Why God Asks Anything of Me

For just a moment, think about everything that is good in your life. The things you have, the house you live in, your children and all your family, your friends, What do you think all of this is worth? 

When I ponder this, I remember that I owe God everything I have, because all of it is a blessing from him. Through God’s help, we found our house. Through God’s help, we have had gainful employment. Thanks be to God for my friends, my family, my safety and health. 

In essence, God has given me everything I have. I owe God 100%.

Does God Need Anything?

Now, here’s what’s interesting. God, our Heavenly Father, has infinite resources. He doesn’t need money, for example. He doesn't need anything from us. God can raise a mountain or turn water into wine.

If He is so omnipotent and can obtain anything He would possibly need, why would He ask anything of us? Why would God ask me to help my neighbor when He can wave his wand? Or, why do we have to pay tithing when God can just raise a church building out of a pile of bricks? Why does he require anything of us when He can do it all

Here is a thought I have. The sacrifice of a part of ourselves—our time, our things, our money—all of these sacrifices don't help God. He doesn’t need our help.

Why does he require that we give something back to Him and to others? These sacrifices are what God uses to help us shed our worldliness and develop compassion

Let’s take tithing for example. 

First, what is tithing?

Tithing is the donation of one tenth of your income to God’s church. This commandment was practiced even in Old Testament times. The prophet Malachi taught about tithing when he said “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, ….” Abraham paid his tithing to Melchizedek because Melchizedek was the high priest at the time, just as we pay our tithing to the bishop

In our current era, the Lord reminded us of this commandment in modern revelation: “My people … shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever.” Tithing in an expression of your faith in God and in his work. 

How are tithing funds used? 

Tithing is always used for the Lord’s purposes. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all leaders of our church, worldwide, do not get paid. The organist is not paid, the priests are not paid, and the bishop has his own full-time job elsewhere—all of the work he does for the church is unpaid work. He is a volunteer. No tithing goes to our leaders, which is very different from other Christian churches, where being a pastor is a paid job. 

So what does tithing pay for, then? 

Some of these uses are:
  • Building and maintaining our places of worship—including the buildings themselves, but also the resources in those buildings, such as the hymnals and the heating/air conditioning. 
  • Church activities and programs.
  • Supporting the Church’s global welfare program, which serves people around the world regardless of religion, nationality, or race. 
  • And missionary work—like purchasing scriptures for people who are learning. Note that missionaries actually pay their own way out of their personal funds to preach the gospel around the world. The church does not pay its missionaries.
So now you know how tithing works—you pay ten percent of your income to the Church—you fill out a tithing slip (which you can get from the bishop) and put your check or money in an envelope, or you can pay online. And now you know what tithing is used for—all of these great purposes. 

Why does God command us to pay tithing?

Sometimes we think of commandments in worldly instead of spiritual terms because we spend a lot of time managing money in this world. 

Temporal Reasons

In 2013, a Harvard economics professor, who was in our ward in Cambridge, Massachusetts, taught me a lot about tithing. He mentioned that in this modern era, we have misunderstood tithing with our worldly instead of spiritual eyes. For example, some might think of tithing as a membership fee. Or, as a tribute. Or, some might view tithing as a tax because it is expressed as a percentage of our income like taxes are. Most civilized societies have some form of tax so they can enjoy shared amenities such as roads and schools. So, you might see tithing as a way to pay a little so the church can afford hymnals and air conditioning and toilet paper in the bathrooms. This is a fair perception—that we all, just by being here, wear out the carpet a little and enjoy the heating and lights and other resources. It’s important to feel some responsibility to the group and not be a mooch. However, this is still a temporal view of tithing. It’s not exactly the whole picture of why we pay tithing. 

I have also heard many who see tithing as a mere exchange for blessings. I pay my tithing, I get blessings. So in essence, you are saying that you’re buying your blessings. To this effect, tithing is some sort of long-term insurance or retirement fund: pay now, blessings later. However, if you don’t receive the blessings you want, then you could become bitter against God. 

