IT'S ALL ABOUT THANKSGIVING
Whereas believers return tithe to God as an expression of their faithfulness to Him, offerings are given as acts of gratitude for what God has done for His people. It’s about acknowledging His blessings. It’s about our willingness to recognize God as the Creator, Owner, and the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). As Seventh-day Adventists, we return tithe and give offerings as part of our financial stewardship to God. Very often this is done in the context of our weekly worship-time when we join fellow believers each Sabbath at our local congregations. In this article, I want to help clarify our understanding of offerings and our giving practices as Adventists.
Offerings, like tithe, become God's the very moment the decision has been made in the individual's heart to give the offering, whether by percentage of income or an actual amount. Once offerings are thus assigned to God, the ownership is transferred to Him and they no longer belong to us. They have become God's property."
Give and Let God
Tithe and offerings are distinct in nature, but work in a similar way. Offerings, like tithe, become God's the very moment the decision has been made in the individual's heart to give the offering, whether by percentage of income or an actual amount. Once offerings are thus assigned to God, the ownership is transferred to Him and they no longer belong to us. They have become God's property. Once the ownership of the gift is released and transferred from me to God the offerings become "holy." This money is now set aside for God’s purposes. It will be used in support of His mission and the ministries of His church, both locally and globally. But unlike tithe where God has already set the percentage, i.e. 10% to be returned to Him, offerings are left to the believers' discretion. It's a matter of the heart. It's voluntary and a free expression of the human will and generosity. This is a key difference between tithe and offerings. The amount of giving in offerings is not mandated, stipulated, or legislated. An offering is something that every believer must decide on within their own heart well before the Sabbath begins.
The Measure of Giving
In the giving of offerings, God grants us the privilege of choosing how best to give a gift that represents our heartfelt gratitude for what He has done and who He is. While the actual amount of money or the percentage of our giving is ours to decide, God nevertheless expects that we give Him our best! When the Israelites failed to give God what He was due, He chastised them, "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord" (Malachi 1:14).
In the Scriptures, there are two principles that can assist us in the matter of freewill giving. Firstly, we give our offerings to God on the basis of His blessings upon us (Deuteronomy 16:17). What we give is “in proportion” to what we have received from Him. Secondly, we give to God from a grateful heart (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7). When giving an offering, the motive for giving and the condition of the heart are just as important as the gift itself. For example, Jesus measured the worth of the widow’s offerings not according to what she gave, but rather on what was left after she gave (Luke 21:4). Heaven does not determine the value of an offering by comparing it with the amounts given by others. Rather, God sees the value in the personal sacrifice and the heart's commitment that prompts the giving. This does not mean that freewill giving is a license to give nothing. It is the choice we have as stewards to give our best to God — over and beyond what has already been returned in tithe.
As Adventists, we’ve encouraged our members through stewardship education to return the Lord’s tithe and give Him our offerings of thanksgiving, systematically. Here are seven important pointers that can help us make our giving more systematic, sacrificial, and spontaneous in the context of worship, while at the same time, supporting God’s mission to make disciples of all peoples.
Because financial giving is an act of worship and a way of life, we are to give careful thought and planning during the week as to what we will give to God on Sabbath. Giving should include advance-planning with the whole family.
Good financial stewardship begins with the systematic returning of the Lord's tithe. God is the absolute Owner of everything. We are to put aside this portion of His blessings from our income first.
In addition to tithe, we are to put aside our regular offerings of thanksgiving. This offering goes towards the budget and the expenses of the local congregation.
Systematic giving also makes provision for additional offerings to be given for special projects and to the needs of the poor in society. It should be noted, however, that giving to special projects is not a substitute for regular offerings or the Lord’s tithe.
In systematic giving, Adventists are reminded of the needs of God’s mission across the globe and at home. This principle of giving to both the local and global Church is a unique feature of Adventist giving, which applies to both tithe and offerings.
Systematic giving is regular giving.
Systematic giving helps us, individually and corporately, to focus on God and mission.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is where it is today in terms of its growth and ministry because of the blessings of God and the faithfulness of its members across the globe. As director for Stewardship Ministries of the General Conference, I am grateful that God’s people show such faithfulness in returning the Lord’s tithe and giving offerings of thanksgiving to Him. We love Him, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), and giving is all about a thankful heart.