The whole Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (SSBSG) for the first quarter of 2018 is on the subject of stewardship. While I didn't think the biblical obligation to pay tithe in the Christian era was as plain as Paul's statement of 1 Timothy 2:12 where he says, "I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence," I thought the doctrine of tithe paying plain enough and not needing thirteen weeks of study to figure out. I could have hit the important points in a page or two provided the class members believed their Bible was the infallible guide to faith and practice and believed in the divine inspiration of the Spirit of Prophecy books.
Malachi 3:8-10 is a favorite text of Seventh-day Adventists. It goes, "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." Of course, the "storehouse" is taken to mean the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In the case of bringing tithes into the storehouse, there doesn't even seem to be any problem understanding the "archaic" language of the King James Bible and all of those so-hard-to-get-through commas, semicolons and colons.
The principal contributor to this SSBSG was John H. H. Mathews, D.Min. from Andrews University. In the preparation of this SSBSG Dr. Mathews required TWENTY different Bibles, with all of those having serious corruptions except one, and five of those were honest-to-goodness Roman Catholic Bibles. He also needed FIFTY-EIGHT quotations from Ellen G. White publications to make his points. I have no problem with the fifty-eight Sister White quotations but brother Mathews missed a few important ones. Yes, he assembled thirteen lessons using fifty-eight Ellen G. White quotations all making similar points and missed some that give an alternative perspective on tithe and offering paying.
In the book, The Early Elmshaven Years by Arthur L. White, there is on pages 394 through 396 a discussion on tithe paying. Officers of the Colorado Conference felt the action of an agent of the Southern Missionary Society was censurable in that he accepted money to be used for work among blacks in the South. In responding to this ill conceived criticism Ellen White wrote:
"In regard to the colored work in the South, that field has been and is still being robbed of the means that should come to the workers in that field. If there have been cases where our sisters have appropriated their tithe to the support of the ministers working for the colored people in the South, let every man, if he is wise, hold his peace."
She went on to say,
"I would not advise that anyone should make a practice of gathering up tithe money. But for years there have now and then been persons who have lost confidence in the appropriation of the tithe who have placed their tithe in my hands, and said that if I did not take it they would themselves appropriate it to the families of the most needy ministers they could find. I have taken the money, given a receipt for it, and told them how it was appropriated. I write this to you so that you shall keep cool and not become stirred up and give publicity to this matter, lest many more shall follow their example."
Regarding the appropriate use of tithe, Sister White said in Testimony for the Church Volume 9 page 249 that...
"A very plain, definite message has been given to me for our people. I am bidden to tell them that they are making a mistake in applying the tithe to various objects which, though good in themselves, are not the object to which the Lord has said the tithe should be applied. Those who make this use of the tithe are departing from the Lord's arrangement. God will judge for these things. One reasons that the tithe may be applied to school purposes. Still others reason that canvassers and colporteurs should be supported from the tithe. But a great mistake is made when the tithe is drawn from the object for which it is to be used-the support of the ministers."
Testimony for the Church Volume 9 page on page 261 says that...
"There are fearful woes for those who preach the truth, but are not sanctified by it, and also for those who consent to receive and maintain the unsanctified to minister to them in word and doctrine."
Other Ellen G. White quotations from less widely published sources are found in Tithes & Offerings Trampling the Conscience by Colin D. Standish and Russell R. Standish. On page 35 it says,
"We should be ready to help the suffering, and to set in operation plans to advance the truth in various ways. It is not the province of the Conference or any other organization to relieve us of this stewardship."
Another quotation from that book found on page 88 says,
"The Lord has made us individually His stewards. We each hold a solemn responsibility to invest our means ourselves.... God does not lay upon you the burden of asking the conference, or any counsel of men, whether you shall use your means as you see fit to advance the work of God."
