart attack? Can Jesus take me now?! Do I have the power to will myself to die or faint? Can I make my head explode? What do I have to do to make my head pop off my neck, right now? How come I don't have a super power?? Dang! Dang! Dang!!!
My mom's voice was cold like steal, and flat, "have you been stealing the Lord's money"? She asked without blinking an eye. Stealing from the Lord? She made me sound like a cold hard criminal. I didn't say that, although I did think it. I just had the blank stare in my eyes that my mother hated, and the more I tried to focus, the dumber I looked. I couldn't speak, the room was quiet and seemed to be closing in on me. Everyone just kept looking at me waiting for a response. The tears came, and the confession followed.
Now, I don't know how the punishments went down at ya'lls house, but at my parents home the calm, cold voice was the worst. There was no yelling, there were no time outs (actually where I come from time outs were for athletes), there was no whippings (although that would have been so much easier for me) My mom looked at the Bishop and wanted to know when I would be confessing my sins before the Lord and the church. The Bishops response was at first slight laughter then realizing that my mother was serious he told her that we didn't do that in our church. I was happy that the LDS church was different. He did explain to her that I did need to repent and he wanted to meet with me on Sunday.
For most parents, the Bishops response would have been satisfying enough. Not for my mama, she had something else in mind for me. When I looked over at my father he just gave me that poor pitiful child look, and looked away. He didn't say anything to me. He didn't have to, I knew he was disappointed. Knowing that I had disappointed my father broke my heart. For the first time in a long time I couldn't wait to be banished to my room. One more little glance at my Dad and Elder Young and I knew I was for sure going to HELL! I only wish it would have been before Sunday which was two whole days away.
My mother woke me up early Sunday morning. I got dressed for church, we got in the car, and my dad drove to my uncle's church, my uncle's pentecostal church! I reminded my mom that I had a meeting with the Bishop at my church. "Not before you confess your sins before the saints at "our" church". Yes, brothas and sistas, I had to confess before my God, my uncle, and all the saint's of Greater Victory Church of God and Christ, that indeed "a man would and had robbed God". As I confessed my sin to the members of the congregation, they looked at me in shock, my cousins laughed, but some of the older members shouted out a few , "Oh bless her Lawds", "Watch her Jesus", I even heard someone say "Keep her Jesus, keep her Lord"! The comment that stood out the most to me was from ** Mother Harris (God rest her soul) "if you will steal from God, you will steal from me" then she clutched her purse like I was going to snatch it and run... Really? You see how people act sometimes? I used to go to Mother Harris' house all the time to help her clean, and she never paid me anything (not that it was an issue at the time). I'd never stolen anything from Mother Harris and I wasn't about to start.
Anyway, after confessing my sins to all the Saint's at Greater Victory Church, talking to the Bishop was a cake walk. I learned my lesson! No, there's no need for any of you to clutch your purses or check for your wallets when I'm around. I do think that we (LDS) should ask more often "Will A Man Rob God"? What? Don't act like ya'll have never kept a little spare change. It's time to confess your embarrassing sins that you can laugh about now. Who called you out and how did you respond?
**Mother of the Church~ The Elderly sister in the church. Sometimes even the pastors wife, or pastors widow. She is highly respected and usually sets the tone where behavior, dress, and standards are a concern. Church Mother usually helps decide what is socially acceptable for the women of the church. As a sign of respect this person is referred to as Mother.
Sunday, November 1, 2009