On my mind today is the topic of tithing. Tithing, or the giving of 10 percent of one’s income to the Lord and his Church was given anciently. In fact we don’t have a record of when this law was first given–some believe it originated with Malachi, which has the clearest declaration of the law of tithing as quoted in chapter 3, verses 7 – 12. However, we learn that Abraham payed tithes to Melchizedek anciently, as noted in Genesis 14:18-20 and referenced later by Paul in Hebrews 7:1-4 and Alma in the Book of Mormon in Alma 13:15. The payment of tithing clearly predates Malachi. Given how long tithing has been practiced, it can be reasonably supposed tithing may have been given as early as the days of Adam and Eve. Tithing is a commandment of the Lord, and as such it is required of us to be obedient to it just as any other commandment.
This is a tough one, because it goes right to the materialism and love of the things of the world that so many of us share. Some rationalize and say this law was part of the Law of Moses, and as such was done away with by Christ, but this cannot be the case as it was practiced long before Moses and was reiterated during the Christian era. Others state we should give what we can afford, but the 10th is very clear–in fact the very word tithe means “one-tenth.” It has been given again in our day in the church to which I belong, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a simple declaration of modern revelation which simply states members of the church shall pay “one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever.”
While it is established that tithing is a commandment of the Lord, it seems that very few of us keep it. The research I could find found that only 5% of all adults tithed. Another article I found stated that the payment of tithing has hit a record low. Per this research, parishioners were giving an average of 2.38 percent of their income. Hmm. Like all commandments, this one is given to bless us! I’ve had times in my life when I didn’t pay tithing, and the blessings that have come into my own life since I began again (approximately 10 years ago) have been so mercifully given that I have a strong testimony of paying tithing. I read a great talk by an Apostle of our church–David Bednar–and I’d like to take from his words to discuss the blessings that can come into our lives by obeying the law of tithing.
He gives an example from his own life, of his mother-in-law who from the beginning of her marriage kept meticulous records of expenses. She would use data from these simple ledgers she kept to share basic principles of provident living to her daughter, Elder Bednar’s wife, as she pointed out trends. The costs for doctors visits and medicines, for example, were far lower than might have been expected, and was related to a powerful truth: “as we live the law of tithing, we often receive significant but subtle blessings that are not always what we expect and easily can be overlooked.” A loving Heavenly Father had bestowed simple blessings in seemingly ordinary ways. These blessings can be discerned only if we are both spiritually attentive and observant (1 Corinthians 2:12-14).
Malachi’s promise from the Lord is “if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes…” The imagery of windows is pretty instructive. Elder Bednar states “spiritual illumination and perspective are poured out through the windows of heaven and into our lives as we honor the law of tithing.”
One subtle blessing, he points out, is the spiritual gift of gratitude that enables our appreciation for what we have to constrain desires for what we want. A grateful person is rich in contentment, whereas an ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment (Luke 12:15). He then gives more examples of blessings such as “an increased spiritual and temporal capacity to do more with less, a keener ability to prioritize and simplify, and an enhanced ability to take proper care of the material possessions we already have acquired.” A more extended quote which I found really helpful was:
Sometimes we may ask God for success, and He gives us physical and mental stamina. We might plead for prosperity and we receive enlarged perspective and increased patience, or we petition for growth and are blessed with the gift of grace. He may bestow upon us conviction and confidence as we strive to achieve worthy goals. And when we plead for relief from physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties, He may increase our resolve and resilience.
Tithing, like every other commandment, is given of God for our benefit; in effect to bless us and help us become more like He is. Remember the words of Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I add my testimony to Elder Bednar’s that as we are spiritually attentive and observant, we will be blessed with eyes that see more clearly, ears that hear more consistently, and hearts that understand more fully the significance and subtlety of His ways, His thoughts, and His blessings in our lives.
To my mind, payment of tithe is a way to combating materialism and covetousness, and a recognition that everything we have comes from the Lord. We are not giving Him something that is ours, but rather returning 1/10th of what was His to begin with. Remember that the honest payment of tithing is much more than a duty; it is an important step in the process of personal sanctification.
Just a quick story from my life. I was unemployed for a few months in 2007. During this time I had no income and relied upon help from the church and my family, but even though it was barely enough to cover gas, food and rent. I eventually got a part-time job working at a book store, but this did not appreciably help matters. In fact my budget was so tight each of those months until I got a full-time job in my profession that I knew I could not afford to both pay my tithing and my rent, it was a matter of simple math. However, I decided to pay my tithing as soon as I received money, and each month I was still able to pay my rent. It should not have been able to happen, but it did! I was tempted, perhaps as you are, to not pay tithes or offerings when I was poor, but I believe when we pay during those circumstances it matters to the Lord more than when we pay them in our abundance. I always go back to the story of the Widows’ Mite from the New Testament:
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury; and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which has cast into the treasury; For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
If anyone wants a testimony that any principle of the Gospel is true, the invitation is simply to try living it and see what happens. I have done it, and because of that I have a strong and vibrant conviction that living the law of tithing is a powerful way to draw closer to God, and to become more like Him. I invite any who read this to do the same.