I wanted to share this exchange (as well as the article within it -- be sure to read that!) and solicit feedback from anyone willing.
This is an email from my brother, sent to my whole family:
I had a discussion with a friend on our way to Twin Falls on Saturday and he was saying, essentially, that with paying tithing and other such commandments you are bribed with blessings in order to fulfill it. The idea is that God reinforces positive behavior with temporal wealth. “Oh well if you just are obedient and do what you're supposed to you'll be rich, successful, and happy.” This is further perpetuated with the “Book of Mormon” cycle thats taught in primary and sunday school.
Im curious what you guys think about this:
My dad's response:
That is a very difficult subject that is wrapped in all kinds of truths and lies. Unfortunately, statements commonly made, cliches spoken, phrases used do not always convey the reality of the truth. Trying to sort through them all can be an exercise in futility. What is a person meaning? What are they trying to say? Am I interpreting it correctly? Difficult.
I am not sure we can know how God blesses us. As Christians, it seems to me that we must acknowledge several things;(1) we are nothing, (2) God blesses us in many ways, all of which we are unworthy of, (4) as we are "blessed" we are obligated to help one another, (5) God's blessings come to ALL, righteous and unrighteous, (6) anything that is good comes from God,(7) we must not expect God to bless us as we believe he should,(7) God offers no guarantees in this life, his are all in the next, (8) God does bless us in his own way and in his own due time.
I agree with what Dad says! But I also want to respond to your points more specifically.
As far as what you and your friend talked about, it is something that has arisen out of the shift in how/why we teach obedience. Old School christianity was all about “hellfire and damnation” and you were obedient in order to avoid that. Now-a-days we’ve shifted from obedience to avoid damnation or punishment to obedience in order to receive blessings. Neither is BAD but neither are particularly good/helpful either — and each carries a lot of baggage in the form of setbacks and misunderstandings. I think it’s milk before meat kind of obedience. Like when you’re a kid and you obey your parents to avoid punishment or to get rewards, because you don’t understand the reasons for the rules yet or why you parents set them.
Ultimately the best reason to obey is love. Our love for God changes the desires of our hearts and inspires us to actions in accordance with His will i.e. obedience.
The attitude of everything that is considered “good” being a “blessing” (including material wealth as indicated in the article) I think just arises out of the Christian culture of obedience for rewards. It’s not the best way to teach obedience… but we have a tendency to do this with EVERY topic (i.e. guilt you into doing it or encourage you w/rewards: think about your last lesson on service or modesty for example). To truly "teach obedience" what we SHOULD be teaching is the Atonement. The more anyone understands who Christ is and what he did the more these other things tend to fall into place.
Anyone have anything to add?