3 The Church in its Temporal Aspect Part G

Surplus And The Kingdom 
Proverbs 31:26-27
Within the teachings of the church/woman we seek are doctrines, which can teach us to individually recognize, maintain, and use the blessing of surplus for the purpose of God. The lessons begin for us in the time of Abraham.

Genesis 14:36-40 
14:36 And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.
14:37 And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God;
14:38 Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.
14:39 Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.
14:40 And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him.

The Church of Salem was a place of righteousness before the Lord. Abraham would have given all he had to be a part of that movement, but the wisdom of God reminded him of the covenant responsibilities he had to home and family. In wisdom he accounted of his holdings and gave to this Church all above that which he and his family needed to live (verse 39 0f the passage above). Through the wisdom of God and The Holy Spirit, Abraham came to recognize surplus. He then used this surplus amount as a basis for tithing. I also recognize surplus as a basis for determining my temporal responsibility before God. 

Tithing is a systematic exercise that causes us to account of all our assets that we might realize our ability to fulfill our responsibility before God for the temporal support of His Church. According to the scriptures I respect, the key to this aspect of righteous stewardship is surplus. 

DC 106:1a-1b 
106:1a Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church of Zion, for the building of mine house, and for the laying the foundation of Zion, and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the presidency of my church;
106:1b and this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people; and after 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.

Authors note: From Webster's 1828 Dictionary of the English Language:
5. Any surplus advantage.

Tithing for me became that not only was God real; He was active in my life. He showed respect to my efforts and was willing to work with me in all aspects of my life and my labor for our covenant purpose. My offering today is to share with you the path I walked that gave me this testimony in hopes that one day you allow yourself the same revelation. Solomon's virtuous woman labored to fulfill her covenant responsibilities by applying diligent labor to the wisdom of God. The whole intent of tithing by surplus is learning to let God lead.

Proverbs 31:26-27 
31:26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
31:27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

That which we need first is the ability to recognize surplus. Simply put, surplus is the difference between yearly income and yearly expenses. It seems like a simple equation, but in the face of God it creates questions that are anything but simple. How much in the way of temporal assets are required for our family to live comfortably? What if any of our comforts are acceptable to the Lord? What is an acceptable sacrifice before the Lord? What is the difference between an offering and a sacrifice? What are we willing to offer God to gain the Kingdom of God here on earth? These many questions will only be answered if and when we choose to open our hearts and our lives to a committed fellowship with God through His Spirit. We must humbly submit our selves to the Lord, ask our questions, and wait with both confidence and patience for His answer.

Romans 12:1-2 
12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
12:2 And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God is.

My needs are different than your needs. Standards created by someone else or even a body of believers cannot accurately define the needs of my household. Tithing by surplus causes us to seek out the source of all truth. Only God can truly understand how life requires my household to use His temporal blessings. Together with Him we can truly identify how our blessings can best be used in our labor for His purpose. It allows each of us to go forward in our labor with a full heart, confident that God is a part of all we do. 

DC 81: 4e-4g 
81:4e And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just;
81:4f and all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents;
81:4g yea, even an hundredfold, to be cast into the Lord's storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church, every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.

Probably the hardest aspect of this whole exercise is discerning and defining just (righteous) wants and needs. We know every household needs food, shelter, and clothing. That is a beginning. Beyond that we have the words of DC 81:4g "doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God". As we ponder this verse we begin to understand the task of applying this standard to the use of our temporal blessings. At best, it is hard. Most commonly it is perplexing and frustrating. I was lost and ready to give up until I took God's advice:

Luke 11:10-11
11:10 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
11:11 For every one who asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

This is the path to our connection with God's Holy Spirit. God's Holy Spirit or the Comforter is our source and our connection to all we need to know. By anyone's standard God's Spirit is a formidable reliable resource.

Genesis 6:64 Therefore it is given to abide in you, the record of heaven, the Comforter, the peaceable things of immortal glory, the truth of all things, that which quickeneth all things which maketh alive all things, that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice and judgment.

Consider if you will the way needs vary from household to household. Diapers are not a need in my household, but in others they are. Some consider fresh meat as a nutritional necessity; others do not. Members of my household suffer from lower intestinal problems that result in either constipation or diarrhea. Oddly enough Starbucks coffee balances their system to the point of normal regularity. So, in my household, Starbucks coffee is a just want and need. This oddity testified to me of my need for the Spirit to determine righteous expenditures. We need to recognize the many faces of righteousness and open our minds to the fact that no list can ever include all the variables. We have to open our lives to God, learn to stand with Him in the choices we make, and trust that others of the fellowship are doing the same thing. Tithing is a process of pursuing perfection, and it seeks to bring about very personal individual growth. Does that mean that some of us can cheat? Yes it does. Does that mean that we have to judge them? In truth that is up to you, but for me I have found that most cheaters can only cheat for so long before they either confess or leave the congregation. Remember two things: 
1.God does not need our tithes to build His Kingdom. He seeks to open our hearts to true communion with His Spirit and teach us the virtues of righteous stewardship.
2.Those that choose to defraud God do not need our condemnation. Rather, they need our help. They will find that His Kingdom is no longer the desire of their heart. Some will try to disrupt the Kingdom and fail. Most will just leave.   

