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Monday, June 27, 2005 

To Tithe or Not to Tithe...

Just to be clear…the LDS church considers a proper tithing to be 10% of all your increase.

So is tithing a burden?

Yes and no.

No, it’s not a burden if you don’t have a testimony of it and you don’t pay it.

Yes, it’s a burden if you know you should pay it and you don’t.

No, it’s not a burden if you have a testimony of it and pay it.

Tithing is one of those things…you know, that frustrating sort of faith thing: if you do it, you gain a testimony of doing it, if you don’t do it, it’s a thorn in your paw.

There was an article in a local publication called “City Weekly” that stated that Utahans have a super high rate of bankruptcy, and the article tried to imply that the problem was that we paid 10% of our income to the Church. This is true AND false. It is true because we DO pay 10% of our earnings to the church, and it is false because the REASON people in Utah area going bankrupt is because they are buying huge new houses, boats, and RV’s and getting loans based on their gross income instead of already figuring out the 10% as “untouchable” income. This has to do with the fact that most people are financial idiots, and not because paying tithing makes you poor.

In fact…I have a magic box…a magic money box…which has come in handy as the perfect object lesson for years as I was a missionary and as I have taught primary…

My Tithing Box

It looks innocent enough, but let me explain. When I was a young adult, I used this box as my bank. I was in school full time and working part time as a server in TWO restaurants. I got paid a paltry $2.17/hr + tips. Every evening when I came home, I would count my vast take of single one dollar bills, take out 10%, put the 10% in the tithing drawer (the middle left), and put the rest in another drawer (the middle right). As long as there was an honest amount in the left drawer, there was always money in the right drawer. I never missed a rent payment. I never went hungry. And I always had something for the weekend. (I loved that my tithing envelopes were fat! I mean really…who pays in cash?)

This is a little simplistic, I know. But seriously, that box was “magic.” Even now, as Todd and I struggle to make it on one income while trying to maintain our rock-n-roll lifestyle, we have been blessed by having just what we needed, when we needed it. This is not to say that we don’t have months of extreme lean; months when we eat all the old stuff in the cupboard that we bought before there was such thing as “Sugar Busters” and “South Beach.”

I mean to say that we have a testimony of tithing. I seriously feel that life is precarious; finances are precarious…and it is only by the grace of God that Todd’s company has survived for 3 ½ years, that I was able to have such a sweet design gig (in Utah!), that we have a roof over our heads, that we have clothes on our backs, and that we have food on our table.

A huge part of having a testimony of tithing is gratitude. I have seen all those things I mentioned above yanked out from under people’s feet. As long as I am being blessed by God, I will return to him what is rightfully His, and more! This is not to say that just because I pay tithing nothing devastating will ever happen to me (us). Bad things happen to good people; people who pay their tithing. I mean that paying my tithing helps me to separate myself from material things (my biggest false idol) and to rely on the arm of God. I have faith that if something catastrophic happened tomorrow, if I continue to pay my tithing we will be OK.

Side note: here in Utah in the service industry we have a little joke…Utahans are notoriously bad tippers, and the reason is because they can only figure out 10%. I even had an old crotchety man tell me not to complain about my tip because if he had to give 10% to the Lord he sure as hell wasn’t going to give me more.

My roommate has a button that reads "God knows when you don't tip." Perhaps that would work well in Utah? (Or they might just find it offensive. I find it funny!)

Good post on the ups and down of tithing. It is one of those things where you just have to do it to see it work out for you. No one else can make you believe it. And it's really a very difficult law to follow. When I sit down and figure out the bills, I am looking at the money that can go to tithing and thinking, "I don't have money for groceries for at least the next two weeks. I'm really going to be hungry living on molded cheese and water."

