King Benjamin urged his people to “administer of [their] substance unto him that standeth in need.” He told them not to judge beggars, but to share what they could with those who needed their help. If they were unable to give, he encouraged them to say in their hearts, “I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give” (Mosiah 4:16-26).
At about the same time, at the waters of Mormon, Alma encouraged church members to share with one another according to their ability. He gave the following three examples:
- A person who has a lot should give a lot.
- A person who only has a little should give a little.
- A person who has nothing should receive according to his or her needs.
In 1831, the Lord instructed members of the church in Kirtland, Ohio: “Thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support.” How much were they expected to give? As much as they could. After receiving “as much as [was] sufficient for himself and family,” they were to give the “residue” to the bishop, “to administer to the poor and the needy” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:30-34). Later in the revelation, the Lord emphasized the ongoing nature of this obligation:
And if thou obtainest more than that which would be for thy support, thou shalt give it into my storehouse, that all things may be done according to that which I have said.Doctrine and Covenants 42:55
The principle is easy to understand but hard to follow: if you have more than you need, you should give the excess away to those who need it more.
Here are some questions we might ask ourselves as we consider how to apply this principle:
- Which of my current expenditures are necessities and which are luxuries? Many of the things I’ve become accustomed to are things I could live without in the past. Do I really need them now? Why?
- Saving is important. Setting aside money for emergencies and for expected future expenses is part of responsibly supporting your family. However, is it possible to save too much? Should the current needs of others sometimes take precedence over our potential future needs?
- Some expenditures are required to maintain and expand our earning capabilities. Education and training, appropriate clothing, and transportation are all necessary. However, it can be easy to justify extravagant spending in support of a career when more modest expenditures would be just as effective.
Today, I will review my expenditures and determine whether I can do more to care for the poor and the needy. I will remember that there are many people in my community and in the world who have less than I and who would benefit from my generosity. I will look for ways to reduce my expenses in order to have more to share.