If you’ve been going to church long enough…you have surely heard someone tell a variation of a story about how just after they paid their tithing, there appeared an extra five hundred bucks in their back pocket. In many of these similar stories, the person telling the story feels that they are been rewarded financially because of their obedience to the law of tithing.
If you haven’t heard that type of story, then maybe you’ve sat with a wealthy member of the church and listened as they’ve attributed their good fortune to their diligence in paying a consistent tithe throughout their life. Provided they made their wealth legitimately, then who can find fault with them for wanting to humbly ascribe their wealth to keeping the commandments. Why wouldn’t God want to bless someone who willfully and graciously pays a tithe?
I mean, it’s right there in the scriptures over and over again right…? “Inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments, ye shall prosper in the land.” [Source: Almost every other chapter in the Book of Mormon]
So…I’ve been thrown into a couple different quandaries:
1. What about brother so and so’s family that have faithfully paid their tithing for many many years, and yet they can’t ever seem to ever get ahead in life? They’ve “done everything right” and yet they struggle constantly…having almost nothing.
2. What about the many people that choose not to pay their tithing and yet they still seem to be able to make insane amounts of money?
Almost every time we hear a talk in Church about tithing, someone will cite the scripture in Malachi that says, “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.” (Mal 3:8-11)
Sometimes I think we hear that scripture coupled with others stories, and we might wonder, “Well…I pay my tithing…so why don’t those financial blessings happen to me also? Where are my overflowing blessings? Am I paying my tithing wrong?”
The rest of that scripture in Malachi goes like this: “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, saith the Lord of hosts.”
So what we’re looking at are two types of blessings. The first and most appealing blessing is the promise of the windows of heaven pouring down upon us. Left to our carnal imaginations, we tend to associate this first blessing with unending temporal wealth and financial security. The second blessing regarding the “fruit of your ground” is basically saying that you will have food on the table.
Nowhere in any scripture does it say that we’ll be made temporally rich because we paid our tithing. No prophet or apostle that I am aware of has guaranteed that. In fact, over the course of scriptural history, prophets that have consecrated all that they had remained poor because of their commitment to the gospel.
Check out what the Lord says to Joseph Smith: “For thou shalt devote all thy service in Zion, and in this thou shalt have strength.” Joseph is probably thinking in his mind…ummm so what does that mean? So in the very next verse, the Lord says…”Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many.”
And now Joseph is probably thinking “sweet…not sure where this is going.”
Then the Lord gets even more specific: “In temporal labors thou shalt not have strength, for this is not thy calling.” Meaning…you might be completely obedient to the commandments and yet still remain poor.
It’s not accurate to assume that someones wealth came as a result of excessive righteousness. The most righteous and faithful individual could struggle financially all their life, while a luke-warm inconsistent fence sitter might acquire wealth without breaking a sweat.
So…regardless of where I’ve been at financially in my life, I have always looked at paying tithing a little differently. I can’t help but look at myself as a shareholder in God’s kingdom. I think anyone that contributes to this kingdom can be considered a shareholder in that kingdom. I look at tithing as a short and long term investment. Short term because I physically see temples and churches being built around the globe. Long term because I know that according to Paul, God wants us to be “heirs”…inheritors and possessors of all that He has. I feel ownership over every asset that the church owns. I’m part of it and it is part of me. I feel like that is how God wants me to feel. Every time I enter a temple, I can honestly say that I’ve made an investment in it, however small it may be.
I don’t think it’s blasphemous to think this way. It makes total sense to me. Think about it. God doesn’t need us to build temples, build churches, or even pay tithing. He could do it all himself. If he can assemble an earth, then he’ll have no problem assembling a temple. So why does he have us do it? Why does He watch the saints in their poverty build the Salt Lake temple for 40 years when he could have done it much faster? Why does he ask you or I to pay tithing? Why are we asked to serve in so many ways when he could just do it all?
Because these temples, meeting houses, these sacrifices are not ultimately for Him. They’re for us. God doesn’t need these things. We do. And he wants us to be invested in the process of exaltation. He wants to know if we’re willing to do what it takes to become like him…and when we’ve proven ourselves…He gives us a return on our investment beyond each of our imaginations. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
How do we show Him that we love Him? How does anyone show anyone that they love something? It has everything to do with investment. In almost every case that I can think of…a person invests the mosts in the people and things they love the most.
When I look at tithing through this point of view, it makes me appreciate the opportunity that I have to contribute and invest in something worthwhile. Many may look at it merely as an act of obedience. There is truth to that. But obedience coupled with perspective and understanding is much more powerful and exciting.