This is an unusual post for me on 2 counts. (1) I generally hate lessons on tithing, because I don’t think there’s much new to say on the topic. (2) I tried to read “The Screwtape Letters” by CS Lewis a few years ago, and just couldn’t get through the book. I’ve heard many people quote CS Lewis, especially from this book, but I just didn’t like it. However, I did like the movie “Shadowlands” which was based on some true stories of Mr Lewis.
A friend of mine gave me a copy of Sunstone, the magazine. I’ve never read it before, and have really wanted to get it for quite some time. I am very grateful to my friend for giving it to me. I read the articles he suggested, as well as many others that he didn’t, and came across a really interesting one by Jeff Burton.
Burton writes a column using the style of the CS Lewis book, where the head devil writes to an apprentice devil on how to properly tempt people. The full article is found here, but I just wanted to quote a brief section of it, and get your reactions. The article comes from the Nov 2006 issue.
OKAY, let’s get down to today’s tempter training lesson. The most effective approaches to corrupting the practice of charitable giving are based on my favorite temptation principles: fear, greed, and pride. There are many variations, but if you handle them correctly, these three principles will work very well with your man.
For example, try to instill in your man a fear that if he does not pay tithing, he will incur the displeasure and wrath of a God who keeps score. Let him believe, for example, that he will get sick and won’t be able to work, or that his money will be stolen, and so forth. Place into his mind the old Mormon saying, “I couldn’t afford not to pay tithing.” This fear based approach to giving is beneficial to our side because your man will not be sharing out of a sense of love and generosity; no, he will be paying in order to avoid trouble.
The second tactic is based on greed. Point out to your man the folklore common among many Mormon men that paying tithing will result in an outpouring of material blessings that will compensate for any sacrifice made to pay tithing. Be sure you emphasize the word “material” as it is central to the greed approach. Yes, yes, I know that our Enemy often rewards those who are generous and unselfish, but often it’s in the worlds to come and in non-material ways. Your man must not be allowed to dwell on those facts.
Pride can be useful here, too. Your man is a bit too young, but my man’s experience with prideful giving will be educational. Over the past few months, I have quietly reminded my man that liberal but discreetly public donations to the Church might be rewarded with future plum callings such as mission president, director of a visitor’s center, or other “white collar” or administrative callings that don’t involve getting directly involved in genuine service such as callings at Deseret Industries or the Humanitarian Center— those we must avoid like the plague. I have had my man envision the potential shoulder-rubbing with the very elect that may ensue… or the eventual call to a real position of authority, such as a Seventy! Of course it is pride that
tells my man that this will come as a result of his “generosity” and “Christlike demeanor.”
We must be careful, of course. Unless fear, greed, or pride continue as the prime motivators for giving, your man may actually get caught up in that dangerous spirit of giving that relates to unselfishness, and this may put him on a path to assist in the work of our Enemy. It’s a danger we will have to workaround. I will be here to help you if your man
doesn’t respond well to the fear, greed, and pride ploys.
When you are using money to tempt your man, it will help, of course, if your man adopts the prevalent assumptions of “to be successful, I need to make good money” and “I am expected to provide well for my wife and kids.” We have been very successful in encouraging many Mormons (and Americans in general) to “need” things. We’ve made them think it is their duty, even their prerogative, to “get stuff.” It makes it easier if your man, for example, thinks he is doing it “for the family.” Yes, “a Humvee for the whole family!”
Has Wormwood tempted you? I’m afraid I am guilty of several bad attitudes mentioned above….