G. Edward Reid, Stewardship Director
North American Division
Summary: After over 20 years in teaching financial stewardship, this author shares biblical answers to some of the most common questions he has have received to frequently asked question that might be helpful to other stewardship leaders as well as laypersons.
It is a real joy to travel to camp meetings and other church convocations and meet church members who are vibrantly happy because of a new-found walk with God in their finances. We have written two full books of recorded stories of God’s blessings to families who have “tasted and seen that the Lord is good.” These testimonies have been a real encouragement to others to take God at His word and join in covenant relation with Him.
After over 20 years in teaching financial stewardship there is hardly any question that comes up in my seminars that is new–one I have never heard before. I thought it might be helpful to other stewardship leaders to hear the biblical answers to some of the most common questions I have received.
Frequently Asked Stewardship Questions
Question: “What is meant by the term ‘honest’ or ‘faithful’ tithe?”
My answer: An honest tithe has three elements: 1. The portion or percent of my income. This, according to the Bible is a tenth or 10% (Genesis 14:20; 28:22). 2. The place to return it. This is the storehouse or God’s treasury (Malachi 3:10; Psalm 116:14, 18, 19). And finally, 3. The purpose–the support of the gospel ministry (Numbers 18:21; 1 Corinthians 9:14). So when I bring “all the tithe” to the storehouse. I return a full 10% marked “tithe” to God’s treasury. That way it will be placed in the tithe fund to be used to support the ministry.
Question: “Should we tithe on the gross or the net?”
My answer: For those who are in business for themselves they must first deduct their business expenses or the cost of doing business. Then they tithe on their profit or increase. But for those of us who work by the hour or are on a monthly salary this question has more relevance. The real question is should I calculate my tithe before my taxes and other withholdings are taken out or after? The Bible answer is, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase” Proverbs 3:9. And when Jesus was giving His teaching on money management He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:33. Jesus said this in the context of our personal needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. For these reasons our family tithes on the gross amount of our income–before taxes are taken out. We are happy with this arrangement and feel truly blessed of God. Our stewardship is an indication of where our heart is in all of this. We do not give offerings for merit or because God needs the money. We give in response to experience grace in our lives and the knowledge that God sustains us from day to day.
Question: “Why don’t we reorganize the Church’s financial system to leave more of the tithe in the local church to provide for needs there?”
My answer: The Church doesn’t have to be reorganized to provide more locally. God pays for the pastoral salaries with His tithe (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21). These funds come from the storehouse. The church members provide for the local needs with their offerings of gratitude and praise. Every dollar of tithe represents nine dollars out of ten that are left for us to manage. From that amount we give our gifts to God. So the local church members can give all they want of their 90% to local needs. This is done with a willing spirit (Exodus 35:5) and in proportion to God’s blessings (Deuteronomy 16:17).
Question: “Where is the storehouse today?”
My answer: Just before Moses died he gathered all Israel together and gave them three sermons or public presentations. They are recorded for us in the Bible as the book of Deuteronomy. He stated that even though they were to be settled and scattered all over Canaan, three times a year they were to assemble at the Lord’s house for praise, worship and the delivery of their tithes and offerings.
“But [when] ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and [when] he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety;
‘Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD’ ” (Deuteronomy 12:10,11).
Three times each year all the males in Israel were to appear before the Lord: at Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:
“Every man [shall give] as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee” (Deuteronomy 16:16,17). See also Exodus 23:14-17.
“Anciently the Lord instructed His people to assemble three times a year for His worship. To these holy convocations the children of Israel came, bringing to the house of God their tithes, their sin offerings, and their offerings of gratitude” (6T 39.3).
Here is the bottom line: The Israelites gave at least one fourth of their income to God in the form of tithes, thank offerings, support of the temple, and gifts to the poor. In addition, most of these donations were personally delivered by each family, in kind or in cash equivalents, to the central storehouse at first to Shiloh and then to Jerusalem. This personal delivery system required them to be away from home and work at least one month each year. Yet the 25% giving and the one month away from home were actually the basis for their prosperity and blessing–and they knew it!
The Seventh-day Adventist Church organization has designated the local conference or mission as the storehouse to which the tithe should be returned and from which the gospel ministry would receive their salaries. In addition, the local conference gives support to the furtherance of the gospel in all the world. For the convenience of the church members and as part of their worship experience, the tithe is returned through the local church where membership is held and the local treasurer forwards all the tithe to the conference storehouse from which the religious workers are paid. This system, outlined by God, has enabled His church to have a worldwide and ever growing impact in the world.
Many of God’s people have been faithful over the years in their support of the work of God with their tithes and offerings. I have found that most of the people who do not contribute on a regular basis are not so much rejecting the commands of God as they are ignorant of the principles and the blessings that accompany them. It is the challenge of the stewardship department to train and educate those who have not been financially faithful in the past. It should be known to everyone that the Church doesn’t need the money near as much as we the people need the blessings that God has promised.
Checkout the North American Division Stewardship Ministries’s PowerPoint programs for more questions and answers at their website (http://adventiststewardship.org).