I desperately want to pay my tithing again. I have £28,000 debt and after paying my debt there is no money left for enough food for me and my children. I am told to pay your tithing first but if I do that then I will get into more debt with penalty charges for missed payments, maybe become homeless. I want to be sensible about the debt and pay my tithing and don’t know what to do. My life style in not extravagant. I have been a single mum for a long time without any child support and have gained debt over the past 20 years. I am now at the breaking point. Should I just stop paying bills and pay what I owe the Lord?
Debbie, from England
Your rather desperate situation is shared by numbers of people. But let’s see if we can sort things out a bit. What are the consequences of not paying your tithing? One who doesn’t pay tithing is not eligible to hold any major calling in the Ward or Stake. A non-tithe payer may not receive a temple recommend. A non-tithe payer is not eligible to receive assistance from the fast offering funds or from the bishop’s storehouse. The windows of heaven tend to be shut to such a person. From the book of Malachi—
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? in tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 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 3:8-10).
Now, what is the lot of those who do pay their tithing? This, from Elder Lynn Robbins—
“Because the natural man tends to hoard or consume everything, the Lord wisely commanded ancient Israel to sacrifice not the last and poorest of the flock, but the firstlings, not the leftovers of the field, but the firstfruits (see Deuteronomy 26:2; Mosiah 2:3; Moses 5:5). Genuine sacrifice has been a hallmark of the faithful from the beginning.
“Among those who do not sacrifice there are two extremes: one is the rich, gluttonous man who won’t and the other is the poor, destitute man who believes he can’t. But how can you ask someone who is starving to eat less? Is there a level of poverty so low that sacrifice should not be expected or a family so destitute that paying tithing should cease to be required?
“The Lord often teaches using extreme circumstances to illustrate a principle. The story of the widow of Zarephath is an example of extreme poverty used to teach the doctrine that mercy cannot rob sacrifice any more than it can rob justice. In fact, the truer measure of sacrifice isn’t so much what one gives to sacrifice as what one sacrifices to give (see Mark 12:43). Faith isn’t tested so much when the cupboard is full as when it is bare. In these defining moments, the crisis doesn’t create one’s character, it reveals it. The crisis is the test. (Elder Lynn G. Robbins, Tithing a Commandment Even for the Destitute, Ensign (CR), April 2005)
If one does not pay tithing because of destitute circumstances, one tends to stand alone. But if one obeys the commandments of the Lord in spite of difficulty and hardship, the Lord becomes an active partner in the person’s affairs. We are not talking about abstract concepts here, but about the real, difficult world. Here is what one could do in circumstances such as yours. First, pay your tithing! Make the tithing the very first payment you make from your monthly bills, and be sure that it is a complete, honest tithing. Then prioritize your bills–the most important first, and so on down the line, and pay in order of priority all that you can. Next, get an appointment with your bishop. Bring to the meeting all your financial accounts. Lay them before the bishop, and ask for his advise on how to handle the payments that are due in light of the fact that you don’t have enough income to pay them. The bishop’s advise may not be what you expect or would like to hear. But he is your bishop, and represents the Lord to you. Do what he says! Then have the faith, belief and confidence that if you stay with it, and are willing to obediently suffer through the tough times, the Lord will not leave you alone. He will bless you in marvelous ways, and you will overcome your difficulties.