Temporal Blessings

There are also some temporal blessings of tithing that truly are positives, even if they are temporal. For example, when I pay tithing, I am much more aware of my income and expenses, because I have to track my finances to pay my tithing. People who pay their tithing on average are more financially aware and have a better chance at being temporally successful. 

Also, giving tithing and offerings is also usually a decision you make as a family, because you review your finances together. You bear a shared yoke of responsibility for your shared financial situation, which brings you closer together, and unifies you in the way the Lord would want.

Life is also less aggravating when you pay tithing. One lesson we learn in this life is that if we hold really tightly onto something, that doesn’t make it any less likely to disappear, it just gives us muscle spasms while it leaves because we are gripping so tightly. Energy, life, things, and money come to us and leave us. Sometimes we have an illusion of control called a bank account. You might have a feeling of control because you work for the paycheck or you decide whether or not to spend your money on something. However, some events happen, which you cannot control. You can get laid off from your job, you can get ill, you can run over a nail and need to pay to replace a tire. Or suddenly you have to get medical help that isn’t fully covered by insurance. So God, knowing that we would be braced, with locked joints, against change and loss, gave us the law of tithing. As soon as we gain an increase, the first thing we do is pay our tithing. In this way, God teaches us a repetitive exercise of letting go of part of something we just received. That way we learn how to let life flow through us without hindrance. 

The True Reason

So now what is the true, spiritual reason we pay tithing? 

Tithing, although it requires such a sacrifice of physical means, is actually a spiritual law. When we pay tithing, we aren’t paying a membership fee, or a tax, or paying for blessings. It is much, much more. 

90 years before Christ, in the ancient Americas, a missionary named Ammon had befriended a vassal king named Lamoni, and they were traveling together to a land named Middoni to rescue Ammon’s brothers from prison. On their journey, they met the king who ruled over all the lands, under which Lamoni was a vassal king. To make a long story short, King Lamoni disagreed with the older king, the older king tried to kill him, and Ammon cut the old king’s arm in defense (such an Ammon thing to do). The old king thought Ammon might kill him, so the old king said to Ammon, “if thou wilt spare me, I will grant thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to the half of the kingdom.” In today's business world, if you own more than fifty percent stake in a company you usually have more votes than the other company owners. This was the same in the ancient Americas. The old king was willing to give up to half of his kingdom (and no more), so he could still rule over a majority of the land. Ammon promises to let the old king go and only in exchange for helping to get his brothers out of prison.

Fast forward some time. The old king gets Ammon’s brothers out of prison, one of which is Aaron. The old king remembers the good heart of Ammon, who spared his life, so he asks his brother Aaron to teach him. Aaron teaches him about God, also about the redemption of Christ, that he can be cleansed and forgiven of his sins, so he can have eternal life. This is the king's response

“…after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said, ‘What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou has spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yeah, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (Alma 22:15).

You might have noticed that when the old king’s life was in danger, he was willing to give up to half of his kingdom. So, we might deduce that he valued his own life at half his kingdom. However, when he was given the opportunity to be forgiven, and accepted by God, and experience joy, he was willing to give up everything he possessed and his entire kingdom.

This is the true spirit of tithing. 

Tithing is only ever used for God’s purposes, righteously, to help people around the world who need help, to help everyone have the means and materials they need to learn the gospel, and to worship together. And God requires of us ten percent—a tithe—of our income, to help us learn to care about each other and care about the common good; to loosen the tight, unhealthy grip we might have on money and things; to purify us; to try our faith; to make us whole.

Why I Give Tithing and Offerings

After having received so much from God, I am willing to return ten percent to him as a sign of my faith and my hope in a better world. I am willing to forsake my kingdom in order to be inherited into a much greater kingdom, and to be seen as worthy in the sight of God.

I love paying tithing because I love my Heavenly Father, I love this church, I love people and want to see their needs met, and I love worshiping together. I pay tithing because I love being part of this great cause, and feel honored to stand next to those who sacrifice for this cause. 

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