By Thomas C. Hickey
As a tall, skinny junior high school student in Rockwood, Tennessee, I was approached several times to play on the junior high basketball team. I wasn’t a bad player, and I was taller than most other kids in my age group. But I declined because I would not miss Wednesday night Bible study to play games on Wednesday night, and I would not consent to wear the short pants required for the basketball uniform. Oh, what a fool I am.
About the same time and in the same town I tried out for the junior high school band, and was accepted to play the tuba. But I had to quit because the band was sometimes expected to play in the services of the big Christian Church in town, and I couldn’t do that in good conscience. Oh, what a fool I am.
In the eighth grade at Chicora High School in North Charleston, South Carolina, I was invited to join the Glee Club. I love singing and have always been used to singing since that is a routine part of our regular worship in the church. But, of course, I had to decline the invitation to join the Glee club because such would have necessitated my singing religious songs for entertainment, and using mechanical instrumental music in singing spiritual songs. As a new testament Christian I could not do these things in good conscience, so I declined. Oh, what a fool I am.
In the ninth grade at Marietta High School in Marietta Georgia, I played the clarinet and enjoyed it immensely. The next year I moved up to the Varsity Band, and we got a new band instructor. The new instructor harshly announced that if I could not play for the school activities on Wednesday evenings I could get out of the band. I got out. Bible study is more important than football games. Oh, what a fool I am.
If you were not in band at Marietta High, you had to be in physical education. That meant dressing out in shorts for coeducational PE activities. I refused. More problem . Finally, Mrs. Swaim, the principal, gave me special permission to participate in “phys ed” wearing long pants. Oh, what a fool I am.
But, in physical education, ballroom dancing was a coeducational activity for rainy and cold days, and everyone was expected to participate. More problems. Finally, I was allowed to sit out the dancing since, as a Christian, I could not participate. Oh, what a fool I am.
Surely, as an adult, things must get better! But, not so. In mid- 1960, as a fledgling young preacher, I needed a real job to try to get some of my bills paid up. Most of the jobs I qualified for required me to miss worship. I turned away from one job after another although I needed one desperately. Finally, I went to work at a General Motors manufacturing plant in Dayton, Ohio. After a few weeks at work it came inventory time in the fall of 1960. Everyone would have to come in and work on Sunday. I would be glad to work in the afternoon, or at night, I said, but I could not miss worship either morning or evening. But, we were told, those who did not come to work would be fired. I was sorry, but I said I wouldn’t be there. I didn’t go. I went to work on Monday. I wasn’t fired and nothing was ever said about it again.
Another interesting event occurred at the GM plant. Everyone was advised that it was time to collect for the United Fund. Everyone was expected to give some from his paycheck because the general foreman of our department wanted 100% cooperation. I could not give, I said, because the United Fund divided its moneys among Catholic, Jewish, and protestant denominational agencies. I did not deny that possibly many good works were done, but I could not contribute to religious groups whose doctrines I did not believe. To do so was inconsistent, and it would constitute “bidding godspeed” to false doctrines. A simple “No” did not suffice. Even though I was running a six-man production line on a tight schedule, the general foreman shut down my whole operation and called me into his office to give an explanation for my refusal. Although much pressure was brought to bear, and my production line was shut down for 45 minutes, I did not consent to give! Even if I lost my job, I would not give. (I thought that I was going to lose my job.) Finally, I was allowed to go back to work. Nothing more was ever said, and I did not lose my job. For years afterward, however, Mr. Crutchfield, the foreman, continued to inquire after my welfare from other mutual friends who were Christians, Oh, what a fool I am.
During the years 1972-1975, 1 worked with the Nebraska Avenue church in Tampa, Florida, and sold real estate to earn my living. It soon became apparent that one of the best days for real estate sales was Sunday. In fact, many real estate people earned more commissions on Sunday afternoon and evening than they did in all the rest of the week combined. People were off work on Sundays and willing to inspect property. Although the prospects of earning a week’s wages in one afternoon was very attractive, I always tried to avoid even showing property at all on Sunday afternoon because I knew when time came for evening worship I would walk away from the customer. Writing the offer is one of the most important parts of the real estate transaction, and it must be done while the customer is in the mood. To walk away from a “hot prospect” to go to church would end the chance for a sale so I just didn’t show property on Sunday even though it was an attractive opportunity! Oh, what a fool I am.
In 1968, while preaching for the Lutz, Florida, church I earned my living by working for Florida College. That year I negotiated a contract between FC and Hillsborough Junior College, a state funded community college which was opening new.- FC would provide bookstore services and sell college textbooks to HJC. HJC began as an evening school with classes being conducted in Hillsborough High School. Since I was a Christian and my employees were Christians and students at FC, I carefully negotiated a contract which provided for our being CLOSED on Wednesday nights. The VicePresident of HJC did not view this as a serious problem since school was scheduled to begin on Monday evening and most text sales should have been made before Wednesday night. However, school opening was delayed until Wednesday night because of technical problems. Nevertheless, we closed the bookstore in time for all our employees to get to Wednesday night Bible study as the contract had provided. When Mr. B. came by for a routine check of our operations on Wednesday night and found the bookstore closed, he was furious (to put it mildly)! The next day I received a red hot letter at FC hand delivered by special messenger. I held the messenger until I could read the letter and prepare my reply. I wrote simply, “Read the contract!” One might expect that all havoc broke loose, but Mr. B. knew that I had him dead to rights. All’s well that ends well. The next year Mr. B. hired me to serve as Coordinator of Campus Business Services at HJC at more than twice the salary I had been earning at FC … and he never expected me to miss worship to do my job! Oh, what a fool I am.
During these same years in the early 70’s, my sons, Kent and Paul, were playing Little League baseball in north Tampa. Both were pitchers and, if I say so myself, they were pretty good. One of the boys would pitch a “no-hitter” fairly often. Both boys frequently won. We had an understanding with the managers and coaches: on Wednesday nights, the boys went to mid-week Bible study. No matter how the game was going or what the score, the boys went to Bible study. On more than one occasion a boy was taken off the pitcher’s mound at 7:00 P.M. on Wednesday night in the middle of a game to go to Bible study. The coach knew what to expect but sometimes the other parents in the bleachers got pretty unkind! Oh, what a fool I am.
Yes, in the eyes of the world, what a fool I am! Speaking of the things which the apostles suffered in the service of Christ. Paul sod, “We are fools for Christ’s sake . . . . (1 Cor. 4: 10).
Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:33-34).
Yes, I am a fool in the eyes of the world … but I trust my God! The thing that hurts me often is … that I am also seen as a fool in the eyes of my brethren, at least, in the eyes of some of my brethren.
Brethren, I have not been tempted above what I am able to bear (1 Cor. 10: 13), and my God has always supplied my needs. Neither I nor my family has ever been denied a meal. We have stayed warm. And there is a roof over our heads. My assets are greater than my liabilities. What more can I ask?
David said, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 2, pp. 40-41
January 19, 1984