The summer before I began graduate studies at the University of Arkansas, in Arkansas, United States, money was tight. By the time I finished a teaching contract in June, no summer jobs were available, and my graduate-fellowship money would not become available until classes began in late August. Our meager savings were eaten up by moving costs.
Susan, my wife, could not find a job, and the only work I could find was at a temporary employment agency. Every morning, I would call at 6:00 a.m., and they would call back if they had work for me that day. I was fortunate when I got two or three days of work a week.
One evening, Susan showed me that our checkbook balance came to US$12 and some cents. We had little food in the apartment, rent was due the following week, and the utility bills would come after that. It was clear that something had to happen now, or we would not last until school started.
That night when I said my prayers, I kept them shorter than usual. “Father, I’m in this place because I heard You call me to graduate school. We have no more money. I have been faithful with my tithe, and You promised You would take care of me. It’s time for You to keep Your Word.”
The next morning, I didn’t call the agency. They called me at 5:55 a.m. “Doug, we have a job for you. It’s twelve hours a day, seven days a week, which means plenty of time-and-a-half pay. It lasts all the way until school starts for you in the fall, and you start as soon as you can get here and pick up your timecard. Do you want it?”
It was Tuesday, and I figured I could get in four solid twelve-hour days before they fired me for not working on Sabbath. “You bet!” I shouted, racing out to my VW Beatle almost before I hung up the phone.
The work was miserable. I broke up concrete all day with a jackhammer. The only respite from that bone-jarring work came when I had to push a wheelbarrow full of rubble onto a truck. At the end of the first day, they fired one of the temporary workers for not hustling on the job, perhaps to make a statement to the rest of us. So, I really put my back into it, hoping to last to Sabbath.
Friday, after I clocked out, I went to the foreman. “Sir,” I began with what I hoped was a tone of conviction, “I am a Seventh-day Adventist, and tomorrow is the Sabbath. I won’t be here to work, but I need this job. Will I still have it on Sunday?”
He cocked his head to one side and said, “The job is for seven days a week.” When he said nothing more, I pressed the issue. “Can I come back Sunday?” He shook his head and said, “I don’t know.”
With no more assurance than that, I kept the Sabbath. When I clocked in Sunday morning, the foreman said nothing. After another painful week with the jackhammer, I approached him again on Friday.
“I am keeping the Sabbath again tomorrow. Will my job still be here for me Sunday?”
He gave me the same quizzical look he had the week before and then said, “If it is going to be this way every week, I’m not sure we can use you.”
With nothing to lose, I again asked, “Will you take me on Sunday?” Again, his noncommittal “I don’t know” ended our discussion.
Every Friday I told the foreman I would not be in on the Sabbath, asking to be back Sunday. He never gave me any more assurance of work than a simple “I don’t know.” But, he never fired me when I returned on Sunday morning.
As it turned out, my arthritic knee couldn’t keep up with the pace all the way until school started, and I had to quit. But by the time it gave out, Susan was working and my overtime pay was enough to carry us to the start of graduate studies.
Knowing such a God who answers so suddenly in time of need and sustains so faithfully when we have no other assurance, how could we deny His claims on our time or finances?
I know the blessing of tithing, and I know the blessing of the Sabbath. I commend them to anyone willing to receive them. God says, “Them that honor me I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30).