Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Internalizing the Principle of Tithing, Regardless of Specific Recipient

I know someone who quit paying tithing when he became inactive in the LDS Church.  As I thought recently about what I wish I would have said to him at the time, I came up with the following: 


The command is to tithe to help others - in essence, to participate in his work and his glory at the most practical level. I believe in the principle and symbolism of tithing, so I believe in tithing.

In the Old Testament, tithing essentially was the equivalent of our modern taxes and fast offerings (taking food to the storehouse, for example); now, it primarily funds the physical expansion and maintenance of the "structural church" (including things like college campuses that open up educational opportunities to members at greatly reduced cost). In other words, I'm fine seeing it now as a "religion tax" - especially since I have no automatic aversion to taxes, in and of themselves.  I'm OK with that change in practical effect, as the structural church is important to me and many others - and since we have added fast offerings to replace the OT tithing.

Also, a temple recommend is very important to me, for lots of simple and complicated reasons, so I pay tithing to the LDS Church - and I believe my motives are "pure".

If someone else doesn't believe in the purposes which tithing accomplishes in our own day (if the dictates of their own consciences don't direct their tithing to the LDS Church), I'm not about to condemn them for directing their tithing elsewhere in a way that does good and helps others - or discourage them from paying a tithing to another entity. I believe that certainly fulfills the spirit of the law, even if it doesn't fulfill the letter of the LDS application - and I believe all will be blessed for following the spirit of tithing as they understand it.

I absolutely would prefer that someone tithe for a good cause than that they not tithe at all - and I think someone who stops paying a tithe (or making some sort of significant, sacrificial donation) just because they no longer feel like supporting the LDS Church financially probably "practiced the program" of tithing without ever understanding and embracing and internalizing the principle and symbolism of tithing.

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