Armando Miranda, General Vice President, GC World Headquarters, Silver Spring, MD

Summary: The writer shares some very important concepts on this topic based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.

In 1891 the General Conference invited Mrs. Ellen G. White to visit Australia in order to support the development of the work in that area of the world. Mrs. White oversaw the establishment of Avondale College, a training school, and helped further in developing the church’s publishing, health food and medical work while in Australia.

In her preaching appointments she was used by God in instructing the church in many ways that strengthened the faithfulness of the people. While preaching in Sidney about tithes and offerings she shared the following experience:

“The Lord has of late given me special testimonies to bear in regard to the warnings and promises He has given through Malachi. After I had spoken with great plainness to the church in Sydney [Australia], and was putting on my wraps in the dressing room, the question was asked me, "Sister White, do you think my father should pay tithes? He has met with great loss recently, and he says that as soon as he cancels his debt, he will pay tithes." I asked, "How do you regard our obligations to God, who gives us life and breath, and all the blessings we enjoy? Would you have our indebtedness to God continually increasing? Would you rob Him of the portion which He has never given us to use for any other purpose than to advance His work, to sustain His servants in the ministry? For the answer to your question the prophet Malachi asks, 'Will a man rob God? . . . But ye say, wherein have we robbed Thee?'—as though there was a willingness to misunderstand this subject. The answer comes: 'In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation.'(Malachi 3:8) After such a statement, would I dare say to you, you need not pay tithes as long as you are in debt? Shall I tell you to be sure to pay all you owe any man, although you rob God to do so?" {CS 92.1}

As a result of her preaching many people understood the seriousness of God’s mandate throughout Malachi, and made a commitment to return to God the tithes they were robbing Him. She says:

Many confessed that they had not paid tithes for years; and we know that God cannot bless those who are robbing Him, and that the church must suffer in consequence of the sins of its individual members. . . . One brother said that for two years he had not paid his tithes, and he was in despair; but as he confessed his sin, he began to gather hope. “What shall I do?” he asked. I said, "Give your note to the treasurer of the church; that will be businesslike." He thought that was a rather strange request; but he sat down, and began to write, "For value received, I promise to pay—" He looked up, as if to say, Is that the proper form in which to write out a note to the Lord? "Yes," he continued, "for value received. Have I not been receiving the blessings of God day after day? Have not the angels guarded me? Has not the Lord blessed me with all spiritual and temporal blessings? For value received, I promise to pay the sum of $571.50 to the church treasurer." After doing all he could do on his part, he was a happy man. In a few days he took up his note, and paid his tithe into the treasury. He had also made a Christmas donation of $125. Another brother gave a note for $1,000, expecting to meet it in a few weeks; and another gave a note for $300. —R. & H., Feb. 19, 1889. {CS 95,96.1}

Furthermore, I would like to share some very important concepts on this topic based on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.

The Back Tithe is God's Property

“Many have long neglected to deal honestly with their Maker. Failing to lay aside the tithe weekly, they have let it accumulate, until it amounts to a large sum, and now they are very reluctant to make the matter right. This back tithe they keep, using it as their own. But it is God's property, which they have refused to put into His treasury” CS 96.2.

A Matter of Simple Honesty

For Ellen G. White the determining factor in tithing is not gratitude or generosity but something more serious and significant based on the holy nature of tithe. “This is a matter of simple honesty”. . .It is a moral responsibility that is not to be controlled by the state of human emotions or tendencies but by the unwavering principle and value of honesty (Malachi 3:8). The tithe is the Lord’s; and He bids us return to Him that which is His own” Education, p.139.

Prayer Not a Substitute for Tithing

“Prayer is not intended to work any change in God; it brings us into harmony with God. It does not take the place of duty. Prayer offered ever so often and ever so earnestly will never be accepted by God in the place of our tithe. Prayer will not pay our debts to God.” —MYP 248.

Withheld Tithes Because of Lack of Confidence

“Some have been dissatisfied, and have said, "I will not longer pay my tithe; for I have no confidence in the way things are managed at the heart of the work. "But will you rob God because you think the management of the work is not right? Make your complaint, plainly and openly, in the right spirit, to the proper ones. Send in your petitions for things to be adjusted and set in order; but do not withdraw from the work of God, and prove unfaithful, because others are not doing right.”—9T 249.

The Result of Faithfulness

I had been assigned to pastoring a church; I was very concerned as there was not any evidence of improvement instead it was a very sad circumstance to be preaching to an empty and divided church.

I prayed to the Lord for wisdom as to how to help my brothers and sisters. Many times I wept before the Lord, because I was trying to do my best in doing pastoral work, visiting the church members, praying with them, studying the Word of God, encouraging them to trust in Jesus, to know Him well, to come to church, but almost nothing was happening.

We began to study the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy in the church, especially Wednesday evenings, people began to come to church yet it was a very difficult situation.

One day I was praying to the Lord and I was telling Him, “Lord if you don’t help me with your church, I am lost, you know Father I am coming to the point of giving up, and I don’t know what I have to do in order to revive your people here. Please help me.”

When I finished my prayer I was comforted by the Lord and suddenly a thought came to my mind: “I had to check the church treasury book, I had to see how they are doing with tithes and offerings.”

I went to the church treasurer asked her for the book and I begun to check it. I found that the two elders of the church were unfaithful with their tithes and offerings, and also other leaders of the church.

I also discovered that the church treasurer had taken some money for her personal use. Knowing this, I intensified my pastoral work in trying to help those with these problems. With love, I prayed with and talked to them about the matter. I also began to preach about the necessity of recognizing the importance of coming closer to Jesus and how to be faithful in returning tithes and offerings to God.

The church members began to return to God, gave back tithes and offerings, and experienced the blessings of the Lord. Also, they were compelled to share their faith, and let me share with you, that by God’s grace in seven months, 40 new people were baptized and the church was revitalized and the finances were wonderful!

There is no doubt that when we come to the Lord and as we understand His love and care for us and our need to be faithful, our life is transformed, revived, and the blessings of God are poured upon us in special way. The Lord says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, says the Lord of Hosts, If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” Malachi 3:10.