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Becoming an Accounting Steward
The importance of Stewardship is often mentioned in the Scriptures. Here are just a few examples:
"Give an account of thy stewardship..." — Luke 16:2
"Stewardship is the response of my people to the ministry of my Son and is required alike of all those who seek to build the Kingdom." — Doctrine and Covenants 147:5a
"It is required at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship." — Doctrine and Covenants 72:1c
Our Heritage of Stewardship
We take satisfaction in our understanding and practice of stewardship. We feel privileged to have been given stewardship laws which are both reasonable and fair. The way we calculate tithing and the requirement to file a tithing statement is distinctive.
The church's teaching is that every member should "render an accounting". This has been interpreted to mean that we are to present a written report of our income, expense and financial position to the church. This report is called the "tithing statement" and includes a calculation of the tithe we owe.
The Purpose of Filing a Tithing Statement
The purpose of being an accounting steward is to help us make better decisions regarding our money and possessions. It also gives us a guideline for the tithing owed.
Often, people who get into financial trouble do so because they have no clear picture of their financial situation. Their decisions are without knowledge of how they have spent money in the past, or the consequence of future decisions. Keeping adequate records provides the basis for better financial decisions.
The Christian concept of stewardship is based on the understanding that all our "possessions" originated with God. God is the ultimate "owner"; we simply have temporary stewardship. As stewards, we understand the need to return a portion to the church.
The First Accounting
Our first accounting to the church is a calculation of our assets and liabilities. Tithing owed is based on one-tenth of our net worth (assets less liabilities) where credit is given for tithing previously paid.
Annual Tithing Statements
After our first accounting, we tithe our annual "increase" – the amount our income exceeds our "basic living needs". The purpose of the annual tithing statement is to make these calculations as our guide for tithing owed.
The Concept of "Increase"
Calculating our tithe is conceptually simple. While it can be more complicated in application, it helps to understand the underlying concepts.
Basic Living Needs (BLN) = food, shelter, transportation, clothing, personal care, medical needs, and taxes
Increase = Income - BLN
Tithe = One-tenth of the Increase
In theory, the basic living needs are those expenditures which are "necessary". Notice that this is a subjective definition; what one person thinks is necessary might be a luxury to another. For example, the church doesn't tell us whether "basic" transportation means that we drive a used economy car or a new full-size car. As stewards we make these judgments as we feel right before God.
Estimating Basic Living Needs
We encourage members of the church to keep records of their income and expense so that the amount spent for Basic Living Needs will be available. However, when adequate records are not kept, the BLN can be calculated as a percent of income as follows:
|Clothing and personal care||
|Other basic needs||
The Short Form
When there are no actual records of personal expenses, the estimate of BLN as 72% of Income can be used to calculate tithing. There is a "short form" of the tithing statement which is designated for this purpose. Members are encouraged to use the estimated BLN only until they can begin to generate actual figures for these expenses.
When we estimate the total Basic Living Needs as 72% of income, the tithe is 2.8% of gross income.
Farmers and business people often need to use an alternative method of calculating their tithe which is based on the change in net worth.
To Help You Become a Better Steward:
Stewardship Accounting forms are available on-line at Stewardship Ministries
Also, Herald House Publishing has many books on the topic, one being:
The Clarion Call: Stewardship in Our Time – Author: Jerry Nieft
In addition, one-on-one counseling and teaching are available through the Southwest Region . Contact the Southwest Regional Office and ask about "A Mentor Program for Personal Stewardship".
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