Regular and Systematic Offerings
Participation in regular and systematic offerings implies our commitment to support God’s mission in the local church and beyond. What is the scriptural basis for this practice?
1. Is there a distinction between tithe and offerings in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy? Read Leviticus 27:30, 32; Exodus 25:1, 2.
Tithe is a set amount of 10 percent. The Bible describes tithe as “one-tenth” of your increase. Offerings are an expression of gratitude toward God, given
Ellen White writes:
“So the Lord has imparted to us heaven’s richest treasure in giving us Jesus. With Him He has given us all things richly to enjoy. The productions of the earth, the bountiful harvests, the treasures of gold and silver, are His gifts. Houses and lands, food and clothing, He has placed in the possession of men. He asks us to acknowledge Him as the Giver of all things; and for this reason He says, Of all your possessions I reserve a tenth for Myself, besides gifts and offerings, which are to be brought into My storehouse. This is the provision God has made for carrying forward the work of the gospel.”¹
2. Are there examples in the Bible of people who gave more than the tithe (10 percent) to support God’s work? Read Acts 4:36, 37; Luke 19:8.
The perfect example of a Bible character who gave more than 10 percent is Barnabas, who, after he sold his plot of land, gave 100 percent of the sale to support God’s work of preaching the gospel.
Zacchaeus the tax collector not only paid back with interest everything he had stolen, but gave half of his wealth to further the gospel. Blessing the poor was a big part of Jesus’ ministry.
3. What are the differences between the uses of tithes and offerings respectively in the Adventist Church?
Tithe pays the salaries of pastors, evangelists, missionaries, teachers, and Bible workers—those who are directly involved in teaching the Bible not only to new believers but also to the regular members.
Offerings, on the other hand, are used to support the work of the local church and other levels of church initiatives not funded by tithe. At the local church, offerings can be used to pay rent for a meeting place, for upkeep and repairs of the church building, utilities, materials used for the different departments, and mission initiatives. At other levels of the world church, offerings can provide finances for various church entities, including church institutions and projects in hard-to-reach regions.
4. If I return my tithe, why should I give offerings? Read Malachi 3:8; Exodus 23:14, 15.
The Bible does distinguish between tithes and offerings. We may return a faithful tithe of 10 percent, but we may be robbing God of our offerings. Tithe should never be used to remodel or maintain church buildings. If a church needs a new roof, piano, organ, or carpet, those items should be purchased with the portion of the offerings allocated to the local church.
The people in the Bible were living in a largely agrarian society. They depended on the crops they sowed. Offerings expressed thanksgiving to God for His bountiful blessings. Likewise, God gives us a way to make a living, and we should not come to Him empty-handed.
Ellen G. White says:
“We are to praise God by tangible service, by doing all in our power to advance the glory of His name. God imparts His gifts to us that we also may give, and thus make known His character to the world. Under the Jewish economy, gifts and offerings formed an essential part of God’s worship. The Israelites were taught to devote a tithe of all their income to the service of the sanctuary. Besides this they were to bring sin offerings, free-will gifts, and offerings of gratitude. These were the means for supporting the ministry of the gospel for that time. God expects no less from us than He expected from His people anciently. The great work for the salvation of souls must be carried forward. In the tithe, with gifts and offerings, He has made provision for this work. Thus He intends that the ministry of the gospel shall be sustained.”²
5. Does the Bible refer to special offerings? Read 1 Chronicles 29:2-9.
David and other leaders of the Israelites also gave far above and beyond what they were required to give in tithes. They collected a special offering for the building of God’s temple, known as “Solomon’s Temple.” For special occasions and projects, God’s children are called to give generously to help God’s work above and beyond our “regular and systematic” tithes and offerings.
6. What are the main characteristics of systematic giving? Read 2 Corinthians 9:7.
There are three principles of giving in 2 Corinthians 9:7. First, you need to decide how much you are going to give. Second, don’t give reluctantly or under compulsion. The opposite of a cheerful giver is a grudging giver. God doesn’t want you to give because you are being pressured. Third, God loves a cheerful giver. God wants you to give from the heart, willingly and cheerfully. You should give when you can happily contribute to God’s remnant church.
Not to give is not an acceptable alternative in the Bible. The Bible assumes that we are going to give. The issue is how much. Zacchaeus gave 50 percent of his wealth. The poor widow gave 100 percent of what she had—two copper coins. The people of God have been giving for the Lord’s work throughout history. God’s children don’t spend all their income on themselves, but think of sharing their wealth so others can learn about the plan of salvation.
Systematic (regular) giving is the practice of separating our tithes and offerings as soon as we get paid. When we receive our salary—in cash, paycheck, or direct deposit into our bank account—we separate 10 percent for tithe and another percentage for offerings first, before we spend anything else. My wife and I decided more than 20 years ago to return another 10 percent for offerings on top of the 10 percent for tithe. Many Adventists give 5 percent, some 10 percent, and others more than 10 percent for offerings. The percentage is optional, but offerings are not.
7. Why should we give systematically, and not according to our feelings? Read Matthew 5:44, 45; Matthew 6:25-32; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7.
First, God is systematic in His giving. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount taught that God gives to us all the time.
Second, your giving should be consistent because you reap what you sow. The law of sowing and reaping is very simple. One stalk of corn yields around four ears of corn. If I sow only three seeds of corn, I will enjoy about 12 ears of corn on the cob. But if I sow 100 seeds, then I will harvest 400 juicy sweet ears of corn that I can share with friends and neighbors or sell at a farmer’s market. The more you sow, the more you will reap. The word is multiplication. What you sow, God multiplies. The Bible says that God is the one who makes the food grow. He is the one who multiplies the harvest. And God tells us that the more we sow, the more we will reap.
This Bible passage (2 Cor. 9:6, 7) tells us that the more financial seeds we plant, the more He will prosper us. The law of multiplication also applies to our finances. When you give generously, the Bible promises that you will reap abundantly.
Systematic giving is part of the lifestyle of God’s children. We sow regularly, just like a farmer who has a routine to follow in the cycle of sowing and reaping. Some parts of the world can repeat this cycle three times a year. Faithfully sowing the seed at the right time enables the farmer to reap a consistent harvest. God promises to bless those who regularly sow generously.
8. Does Ellen White teach about “systematic offerings”?
Yes. She uses the expression “systematic benevolence.”
“Constant, self-denying benevolence is God’s remedy for the cankering sins of selfishness and covetousness. God has arranged systematic benevolence to sustain His cause and relieve the necessities of the suffering and needy. He has ordained that giving should become a habit, that it may counteract the dangerous and deceitful sin of covetousness. Continual giving starves covetousness to death. Systematic benevolence is designed in the order of God to tear away treasures from the covetous as fast as they are gained and to consecrate them to the Lord, to whom they belong. This system is so arranged that men may give something from their wages every day and lay by for their Lord a portion of the profits of every investment. The constant practice of God’s plan of systematic benevolence weakens covetousness and strengthens benevolence.”³
My wife and I have been returning 20 percent of our income to God’s remnant church, and we can testify to how God has blessed us beyond what we can ever imagine. I invite you to make a covenant with God and be a cheerful and systematic giver of offerings. ≤
¹ Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940), p. 65. (Emphasis supplied.)
² Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900, 1941), p. 300. (Emphasis supplied.)
³ Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 3, p. 548. (Emphasis supplied.)