God is our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Owner. The psalmist David reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. The world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1, NKJV).¹ We are dependent on God, and He provides for our every need. As stewards of all that He has given to us, we express our praise and thankfulness to God by putting Him first in all that we do and have. “We acknowledge God’s ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellow human beings, and by returning tithe and giving offerings for the proclamation of His gospel and the support and growth of His church.”²
“In recognition of the biblical plan and the solemn privilege and responsibility that rest upon members as children of God and members of His body, the Church, all are encouraged to faithfully return a tithe, one tenth of their increase or personal income, into the denomination’s treasury.”³ The regular return of faithful tithes and freewill offerings allows us to partner with Christ and grow spiritually.
Putting God First
What does the Bible teach us about God’s invitation to us in relation to tithing? Read Deuteronomy 16:17 and Malachi 3:10.
The invitation to give comes directly from God and is based on what He has already given. No one should have to say “I have nothing to give,” because God is not asking us to seek out what we need to return. He provides first, then He asks for one tenth to be returned to Him in gratitude for His generosity, “according to the blessing . . . which He has given” (Deut. 16:17, NKJV). Where there may be uncertainty as to the outcome of first setting aside of God’s portion, God challenges us to test Him to see if He will be faithful in His promise by opening “the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10, NKJV). Why not take up the challenge and see the outcome?
What should be our response to God’s generosity? Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.
Tithing aids our spiritual growth by discouraging selfishness. “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6, NKJV). Our response to God’s generosity needs to be a demonstration of our trust in Him by willingly returning one tenth of our increase. Our first task on receipt of our personal income is to think of others by putting aside that which belongs to God first.
Paul reminds us that “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (v. 8). The aim of returning a faithful tithe is not to leave us without, as we are asked to give from what we already received.
How is the tithe used? Read 1 Corinthians 9:13, 14 and Numbers 18:21.
God has given specific instructions for the use of the tithe. The primary focus for the use of the tithe is to support the ministers of the gospel, whose main function is to be involved in and promote the spiritual ministry of the Word.⁴ “Let none feel at liberty to retain their tithe, to use according to their own judgement. They are not to use it for themselves in an emergency, nor to apply it as they see fit, even in what they may regard as the Lord’s work.”⁵ “The tithe should go to those who labor in word and doctrine, be they men or women.”⁶ Those who have been called to the ministry should be men and women of deep Christian experience, and it is acceptable that their salary be paid from the tithe.⁷
What is the difference between tithe and offerings? Read Proverbs 3:9; Acts 20:35; and Ephesians 2:8, 9.
Tithe is God’s portion of our personal earnings, and offerings are our promise to God to support the local church. Tithe equates to 10 percent of our personal income and is to be set aside for God first, before all other expenses (Prov. 3:9, NKJV). Our offerings are the amount we have freely set aside as a voluntary contribution towards the work of the local church and missionary work (Acts 20:35, NKJV). In the same manner that we faithfully return our tithe, our motive for the amount we give as an offering should also be unselfish (Eph. 2:8, 9, NKJV).
“God has made the proclamation of the gospel dependent upon the labors and the gifts of His people. Voluntary offerings and the tithe constitute the revenue of the Lord’s work. Of the means entrusted to man, God claims a certain portion—the tenth. He leaves all free to say whether or not they will give more than this. But when the heart is stirred by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and a vow is made to give a certain amount, the one who vows has no longer any right to the consecrated portion.”⁸
Can the tithe be used for supporting the local church?
As members, we are discouraged from directing our tithes to organizations and projects of our choice. Instead, we are encouraged to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (Mal. 3:10). In that vein the tithe is not to be appropriated for helping those in need, supplementing tuition fees, church expenses, or buildings.9
“Tithe shall not be used in any way by the local church, but held in trust and remitted to the conference treasurer. Thus tithe from all the churches flows into the conference treasury, and percentages are forwarded to the next-higher level in accordance with General Conference and division working policies to meet the expenses of conducting the work of God in their respective spheres of responsibility and activity.”10
It is the regular offerings, collected by the local church, that are set aside specifically to meet the expenses of the church and its functions. Thus, the tithe and freewill offerings are to be kept separate, but are of equal importance for promoting the gospel.
