PERSPECTIVE

THE ORIGIN OF SYSTEMATIC BENEVOLENCE

One of the most important decisions of the growing Adventist church was taken in 1859. The Three Angels’ Message, the truth about the sanctuary and the observance of the

seventh-day Sabbath constituted a teaching different from what other Protestant

churches were preaching. In 1857,

the economic crisis had also affected the income of Adventist believers. Despite this, the desire to know more

about the teachings of God caused members to ask for pastoral help. The few

pastors that did exist focused their efforts on the weekends since the

remainder of the week was spent providing sustenance for their own families. In reality, the congregations

received only one or two visits a month. It was then that a commission,

presided over by J. N. Andrews,

met in Battle Creek, Michigan. It presented its report to the church on January

29, 1859. At this time, the practice of “systematic benevolence” was

recommended. This important and

historic action took place more than one hundred and fifty years go.



The question before us is this: "What were their actual findings and what did they recommend?"

The question before

us is this: "What were their actual findings and what did they

recommend?" The other

Protestant churches highlighted the study of the New Testament because they

believed the books of the Old Testament indicated more of a Jewish economy in

contrast to a Christian church that had a fresh, new and different message.

Thus, the Adventist pioneers also initially concentrated on the New

Testament, specifically on what the Apostle Paul had recommended to the

churches located in the Roman province of Galatia and to the church in

Corinth. He said, “Now about the

collection for God’s people: Do

what I told the Galatian churches to do.

On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum

of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come, no

collection will have to be made” (1 Cor. 16:1,2 NIV). The pioneers discovered

several significant principles in these texts:



1. They

noticed that Paul indicated a principle of regularity (“the first day of every

week”).
Why the first

day of the week? At that time (57 C.E.), the governing power was Imperial

Rome. Its pagan religion

recognized Sunday as the day of the sun—an important day for their religion and

for commerce.



The decision to give to the Lord was not to be made at the last minute, as the offering was being collected. It was something that had to be considered at home and set aside according to the dictates of their hearts.

2. In the text, they noticed that the

apostle also indicated the principle of participation (“each one of you”).
Even though some received a greater

income and others received less, every one had the opportunity to feel part of

the church and part of the mission.



3. The third principle they noticed

was that of foresight and the need to plan ahead (“set aside a sum of money”).
The decision to give to the Lord was not

to be made at the last minute, as the offering was being collected. It was something that had to be

considered at home and set aside according to the dictates of their hearts.



4. The

fourth was the principle of proportion (“in keeping with his income”).


It was not expected that everyone give the same amount because they did not all

receive the same. It was logical that those who received more were in a better

position to be able to contribute more.

It was not fair to require the poor to give the same amount as those who

had more resources.



5. The fifth was the principle of

promotion.
Behind this concept lies the question of how frequently

and how intensely promotion should be done. In comparison with Bible study and the preaching of the

Word, how much time should be dedicated to promotion? The apostle was clear in his recommendation: The service should be dedicated

principally to worship and spiritual development.  Thus, the apostle indicates, “When I come no collection will

have to be made” (1 Cor. 16:1,2 NIV).



Today, more than one hundred and fifty years after

that historic decision of the early Adventist church (1859), we see a world

church that is able to use modern means of communication to proclaim the Three

Angel’s Message to every nation, tribe and people twenty-four hours a day,

seven days a week. Those

principles that were discovered by the Adventist pioneers are still valid,

practical and applicable in our day.

The church today must be careful to preserve, not only its historical

inheritance of Bible study and the proclamation of the message, but also the

practice of these vital principles

of systematic benevolence.  



Mario

Niño

Associate Director, General

Conference

Stewardship Ministries

Among other administrative

and leadership positions, at the time he was elected to his current position in

2010, Elder Niño had been a stewardship director for a total of

thirty-four years in the Inter-American Division, at the Colombia Union

Conference, the Colombia-Venezuela Union, and the West Venezuela Mission. Elder

Niño holds a BA in Theology and a Master of Science in Public Health. He has a

passion for stewardship and provides leadership training in financial planning

for the Seventh-day Adventist congregation. He and his wife, Raquel, have three

children and 3 grandchildren.

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