Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tithes and Other Offerings

Today I opted to share with you the talk my husband gave during sacrament meeting today.

Tithes and Other Offerings

"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).

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught us that, "Tithing is a test of faith with eternal blessings. In the Old Testament, Abraham proved his faith by paying tithes to the great high priest Melchizedek. Abraham's grandson Jacob vowed to the Lord, 'Of all thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.'

"Tithing has been established in these latter days as an essential law for members of the Lord's restored Church. It is one of the basic ways we witness our faith in Him and our obedience to His laws and commandments. Tithing is one of the commandments that qualifies us, by our faith, to enter the temple - the house of the Lord."

When pondering upon what to speak about today, the topic of tithes and other offerings repeatedly came to mind. As a bishop I am given a deeper insight into the ways these tithes and other offerings are made useful in the workings of this Church. Not just the Church as a worldwide religion, but in our own stake and individual ward. The responsibility of choosing how the Lord's money is to be distributed is a heavy one, and I do not take it lightly. But I am here to testify to you today that when we, who are able, pay our tithing and willingly contribute to the other needs of the Church, the windows of heaven will truly be opened and blessings will be poured out upon us.

How important is tithing? Think on this. When asked whether members of the Church could be baptized for the dead if they had not paid their tithing, President John Taylor, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, answered: "A man who has not paid his tithing is unfit to be baptized for his dead. ... If a man has not faith enough to attend to these little things, he has not faith enough to save himself and his friends."

Tithing is an exercise in faith. Elder Hales states: "Tithing develops and tests our faith. By sacrificing to the Lord what we may think we need or want for ourselves, we learn to rely on Him. Our faith in Him makes it possible to keep temple covenants and receive eternal blessings...The obedient payment of tithing fortifies our faith, and that faith sustains us through the trials, tribulations, and sorrows in our life's journey."

Think for a moment of Alma chapter 32. Starting in verse 27 we are taught the steps to take when starting out with a small hope to learn if something is of God and through a simple experiment learning to make it a strong testimony.

Think of a seed, a tiny seed, and you've planted it in the ground hoping something beautiful will grow from it. You water it, give it lots of sunlight, fertilize the soil, and make certain no weeds overtake it. One of two things will happen. Either the seed will die for it was not a good seed to begin with, or the seed will grow.

For today our seed is tithing. We have a hope it will be a good seed, but are sometimes afraid of what will happen if we choose to pay it instead of something we feel is more needful. And so it's time to go to the Lord in faith and plant our seed by paying our tithing before anything else. We pray over our decision, we read our scriptures, we continually trust even when we're scared. In time one of two things will happen. Either we will find ourselves lacking both spiritually and temporally, or, by some miracle, everything has turned out okay.

I'm here to testify everything will be okay. But is it enough to leave it after this one experiment? No, because like any seed, it needs more water, more sunlight, and more love to keep the building of your testimony strong. In other words, keep paying your tithing, and the Lord will continue to bless and protect you.

Of paying tithing President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "We never felt that it was a sacrifice to pay our tithing. We felt it was an obligation, that even as small children we were doing our duty as the Lord had outlined that duty, and that we were assisting his church in the great work it had to accomplish.

"We did not do it with the expectation of material blessings, although we can testify that we have been so blessed. The Lord has opened the windows of heaven and poured out his blessings in marvelous measure. I know that he will bless all who walk in obedience to this commandment.

"Now, do not get me wrong. I do not say that if you pay an honest tithing you will realize your dream of a fine house, a Rolls Royce, and a condominium in Hawaii. The Lord will open the windows of heaven according to our need, and not according to our greed. If we are paying tithing to get rich, we are doing it for the wrong reason. The basic purpose for tithing is to provide the Church with the means needed to carry on the Lord's work. The blessing to the giver is [a secondary] return, and that blessing may not be always in the form of financial or material benefit. In speaking of opening the windows of heaven, Malachi says:

" 'And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field. ... And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts' (Malachi 3:11-12).

"There are many ways in which the Lord can bless us beyond the riches of the world," President Hinckley continues to tell us. "There is the great boon of health. The Lord has promised that he will rebuke the devourer for our sakes. Malachi speaks of the fruits of our ground. May not that rebuke of the devourer apply to various of our personal efforts and concerns?

"There is promised in modern revelation a great blessing of wisdom, of knowledge, even hidden treasures of knowledge. Malachi has told us that ours shall be a delightsome land if we will walk in obedience to this law. I can interpret the word land as people, that those who will walk in obedience shall be a delightsome people. What a marvelous condition to be a delightsome people whom others would describe as blessed!"

Tithing can help us in other ways. Elder Hales said, "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."

Note that he tells us it will be sufficient for our needs. Not our wants. It is not difficult for our wants to become needs. I think of my mother, and how for years she never had a microwave. She had never seen the need for one. When she and my dad were on their mission in Seattle the little place they were given to live had a microwave. It broke. Let's just say mom made sure they had a new one right away. The microwave went home with them. Mom now needed a microwave.

