One of my Institute teachers once shared a thought that I found very insightful. At the start of Doctrine & Covenants 59, the Lord identifies the rewards of those who are true and faithful to Him and says, among other things, that they will be “crowned…with commandments not a few”. The teacher suggested that one way to know how close we were to Him was whether we saw commandments as a “crown” (a blessing) or merely as onerous restrictions and requirements.
All the commandments of God are designed to bring ever greater joy into our lives, either through helping us to avoid those things which cause pain and sorrow or through enabling us to do the work of the Lord and, thus, to partake of His joy. The law of fast offerings falls into the 2nd category. The Lord invites us to make the small sacrifice of two meals and then to offer at least the price of those meals to help provide for those who are less fortunate. In doing so, He gives us the opportunity to stand, in a small way, as a provider, just as the Lord is the Provider of all good things.
What makes the fast offering different from the law of tithing is that the amount is not spelled out for us. The guidance is that it should consist of at least the price of those meals, but that it should be “generous”. That word, “generous” requires us to go to the Lord and determine its particular definition in our lives at any given time. In our young, poor days it may just be the cost of that bowl of cereal and sandwich that we can barely afford, but as we are blessed with greater abundance, we should strive to bless others more substantially. A wise Stake President, reflecting on the Savior’s words on the widow’s mite, counseled that our offerings should require a degree of sacrifice from us, that there should be some things we can not do or some purchases that would can not make because of what we give to others.
Paying fast offerings prepare and even enable us to live the law of consecration. As we set up and live within our budget, and keep the other financial commandments that He given us, we may eventually find that we have a surplus. We can then pray to know how the Lord desires to have that money spent. He may ask us to give it directly to someone we know who is in need or He may ask us to donate it through our fast offering. As we read in D&C 38:25-27, “And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” As we grow closer to the Lord we will come to see our resources as a stewardship and fast offerings as an opportunity to share His blessings with all of His children.
“Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” D&C 64:33