G. Edward Reid, Stewardship Director, North American Division, Silver Spring, MD
Summary: The writer gives a brief review of the tithing practice in “Bible Times.”
We sometimes get questions or hear comments about the storehouse in the practice of giving tithes and offerings. Many believe that the current practice of our church with the conference as the storehouse from which the pastors are paid is the plan most closely in line with the principles of the Bible. Others say that there should be alternate storehouses to which individuals could send their tithe and offerings.
A brief review of the tithing practice in “Bible times” will show that the presentation of tithes and offerings to God was far more than just an exchange of money. It was in fact a high point of the annual religious services and an occasion for the gathering of all the men of Israel.
Just before he died Moses 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 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” (Deut 12:10,11).
Three Times a Year
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” (Deut 16:16,17). Moses was here making reference to the command of the Lord given recorded at the time of the giving of the Ten Commandments. (See Ex 23:14-19. This initial command concluded by stating “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God” (vs 19).
When writing about these great feast celebrations, Ellen White noted, “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. They met to recount God's mercies, to make known His wonderful works, and to offer praise and thanksgiving to His name. And they were to unite in the sacrificial service which pointed to Christ as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
Thus they were to be preserved from the corrupting power of worldliness and idolatry. Faith and love and gratitude were to be kept alive in their hearts, and through their association together in this sacred service they were to be bound closer to God and to one another” (6T 39, 3). In a similar statement written in the Review she stated, “Anciently God commanded his people to assemble three times a year, and from every city from Dan to Beersheba the people came to these annual feasts…. By thus assembling and bringing their tithes into the treasury, they ever acknowledged the Lord to be the giver of all their blessings. The children of Israel are our ensamples” (RH, July 10, 1879 par. 11, 13).
We all know from our reading of the Bible that the Israelites were surrounded by fierce, warlike tribes that were eager to seize upon their lands and yet, three times each year all the able-bodied men and all the people who could make the journey would leave their homes and go to Jerusalem for worship. They clung to the promise of God in Ex 34:24, “I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year."
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?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!
Ministers Paid from the Central Storehouse
The Bible is explicitly clear that once the tithe was brought to Jerusalem that those in charge of the storehouse, the treasurers, then distributed the tithe back to the men of the tribe of Levi throughout all the land. See Neh 13:12, 13 and 2 Chron 31:4-19. The Levites at the central storehouse distributed the tithe to each worker according to age and responsibility. Apparently the system that God established was to set up a check and balance and a system of accountability.
In harmony with the Biblical central storehouse principle, the Seventh-day Adventist church has designated the local conferences, missions, fields, and unions of churches as storehouses, on behalf of the world church, to which the tithe, collected at the local churches, is to be returned. In this manner, God’s tithe, the distribution of which He has entrusted to the world church, is gathered from all parts of the world, and is made available to meet the needs of the gospel ministry.
As part of the worship experience of church members, the tithe is returned to God through the local church. The local church treasurer then sends all the tithe to the conference/mission/field/union of churches storehouse/treasury 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.
David promised, “I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem” (Ps 116:18,19). Let us join with those who have gone before in being financially faithful to God.