It’s that time of year when the signup list for tithing settlement goes up on the Bishop’s door. My wife and I always try to get the first appointment, mainly because we usually live some distance from the chapel and we don’t want to make the trek back once we are home. So we had our session right after church today. Every year, as we go through this ritual, I wonder: what is the purpose of tithing settlement?
I don’t think it is for the benefit of the bishop (information gathering) because he has the records and asks during the temple recommend interview whether we pay a full tithe. I guess I have always assumed that this is a mechanism for applying pressure to pay tithing. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think it makes good sense to establish structures that encourage the keeping of commandments.
If this is true, however, then why do we single out this commandment for special treatment? Why not have “member missionary settlement”? Or “food storage settlement”? We do, of course, have the temple recommend interview that covers certain commandments, but that does not tell us anything about the motivation for tithing settlement.
Here’s my hunch: tithing settlement probably started in an earlier day, when compliance with this commandment was low. If true, this suggests to me that the primary purpose of tithing settlement has more to do with the needs of the Church than with the needs of the individual members.
Anticipating the counterpoint: I admit the possibility that the Church is trying to make special efforts to encourage compliance with this commandment because tithing has special relevance to our eternal salvation. While I believe that this is true of tithing, I do not believe that this explains tithing settlement. Lots of commandments that do not merit a special session with the bishop have special relevance to our eternal salvation.
In the end, I will confess that I like tithing settlement. It’s a short meeting, and I enjoy talking to my Bishop. Also, now that I have children, I view it is a great opportunity to reinforce our teachings about tithing. Our Bishop today made a special point of speaking to each of my five children about tithing, and I appreciated that. So, if we are taking a vote, count me in favor.