Leaders in the church will counsel many individuals to show their faith by paying a full tithe. Many times these part-tithe payers are having a hard time feeding their family, and find it difficult to exercise their faith in paying 10 percent to the church.
Another law in the gospel that requires financial sacrifice is the Law of the Fast. We are asked to fast at least once a month, and “combined with sincere prayer can strengthen us spiritually, bring us closer to God, and help us prepare ourselves and others to receive His blessings.” (index of topics)
So what about the fast offering? Is it an essential or required part of fasting? If we fail to pay a portion to this fund, does it nullify our fast all together?
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Elder L. Tom Perry said the following (in relation to this passage):
Like many other biblical practices, it was restored by the Lord in our day through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The law of the fast has three great purposes. First, it provides assistance to the needy through the contribution of fast offerings, consisting of the value of meals from which we abstain. Second, a fast is beneficial to us physically. Third, it is to increase humility and spirituality on the part of each individual.
An important reason for fasting is to contribute the amount saved from the meals not eaten to care for the poor and the needy. One of the strongest admonitions the Lord has given to His children on earth is that we have the responsibility and obligation of caring for those in need. It was King Benjamin who said in his great address,
“And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” (Mosiah 4:26.)
Do we need to be reminded that included in our baptismal covenant is our pledge to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn, and to comfort those that stand in need of comfort? (See Mosiah 18:8–9.)
As stated by Elder Perry, fasting has “three great purposes”:
- To provide for the needy through fast offerings
- To benefit us physically
- To increase humility and spirituality
If the first purpose is removed, are the other two possible? I assume you could go exercise instead and have that benefit you physically. What better way to increase humility and spirituality, than by participating in the Law of Sacrifice (by giving from what you have to the poor)?
As children, we are taught that fasting without a purpose is simply “going hungry”. Could this also be the case for the purpose of giving to the poor and needy? I wouldn’t suggest the Lord isn’t recognizing your humility and prayer if you don’t pay a fast offering. Prayer works and will always be heard by our Eternal Father, regardless of the stipulations.
I’m not sure if I have found the right answer for this question; so what do you think?