Monday, June 15, 2015

Should Tithing Be Paid Even If Basic Necessities Can't Be Met?

I have been asked multiple times in my life about whether someone should pay tithing if they can't meet the basic needs of their family at the time - and by "basic needs" I mean things like food, utilities, modest housing, etc.  These are people who are living within a careful budget - whose difficulties are not due to ignorance or extravagance.

I have been out of work multiple times in my life and been in a situation where I was in the situation I just described.  Some people have experienced miraculous financial help when they have needed it; I have not - and my experience over decades of my own life and watching others testifies to me that miraculous help is not a matter of someone's level of faith.  I have paid tithing in those situations, but I have received fast offering assistance at the same time.  I have no problem with the advice to pay tithing first if, and only if, the Church then turns around and helps the person / family through fast offerings make the payments they skipped in order to pay tithing. That sort of advice demands a true partnership, in my opinion - at least until circumstances change and help no longer is needed.

If reciprocal help is not being offered in the situations I described above, I believe food and other absolute necessities come first. 


Anonymous said...

That's what I would do when I was bishop. I would encourage people to pay their tithing first and promise church assistance if needed afterward.

Then as an individual when I was "out of the know", if I thought that was the case with a family, I would see to it that a miracle occurred. Boxes of groceries, secret gifts of money, etc.

Apache said...

What if a widow, disabled, totally supported on government assistance. Pay tithing on discretionary part of income only?

Anonymous said...

I would also encourage members to pay their tithing. The financial circumstances of people are so varied that it's tough to judge what "essential needs" really means. For some, they really do need cut back on their lifestyle choices. For others, it may mean reaching out to family members from whom they are estranged. My practical experience is that I've never seen a struggling family get ahead by not paying tithing. The windows of heaven do tend to stay shut, and the members lose out on temporal and spiritual blessings. But, each of us has to account for our choices. Apache - just my opinion - money received from government is not "income" and therefore I wouldn't encourage widow to pay tithing on it. I consider it no different than if a rich relative where to donate money to the disabled widow monthly for her maintenance. That isn't "income," it's a donation.

Anonymous said...

Apache - One more way to look at the disability payments. Suppose you have an adult sibling, who, for whatever reason, can't hold a job or provide for herself. You offer to have her come live with you. You provide her a bedroom, and she has use of the house, food, utilities, the same as any other household member. You buy her clothes as needed, small odds and ends, etc. Technically, she doesn't receive an "income" but she certainly is benefiting greatly from being able to live with you. Should she pay tithing on the "benefit" she is receiving from you? No. First of all, she literally has no income so she has no money to pay. Second, you are giving her the equivalent of a disability income. Although it's not in direct cash, it is indirect assistance by way of a roof over her head, food, utilities, etc. That's why I say people don't need to pay tithing on any kind of government assistance, child support payments, etc. They aren't income. I'm ambivalent about old age social security payments. You can know exactly how much you've put into the system, so at some point, you can know when you've received more than what you put in. On the other hand, if you had invested the money, you might have actually made more money than what the government ends up giving you. I haven't reached the age to receive social security, yet, but I don't think I'll pay tithing on it.

Papa D said...

The payment of tithing, including how to calculate it, officially is left up to the individual members. I support that right and responsibility fully and will never argue or quibble with someone who differs from me in an honest attempt to figure out how or if to pay it.

In all situations, however, I believe personally in the principle of paying tithing on income and, if necessary for those living frugally, receiving assistance from Fast Offerings if necessities are sacrificed to pay tithing. If that assistance is not offered, I would counsel meeting necessities first and paying tithing on any excess money that might be left upon receipt of the next income amount - or something similar that preserves the integrity of the principle in the mind and heart of the individual.