“Will a Man Rob God?”


Adapted from an October 1980 general conference address.
The law of tithing is for the blessing and protection of the Lord’s people. It is our honor and privilege to live this great law.
President Spencer W. Kimball

I remember as a youth walking with my mother up the dusty road to the bishop’s house in a day when we often paid tithing from our animals and produce. As we walked, I said, “Why do we take the eggs to the bishop?” She answered, “Because they are tithing eggs and the bishop receives the tithing for Heavenly Father.” My mother then recounted how each evening when the eggs were brought in, the first one went into a small basket and the next nine went into a large basket. I first learned the law of tithing from my beloved mother.

To the west of our home was our garden plot. Part of the garden was in potatoes. One day my father said to my sister and me, “There are more potatoes than we can use. If you would like to sell some, you may do so.” My sister Alice and I dug some up and hauled them down to a hotel and sold them. When we showed the money to our father, he asked what we were going to do with it. We said we would divide it before buying some things we wanted. Then he questioned, “What about your tithing?” He said, “The Lord has been good to us. We planted and cultivated and harvested, but the earth is the Lord’s. He sent the moisture and the sunshine. One-tenth we always give back to the Lord for His part.” My father made no requirement; he merely explained it so convincingly that we felt it an honor and privilege to pay tithing.

In these times of economic concern and worry, we must forcefully remind ourselves that the Lord has given us a spiritual and economic law which, when fully obeyed, will bring promised blessings so great that “there shall not be room enough to receive” them (Mal. 3:10).

Malachi’s promise

It has always been impressive to me that of all the teachings from Old Testament prophets that the Lord could have given anew to the Nephites when He visited them, He gave Malachi’s stirring promise regarding tithing:

“And these are the words which he did tell unto them, saying: Thus said the Father unto 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 my 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.

“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the fields, saith the Lord of Hosts.

“And all nations shall call you blessed” (3 Ne. 24:1, 8–12).

It takes faith

In the latter days the Lord has said that if the Saints keep the commandments and “offer thine oblations” that “the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. … Yea, all things which come of the earth … are made for the benefit and the use of man” (D&C 59:12, 16, 18).

The prophets of all dispensations have clearly taught the law of tithing for the blessing and protection of the Lord’s people. On this subject, we may read the word of the Lord in our dispensation:

“Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require … that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord” (D&C 119:1, 4).

The Lord makes clear that tithing is His law and is required of all His followers. It is our honor and privilege, our safety and promise, our great blessing to live this law of God. To fail to meet this obligation in full is to deny ourselves the promises and is to omit a weighty matter. It is a transgression, not an inconsequential oversight.

Yes, it may take great faith to pay tithes when funds are scarce and demands are great. But we remember the promise from the Father to Malachi. We also remember the Lord’s promise in our day: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).

Where did it come from?

I have related before my experience with a friend who took me to his ranch. He unlocked the door of a large new automobile, slid behind the wheel, and said proudly, “How do you like my new car?” We rode in luxurious comfort to a beautiful new landscaped home, and he said with no little pride, “This is my home.”

He drove to a grassy knoll. The sun was setting behind the distant hills. Pointing to the north, he asked, “Do you see that clump of trees yonder?”

With a wide sweeping gesture, he boasted, “From the clump of trees to the lake, to the bluff, and to the ranch buildings and all between—all this is mine. And the dark specks in the meadow—those cattle are also mine.”

And then I asked from whom he obtained it. The chain of title of his abstract went back to land grants from governments. His attorney had assured him he had an unencumbered title.

“From whom did the government get it?” I asked. “What was paid for it?” There came into my mind the declaration of the Psalmist, boldly restated by Paul: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (1 Cor. 10:26).

And then I asked, “Did title come from God, Creator of the earth and the owner thereof? Did He get paid? Was it sold or leased or given to you? If a gift, from whom? If a sale, with what exchange or currency? If a lease, do you make proper accounting?”

And then I asked, “What was the price? With what treasures did you buy this farm?”

“Money!”

“Where did you get the money?”

“From my toil, my sweat, my labor, and my strength.”

And then I asked, “Where did you get your strength to toil, your power to labor, your glands to sweat?”

He spoke of food.

“Where did the food originate?”

“From sun and atmosphere and soil and water.”

“And who brought those elements here?”

I quoted the Psalmist: “Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary” (Ps. 68:9).

“If the land is not yours, then what accounting do you make to your landlord for his bounties? The scripture says: ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s’ (Matt. 22:21). What percentage of your increase do you pay Caesar? And what percent to God?”

I said again: “I seem to find no place in holy writ where God has said, ‘I give you title to this land unconditionally.’

“I cannot find such scripture, but I do find this from Psalms: ‘Those that wait upon the Lord, … shall inherit the earth’ (Ps. 37:9).

“It seems more of a lease on which a rental is exacted than of a simple title. This does not seem to convey the earth but only the use and contents which are given to men on condition that they live all of the commandments of God.”

But my friend continued to mumble, “Mine—mine,” as if to convince himself against the surer knowledge that he was at best a recreant renter.

That was long years ago. I later saw him lying in his death among luxurious furnishings in a palatial home. And I folded his arms upon his breast, and drew down the little curtains over his eyes. I spoke at his funeral, and I followed the cortege from the good piece of earth he had claimed to be his grave.

Later I saw that same estate, yellow in grain, green in lucerne, white in cotton, seemingly unmindful of him who had claimed it.

Windows of heaven

I testify to you that tithing is indeed a great blessing and a law for our benefit. Read the promise that the Lord testified came from the Father—a promise none of us can afford to be without: “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” (Mal. 3:10).

Let this, then, be our watchword: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

If we will do so, and keep the commandments with all our heart, the Lord will guide us through troubled times, and we shall gratefully see His help in our behalf, and we will give deep love and appreciation to Him for His many kindnesses and goodnesses. He is our Lord and our Great Strength. If we are worthy, He will be there in our time of need. Of that I have a sure understanding.

[photo] Photography by Kelly A. Larsen. Posed by model