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Ben Patterson- When Lauretta and I were first married, we were very poor. The three necessities of food, clothing, and shelter weren’t quite within our grasp. We could manage only 2 out of 3- not bad as a batting average, but miserable if you’re trying to live. My employment was selling swimming pools. The first 6 months we were married, I sold 2. One Saturday morning the company I worked for asked me to drive down to Irvine, California, to pick up a payment for a pool sold by one of the other salesman. How humiliating! Oh well, since Irvine was near Newport Beach, Lauretta and I decided to make a day of it and have a picnic at the beach after I picked up the check. The man who bought the pool was a Christian psychologist of the Pentecostal variety, a mix of pop psychology and Sprit filled enthusiasm. He was friendly and insisted that we come into his kitchen for a cup of coffee before giving us the check. As we sipped from our mugs, he launched into a lecture about the joys of tithing. At first I was puzzled at this, but I put up with it so we could get the check and get out. But as the minutes passed, I found myself feeling increasingly like he had read my mind, or my mail. It had been years since I had given much to anything but my own whims and desires. I had felt uneasy about my selfishness, but now I was feeling something different. It wasn’t guilt; it was more like longing, but for what? Had I been asked to name it I would have said I was longing for freedom. After he wrote the check, he walked us out. As we pulled away, my heart was pierced by what he had said. My lack of generosity extended to places beyond my pocketbook. As Lauretta and I drove down the Costa Mesa Freeway toward the Pacific Ocean, I asked her how she felt about what that man had said. She replied that she too was deeply touched. As we talked, we decided to make a go of tithing. So we couldn’t afford food, clothing, shelter- so what? Had not Jesus promised that our Father in heaven would give us all we needed if we sought first His kingdom? The weeks that followed were just like stories I had read in Christian magazines. Somehow the money was always there. Once the amount we needed for rent appeared the day it was due, sealed in an envelope stuck in our mailbox. Another time we got a check for $100, the exact amount we needed for car insurance. And that was only the beginning of the fun in freedom and generosity as we started to not only give to the church but also to others.

Our Father God loves it when his children try to act like him. He loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). The Greek for cheerful is the word behind our English word hilarious. All translations opt for cheerful over hilarious. Let’s say it’s hilarious. That’s the way it is: broke, self absorbed young marrieds become Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus; poor Macedonians become big time spenders; Pentecostal psychologists become prophets. Hilarity abounds.

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