"Promise” is a name used for the regular and systematic offering, an offering that is different from the freewill offering (see table below). But if it is regular and systematic, how often should it be given, and what system should it adopt?
Regularity: According to the Bible, the regularity of giving should be determined by the regularity of receiving (Prov. 3:9). As it may be considered the most basic, fundamental way of giving, any other kind of giving should be performed beyond it and in addition to it.
System: The system is proportional to the income, or percentage-based (1 Cor. 16:1; Deut. 16:17). It means that the amounts will be altered as the income is modified. Ellen G. White says: “In the Bible system of tithes and offerings the amounts paid by different persons will, of course, vary greatly, since they are proportioned to the income.”1
Some principles about Promise:
It is considered as important and as binding as the tithe (Mal. 3:8-10).
Not to return Promise is also considered as dishonesty against God (Mal. 3:8-10).
It should be given upon receiving any income (Prov. 3:9), right after the tithe. The fact that income or increase precedes Promise contradicts any theology that suggests offerings as a means of purchasing God’s favor.
As it is proportional to the income, or percentage-based, it is not expected by God when there is no income (2 Cor. 8:12). He is ever the first to give.
A little more: In Malachi 3:8-10, tithes and offerings are viewed as equal in importance and are mandatory. Not to bring any of them is to rob God. The conclusion seems inescapable that the offering mentioned in Malachi 3:8-10 differs from freewill offerings. And the fact that it is mentioned along with the tithe indicates that both are under the same system, as is the offering mentioned in Proverbs 3:9, 10. Hence, at least three similar characteristics for both tithe and Promise (regular and systematic offering) are expected: (1) regularity (after any income), (2) proportionality (a proportion of the income), and (3) delivery (brought to the storehouse).
Ellen G. White also supports the idea that tithes and offerings are under the same system, and that this system includes the concept of giving a proportion of the income. In a quotation previously cited in this article, she says: “In the Bible system [singular word] of tithes and offerings [both under the same system] the amounts paid by different persons will of course vary greatly, since they are proportioned to the income.”2
In another quotation, she comes to the point of saying that this offering, along with the tithe, is not voluntary (or freewill), but is part “of our obligation.” This thought, in line with Malachi 3:8-10, confers the idea that not bringing offering has moral and spiritual consequences. Here is the quote: “This matter of giving is not left to impulse. God has given us definite instructions in regard to it. He has specified tithes and offerings as the measure of our obligation. And He desires us to give regularly and systematically.”3
One of the reasons for giving regular offerings under the percentage-based system is that it recognizes God as the Initiator of the giving process. It is necessary for the worshiper to recognize and measure a blessing before calculating the percentage of it to be given. Therefore, the human act never precedes God’s giving. What Rodriguez says about the tithe may well be applied to Promise: “It is always a response and never a prelude.”4
Another reason why we should give offerings regularly and systematically is that “selfishness is the strongest and most general of human impulses.”5 “Therefore,” says Ellen G. White, “in our labors and gifts for God’s cause, it is unsafe to be controlled by feeling or impulse.”6 For that reason, she also warns that “to give or to labor when our sympathies are moved, and to withhold our gifts or service when the emotions are not stirred, is an unwise and dangerous course.” God’s messenger ends that paragraph by saying that “Christians should act from fixed principle, following the Saviour’s example of self-denial and self-sacrifice.”7
Comparing Tithe, Promise, and Freewill Offerings
How to become a Promisor:
Vow, promise, or purpose (2 Cor. 9:7) the regularity, the percentage, and the period of validity (term) of your offering.
- Regularity: Decide before God to give in response to His giving. Give as He gives you, and not according to your impulses, perceptions, sympathy, to calls, or to your heart, which may be deceitful (Jer. 17:9).
- System: Decide to give a specific percentage or proportion of all income or increase that the Lord will provide (1 Cor. 16:1; Deut. 16:17). Different from the tithe, whose percentage is established by God, the worshiper may purpose this percentage “in his heart” (2 Cor. 9:7).
- Term: As it is with the tithe, the offering is expected during the entire life of a Christian. But as the percentages may be adjusted or increased periodically, it is important to establish that periodicity. Some decide to establish their percentages for one year, adjusting it at the end of the period according to God’s blessings.
Choose the percentage: In prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to decide on the percentage of the income that you will vow to give as regular offering (Promise). You may write it here (_____%) in God’s presence, or on the tablet of your heart.
Put God first: Return your Promise immediately after your tithe (Matt. 6:33; Mal. 3:8-10), and before spending your income.8
Encouragement to get you started:
- “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him. Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him” (Ps. 37:8, 9).
- “The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (Ps. 34:9 NKJV).
- “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread” (Ps. 37:25 NKJV).
- “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Prov. 3:9, 10 NKJV).
- “‘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 blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer’” (Mal. 3:10, 11 NKJV).
- “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19 NKJV).
- “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7 NKJV).
1 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 73 (italics supplied).
2 Idem. (italics supplied).
3 White, Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 80, 81.
4 Angel M. Rodriguez, Stewardship Roots: Toward a theology of Stewardship, tithe, offerings, p. 46. Silver Spring, MD: Stewardship Ministries Department of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists.
5 White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 25.
8 “He has specified tithes and offerings as the measure of our obligation. And he desires us to give regularly and systematically. . . . After the tithe is set apart, let gifts and offerings be apportioned, ‘as God hath prospered’ you.” White, Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 80, 81.