Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Blessings of Tithing

Tithing seems to be an outdated custom for most Christians nowadays. It seems that at best some consider a tithe paid if they place $20 in the collection plate or give $50 to a charity. Although these are nice gestures, they don't come close to what paying tithing really is. To understand why tithing is more than just giving what you can "afford" or what you feel like giving on any given day, it's important to look at the actual definition of tithe. Dictionary.com defines a tithe as "the tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like." So to pay tithing is actually a lot more than just a minuscule donation equal to a couple cups of coffee at Starbucks. It's a full tenth of your income. I daresay that hearing that you're supposed to give 10% of your income is shocking and hard to swallow. Who can afford to give up that much of their income nowadays?! Won't God be just as satisfied if we just do good works, give to a couple charities, and help support our local church? If only it was that painless.

But God requires sacrifice, and sometimes that sacrifice hits humans right where it hurts- our bank accounts. Think about how hard it is to earn the money you have, and how attached we become to it. We feel (rightfully) entitled to enjoy the fruits of our labors and balk at the idea that anyone, even God, has a right to any portion of it. But that's exactly how it is. If we step back and think about tithing not as God taking away 10% of what we have, but as us giving back only 10% of all that He has blessed us with, that amount starts to look a lot smaller. After all, we wouldn't have the other 90% to enjoy without His having given it to us in the first place!

In my personal experience, it has been amazing to pay tithing and to see the blessings that it brings. Before my husband and I became active in church we didn't give a second thought to paying tithing, or really to following very many of God's commandments. We were wanderers in this world, not understanding our true purpose or God's desires for us. When we started attending church and learning more about Heavenly Father and His plan for us, we started taking steps to get right with Him. One of those steps was starting to pay tithing. It wasn't easy. We were literally living paycheck to paycheck, with no health insurance or savings, no safety net in case of emergencies- just small paychecks and the hope that we'd have enough to pay the rent, put gas in the car, and buy some food. To think of further reducing our income by giving away 10% of it was scary. We finally made the commitment to be obedient to this commandment, though, and we found that God rewards faith. It wasn't immediate, but we could look back and see how God started guiding our finances. Somehow our income was enough to meet our basic needs, or help was offered just when we needed it. Then my husband found a better job and our income (and the amount of tithing) increased. Soon it became habit to just write out that tithing check as the first "debt" to be paid, and we didn't even miss it. We found that as we continued to pay tithing and tried to live faithfully, God blessed us with increased knowledge and wisdom. He guided us to opportunities to learn how to better manage our finances and to training that increased my husband's employability. We still struggled and it required faith to continue paying tithing from unemployment or disability checks, but God saw us through every trial and challenge. Every need was met and each time we were able to come through the bouts of unemployment or serious illness/surgery with renewed confidence that the Lord will provide.

All that God asks of us is to trust Him by giving back 10% of what He's blessed us with. Think about it- everything we have, all that we are, is because of God. We don't technically "own" anything but our self-will. He could have asked for 20, 30, even 50% of what He's given us, but He doesn't. (Heck, our government asks for more of our money than God Himself does!) I feel that it's only right to show my gratitude to God by paying our tithing. I know that what we give goes to help build up His kingdom- it helps to spread the good news of the gospel and to enable our congregation and thousands of others to meet together each Sabbath day. He takes our little tenth, combines it with many others' tenths, and turns it into a wonderful way to provide for the needs of His flock. I think about what an amazing world this could be if everyone understood the law of the tithe and followed it. It would help to root out greed, selfishness, and idolatry while increasing faith, generosity, and love. It's another of God's laws that seems contradictory- give in order to receive- but it works. He is faithful and true, and He blesses those who follow His commandments.

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