2 Nephi 12:26 And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

Matthew 7:2-3 
7:2 Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment
7:3 For with what judgment ye shall judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

We also have to deal with how we account expenditures that fail to meet the criteria of a just want and need. As an example you have a dollar that you know is surplus and you buy a drink that is not a just want or a need. You end up with a dollar that still represents surplus in which forty cents of that dollar is the drink. Does this happen? Yes it does. In fact, in my life nearly everything I buy at a convenience store is ultimately money that I am not using with my eye single to the glory of God. Hence, it is surplus and I am responsible to God for the price of these purchases as a part of my tithe. This points out just how complicated tithing can be and how much we need God's Spirit to lead us. No set of rules, laws, or studied opinions can replace the need we have to grow in our relationship with God. In fact, relying on any group-sanctioned set of criteria that describe just wants and needs reduces tithing to a tax on worship or a membership fee in a club. For tithing to be an offering from the heart, it must come from the heart of each individual. 

Proverbs 31:26-27 
31:26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
31:27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

Authors note: My personal testimony of tithing by surplus:
Our congregation had decided as one to enter into the tithing process as described by scripture. This required each of us to map out the expenses of our household for the previous 12 months and compare it to the income for the same period of time. We agreed to do this in private by a method agreeable to those in the household, and to go to the Lord and define each expense as being a just want or need. If the income was more than the expenses we agreed to recognize this amount as surplus and offer that amount in full to the congregation as an original tithe. In my household I was staggered to see the amount of money that was exposed as surplus. A portion of it was money left over at the end of the year, but a surprising amount of it reflected money spent that failed to adhere to the standard set by "my eye single to the glory of God". They were not truly a just want or need. I had no idea God had blessed me and mine so greatly. At first I thought that I had made a mistake, so I prayed to God for direction and refigured. To my surprise it was correct. None of my figures were in error. Right there in black and white by my hand was the temporal proof of God blessing my family and how we had handled that blessing. So, in faith believing, I reluctantly offered the full amount of surplus to the congregation.

One year later, it was time to offer the congregation our yearly tithe. I used the same method I had used before and was floored by the results of my effort. Now remember, the tithe I was responsible for this year was an amount equal to 1/10th of my total surplus. The tithing amount staring at me from the figures I wrote was nearly equal to my full surplus of the previous year. It had to be a mistake, so I prayed to God for direction and refigured. I found it was a mistake. The amount of my tithe (10% of my total surplus) was exactly equal my entire surplus of the previous year. By my figures and my calculations (five times in a row with a day between each figuring), God had increased my surplus 10 fold. My testimony was undeniable. God had blessed me greatly.

As I pondered this testimony, I began to understand the spiritual wisdom of tithing. I had proved to myself that if I let Him, God would work in my life and the more I allowed Him to labor with me; the more I was blessed. Again by pondering our life over the last year, my whole family began to recognize the work of God in every aspect of our life. From home to work to our social involvements, God had been with us directing our use of all His blessings both temporal and spiritual. This brought us a joy that allowed both patience and diligence to find a place in our labor with God for His purpose, which is the whole point of the exercise. We proved that God and His promises are both real and they are ours if we are willing to accept them. This then is my testimony to the world of the doctrine of tithing. 
Fred Williams  

What I offer you here today is a simplistic look at tithing by surplus and one testimony. Ultimately it is not enough, but it is a beginning. Like you I had questions rooted in the weakness of man, his greed, and his ability to turn away from God. Leadership in the churches of the world has abused its membership and their willing offerings of temporal blessings. There are many vastly wealthy preachers whose wealth is a product of this abuse. Besides this it occurred to me that I am being asked to give my money to an entity that created and owns the entire universe. Why in the world would He need my paltry pocket change when He can feed five thousand men and their families with five loves of bread and two fish?

This is the answer I found. Tithing for the individual is not meant by God to support His Church. It is an exercise for His people that they might learn how to allow His Holy Spirit to lead them and how they might have confidence that the knowledge given is leading them to the virtue they seek. Tithing is that lesson and each tithing report you fill out becomes written proof in your handwriting that God is here and He is just waiting to teach you all you need to know.

Luke 11:10-11
11:10 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
11:11 For every one who asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Our understanding of surplus and the choice to use individual surplus as a basis for tithing underlines for me the importance of the concept of ask, seek, and knock. Tithing is just one aspect of our covenant with God. To live a life filled with the labor we have chosen, we must first believe that God's promises are truth. Then we have to begin applying His promises to the life we lead. Remember brethren all of this is a matter of growth. When we strive, if we fail we must be determined enough in our labor to ask God, "What did I do wrong?" Then we must use the strength that only humble faith can give us and go to Him seeking a better way confident that if we knock, He will open the door and allow us into His waiting arms to try again. 

Within the woman/church we seek is the ability to possess both earthly success and willing obedience to the ways of God. Are we guaranteed either one or both? No but we are assured by our loving Father that as we strive, He will be right there to lift us up and help us in any way he can. And Brethren, He can do a lot.