I didn’t need to call him. I knew the answer.
After my friend responded, I sat at my desk and sobbed. It was the first time during the stay-at-home order I had cried. It came fast and hard. I cried mostly for the TV situation, but probably a little bit about everything else happening in the world too.
I knew, I knew, I knew.
I just didn’t want it to be true. I was looking for someone to tell me it was okay even though I knew it wasn’t okay.
I let the rest of the day be about feeling sorry for myself, for the opportunity I was passing up, then I emailed the producer first thing the next morning.
My husband and I took some time to talk and pray through your kind request, but we don’t feel we’re called to share our tithing story with your network. [The scripture and principle they wanted to use to share our story] doesn’t align with our understanding of the Bible.
Thank you for the offer, and I wish you well on your search.
Then I exhaled a long-held breath.
Last year around this time, I had lunch with a friend. I was sharing about a tough decision I was supposed to make and how hard I was fighting what I knew in my bones to be right.
She said, “It sounds like you have a maturity issue. You know what’s right but still want to do things your own way. Even when you know it will end up hurting you.”
I flipped the table in response to her comment.
Just kidding. I nodded thoughtfully, because I imagined that what’s a mature person would do. Then I went home and spent a lot of time thinking about how my innate need to be defiant might be affecting my spiritual life.
Flash forward almost exactly a year to an email from a producer wanting to spend the day filming me and my family for a TV segment millions of people would see.
Obedience is hard but worth it. Always. Always. Always.
Not because it offers a financial payout. Not because this obedience ensures a bigger and better opportunity later. Not for any other reason than when I decided to follow Christ I did it because I said His way is better. No matter what, His way is better.
Even when I don’t understand.
Even when something else looks fun.
Even when, for a moment, something seems shiny and easy and, on the surface, good.
I don’t want easy. I don’t want fake. I don’t want the quick return the world has to offer. Because in the end, it will all have been for naught.
That’s what the prosperity gospel promises: quick returns, easy wealth, and fake health. Why hope for heaven if God can give me everything I want right here on earth?
As I prayed and waited for God to make the TV opportunity feel okay, I thought a lot about the “ends justifies the means” argument. How many times Christians accept or allow things they know are not of God because the end result is something they believe God would want. We use this argument for politics. We use this argument for relationships. We use this argument for how we spend our time and money.
The “ends justifying the means” argument twists scripture to make God’s wants, needs, and desires line up with ours. It is a convenient reading of the Bible, a wonderful lie that God believes everything we do. It makes us feel safe and smug and full of right answers.
We use the argument to justify bad choices or behavior because the result might bring God glory. You know, because the Bible is full of stories about how God calls us into sin so He can show how great He is.
You know, all those stories and parables where we’re encouraged to sin.
I rolled that idea around in my head a lot. We’ve struggled with a lot of hard stuff in our marriage that God could use to encourage or help others, I thought. He could be glorified and honored and we could show so many people the grace and mercy God is known for!
But none of those arguments held much weight.
God doesn’t “need” me to fight for Him.
God doesn’t “need” me to ignore some parts of His commands to meet some goal He has.
God doesn’t ask me to bend some rule for his good.
God doesn’t need me to scheme and accept sin and pick the lesser of two evils to accomplish His will.
All those things make it sound like my God isn’t very powerful.
God wants my obedience.
He wants my integrity.
He wants me to say I trust His ways more than my own.
He wants me to be mature enough to admit I don’t understand, but I’ll be obedient anyway.
He wants a relationship with me and through that relationship I’ll grow to be more like him.
He wants my actions and choices to always point toward Him and not myself.
I don’t pretend to know what comes next. I don’t hold my breath for my reward, for my payback. I have no doubt my story was going to be used in dangerous ways to shame and guilt people into giving their money away in hopes of a big return from God. I know anything that involves shame or guilt isn’t of God.
I can tell you that as soon as I sent the email, I felt lighter than I had since it arrived a few weeks prior. It didn’t hurt, I didn’t regret it or wonder, I did what I believed was right based on how God is forming and changing my heart, and it felt like a deep, cleansing breath.
Actually, here’s what I got from being obedient to what God was asking: I got peace, contentment, and freedom. Nothing worth money but absolutely priceless.