As a church administrator I am asked many questions. One of my least favorite is, “How has my tithe been used?” The dilemma I face is whether I should first correct the question, and in doing so, be seen to avoid answering the question.
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.”
Is it is correct to
refer to “my tithe” and imply an ongoing ownership interest in tithe? The Bible
says that tithe is holy. Leviticus 27:30 says, “ ‘A tithe of everything from
the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the
LORD; it is holy to the LORD.”
Should we be so bold as to claim an ongoing ownership right over what is
God's holy property and call it “my tithe”?
It is important
that church members and administrators alike remember that tithe is holy.
Malachi 3:101 is probably the most quoted portion of Scripture in
the Seventh-day Adventist Church with regards to tithe. We emphasize
faithfulness by church members to return tithe. It is then assumed that church
administrators will remember that tithe is holy and won’t need any ongoing
reminder of that.
administrators must not forget that tithe is holy and that they have a
stewardship responsibility that goes beyond the offering plate. It is not just
another source of income to balance the budget or with which to do whatever the
organization sees fit. Tithe must be administered as a sacred fund and only
used for approved purposes. It is not intended as something that will bring
members or leaders personal benefit either directly or indirectly. Experience
shows that members will occasionally seek a special personal benefit from the
church with the justification that they pay tithe. They threaten that if they
don’t get what they are asking for then they will withhold their tithe. Tithe
is not a bargaining chip because it not ours to bargain with. Tithe is also not
meant to be used to make life more comfortable for church administrators either
personally or by directing tithe resources in a way that makes problems just
‘go away,’ making administration
easier or more popular.
Tithe should primarily be used to support individuals paid by the Church and directly engaged in pastoral and evangelistic soul-winning activities.”
I have found a
personal stewardship wakeup call based on what was said of leadership in
Ezekiel’s times. Ezekiel 34: 32 and 33: 63 are sobering.
They say that as an administrator I could be held accountable for the things I
have not done or that I should have attended to. Ezekiel 34:104 says that God is against leaders who
look after themselves with church resources and neglect the gospel commission
to make disciples.
therefore be the focus when administering tithe when there are seemingly
unlimited and competing needs in a budget? General Conference policy (V14 05)
says, “Tithe should primarily be used to support individuals paid by the Church
and directly engaged in pastoral and evangelistic soul-winning activities.”
Policy allows each world division to set the minimum percentage of gross tithe
to be used locally for front line ministry and evangelism, taking into account
the varying circumstances in the division. In the South Pacific Division, a
careful study led to the policy that, by 2016, at least 55 percent of gross
tithe must be used in front line ministry and evangelism. At 55 percent, this
still leaves 45 percent for administration, resourcing, and the sharing of
tithe outside of the local area. Some organisations are already above 55
percent for this use, and for others, it is a challenge to their comfort
Tithe must be spent
on ministry and it is not meant to be accumulated for investment purposes. If
tithe is not spent in one financial year, it must be tracked in subsequent
years until it is spent on approved expenses. Unspent tithe in one financial
year is not transformed into “non-tithe” in subsequent financial years. In my
experience, tithe is normally used in the same week or within three months of
its receipt, and tracking it long term is usually not a major exercise.
The stewardship responsibility of administering tithe does not vest just in the treasurer but also in every member of the governing board.
administering tithe, we must be accountable and able to show that tithe is only
used for expenses that have been approved by the church and outlined in General
Conference policy.The stewardship responsibility of administering tithe does
not vest just in the treasurer but also in every member of the governing board.
To assist with this, financial reports are prepared to show what tithe funds have
been received and how they have been used. In the South Pacific Division these
reports are included as part of the official financial statements and budgets
by organizations that receive tithe. Preparing and using these reports is a
reminder that tithe is holy and not just general income to be used for any
purpose—no matter how good that purpose may be. Conferences should also regularly report to their membership the tithe
income received and how it has been spent.
It is a privilege
to be entrusted with the responsibility of being a steward administering tithe.
Accountability and reporting should be welcomed as it is both an opportunity to
affirm faithfulness and to share the wonderful system that is in place to use
tithe for ministry both locally and by the global church community. When
members can see that church administrators are leading by example and being
faithful stewards, it will build confidence and faithfulness amongst the
membership in the organization.
1. Mal 3:10: "Bring
the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test
me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the
floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room
enough for it."
2. Eze 34:3: "You
eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice
animals, but you do not take care of the flock."
3. Eze 33:6: "But if
the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the
people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be
taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his
4. Eze 34:10: "This
is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them
accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the
shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their
mouths, and it will no
longer be food for them."