Monday, September 26, 2011

The Lord’s Richest Blessings

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Lord’s Richest Blessings, by Carl B. Pratt
Of the Seventy

I'm starting to dread lessons on tithing. It's not because I'm against tithing, it's that too often the stories and examples shared seem to be the marvelous or dramatic stories that many faithful men and women haven't experienced (the kind of stories that Elder Bednar warned against in an earlier talk in this conference).

When we teach the principle of tithing to children, we hardly if ever talk about being directly compensated with the same amount of money we paid in tithing. Instead, we talk about the real reasons for and blessing from tithing. We testify that tithing is how the Lord's Church can bless the lives of millions around the world. We may illustrate that meetinghouses and even temples are built and maintained by tithing. We teach that the Lord has given us everything and asks for ten percent back to build up the Kingdom. We say that we pay tithing because it's a commandment, and we're happy to help the Lord.

Never in teaching children do we give the hint that if you pay your tithing, you can expect to find money unexpectantly to make up for what you already paid. Never do we talk about a form of quid pro quo.

However, something must happen between Primary and Gospel Doctrine. Too often, it seems that there is a business approach to tithing in these lessons; the focus is on the bottom line, instead of the Lord's richest blessings.

I dealt with tithing, bills, and finances this weekend. I'm acutely aware of our expenses after we've acquired a mortgage and seen incredible moving expenses. Dutifully, I set aside the tithing money before taking care of any other responsibilities and promptly forgot how much it was. As I filled out the tithing envelope yesterday, I realized that a real job (with real expenses) equates to higher tithing checks. As I put the check and slip in an envelope, I reflected on the blessings I've received from the Lord: I looked at my little (or not-so-little-anymore) family sitting on the pew beside me; I thought of our modest home that feels like heaven; I remembered our regular trips to the temple as a family and the eternity that the temple represents. I thought of the love I feel for my family and never even considered that the Lord owed me a bag of cash equal to what I had paid.

As I started reviewing Elder Pratt's comments, I wondered where his dramatic tithing story would lead. I liked his later clarification:

There is a possibility of misinterpretation in this story from my grandparents. We might conclude that since we pay tithing with money, the Lord will always bless us with money. I tended to think that way as a child. I have since learned it doesn’t necessarily work that way. The Lord promises blessings to those who pay their tithing. . . . He fulfills His promises, and if we faithfully pay our tithing, we will not lack for the necessities of life, but He does not promise wealth. Money and bank accounts are not His richest blessings. He blesses us with wisdom to manage our limited material resources, wisdom that enables us to live better with 90 percent of our income than with 100 percent. Thus, faithful tithe payers understand provident living and tend to be more self-reliant.

I'm grateful for the opportunity I have to help assist the Lord in His work, and I'm grateful for the open windows of heaven from which so many blessings continue to flow.

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