In the New Testament you may recall a man named Saul, who persecuted the followers of Jesus Christ until one day on the road to Damascus the Lord turned him around and changed his viewpoint.
Then Saul became Paul the Apostle, a mighty witness of the resurrected Lord, and wrote “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God….But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:12, 14).
For Paul, it was a sure knowledge of the living Christ and what Christ’s atonement had wrought for him that changed his viewpoint 180 degrees.
Some years ago, Time Magazine had a “Saul” viewpoint in an article about my church’s supposed wealth. It claimed that the Church “taxed” its members 10 percent of their income — wording which brought smiles when I mentioned it at church. If Time had covered Jesus’ ministry in New Testament times, it might have reported that he was bad for the crutch business. It is a matter of viewpoint.
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I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have attended my church’s worship services thousands of times, in over 99 different cities, and never has anyone passed a collection plate or asked me for money. Not once. Rather, I have been taught the principle of tithing as the Lord’s means for building the kingdom and blessing His children as individuals and families. I know that the principle of tithing works, because it has blessed me.
Latter-day Saints do make charitable donations, because they believe in fulfilling God’s commandment to tithe and give to the poor.
It’s in the Bible. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10-11).
If you believe that religion is the opiate of the masses, or that churches just take your money, then your charitable contributions are unlikely to be generous. But if you understand that God gives you everything and only asks for 10 percent, you pay tithing and count your blessings. It is a matter of viewpoint.
These monies fund the Church’s many worldwide programs, including its educational, missionary, church building, humanitarian and welfare efforts. They enable the Church to carry out its mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, caring for the poor, and strengthening members’ faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. Through the positive principle of tithing, a kind Heavenly Father pours out blessings upon those who will trust His economics.
Our bishops, the pastors in each of our 30,000-plus congregations, receive no pay from the Church — not one cent. They and the dozens who minister under their watch all do so in response to inspired calls to serve, and all without remuneration.
I love the faith of the humble members of my church in Brazil, where I served a mission in my youth and see the Church growing today. The members there do not receive a tax break for church contributions. Still, they exercise faith and pay tithing, even in the face of national economic woes.
We Latter-day Saints follow Jesus Christ. We try to live as he taught. That is the basis of our faith and our lives. So we joyfully pay tithes and other offerings regardless of what Caesar demands. We trust, as Paul said, that “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
On Faith columnist Alfred Gunn, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Gig Harbor, can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. For mor information, visit www.mormon.org.