Wow. I have been slacking off BIG TIME on keeping up with my blog. I apologize to those of you who have looked for a new post every week and been disappointed. The last few months have been pretty crazy with school, work and getting enough me-time. I will definitely be trying to do better over the summer, and hopefully will succeed! 🙂
Today, I was asked to speak in sacrament meeting on the blessings of paying an honest tithe. I’m pretty certain my first response to that topic when it was assigned was an inward groan. I don’t mind speaking, but tithing? Really? How do you give a 15 minute talk about something that takes like 2 minutes to explain and testify about?
That was my reaction because I’ve never had a huge revealing experience about how amazing paying your tithing is. I’ve always paid it whenever I get a paycheck, but there’s never been a question in my mind whether or not to do it because of how poor I am. I always hear stories of people who were living day to day, paycheck to paycheck, and who struggled to pay their tithing because that money could be used elsewhere. They decide to pay their tithing and miraculously have money to pay for everything, or somehow the Lord provides because they paid their tithing.
Yeah. I’ve never had that kind of amazing experience. And I didn’t want to just get up there and share Malachi 3:10 which says: “The Lord will open…the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Like I said, it would take about two minutes to share it and bare a quick testimony when I was assigned to speak for 15 minutes.
So one night, while I thought about what I could speak on, I suddenly received some inspiration – I needed to speak about what paying our tithing teaches us. Here’s what I came up with.
First of all, why do I pay my tithing? Well, my first thought: Because it’s a commandment. I don’t often question commandments. It’s fairly easy for me to trust them and just do them in faith, most of the time. They make sense and I see no reason, really, not to do it if God asked me to, so I just do it. However, partly because it was assigned to me and partly because I want a stronger testimony of it, I decided that, while my reason for paying tithing is good, I really needed to think a little harder about it and try to understand it beyond the simple “I’m just obedient and act in faith” explanation.
So, what does paying an honest tithe teach me?
Faith & Hope: Alma 32:21 teaches that “faith is not a perfect knowledge of things, wherefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen which are true.” Ether 12:4 states: “Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” In other words, hope isn’t just wishing for something to happen, but rather looking forward to the future and trusting in the promises God makes. This hope is then followed by living in such a way (faithfully) that we might receive these blessings that have been promised by our loving Father in Heaven. Paying tithing teaches us to have faith and hope, to trust in God and His promised blessings of joy and eternal life. These promised blessings often are manifested in ways that allow people to have the money needed to care for and nurture their families, which in turn allows everyone to have a chance at gaining eternal life.
Charity/Love: Charity is usually defined as the pure love of Christ. This means that we unconditionally and selflessly love others. We do everything we can to bring them lasting peace and happiness. Tithing and other offerings go to various places to help the poor and needy, to help build temples and meeting houses, and towards education (institute, BYU, etc). Giving a tenth of our increase teaches us to put others needs (clothing, food, opportunities for worship) before our own.
Virtue: Virtue isn’t just about keeping ourselves physically and mentally clean. It also means being morally strong and upholding your standards amid the terrors and whirlwinds of the world which strive to take down your protection from the Lord. By paying our tithing, we can uphold our virtue because it is a way to outwardly express gratitude for everything the Lord has given you. Much of the world looks down on being religious or paying churches. Paying an honest tithe is a way to stand for truth and righteousness and uphold your virtue. It is a way to profess to the world that God DOES matter. It helps others do so as well when they enter the temple and attend church in buildings which have been paid for by our tithing and offerings.
Knowledge: Paying tithing gives us more opportunities to expand our knowledge of God and better learn how to become like Him. Our entire purpose on this Earth is to overcome challenges brought on by the natural man and become as our Father in Heaven is – perfect and full of love and charity. We can’t do that without learning more about Him, without knowing what we’re suppose to do, or without coming to understand our covenants. If tithing isn’t being paid, there are less materials (books, manuals, etc) and places for us to learn these things.
Patience: Patience is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious. In other words, it is the ability to face adversity calmly and hopefully. Often times, we may feel the need to keep that 10% of hard-earned money because we can’t afford not to – because we need that money now. It takes patience with the Lord and His timing to pay tithing anyway and trust that the blessings will come. There may be some days, months or even years when you’re living by the thinnest thread of money, but paying your tithing anyway and trusting that the blessings will come eventually help you become less and less impatient and more and more trusting.
Humility: Having humility means you are willing to submit to the will of the Lord and give Him the honor for what is accomplished. It’s easy to think that you know what’s best for your family and that you need that extra 10% more than the Lord does, but as you remember that the Lord has a plan and He does know it better than you, you learn to let go of what’s “yours” and give it to the Lord for His purposes. You learn to acknowledge that it was never yours in the first place, simply a loan given to you by God Himself.
Diligence: This means putting steady, consistent, earnest, and energetic effort into doing the Lord’s work. How many of you get really excited the day you get your paycheck and enthusiastically exclaim “YES! I get to pay $X for tithing this month!”? I’m guessing most, if not all of you don’t normally have that reaction. While I’m not upset about it, I’m not necessarily energetic about paying my tithing, either. As we pay our tithing, though, we are often reminded to give of ourselves in order to accomplish the Lord’s plan of “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”. He can’t do it without us. He expects us to offer ourselves up in a steady, consistent, earnest and energetic way because that is really the only way His children can return Home again. Steadily, consistently, earnestly and energetically pay tithing as you remember that it is the Lord’s work you are doing by giving 10% of your increase.
Obedience: Have you ever heard the saying “I’m not obedient because I’m blind, I’m obedient because I can see”? Sometimes walking by faith and being obedient often means we’re blind, but not in the eternal sense. If we act by faith and are obedient even when we don’t understand something, it generally (at least for me) is because I understand in the eternal sense that it fits perfectly into the Lord’s plan. Jesus Christ Himself taught: “If ye love me keep my commandments” (John 15:14). As you learn to obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom. Paying tithing isn’t always something I understand, especially since I’m a poor college student who definitely could use a few extra bucks every time they come in. But what I DO understand is the law of obedience and the fact that it will shape me into a better person if I act in faith and trust that the Lord’s commandments have been given for a reason.
Gratitude: Having gratitude means having an uplifting, exalting attitude. It means recognizing what you have been given and being happy about it, no matter how small. For me, paying tithing provides more perspective on the many blessings I’ve been given. It reminds me that money really isn’t everything – it can’t buy happiness. Even if I was the poorest person on Earth, I have no doubt that I would be able to find true joy in every single day of my life. As I remember to be grateful when I pay my tithing, it becomes easy to give that 10% and makes me want to give more!
My favorite scripture story about tithing is found in Mark 12:41-44. It’s the story of the widow’s mite:
“And Jesus sate 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 have 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.”
May we follow this widow’s example: Though those two mites weren’t much and probably didn’t make a huge difference as far as paying for things for the church goes, they most likely could have bought one more meal for the widow. But because of her faith in God, her charity towards others and her immense desire to show the Lord her love through obedience, she gave it up and by so doing gained a closer relationship with Him and came a few steps closer to becoming as He is.
So…Why SHOULD we pay tithing? Because it teaches us to become like Christ. The attributes I’ve listed are all attributes of Jesus Christ. They are characteristics that He emanated perfectly. If we are to become like Him, that means we need to learn to emanate these things as well.
Who knew that was what tithing could really do?