I used to diligently draw 10% of my income from my monthly paycheck and hand it over to the bishop. I knew I was doing the Lord’s will. I would encounter a sense of relief for doing my duty (as my paychecks got bigger, the sacrifice did as well), as well as a sense of peace for keeping the commandments. I didn’t think much about how my tithes were used. As far as I was concerned, it was the Lord’s to do with what He wanted, and He would direct His Church in the wisest and best uses of my funds. I also gave a generous fast offering (1% usually), and that was the end of my charities. I had very little to give for other endeavors after all of this, and I trusted the funds would be best used in Church hands. My mind was little engaged in such a task, other than in the satisfaction that I was being obedient.
I have since adopted a different strategy for tithe-paying, under the Lord’s direction, with a little help from a great article on tithing. We give our tithes directly to the poor. We typically tithe at least 10% of our surplus income and sometimes more as directed. Under the old system, my wife had to work so that we could pay a gross tithe. Now, we have found that our tithes are more vibrant and fruitful. We find ways to pay our tithing that engage us with the Lord instead of making it a mindless habit. Such ways include helping a poor immigrant family we find on the roadside, paying to help a battered woman leave an abusive relationship, and paying tithes to local fellowship communities that distribute them through common consent. All of these methods have enriched our lives and made us feel more charity for the poor, and we have been blessed with an added measure of the Lord’s grace as we have done so. Furthermore, when we were paying under the old system, our mentality for our material blessings typically consisted of feeling grateful for them, feeling that our righteousness in our tithe-paying was earning us such blessings, and feeling justified in enjoying those blessings because we were full tithe-payers. Now . . . we still feel blessed, but we also feel burdened in a good way, we feel the burden of material wealth, even though we are not wealthy. We have noticed a marked decrease in covetousness of our neighbor’s wealth, his home, his status. We measure a dollar differently, for we can feel and touch the needs that dollar can do to lighten another, and we are much more careful at spending that dollar for our own needs.
Defining Down Needs
Which brings us to the next benefit. We are now searching to downsize our home, our vehicles, all of our needs, so that we can increase our surplus income, so that we can afford to tithe more. I feel the Lord’s wisdom in this as we are slowly defining down what we consider needs. We want to have more resources so that the Lord can direct us in giving, the benefits thereof we have found to be energizing to our spiritual lives. We pray for the Lord to direct us and He has. The result has been an overflow of love and grace into our lives. Here are some concepts we are using to give:
Deny not the Beggar
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.” Mosiah 4:16-17
We like to consecrate some of our tithes to those who we see on the street that are in need. We don’t care if they are panhandlers. We don’t care if they are going to spend it on booze. We care about giving them love. We look for people that need love, not money. We listen to Spirit and actively search out a giving situation. The money is just an excuse to go up and spend some time with them and give them a hug. Once the money is donated, it is their stewardship to do with what they want. It’s the love, not the handout, that has the potential to help change a person who is begging. Not to mention the fact that we take Hebrews 13:2 seriously:
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Giving in Communities
Giving in communities is where we will be able to bring Zion. In communities we have the capacity to bear one another’s burdens, helping lift a brother, become one in purpose, and have “no poor” among us. I have actually seen this occur over the past couple of months. My wife and I have occasionally attended a fellowship community called a “tithing meeting.” In this meeting, we take the sacrament to remember the Lord, but also to sanctify each of us to discuss solving each others’ needs. Here is how the meeting goes:
- Sacrament is served, along with prayers and hymns to bring in the Spirit of the Lord
- Tithing is collected. There are no slips, no receipts, you get no charitable giving deductions on your taxes.
- Everyone is given an opportunity to report needs. This has since been split into defining primary needs (typically food, housing, some health, etc.) and secondary needs (debt obligations, utility bills, etc.). Everyone is given the agency to define what is a primary and secondary need because individual situations differ.
- An account is made to the group, which assigns the funds first to the defined primary needs, and then to the secondary needs by common consent (no strong men here, in fact, I’ve seen mostly women in charge of the welfare effort). (In the meeting last week, all primary needs were met, and there was a handsome sum left over to cover some secondary needs.)
The potential for bickering, anger, resentment, abuse, finger-pointing all have the potential of undoing such a meeting. It was the reason primarily that Zion failed in the early church. So far, the meetings I have attended have gone smoothly, and I have seen an outpouring of love. But there is always potential for problems, and I’m sure some day these problems will arise. How does one deal with any of these potential situations:
- People that attend only to take from others; they are slothful and rely upon others resources for their sustenance?
- People that are more liberal in defining their own needs, while others withhold and sacrifice?
- People who define their surplus more conservatively than others, and thereby, give less?
All of these problems will occur as some date. The question is, how do we handle them? The Church has set up rules in welfare (working, going to Church, callings, accountability of time) etc. that they exchange for the benefit of receiving Church welfare. In this new system, no such ability exists, and to be frank, people who have been on Church welfare (I was at one time in my life as a youngster) find it a little degrading. In this system, people are generally taught the principle of giving generously on one hand, and not taking from others if they need not, on the other. There will be a variety of applications and a variety of responses. I just assume that at some point, my gift will be misused, that there will be moments where the distribution is unfair and I have to be okay with that.
A Refining Process
Yes, people will misuse and mistrust. But when undertaken with the right heart, the process can be a refining one. For the giver, the process of giving, even under abuses, can remind one of how the Savior was abused, how HE was treated unfairly, how HE gave all that he had, even the most precious gift, and some took it for granted. For those that accept with a humble and glad heart, a gift given can strengthen the bonds of love. It brings the giver and the receiver closer in the bonds of a sealing-type of relationship, a Zion-like one. For the poor, receiving a gift given reminds us that we all must receive the greatest gift given, the gift the Savior gave us with his atonement for all of us, who are indeed “poor.”
Right now, this process represents another kind of practice for Zion. Eventually, however, when Zion is redeemed, and we repent enough to be considered in that great endeavor, all who participate will do so without any attempt to dig a pit or take advantage of a brother, or to withhold because of mistrust or vanity. Any who would attempt to enter such a place would find it impossible to do so. They will have to be redeemed in the cleansing fire of sanctification to be permitted such entry. They will have to be . . . perfected.
38 And behold, it is written, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;
39 But I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also;
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also;
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that wouldborrow of thee turn thou not away.
43 And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy;
44 But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, andpray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.
46 Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled.
47 Old things are done away, and all things have become new.
48 Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect. 3 Nephi 12:39-48
Special Consecrating Circumstances
When we get to the point where we are willing to part with large sums of money, when there are a few rich after the manner of the world, that repent and undertake some of these challenges, they may want to consider some unique types of tithes and consecration of wealth that could truly lift this movement. Some of these may include:
- Helping the Saints to cancel debts and mortgages, which thereby increases their ability to donate more and extend grace to others and themselves
- Purchasing simple homes or vehicles for the poor
- Financing conferences and reunions to gather for the sake of worshiping the Lord and practicing other Zion-like efforts
- Helping to construct a temple
- Publishing reading materials or advertisements for missionary efforts
There are diverse ways and means one could consecrate their wealth to the efforts of the Lord, and it is between YOU and the Lord. I can only imagine the great sacrifice that would be to consecrate great sums of wealth, but then there must also be corresponding blessings. Remember the rich man in the Bible:
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. Mark 10:21