The ancient prophet Malachi wrote, "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings" (Malachi 3:8).
The opportunity to pay tithing is one of the great privileges of being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tithing also blesses members of other Christian churches. I did not have any idea how widely the practice of paying tithes spread until I heard Dave Ramsey, a financial guru, remind a caller to his radio show to remember to tithe. I was grateful to hear this sound financial advice from a well-known financial expert. All human beings, some more than others, need all the help available in handling finances and receive much assistance from God when we remember that everything we have comes from Him.
The payment of tithes and offerings shows gratitude to Heavenly Father for all the blessings He gives to us. It is a way of telling our Father, "You have given me all that I have. Here is a portion back to do Thy work."
Heavenly Father has given commandments to His children to help us prepare to live in the presence of God. When we willingly pay tithes and offerings, we thank Him for His blessings to us; we also show Him that we love Him and that we are willing to obey His counsel.
An honest tithe is one-tenth of our increase. Tithing is an ancient commandment that was renewed in our day. Ancient prophets like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob paid one-tenth of their increase (see Hebrews 7:1-10; Genesis 14:19-20; 28:20-22). The commandment was renewed in our time through the Prophet Joseph Smith when he prayed, "O Lord, show unto thy servants how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing" (Doctrine and Covenants 119, section introduction). The Lord answered: "This shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people. And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever" (Doctrine and Covenants 119:3-4). The First Presidency explained that "one-tenth of all their interest annually" means our annual income (see First Presidency letter, March 19, 1970).
Paying our tithing shows our faithfulness to the Lord as well as teaches the value of the law to our children. Children learn from the examples of their parents and will want to follow their example to pay tithing. It is also helpful for us to share stories with our children about how paying tithes has blessed our family. A favorite story in my extended family happened to my parents. They were married on October 2, 1929, just a few weeks before the financial crash that began the Great Depression. There was no work available, and my newly-wed parents struggled financially. One day a man came to purchase some hay for his animals. The money for the hay was all the money that my parents had. They did not know when they would receive any more money, but they faithfully paid their tithe on the money. They continued to struggle throughout the Depression, but they always seemed to have enough.
The faith of my parents convinced me that I could put my trust in the Lord also. I have learned from personal experiences that God does bless those who pay their tithing. There has never been a time in my life when I had to worry about where my next meal was coming from or how to keep a roof over my head. Money has often been tight, but there was always enough.
It is important that we pay tithing willingly and with a good attitude about doing so. Stephen L. Richards taught, "When one pays his tithing without enjoyment he is robbed of a part of the blessing. He must learn to give cheerfully, willingly and joyfully, and his gift will be blessed" (The Law of Tithing, p 8). The Apostle Paul also taught that what we give and how we give are both of equal importance. He said, "Let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints give tithing and other offerings to the Lord through local leaders who transmit the funds directly to Church headquarters. There a council consisting of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presiding Bishopric determines specific ways to use the sacred funds.
Tithing funds are always used for the Lord's purposes: 1) Tithing is used to build, maintain, and operate temples, meetinghouses, and other buildings. 2) Tithing provides funds for stakes, wards, and other units of the Church to operate. These units use tithing funds to carry forward the ecclesiastical programs of the Church, which include teaching the gospel and conducting social activities. 3) Tithing is used to help the missionary program of the Church. 4) Tithing is used to educate young people in Church schools, seminaries, and institutes. 5) Tithing is used to print and distribute lesson materials. 6) Tithing is used to further family history and temple work.
Obedience to the law of tithing requires sacrifice, but it also brings greater blessings. The prophet Malachi taught: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, 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" (Malachi 3:10).
God opens "the windows of heaven" and pours out blessings upon all who pay a full ten percent of their income. It doesn't matter to God whether our tithe is large or small; He still sends blessings both spiritually and temporally. In additions to all these blessings, the Lord promised another great blessing: "Verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming" (Doctrine and Covenants 64:23).
People who have not yet established a pattern of consistent tithe paying have a difficult time believing that they can give the Lord ten percent of their income and still have enough. It is only after we become faithful tithe payers that we understand that we cannot afford to not pay tithing. In just one of the many miracles of God, He accepts our meager offerings and then stretches our remaining funds to cover our needs.
Offerings include fast offerings and other financial donations as well as service. Fast offerings are used by bishops to provide food, shelter, clothing, and medical care for the needy. The funds come from Church members fasting each month by going without food and drink for two consecutive meals or for twenty-four hours. The individuals and families contribute at least the amount of money they would have otherwise spent on their meals, but they may contribute many times the amount of the meals. In addition to fasting and donating the funds, members attend a meeting called the fast and testimony meeting where members voluntarily share their testimonies of Christ and His gospel with each other.
Other donations include funds to help with missionary work, the Perpetual Education Fund, temple construction, and humanitarian aid. In addition to money, members also offer their time, skills, and material goods to help other people. Through the donations and service of the members, the Church is able to help needy members and nonmembers on community, national, and international levels any where in the world. This is especially true when natural disasters occur.
President Gordon B. Hinckley told Latter-day Saints in the Philippines that if people "will accept the gospel and live it, pay their tithes and offerings, even though those be meager, the Lord will keep His ancient promise in their behalf, and they will have rice in their bowls and clothing on their backs and shelter over their heads. I do not see any other solution. They need a power greater than any earthly power to lift them and help them" ("Inspirational Thoughts," Ensign, Aug. 1997, 7). President Heber J. Grant taught that the Lord will help us grow "in a knowledge of God, and in a testimony, and in the power to live the gospel and to inspire our families to do the same" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant , 124).
The paying of tithes and offerings is not merely a matter of money; it is a matter of faith. When we pay an honest tithe and generous offerings, we put our trust in the Lord. God gave us the law of tithing and accompanying promise for our benefit. We can develop strong faith like that of Nephi who said, "Let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth" (1 Nephi 4:1).
Great blessings come to those who pay their tithes and offerings as well as a good feeling of helping to build the kingdom of God on earth. When we willingly and honestly give what Heavenly Father requires, He helps us provide for our daily needs of food, clothes, and shelter.
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