Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Help me with my unbelief

We’ve got bills coming due and work pay that is late in coming in and I am on the verge of a crisis. Not a real crisis like the health care system in our country today or the crisis felt on Wall Street. No, I have a puny little crisis of faith

Life has unexpected bills. Paul and I have never liked paying for things with credit. We saved money for cars so when one car came to the end of its usefullness we could purchase another used vehicle with cash. We keep a credit card for convenience in on-line and gas station shopping but we pay it off every month. When he gets paid we take out our tithe, pay the mortgage, put the budget amount for groceries into scrip so we know we are eating for the month and then continue on our way. When yearly salary freezes kept us from building up the savings account I got a second job. This is just the way God has led us to take care of our finances. And He has always cared for us.

However, now, He is asking us to take a step of faith. The bills staring at me from the table are not for luxury items: dentist, doctor, furnace repair, and replacing a dying computer are all necessary things. The money I am waiting for will eventually come and employer number five assures me that they will need me to teach that class but they don’t know when. Sooner or later, it will all work out, but for the time being, I worry that maybe I should not take two classes, so I can save some tuition money. The problem is that I will have to take two classes this summer and that is when my work for employer numbers two, three and five will be keeping me extra busy. It all goes round and round in my head and keeps me from falling asleep.

It is a minor problem, in the whole scheme of things. I am not battling cancer, facing bankruptcy, or grieving over the loss of a loved one. My life problem is tiny; my faith problem is huge. I am nearly fifty years old and God has seen fit to care for me every day so far. Why would He stop, now?

One of my favorite fish stories in the Bible is the one about the fish with the coin in its mouth. I can so easily see myself as Peter; finding out in horror that taxes are due and running back to warn Jesus (as if He didn’t already, know.) Jesus didn’t even let Peter get a word in edgewise before He had the problem solved:

…go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours. Matthew 17: 27

You see, our problems are nothing to Jesus; it is not that He doesn’t care. Jesus lived a human life for us; we know He understands our fears and worries. It is not that Jesus dismisses the problem either. He knew the importance of paying the temple tax and He knows the importance of our problems, too.

No, our problems are nothing to Jesus because He is God and He can solve them as easily as with a coin in the mouth of a fish. Jesus could have told Peter to go get a job and earn the temple tax, but He didn’t. He simply provided the necessary coin.

I am all in favor of careful budgeting and living within your means. I am especially in favor of tithing. But I don’t budget in order to provide for myself and I don’t tithe so that God will return the favor and take care of me. God provides for me. He loves me and He cares for me. That is the whole story. The rest comes from the gratitude that He puts in my heart.

When I start to get snotty and think that my efforts at cost cutting, and my juggling of six part time jobs is what keeps us afloat, then it is time for a faith lesson. And that brings me to one of my other favorite stories: the one of a father with a son who suffered convulsions. He begged Jesus to heal his son, if He could:

“’ If you can’?” said Jesus, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24

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