As I prepared this talk originally, I was impressed by the need we all have to overcome the burdens that have been placed on our shoulders for the very purpose we have come to this earth. To be tried and tested. So before any additional perspective on the commandment of tithing we are about to dig into, I thought it good to start with some thoughts on how we achieve what we are all really seeking. The peace, the surety, the comfort, and the love:
Here is what the prophet, Thomas S. Monson said during the previous general conference about obedience. I think it sets a good tone as we begin a conversation about personal offerings:
“My brothers and sisters, the great test of this life is obedience.
The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments.
Doctrine and Covenants 93:28 “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide—even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God.”
There are a lot of uncertainties in life. Many of which we have little control over. What we learn from the prophet’s instruction is through obedience we are able to navigate this life and find comfort in the knowledge and blessings He gives unto us. I think this may be the answer many of us are looking for in the challenges and trails we each face.
With that prophetic introduction, let’s talk about how we care for the Poor and the Needy.
Payment of Tithes and Offerings
To review… we are asked to pay tithing equivalent to 10% of our income or increase. In addition we have been asked to pay fast offerings. We have been given a guide of the amount that would cover the cost of the two meals we fast for on fast Sunday. This is merely a guide. Many pay much more than this on a regular basis.
The blessings of paying tithing
One of the reasons some pay tithing is because of the blessings we receive. We’ve been promised the in 3 Nephi 24:10… the windows of heaven will be opened up and blessing will pour out that there will not be room enough to receive it.
Before we go picking what blessing we want, consider this comment by Robert D. Hales:
“The temporal and spiritual blessings of tithing are specifically tailored to us and our families, according to the Lord’s will.”
I think this can be difficult sometimes, especially when finances are tight. To have the faith to KNOW the Lord will bless us according to what we really NEED is not always easy.
I think it is important to mention for us to be careful here. The blessings WILL come. They have come to me in my own life, but they have not come in the exact way I had hoped for but they have come to me and my family in ways I had not realized we needed.
In Elder Bednar’s talk from the October 2013 General Conference titled The Windows of Heaven, he shed some light on what that looks like. He gave us some amazing instruction and doctrine:
“We often receive significant but subtle blessings that are not always what we expect and easily can be overlooked… a loving Heavenly Father bestows simple blessings in seemingly ordinary ways.
For example, a subtle but significant blessing we receive 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. An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment.
We may appropriately desire and work to receive a pay raise in our employment to better provide the necessities of life. Eyes and ears of faith are required, however, to notice in us an
Increased Spiritual and Temporal capacity to do More with Less,
Keener ability to Prioritize and Simplify,
Enhanced ability to Take Proper Care of the material possessions we already have acquired
We might want and expect a larger paycheck, but the blessing that comes to us through heavenly windows may be greater capacity to change our own circumstances rather than expecting our circumstances to be changed by someone or something else.
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.
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.
As you can see this talk was absolutely incredible at defining the Windows of Heaven.
Let’s turn to the scriptures for a moment for an example of one whose Eye’s and Ears of faith were possibly in tune to our Father in Heaven and his Son
We read an account of the Savior observing those paying offerings in to the treasury:
42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
43 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:
44 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 we dig deeper into these scriptures, you can almost see the woman drop the two mites. I envision an older lady, in ratty clothing, with grey hair. She has a tired or worn look about her, but has a brilliance in her face being interpreted as immense gratitude to her Father in Heaven, for the blessings he has put before her. Not to mention the suffering she has experienced. Many years, without her husband. Her children, if she had any were not around and it is assumed she was left to care completely for herself. Loneliness accompanied her much of the time. She had no well-paying job to speak of, only odd jobs enough to get by. But even with the concern of where she would get her next meal, she, in complete faith must pay her offering to the Lord again in Gratitude for all that she has received even though meager by normal standards. I’m sure she thought, as she dropped the coins, about how happy it made her feel that she could do something to help others… that may be “poor and needy.” What an amazing example to us all. When we hand our tithing envelope to the Bishop, is it done with this level of reverence or thought. What an uplifting opportunity for each of us that draws us closer to our Father in Heaven and our older brother through the payment of tithes and offerings.
I think it is appropriate to seek after the blessings of paying tithing, but only if our eyes and ears of faith are in tune. The commandment of tithing has the ability to bless our lives in ways we can’t imagine. I have seen these gifts Elder Bednar has mentioned in my own life.
Care for the Poor and the Needy
I want to switch gears here a little and talk more about caring for the poor and needy through personal offerings of time and talents.
Back in 2006 and my wife and I were faced with one of the largest challenges our family had experienced. We were expecting our fourth child (Taylor) and in order for him to survive when he was born, he needed to have fetal surgery. It was a process that required my wife to be in San Francisco for six weeks, and possibly longer if pre-term labor was triggered. This was such an overwhelming time for us. The thoughts of the unknown overwhelmed Paige and I’s minds almost completely. We received so much service at the hands of our ward family it was amazing. I never had to wonder where my kids were at? Who was picking them up? Who was watching them next? or What we were going to eat that night? I got to focus on what I needed to, spending time with my three children (while their mother was away), being freed up to consider what we needed to do and how, then being able to go and do, at the drop of a hat. We were blessed in innumerable ways. I’m sure there were services performed I’m not even aware of. Fortunately, the surgery was a success, Paige was able to get back here… be it only a few days, then Taylor was born at U of U close to home where we could manage the next three months. Today, Taylor is just a typical six year old…healthy and strong.
One might ask why we give such aid, sometimes in countries where the Gospel cannot be preached, but our aid is gladly accepted. As a salesman, trainer, coach I really appreciated this next story. One of the things we always try to teach our sales people is to ask enough questions to truly understand the prospective client’s needs, then deliver a solution to their “true” problem.
I would like to finish where I began… with a reminder about obedience. We talked about tithing, fast offerings, and other personal offerings, where does this all tie together for you?
To reinforce what President Monson taught:
Richard G. Scott
I have learned a truth that has been repeated so frequently in my life that I have come to know it as an absolute law. It defines the way obedience and service relate to the power of God. When we obey the commandments of the Lord and serve His children unselfishly, the natural consequence is power from God—power to do more than we can do by ourselves. Our insights, our talents, our abilities are expanded because we receive strength and power from the Lord.
“As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to do all we can to redeem others from suffering and burdens. Even so, our greatest redemptive service will be to lead them to Christ. Without His Redemption from death and from sin, we have only a gospel of social justice. That may provide some help and reconciliation in the present, but it has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy. Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.”
Robert D. Hales October 2002
“Like the pioneers, the obedient payment of tithing fortifies our faith, and that faith sustains us through the trials, tribulations, and sorrows in our life’s journey.
Tithing also teaches us to control our desires and passions for the things of this world. Payment of tithing encourages us to be honest in our dealings with our fellowmen. We learn to trust that what we have been given, through the blessings of the Lord and our own diligent efforts, is sufficient for our needs.”
I would like to add my testimony that it is through our service to others that the Lord’s work is done upon this earth. It can come in many forms. Tithing, Fast Offerings, and sharing of our individual time and talents. I further testify that by giving of ourselves, it may be the one thing that helps us to overcome our own trails and relieve our own pain and suffering. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.