Ronnie adjusted several more numbers in the spreadsheet titled "Monthly Expenses" as she rubbed a throbbing pain in her left temple. She hit the enter key on her computer keyboard only to be delivered the same gut-wrenching result. The bold, red number in the total column did not lie. Her family’s finances were completely out of balance.
The hard truth was that there was not enough income to cover the list of commitments that had expanded so quickly over the past few years. Mortgage and automobile loans, grocery bills, utilities, insurance, gasoline, piano lessons, hair cuts, potlucks, allowances and private school tuition – the list went on and on.
“What else can I cut?” Ronnie asked, as she continued to wrestle with the numbers.
Only the crickets answered in the pre-dawn darkness of that Sunday morning. Ronnie arose early to handle a stack of bills privately while Phil and the kids slept in. It had always been her pleasure to have charge over the family budget. But now, with the expenses of three children, the process was anything but enjoyable.
Adding to their troubles was Phil’s recent passion for get-rich-quick schemes and investments. Instead of getting rich, the family took some big hits. Yet that didn’t stop Phil. “Count me in,” was his new motto – words that Ronnie had come to dread.
Ronnie skipped the cursor down the column of entries one more time: Entertainment, dining, electricity, maintenance fees, investments…and then she landed on the line item she tried hardest to avoid. There in the column titled “tithe” appeared a heartbreaking zero.
“How did it come to this?” she asked, pushing away from the computer. Ronnie couldn’t remember the last time her family went to church, the last time she read her Bible or listened to worship music. Ronnie was certain that if she hit the enter key on her soul, a bold, red number would appear, confirming a life out of balance and far away from God.
“I’m so sorry, God,” she whispered as she fell to her knees at the edge of the living room sofa. “I’ve drifted so far away. I’ve been disobedient and self righteous. I can’t do this on my own. If it’s not too late, Lord, please show me the way back to you…” She prayed without ceasing until her eyes grew heavy, nodding off to sleep on the couch.
An hour later Ronnie awoke to the sound of Phil searching loudly among the pots and pans.
“What’s going on in there?” Ronnie inquired.
“Hey honey, why were you sleeping on the couch?” asked Phil.
“Oh, I was up early getting some things done. Are we going somewhere?” she asked.
“I was thinking we should get the kids up and head to 9 o’clock service,” said Phil quite out of the blue.
Nice! God does still answer prayers, thought Ronnie.
After a quick breakfast, the family loaded into the car.
“Hold on, I forgot something,” said Ronnie dashing back into the house.
Hastily reaching over her laptop to grab the checkbook, Ronnie bumped the keyboard, triggering the return of the very spreadsheet that tormented her in the darkness. The cursor blinked steadily within the cell reserved for the weekly tithe.
“You want me to tithe now?” Ronnie asked God with her eyes fixed on the screen.
Setting her fingers on the number keys, Ronnie entered the family’s tithe into the cell, erasing the “zero” previously occupying the space. She hit enter and watched the bold, red number in the total column climb even higher. Still the change felt right.
We will figure this out, thought Ronnie, with renewed strength.
“You ok?” asked Phil when she rejoined the family with a wide smile on her face.
“Actually, I was talking to one of our old advisors this morning and I want to discuss a new investment strategy for our family,” said Ronnie.
“I’m all ears,” said Phil.
“The advice comes from the most trusted source, offering the best possible return on investment. I’ve got the prospectus right here,” she said holding up her black leather Bible.
Phil pondered Ronnie’s proposition, understanding that it called for a return to their family’s old ways – back to a time when they put God first with their time, talent and treasure.
“You can count me in,” said Phil sincerely, as they pulled out of the driveway.
“Great,” said Ronnie, writing out a check to New Hope Church. “This, I guarantee, will be our most rewarding joint venture.”
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