It’s the end of the year and families, including children, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meet with their Bishop for annual tithing settlement.
Beforehand the ward (congregation) financial clerk provided us with a record of our contributions that year, which include tithing and freewill offerings in addition to tithing such as fast offerings for the poor, humanitarian offerings, and support of young men and women serving two-year proselyting missions. Families come to tithing settlement having reconciled their records of contributions with Church records. Any differences are researched and corrected.
But the most important purpose of tithing settlement is our annual declaration to the Bishop that we are either full tithe payers, partial tithe payers, or paid no tithing at all. A full tithing is 10% of our annual increase. Our parents taught that we pay 10% of our gross earnings before any deductions. Other families may read that differently, but that is not at issue in our declaration to the Bishop. We declare that we have paid a full tithing that year or less.
Paying a full tithing is one requirement for worthiness to receive authorization from the Bishop to enter the Temple and participate in the most sacred ordinances of the Gospel: including marriage for time and eternity, and proxy baptism and other ordinances for our kindred dead which must be performed in mortality.
Reflecting on tithing, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland outlined reasons for paying tithing, which Judy and I can attest to after 49 years of marriage, raising our children, and paying our tithes and offerings. (Holland, “Like a Watered Garden,” January 2002)
ONE -- We pay our tithing to rightfully claim the blessings promised those who do so. “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 3:10-11)
TWO -- We pay our tithing as a declaration that possession of material goods and the accumulation of worldly wealth are not the uppermost goals of your existence.
As one young husband and father, living on a student budget, recently told me, “Perhaps our most pivotal moments as Latter-day Saints come when we have to swim directly against the current of the culture in which we live. Tithing provides just such a moment.
Living in a world that emphasizes material acquisition and cultivates distrust for anyone or anything that has designs on our money, we shed that self-absorption to give freely, trustingly, and generously. By this act, we say—indeed—we are different, that we are God’s peculiar people. In a society that tells us money is our most important asset, we declare emphatically it is not.”
THREE -- We pay our tithes and offerings out of honesty and integrity because they are God’s rightful due. Surely one of the most piercing lines in all of scripture is Jehovah’s thundering inquiry, “Will a man rob God?” And we ask, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” He answers, “In tithes and offerings.”(Malachi 3:8-9) Paying tithing is not a token gift we are somehow charitably bestowing upon God. Paying tithing is discharging a debt.
FOUR -- We pay our tithes and offerings as a personal expression of love to a generous and merciful Father in Heaven. Through His grace God has dealt bread to the hungry and clothing to the poor. At various times in our lives that will include all of us, either temporally or spiritually speaking.