That is all pretty clear and it is in the original English. For years I had been under the impression that tithe was being used exclusively for the support of ministers but on writing to the presidents of the Ohio and Pennsylvania conferences back in the 1990s found that tithe was being used for other things like church schools (i.e., not for the support of a minister or Bible teacher). Earlier this year I received a note from a brother in another conference who stated that in his conference one third of the elementary schools teachers' salary came from tithe. I think it a bit difficult to argue that a teacher is part of the ministry unless they are a Bible teacher or an ordained minister. Maybe that's what tithe in that conference is being used for.
Ganoune Diop, PhD with his PhD from Andrews University, a Masters from Collonges, France and with another Masters from the University of Paris was sent by the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department of the General Conference to the Vatican where he and other theologians met the Pope. I don't wish tithe or other funds I donate to go toward financing junkets of General Conference dignitaries to the Vatican.
In the August 2017 issue of Adventist World (the North American Division) there was an article by Ted N. C. Wilson, President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in which he quoted from Testimonies for the Church volume 9, page 19 which says regarding Seventh-day Adventists, "They have been given a work of the most solemn import-the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages. There is no other work of so great importance."
At the time that article was published, in the preceding TWENTY years that I'd attended Seventh-day Adventist churches, I had heard ONE sermon in those various churches on the investigative judgment and ONE on the prophesies of Daniel and Revelation. The sermon on the Daniel and Revelation prophesies wasn't given by an ordained minister but by a layman. Twenty years would be about 1,040 Sabbaths. It's true I didn't always attend church when traveling, caring for the sick, when sick myself or after working 11 PM to 7 AM the night before but if those subjects were the principal messages, I should have heard them a few more times. Is that a problem? Maybe rather than sending an emissary to Rome there should be renewed interest in spreading the message we have been directed to spread.
Every quarter there is a thirteenth Sabbath offering. The main project is usually some foreign mission. At the time of one thirteenth Sabbath many years ago I learned that in addition to going to a needy mission, a portion of the collected offering was going to Loma Linda University. I do not donate money to schools, hospitals and other entities that should be capable of paying their own way. I have never since that time contributed to any thirteenth Sabbath offering. I don't know if it's always that way, but it appears that at least at times the needy mission is a prop or visual aid, as it were, to get money for other things.
In an issue of Adventist World not too long ago, I read about a non-Adventist chaplain in a Seventh-day Adventist hospital that had joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The story is great except why was a non-Adventist chaplain employed in a Seventh-day Adventist hospital in the first place? I treat a Seventh-day Adventist hospital or school that employs non-Adventists to positions of significant spiritual responsibility as I do any non-Adventist school or hospital; I give them nothing. There was an article in the January 4, 1906 issue of the Review and Herald in which Ellen G. White wrote regarding the building of Solomon's Temple, "Thus at the head of Solomon's company of workmen there was placed an unsanctified man, who demanded large wages because of his unusual skill." She went on to say, "And gradually these wrong principles came to be cherished by his associates." There is no Greek or Hebrew needed to understand this; it's in English. The individuals employed in positions of responsibility in Seventh-day Adventist institutions should be consecrated Seventh-day Adventists.
There is an independent Seventh-day Adventist ministry I donated to once over 10 years ago. My reward was a deluge of slick mailings asking for more money. I did a little research online and found that their yearly budget was in the millions. Despite never giving to them again I still get an occasional mailing from them the last mailing being within the last 2 weeks. They will get no more from me ever. I don't like getting mounds of junk mail. One lesson here is to do a little research on who you contemplate donating to. One useful web site for such research is Charity Navigator.
Among our leaders there is a tendency to emphasize the duty of church members to pay and not too much said about the responsibility of those leaders to use the donated funds for appropriate purposes. The curse pronounced on those who rob God applies both to those who contribute God's funds and to those to whom God's funds have been entrusted for the use of the church.
The book by Colin D. Standish and Russell R. Standish, Tithes & Offerings Trampling the Conscience, unlike the SSBSG on stewardship, gives a very balanced Bible and Spirit of Prophecy based view on the obligation of Seventh-day Adventist Church members to dispose of their funds in a way God approves.
For some interesting articles visit Pilgrims' Rest.
© Martin J. Lohne 2017.