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On Mormon tithing and a $100 billion funding fund

(RNS) — There’s a story in the Gospel of Luke a few farmer who unexpectedly discovered himself with the nice fortune of getting harvested extra grain than he had room to retailer. What to do?

He had a solution, one which strikes me as shrewd and forward-thinking in these first-century days of subsistence farming and hand-to-mouth dwelling: He would construct greater storage sheds! So smart. Then he might get pleasure from a future free from nervousness, it doesn’t matter what ailing winds may blow.

Besides that God was having none of it. Fairly than applauding the man’s capacity to save lots of or upholding him for instance of what Mormons would name “provident dwelling,” the story has God rebuking him as a idiot. That very night time, God stated, the person’s life can be required of him, so it was mistaken to be storing up treasures for himself.

It’s a narrative that makes me acutely uncomfortable. And perhaps it did the opposite Gospel writers too, since Luke is the one one of many 4 to recount it.

I imply, my husband and I contribute each month to a retirement plan. We’ve got life insurance coverage insurance policies. And one wonderful day just a few years from now we could have paid off our mortgage. Heck, even our contingency plans have contingency plans.

I needed to open this column with that admission: that I’m not dwelling as much as what Jesus taught me to do with my cash. I’m not planning to sell everything I have and give all the money to the poor. I’m scripting this whereas sitting in a cushty front room, surrounded by beloved books and an ornament-laden Christmas tree. I just like the comforts of my life.

I do know this makes me a hypocrite. The word hypocrite means I’m acting below (hupo) the part I should be playing (krinesthai). We’re hypocrites after we consider one factor whereas doing one other.

However my church has acted hypocritically too with regards to cash, by which I imply it’s not dwelling as much as its requirements.

It’s been practically three years since I made the choice to cease tithing to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and two years since I first wrote about it. As I defined on the time, I used to be shaken, even devastated, by the information that my church was hoarding greater than $100 billion in an funding fund with no speedy plans to make use of the cash to assist folks. That battle chest is along with the church’s in depth actual property holdings and different belongings. According to the original report about it in The Washington Post, the one instances any belongings had been withdrawn from the $100 billion funding fund had been to shore up two of the church’s for-profit ventures, together with a life insurance coverage firm and an upscale shopping center in Salt Lake Metropolis.

It was a polarizing act to jot down about my determination to cease tithing. And though I adopted up with a column about the place I’ve redirected the cash — I’ve continued tithing, however primarily to organizations just like the Bountiful Children’s Foundation and Compassion International that straight feed hungry youngsters — a great deal of the pushback from readers accused me of “robbing the Lord of tithes and choices.”

That reference to the Previous Testomony prophet Malachi is an fascinating one. It cherry-picks one factor of tithing — the thought of robbing the Lord — and ignores the bigger context of Malachi 3, which is about what God expects of us. A few of that’s wrapped up in considerations about financial justice. In line with verse 5, for instance, a part of “robbing” the Lord shouldn’t be paying staff a full wage, not caring for widows and orphans and never opening our hearts to strangers.

Tithing, in different phrases, can’t be lowered to checking a field that claims you assist an insanely rich establishment with but extra wealth and are out of the blue proper with the Lord due to it. It’s not simply the act of monetary sacrifice that makes tithing holy, though sacrifice is a part of it. It’s how that cash helps God’s youngsters, a lot of whom are in nice want.

I’m not saying the church doesn’t interact in any charitable actions. It completely does. Simply final week I obtained an e-mail press launch concerning the church giving $10 million to struggle polio all over the world.

Such efforts are stunning and necessary — and never practically sufficient. $10 million is a good sum of money, however not compared to the billions that the church takes in every year (estimated to be around $7 billion, which greater than covers its annual bills with sufficient left over to proceed investing).

The “parable of the wealthy idiot,” which is what Luke 12 is known as, all the time involves thoughts after I take into consideration the church sitting on $100 billion in investments (after which some). I do know that many members have defended its huge reserves as merely smart planning for the long run. Maybe that stockpile will turn out to be useful within the apocalypse, they are saying, when the entire world will probably be in a state of chaos. Or, nearer at hand, maybe it is going to assist to gasoline the church when the composition of its membership sometime shifts from rich nations in North America and Europe to the International South.

Besides that Jesus didn’t discuss saving for the long run. You’ll find that within the E-book of Proverbs, so it’s not like saving isn’t current wherever within the Bible as a optimistic worth. But it surely wasn’t of worth to Jesus, apparently, and he’s the one we’re imagined to emulate. Repeatedly within the Gospels, we see him assembly folks’s speedy wants on an speedy foundation. He doesn’t educate that we have to save our cash now in order that we might be beneficiant in some unspecified approach in a far-distant, nebulous future.

I like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has taught me morality in so many foundational methods: the significance of honesty, for instance, and of not shielding anybody side of my life from the instance of Christ. It has taught me to look the Scriptures to seek out Christ in all issues, and to sample my life after him based mostly on what I learn there.

So it’s notably demoralizing to study that the church doesn’t look like following that sample. Is cash the exception to the rule about following Jesus — we’re to take action besides when it threatens wealth and acquisition?

It’s an annual custom within the church to have a “tithing settlement,” though the language has lately modified to “tithing declaration.” (It’s maybe an indication of the depth of the church’s swollen paperwork that the wording change from “settlement” to “declaration” merited a press launch.)

So right here is my decidedly unsettled declaration: I’m a full-tithe payer. And I really feel unsettled not as a result of I’m not tithing to the church, however as a result of 10% merely isn’t sufficient with regards to serving to the poor.

Associated content material:

Why I stopped tithing to the LDS Church

LDS Church is under fire in Australia

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