God's Guide For Giving

Pay or Return Tithe?

MANY ASK: “How much should I try to return to God?” Jesus said, “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29). The more we study the subject of stewardship, the more we realize that the answer depends on our faith. However, God has given us some giving guides, which are very informative.

TITHE is the beginning point and is “returned” first. It is “returned” because it is actually God’s.

OFFERINGS are “given.” It is only after we have “returned” the tithe that we begin to “give.”

The Lord has asked us to “bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse” (Mal. 3:10). “He [God] has required a tenth, and this He claims as the very least that man should return to Him.”—E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 394. “Besides the tithe, the Lord demands the first-fruits of all our increase [systematic/regular offerings]. These He has reserved, in order that His work in the earth may be amply sustained.”—Ibid., vol. 6, p. 384.

A Purpose

When we give offerings, we must give out of a purpose of the heart. Paul says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart” (2 Cor. 9:7), meaning that the Lord expects that some purpose may be established, a decision, a vow about giving must be taken, because vows protect us in times of crisis (i.e., Sabbath, marriage, etc.). But what should that purpose be? What should be proposed to God?

A Proportion of the Blessings

The Bible teaches us that we must give according to our ability and blessings. “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee” (Deut. 16: 17). This means that those who are more “able” or “blessed” (by an income or increase) should give more; those who are less “blessed” should give less; while those who are not “blessed” at all (does not have any income or increase), are not expected to give anything! And the reason is because God is always the first to give, and He only requires tithes and offerings to be returned from what He has given before.

This last text (Deut. 16:17), along with 1 Corinthians 16:2 (which says, “as he may prosper”), suggests that our offerings are expected to be given as a chosen percentage of the blessing. The biblical account of the poor widow also suggests that God values offerings according to the proportion, and not according to the amount given. “The larger the capital entrusted, the more valuable the gift which God requires to be returned to Him.”—Ibid., vol. 4, p. 467.

How should we give?

  • Systematically: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him” (1 Cor. 16:2). The system of both tithes and regular offerings is percentage based. Those who “prosper” more, give more; those who “prosper” less, give less; and those who do not “prosper,” do not give anything. The difference between tithes and offerings regarding this point is that when it comes to offerings, God gives to the human being the privilege to purpose “in his heart” (2 Cor. 9:7), to vow, a specific percentage to give. When this happens, giving is no longer controlled by impulse, but will be as regular as God’s blessings are.
  • Regularly: When a percentage of the income is established for giving offerings (see above), the regularity of giving is no longer based on emotions, impulse, projects, and human sympathy, but rather on income or increase—which are God’s blessings. In this case, every time there is a blessing (income or increase), there must be tithe (10%) and a percentage-based offering. “This matter of giving is not left to impulse. God has given us definite instruction in regard to it. He has specified tithes and offerings as the measure of our obligation. And He desires us to give regularly and systematically.”—E. G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 80, 81 (emphasis supplied).
  • Sacrificially: But in addition to the regular offerings, God may call someone to also sacrificially give freewill offerings for specific projects or seasonal necessities, exceeding what is regularly given. “Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Ps. 50: 5). “I saw that some hardly know as yet what self-denial or sacrifice is, or what it is to suffer for the truth’s sake. But none will enter heaven without making a sacrifice.”—E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 126.

God mercifully requires from us to return to Him tithe and regular, percentage-based offerings as a way to help us to recognize His blessings and to develop gratitude to and trust in Him.

Your Attitude Makes the Difference

Technically, it is impossible to “pay” tithe. It is already God’s, so it can only be “returned.” One hundred percent of our income comes from God. He asks us to return the first 10 percent, not as a bill to be paid, but as an acknowledgment that all we have comes from Him.

The Tithe Belongs to God

God tells us exactly how much tithe is (always 10 percent), where should it be delivered (storehouse), and how it is to be used (to support the gospel ministry). He promises us “a curse if not returned” (Mal. 3: 8, 9), and a blessing if it is (Mal. 3:10-12).

Why not be faithful? Return what is the Lord’s.


Article compiled by Johnetta B. Flomo, Associate Editor