What Should I Do?
How much offering should I give? Read 2 Corinthians 9:7, 8.
Tithing is part of our worship to God, and a demonstration of our trust in Him. We are encouraged to give a wholehearted freewill offering in proportion to the blessings we have received from God. In return, He will ensure that we have what is sufficient for our needs (2 Cor. 9:7, 8, NKJV). “Let each regularly examine his income, which is all a blessing from God, and set apart the tithe as a separate fund, to be sacredly the Lord’s. This fund should not in any case be devoted to any other use; it is to be devoted solely to support the ministry of the gospel.”11
Should I return tithe on my income before or after deductions? Read Proverbs 3:9 and Malachi 3:8-10.
We are asked to return tithe on our full salary and earnings before any deduction and payment has been made by way of income taxes.13 Employers are required to deduct income tax from the gross amount paid to their employees. All additional expenses deemed to be payable from the employee’s earnings are often calculated on their gross income. In other words, the firstfruit is taken out before the net pay is received.
We are encouraged to put God first in all that we do, including the way we use our income. “We are not to consecrate to Him what remains of our income after all our real or imaginary wants are satisfied; but before any portion is consumed, we should set apart that which God has specified as His.”13
The call is to “honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase” (Prov. 3:9, NKJV). We are to set aside our firstfruits for God on a timely and systematic basis. The call to bring all the tithe needs to be acknowledged as our gross personal income before deductions, resulting in us actively putting God first.
There is one income earner in our family of four, and our two children are of school age. Should both adults return tithe? Read Proverbs 3:9, 10; 11:25; and Malachi 3:10.
The call to give from our increase also goes for the household income. It therefore follows that the tithe is returned from whole amount received. “When the number of individuals returning tithe in the church is reported, the spouse and minor children who are non-wage earners but members of the church should be counted in this group, in addition to the wage earner of the family.”14
It is never too early to teach our children about tithes and offerings. During holiday periods and when they receive monetary birthday gifts, children can be encouraged “to present offerings to God for the gift of His only-begotten Son.”15
Where should I return my tithe? Read Malachi 3:10.
Tithe should, in the first instance, be returned to the local church. The local treasurer is required to submit all tithe collected, each week, to the local conference. “The tithe is the Lord’s and should be brought to the ‘storehouse’ (conference treasury) through the church in which the person’s membership is held, as an act of worship. Where unusual circumstances exist, church members should consult with the officers of their local conference.”¹⁷
This Bible study has shown that all we have comes from God and that as an act of faith and worship God has requested that we return 10 percent of our earnings to Him. The tithe is given to the conference through our local church and is used primarily for the support of those who minister to us. God first gives to us before asking from us and has also promised that when we faithfully return our tithe and give our freewill offering, He in turn will bless us abundantly.
Are you ready and willing to put God first by faithfully returning tithe and promised offerings as a measure of your trust in Him and in thankfulness for what He has done for you?
Points to Consider
1. If you do not yet return a regular 10 percent tithe to the Lord, why not take up the challenge He has laid down in Malachi 3:10 for at least three months? If you receive a blessing from God, then why not make this a regular habit?
2. If you regularly return 10 percent tithe to the Lord, why not take some time to prayerfully reflect on the many blessings you have already received and consider increasing your freewill offerings in thanksgiving to God?
¹ Bible texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
² General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 19th ed. (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2015), p. 169.
³ Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, p. 136.
4 Working Policy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2021-2022 ed., p. 636.
5 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1940), p. 101.
6 Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1946), p. 492.
7 Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1913), p. 431.
8 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 74.
9 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Highlights of the Tithing System (revised 1990), pp. 16, 17.
10 Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual (2015), p. 136.
11 E. G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 81.
12 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Tithing Principles and Guidelines, p. 23.
13 E. G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, p.71.
14 Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual (2015), p. 86.
15 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 481.
16 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Tithing Principles and Guidelines, p. 20.