And thou shalt have treasure in Heaven

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” Matthew 19:21 (KJV)

In December 2019 the news broke that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has amassed a fortune of at least $100 billion. Roger Clarke, head of Ensign Peak Advisors, which manages the investment holdings, told The Wall Street Journal that the reason why the amount of money, which comes from tithing dollars, was kept hush hush is because paying 10% of their income in the form of tithing is a commitment members make to the church and they never want members to feel as if they shouldn’t contribute. The whistle blower who leaked the information to the press has said that the church has indicated that the need for that amount of funds is for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

To me, hoarding $100 billion to be used at a later, unknown date, when there are human beings suffering here and now is, frankly, obscene. I’ve listened to all of the apologetic arguments of why a single entity needs that amount of money and none of them make any ethical or moral sense to me. Not when in my daily profession as a social worker I see so much suffering that can be solved with money, and in my opinion, should be solved with money by a church that claims to be headed by Jesus Christ. Here are just a few world issues that leading experts have said could be solved with $100 billion USD. To me these issues are more in line with Christ’s mission of giving to the poor and following Him, than money just sitting in an investment fund collecting interest.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that it would only cost $1 billion to eliminate trachoma world-wide. 200 million people are at risk of blindness caused by trachoma and 3.6 million of them need surgery to prevent the loss of eyesight. And it would be easy to eradicate it because trachoma is caused by bacteria that is treatable with antibiotics.
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that it would only take $1.5 billion to eradicate polio. Although polio has been almost completely eradicated, there is still an endemic in 3 countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
  • Researchers at Bentley University in Massachusetts believe that $8.5 billion would completely eradicate malaria. Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness that is still killing hundreds of thousands of people a year.
  • The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates that world hunger could be ended with just $30 billion. Just a cool $30 billion and all of the malnourished people in the entire world would have adequate nutrition.
  • According to WaterAid about 2.3 billion people don’t have a decent toilet and 844 million people don’t have access to clean water. Experts at the World bank estimate the cost of delivering universal safe drinking water and sanitation is estimated at $150 billion a year.
  • Experts have suggested that to end extreme poverty worldwide would cost $175 billion. Extreme poverty is defined in the most basic sense as having an income of less than $1.90 a day.

My favorite Scripture verses in the New Testament are in Matthew 25. Verses 31 – 46 are known as the “Final Judgment” verses when Christ will separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep are the righteous who treated those who were the “least of these” like they would treat Christ, Himself.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

The goats are the unrighteous who did none of those things. They deny those in need food, drink, fellowship, clothing, shelter, safety, warmth, friendship. “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46).

Greed takes so many forms and allowing people to suffer needlessly when you have the solution is the opposite of being a sheep to me. When the final judgment comes, I don’t want to stand before the Shepherd, my Savior, Jesus Christ, knowing that I was a goat who saw needs, who saw suffering, and gave only a little or did nothing at all. I wonder what Christ would think of people using his name to stockpile revenue in cash when they could end world hunger three times over. I’m sure there will be those who argue with me and will tell me all of the good acts of service the Church does, and I would never deny that they do. But it isn’t enough when the resources you have are so great. “To whom much is given, much is required.”

And this is what I find most reprehensible – To allow people to suffer the world over, to deny people temple recommends or help from church welfare UNLESS they pay their tithing, to coax good people who love Jesus Christ and just want to serve Him out of 10% or more of their income under threat of their eternal salvation, to tell poverty stricken people to pay their tithing before they buy food for their children, while sitting on a proverbial mountain of gold is greedy.

And greed will always be the moral character of a goat.

Risa

Risa is a full-time social worker in child abuse prevention, a part-time graduate student, and a mother of 4. In her spare time she is a voracious reader, snarker, and subversive cross-stitcher.

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7 Responses

  1. Elisa says:

    Yep. This disgusts me and I am beyond baffled that church leadership wouldn’t see this as a *huge* issue. Many times last year I felt like I just must not be reading the same New Testament as church leadership and this was the biggest example of that.

    I imagine the church is scrambling to figure out a way to spend a little more money and make some changes, and I hope they do. If they don’t, I don’t know that I’ll pay a tithe to the church in 2020 despite being a full (and generous) tithe payer for nearly 40 years. I would rather support organizations that are using the money to help people in need.

  2. Kay Healey says:

    Bravo! Please share this in newspapers and any media possible as the church responds to pressure.

  3. Anon says:

    Risa, you and I have had our share of disagreements over the years. But to this, I agree with you 100%. Thank you.

  4. Mike H. says:

    Even *if* this fund is “just” a few billion dollars, I am still concerned that those in the Church that need financial help won’t get it. There’s still Leaders that feel there’s no such thing as Mental illness, so, let those people go homeless if they can’t cope. There’s been so many talks about avoiding dole, that one RS President I knew felt that the need for compassionate service was over with.

    I also think of where in the D&C it paraphrases down to: Where much is given, much is expected.

  5. Lee Johnson says:

    Well this post just did it. I’ve been a faithful and devout tithe payer for decades and have never questioned it, either the doctrine or the practical mechanism of it. The news release about the IRS whistleblower complaint was challenging for many reasons – just the thought of using tithing for speculative investments really felt wrong. Suddenly waters that I’d assume were peaceful and calm ended up being quite turbulent.

    I had managed to settle quietly back into what felt like a rickety lifeboat with the explanation that “it’s to allow the church to continue to function in the event of another 2008”. This post just showed me a big hole in that lifeboat. Saving money for some hypothetical future rainy day when there is so much good that it could be put to now just seems wrong. Moreover, I can’t imagine any terrible future social calamity which would fail to wreak havoc on our economy, meaning that the fund would likely be MUCH smaller and have much less capacity to do good at that time. And finally, it seems to demonstrate a lack of faith – I’ve always heard it said that the Lord doesn’t command tithing because he needs it to keep the church running. If we really believe this is His church, we have to believe that he would have the power to fortuitously increase the church’s wealth if we really needed that. We pay tithing so that as members we can sacrifice and serve others, and grow in the process. The church and it’s members have had hard times in the past, but the Lord has provided. Why do we doubt now?

    I guess it’s back to bailing water. Better to see the holes than to be ignorant of them, I guess.

  6. M says:

    Agreed. I’ve paid my tithing to local orgs and orgs that serve a refugee population since the 2016 election. The news about the $100 billion stockpile only reinforced this decision.

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