But I've always kind of thought that that is the point. A lot of the church's requirements are things that don't make such an immediate and physical effect on us. Does anyone instantly die if they drink? No. Is anyone immediately sent to hell for having a cigarette? Questioning the principles of the church? Skipping out on church? Spending money on a Sunday? No. Sometimes it seems there IS no consequence for doing or not doing something that we are told is wrong. When it comes to tithing, though, that's immediate and incredibly easy to see. No one can count up and add together the sacrifices a person makes by abstaining from things the church asks us to do. I don't know how many times I've skipped out on drinks at the bar, skipped out on church, skipped out on reading my scriptures, skipped out on doing drugs, or whatever. But every year, I get a little sheet from the bishopric that says, "You've paid X amount of dollars to us." Every two weeks I sit down and look at my paycheck and see EXACTLY how much I'm sacrificing and even though I know I'm not supposed to think it, every two weeks I think, "Imagine how much I could pay off on my credit cards with that." or "Imagine how many times I could go out to eat on that."

For me, of all the other things in the church's list of things to do or not do, tithing is by far one of the most difficult. Because it's the easiest to see. Even when I see the effects of paying in a positive light. For example, I once worked a paper route with a friend of mine, only Saturday and Sunday nights, and made $30 every two weeks. THIRTY. For an entire summer. And I paid my $3 dutifully every other Sunday. And somehow, I always had enough money to pay my bills. I couldn't tell you how I did it now, but at the time, I was totally ok. That's one example. I have also written out a check that I knew was going to bounce because I'd paid my tithing and needed something else--groceries or bills to be paid--and had to write the check out. This has happened a few times. Suddenly, someone I'd forgotten about pays me money they owe me which happens to be exactly what I need. Or the bank realizes they owe me a credit--in the exact amount I need. Or...whatever...

Does all this make it easier? Nope. Never. Because it's the same thing, every two weeks. An exact total of my sacrifice. And I think that's how it's supposed to work for people like me, who sometimes fall off the good-mormon-bandwagon because we don't see any consequences for our actions on occassions. Every two weeks, I see it and every end of the year, I see it. Because it's hard and it's painful because I love my money (I'll admit it. I love my money A LOT.) and I don't like to separate from it for any reason, Cingular bill or tithing.

Great comment that could have been a post!

I have a friend who was a "good girl" all her life until etc...etc. She had a HUGE revelation when she wasn't immediately struck with lightening, seriously... She felt like NOT having immediate consequences was her answer. She went haywire and was even arrested on drug possesion chages.

There is definitely a maturity, a reaching-a-higher-level when we follow a commandment because we CHOOSE to.

And thanks for sharing all those great tithing moments! Good luck.

I used to live in a neighborhood just off of Center Street in Provo. If you travel west on Center Street it ends at Utah Lake. We saw all sorts of boats and campers making their way down to the lake on the weekends...but my favorite was the BIG, shiny, fancy boat with it's name emblazened across the backside: "MY TITHING"! If he wasn't already going to hell for water skiing on Sunday... :0

Funny that you say that-- my sister-in-law just told me the story of a family in her ward who were active members--both parents were in the Young Men/Women's presidencies and became offended somehow and now have a boat that says "my tithing" on the back of it. She thinks they're going to hell too. :)

I love the law of tithing. Like a lot of others, I have many, many stories of how it has saved metime and time again.

Though, while my parents did their darndest to get me to pay it when I was a wee lass, I chose to spend my money at the corner candy store. I guess you could say that I learned my lesson the hard way, two fold: premature cellulite and a constantly empty bank account.

Sadly, or fortunately, or ironically, or blessedly, whatever angle you want to take... this is another lesson I've learned in my life of single-mom-dom.

If I were to take my living expenses, budget, etc. for the year 2003, write it all on a piece of paper, take another piece, and on it, write down my total income from both jobs I was working, there is no way on this Earth the two would match up. They wouldn't even come close. I know for a fact the only reason I made it through that year was because I paid my tithing.

In fact, I learned that I couldn't afford NOT to pay my tithing.

It's another amazing part of this immaculate plan. I just plain love it. :)


perhaps you ought to do a post on tipping? 8-)

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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