After Abraham and his servants rescued his nephew Lot, they returned home, rejoicing in a successful mission. They were met by Melchizedek, King of Salem, who brought bread and wine and blessed Abraham. Grateful for his success, “Abraham paid [Melchizedek] tithes of all” (Genesis 14:20).
A tithe is a tenth. (See Alma 13:15, Hebrews 11:1-10.) God doesn’t need our money, but giving Him back a portion of what He has given us demonstrates our gratitude to Him, and indicates that we recognize Him as the source of everything we have.
Malachi indicated that tithing rightly belongs to God. If we don’t pay tithes and offerings, we are effectively robbing Him—keeping for ourselves what is rightfully His. On the other hand, if we do pay tithes, He promises to pour blessings upon us beyond our capacity to receive. (See Malachi 3:8-12, 3 Nephi 24:8-12.)
In the early revelations received by Joseph Smith, tithing appears to refer to any offering given to help accomplish the Lord’s work. But in 1838, the Lord specifically identified 10% as the amount church members are expected to give. After instructing church members to donate their excess properties to the bishop, the Lord said:
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.Doctrine and Covenants 119:4
Commenting on this verse, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
For many years, presidents of the Church have interpreted “interest” as “income.” Beyond that, they have not elaborated. That fourth verse consists of thirty-five words. Contrast that with the cumbersome and complex tax codes enacted and enforced by governments.“The Sacred Law of Tithing,” Ensign, December 1989
Today, I will be grateful for the simple way God has given me to demonstrate that I value Him more than my worldly possessions. I will remember that, when I donate ten percent of what I earn to His church, I am merely returning to Him some of what He has given to me.