A microwave is a one-time expense, but how many of us are paying for things we may not need on a monthly basis? What sorts of things might we feel are something we need, rather than simply something we want? Take some time to sit down and look over your finances. Be strict with yourselves and see where you might be able to cut out certain expenses. Search to discover what is truly a need - something necessary for your survival such as food, shelter, water, heat, etc - and what is simply extra. Yes, an xBox or a Wii is fun to have, but it is vital to your existence? How much is your cable or Internet or phone bill? Are there ways to decrease the amount of money you're paying for these things? How many extras are there in your home you might be paying for without realizing what a drain they can be on your finances?

It may not be easy to faithfully and honestly live the law of tithing, but the Lord promises an abundance of blessings to those who do. Some of these blessings may be temporal, like tithing is a temporal thing. But truly the greatest blessings to be poured out upon us will be spiritual in nature.

Be at peace in knowing no matter the sum of your tithing, whether it be great or small, blessings will be given equally. To the Lord the amount of money one is able to give does not matter, but rather obedience to the law of giving one tenth of your income.

President Hinckley once shared: "We hear some these days who say that because of economic pressures they cannot afford to pay their tithing. I recall an experience I had as a stake president some years ago. A man came to get his temple recommend signed. I questioned him in the usual way and asked, among other things, whether he was paying an honest tithing. He candidly replied that he was not, that he could not afford to because of his many debts. I felt impressed to tell him that he would not pay his debts until he paid his tithing.

"He went along for a year or two in his normal way, and then made a decision. He talked about it some time later, telling me: 'What you told me has proved to be true. I felt I could not pay my tithing because of my debts. I discovered that no matter how hard I tried, somehow I could not manage to reduce my debt. Finally my wife and I sat down together and talked about it and concluded we would try the promise of the Lord. We have done so. And somehow in a way we can't quite understand, the Lord has blessed us.

"We have not missed that which we have given to him, and for the first time in many years we are reducing our debt. We have come to the wisdom of budgeting our expenditures and of determining where our funds have been going. Because we now have a higher objective, we are able to curtail some of our appetites and desires. And above all of this, we feel we can now go to the house of the Lord with those deserving of this wonderful blessing.'

"We can pay our tithing," President Hinckley tells us. "It is not so much a matter of money as it is a matter of faith. I have yet to find a faithful tithe payer who cannot testify that in a very literal and wonderful way the windows of heaven have been opened and blessings have been poured out upon him or her."

Would any of us intentionally reject an outpouring of blessings from the Lord? Sadly, this is what we do when we fail to pay our tithing. We say not to the very blessings we are seeking and praying to receive. If you are one who had doubted the blessings of tithing, I encourage you to accept the Lord's invitation to "prove [Him] now herewith." Pay your tithing. Unlock the windows of heaven. You will be abundantly blessed for your obedience and faithfulness to the Lord's laws and commandments.

I would speak now to those who are faithful and honest tithe payers. The needs of this Church go far beyond tithing, though that is certainly the first and most important step. Many of you may not know, but the needs of each individual ward when it comes to welfare comes through the giving of fast offerings. The Lord does not demand a great amount to be given here either, simply the sum of money you would have spent for two consecutive meals. If, however, you find yourself able to give extra, please do so.

There are other programs you can contribute to as well. The one I would like to focus on most is our ward mission fund. We have three missionaries out right now. Contributions from the members of this ward will sustain them and their families in easing the financial pressure. Please, if at all possible, give what little you can when you find you are able to give.

To you young men and women who some day desire to go on a mission, I tell you now to begin saving every penny you can in preparation. The opportunity to go on a mission is not something you are entitled to. You must earn the right to go, including whatever money you can earn to do so. Trust that when you have done all you can, the Lord will help make up the difference.

Other areas in which you can help include Humanitarian Aid, the Church Mission Fund, Temple Construction and the Perpetual Education Fund. If you wish to contribute to one of these, but do not see it listed on the tithing slip, put it under the "Other" section and write it in.

I have watched as some members of this ward have given their tithing, and have even pulled deeper into their pockets to help sustain this ward, even if it meant going without. I have seen the generosity of you members each time a need comes our way. It has filled my heart with the greatest love to watch as you have placed your faith in the Lord, trusting He will make up for each offering freely given.

I have also watched as others have struggled to make some very difficult decisions when it comes to paying tithing. Sometimes it truly is a matter of paying tithing, or paying rent, or buying food for your family. It is at these times we find ourselves needing to trust in the Lord the most. We need to exercise the faith necessary to pay what is due to the Lord. As your bishop, I promise that if you choose to give to the Lord, He will make up the difference. As a member of the Lord's church, I have gained my own testimony of why I need to pay tithing. While my testimony may enlighten you, or encourage you to try this experiment of faith, I cannot give my testimony to you. This is something you need to discover for yourselves.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

What a beautiful talk. I, too, have a strong testimony of paying tithing and offerings. Our family has truly been blessed. And it is definitely a matter of faith, not finances. Oh, if only we could understand how the Lord wants to bless us, if only we would allow him to do so!