In 1990, soon after we got married, Sister Teh became pregnant with our first child. When she was about 7 months in the family way, I began to worry about how I would pay for the hospital bill when she delivered our baby. At that time, both of us were working but our combined income was small. It did not help our finances one bit that I was still putting myself through school. We always paid tithing and it always came first. After paying tithing, giving fast offerings, and donating to the ward missionary fund, the money left over was barely enough for food, apartment rental, transportation, and my school tuition fees. We did not have any savings because there was no money to spare. Although I remember some days when there was no money for food, there was always money for tithing.
During this time, the coming birth of our first child had been the cause of much anxiety and the subject of most of my prayers. It was obvious that I needed to find an additional source of income so that I could pay for the hospital bill. There were no immediate prospects on the horizon but we continued to exercise faith in the Lord’s promises.
One day, I received a phone call from an uncle who resides in Davao. He informed me that he had business arrangements with several farmers and would soon start shipping fresh fruit to Manila. He said that he needed a representative in Manila who could look after his interests. When I heard this I immediately seized upon the opportunity and told him that I would do it. I also assured him that I had the time - even though I was working full-time, had many work-related travel, going to school at night, and serving in the bishopric.
So, after work from Monday to Friday I would go to school from 6:00-9:30 in the evening. From school I would go directly to the Divisoria market and look after my uncle’s produce which were sold through one of the fruit stand owners along the street. Business is often brisk during the hours of 10:00 pm to 12:00 midnight. Then, there is a lull between midnight until 2:00 in the morning. I took advantage of this lull by renting a native recliner seat and getting a little sleep or doing some homework. Selling would then pick up again from 2:00 am to 5:00 am.
At 5:00 am, I would sit down with the stall owner and compute the income derived from the sale of my uncle’s produce. The stall owner would then give me the money less his commission. I would then go home, shower and leave for work. During my lunch break, I would go to the bank and deposit my uncle’s money. Then in the evening after school, the process would begin all over again.
This went on for almost two months and it allowed me to save up some money. I know that because of our faithful payment of tithes, God sustained me through the 2 months of a grueling schedule and lack of sleep. However, the most obvious blessing during this entire experience was the amount of money that I was able to save. It was exactly the same amount I needed to pay the hospital after Sister Teh gave birth to our son. This experience has been a testimony to us of how God keeps His promise. It certainly was, for us, a literal opening of the windows of heaven to allow us to take care of our needs.
God often tests His people. He wants to find out if we will put him first in our lives. Letting go of money and other material things in exchange for intangible spiritual or temporal promises is often difficult. It is a good test whether our loyalty is to God or to material things. When we do not pay tithing, it is an indication that our money is becoming our god. This is alarming in light of the fact that God has said – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
When we obey the law of tithing, we also should not give the Lord a deadline. There is a tendency for some to expect the material blessings to come at a certain time of their own estimation. This is how most lose their confidence in His promises. They are faithful in the beginning but then cease to obey after some time when their expectations are not met. We need to recognize that all things are done according to the Lord’s will and timetable and not ours.
“Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled? I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above.” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:31-33)
A story was once told of how men sometimes approach the payment of tithes. Using ten apples as an example, we sometimes will immediately eat nine apples and then slice the tenth in half. We will then eat one of the halves and then raise the other half and ask the Lord to take a bite. Remember, tithing means one-tenth. Anything that is less than a tenth of our increase is not tithing and is not acceptable to God.
One of the purposes of mortality is for us to gain physical bodies. At the same time, however, we are expected to overcome the natural tendencies of the flesh or the “natural man” that come with it. A couple of the descriptions of the “natural man” used in the scriptures are greed and rebellion. The law of tithing will help us overcome these tendencies so we can “put off the natural man and become a saint – willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him,...” (Mosiah 3:19)
As we overcome the natural man, our faith in Jesus Christ increases. As individual members increase in faith, families are strengthened. When families are strengthened, the stakes of zion will likewise be enlarged and strengthened.
God is constantly calling out – “prove me now herewith; prove me now herewith.” It is my prayer that we will listen and give heed. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.