One day long ago in graduate school, I (Richard) had a bright idea about tithing. We were struggling students who seemed to have less coming in than going out every month and I suggested to Linda that I had a new plan. "Let's do a 'deferred tithing," I said, "where we keep careful track of what we owe but defer the actual payment until we have more money — and of course we will pay the Lord good interest on it, a couple of percent over prime!"
I (Linda) nixed that proposal in a hurry. "Very bad idea," I said. "Why?" said Richard. "Because we need the blessings NOW," I replied.
We have thought a lot about tithing since then, and are grateful for the principle and the practice in so many ways. Let us suggest, as the year winds down and as we have our own personal "settlements," six new and perhaps fresh ways to view the law of tithing. Hopefully, some of these perspectives will help you see it and appreciate it in additional ways.
1. View tithing as a very high-yield investment. If you were to say to one of your kids, "I'll give you 10 dollars if you will give me back one dollar," do you think they would take you up on it? That is essentially what Heavenly Father says to us. He owns all, gives us much and expects only 10 percent back. The "yield" on that investment is very high.
2. View tithing as "equity" in God's kingdom. Every executive will tell you that equity is the best reward. Actually owning part of the company is the greatest motivator for better performance. Tithing essentially buys us a bit of equity in the kingdom of God and at least gets us an "option" in the kingdom of heaven.
3. View tithing as insurance. Both the Old Testament book of Malachi and Doctrine and Covenants 64 tell us in very clear language that those who pay an honest tithe "will not be burned at His coming." Where else would you get that kind of insurance?
4. View tithing as rent. We know that all belongs to God and that, with the possible exception of our agency, we own nothing. Like anyone who does not own, we need to rent. Our Father allows us use of so much of what he has, from his earth to his church, and the rent of 10 percent is not only reasonable, it is a bargain. And unlike other rent, it goes down in hard times and up in good times so it is always fair and so that, as we adjust our minds to it, it is always affordable.
5. View tithing as a "flat tax." There is a lot of political talk lately about the fairness and simplicity of a flat tax, allowing us to simply fill in a postcard with our income on it and pay a fixed percentage for tax. God, of course, implemented precisely this system from the beginning — a flat, fair, same-for-everyone tithe of one-tenth that all can understand, all can pay and all can benefit from.
6. View tithing as a miracle. Many years ago in England, we heard a promise to the British Saints that if they paid their tithing, they would all have a car so that they could get to church. That was no small promise to the often poor British members, many of whom had to ride trains for two hours or more to get to church. "I know of not one member who pays tithing and does not have a car to get to church in," they were told, "but I know of hundreds who do not pay tithing and have no car."
It is hard to explain mathematically, but somehow, those who live this law always have what they need. Forget about the fact that it does not add up on a budget or become explainable on some fiscal analysis — it just simply always works, even if we don't know why.
Share some of these perspectives with your children and families. Hopefully, one or more of these "new views" will help us to be a little more appreciative of this ancient and wonderful law of God and a little more excited about observing it personally.
Richard and Linda Eyre are the founders of Joyschools.com and New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com, or read Linda's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html. Their three latest books are "The Entitlement Trap," "5 Spiritual Solutions" and "The Three Deceivers." Listen to their weekly radio show on Mondays at 4:30 at www.byuradio.org or see their TV segments at studio5.ksl.com (search eyre).