Kings 17, an enlightening story is recorded from the life ofElijah. The story took place during
the time when the land of Israel was
under the curse of God and was not receiving any rain or dew because of their
rebellion against the God of heaven.
At the beginning of this three
and a half year period, when it did not rain, the Lord sent Elijah to hide by
the Brook Cherith to escape the grasp of King Ahab
who was seeking for him all over the land. However, eventually, the brook dried
up, and God gave Elijah further instructions. Notice: “And it happened after a
while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. Then
the word of the Lord came to him, Saying, ‘Arise, go to Zarephath,
which belongs to Sidon, and
dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.’ ” 1 Kings
Elijah was sent out of the land of Israel to one
of the most wicked areas of the world.There in Zarephath,
Elijah met the widow who was out gathering sticks to make a final meal for herself
and her son. Despite her desperate situation, this widow shared what little she
had with the prophet, and as a result wonderful things happened. The Bible
records: “So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and
he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor
did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by
Elijah.” 1 Kings , 16.
And this was not the only
blessing she received from the Lord because she willingly gave her all. The
story is later told of how her only son died. In her great distress she went to
the prophet Elijah and he cried to the Lord and said, “ ‘O,
Lord my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by
killing her son?’…Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the
child came back to him, and he revived. And Elijah
took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and
gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, ‘See your son lives.’ Then the woman
said to Elijah, ‘Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the
word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.’ ” 1 Kings 17:20–24.
Notice, God sent His prophet to
a woman who was very poor; so poor that she was at the point of starvation.
When she granted Elijah’s request for a meal, she showed confidence in the man
of God that had come and asked a favor of her. Before she received a favor from
God, she had to demonstrate her faith.
Isn’t it interesting that God
chose to send His servant to such a poor household to be sustained during this
difficult time? I am sure there were plenty of rich people close by who had
houses and servants and silver and gold, but God ordained that His servant
should be sustained by a poor widow woman. It is an amazing thing, but over and
over again I have seen the Lord’s work sustained by the widows and the orphans.
Why is this? Is it because God needs the resources of the widows and orphans?
No. The money is not important to the Lord. It is the motive of the giver that
is important in His eyes.
Ellen White wrote about this in
Testimonies, vol. 3, 382: “God could
have reached His object in saving sinners without the aid of man. He knew that
man could not be happy without acting a part in the great work in which he
would be cultivating self-denial and benevolence. That man might not lose the
blessed results of benevolence, our Redeemer formed
the plan of enlisting him as His co-worker.” God could finish the work without
any of our help, but it is His desire that we learn the lesson of benevolence
and self-denial so He gives us the blessing of assisting with His work.
“Every good thing of earth was
placed here by the bountiful hand of God as an expression of His love to man.
The poor are His, and the cause of religion is His. He has placed means in the
hands of men, that His divine gifts may flow through
human channels in doing the work appointed us in saving our fellow men.
Everyone has His appointed work in the great field; and yet none should receive
the idea that God is dependent upon man. He could speak the word and every son
of poverty would be made rich. In a moment of time He could heal the human race
of all their diseases. He might dispense with ministers altogether and make
angels the ambassadors of His truth. He might have written the truth upon the
firmament, or imprinted it upon the leaves of the trees and upon the flowers of
the field; or He might with an audible voice have proclaimed it from heaven.
But the all wise God did not choose any of these ways. He knew that man must
have something to do in order that life might be a blessing to him. The gold
and silver are the Lord’s, and He could rain them from heaven if He chose; but
instead of this He has made man His steward, entrusting him with means, not to
be hoarded, but to be used in benefiting others. He thus makes man the medium
through which to distribute His blessings on earth. God planned the system of
beneficence in order that man might become, like his Creator, benevolent and
unselfish in character, and finally be a partaker with Him of the eternal,
glorious reward.” Testimonies,
vol. 4, 472, 473.
In all of God’s dealings with
His creatures, His purpose is our sanctification, the development of our
characters that we might become like Him in character—unselfish and benevolent.
It is His desire that our constant impulse will be to do something to bless
someone else. And if we follow His instructions, with humble faith and
obedience, the result will be the perfection of our characters. The problem is that
so often we are haphazard or lackadaisical and do not follow God’s instructions
exactly. Then we do not reap the benefits that He desires to bestow on us.
The Tithing Plan
God has given implicit
instructions in regard to our stewardship of both time and money. The fourth
commandment deals with time and the tithing plan, taught throughout the Old and
New Testaments, giving us instruction about our money.
Tithe is first mentioned in
regard to Abraham in Genesis 14. Here the Bible records that Abraham “gave him
[Melchizedek] a tithe of all.” So it is clear that Abraham understood the
In Genesis 28 we read
concerning the experience of Jacob: “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God
will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to
eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace,
then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar
shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to
You.’ ” Genesis 28:20–22. Jacob also understood the
The Lord gave Moses very
explicit instructions about the use of the tithe. He said, “Behold I have given
the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an
inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the
tabernacle of meeting.” Numbers .
Because the Levities were
faithful to God during the golden-calf apostasy, the Lord gave them a special
blessing—the responsibility of the care of the sanctuary. Instead of giving them
an inheritance of property, in the Promised Land, the Lord instructed that they
should be sustained by the tithe.
Paul wrote about this in 1
Corinthians 9:13–14: “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things
eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of
the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who
preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”
The apostle taught that just as
the Levites, in the Old Covenant, received the tithes for the work that they
did in the sanctuary, those who preach the gospel, in the New Covenant, are to
live of the gospel (from the tithe). The Bible clearly tells us how and for
what purposes the tithe is to be spent. Through God’s special messenger for the
last days the Lord sent even more explicit instructions about where the tithe
is and is not to be used. We will look at several important passages.
“The Lord has specified: the
tenth of all your possessions is Mine; your gifts and
offerings are to be brought into the treasury, to be used to advance My cause,
to send the living preacher to open the Scriptures to those who sit in
darkness.” The Youth’s
Instructor,August 26, 1897.
“ And He
says to us, ‘A portion of the money I have enabled you to gain is Mine. Put it
into the treasury in tithes, in gifts and offerings, that there may be meat in
Mine house,—that there may be something to sustain those who carry the gospel
of My grace to the world.’ ” The Review and Herald,May 9, 1893.
“Instruction has been given me
that there is a withholding of the tithe that should be faithfully brought into
the Lord’s Treasury, for the support of the ministers and missionaries who are
opening the Scriptures to the people and working from house to house.” The Review and Herald,April 20, 1905.
“The people today are to
remember that the house of worship is God’s property and that it is to be
scrupulously cared for. But the funds for this work are not to come from the
tithe. The tithe is to be used for one purpose—to sustain the ministers whom
the Lord has appointed to do His work.” Echoes
from the Field,June
Ellen White made it clear that
these ministers, or workers, could be men or women. When there were some who
insisted that minister’s wives should not be paid even though they were working
just as effectively as their husbands, she gave this strong rebuke. “There are
ministers’ wives…who have been devoted, earnest, whole soul workers, giving
Bible readings and praying with families, helping along by personal efforts
just as successfully as their husbands. These women give their whole time, and
are told that they receive nothing for their labors because their husbands
receive their wages. I tell them to go forward and all such decisions shall be
“The Word says, ‘The laborer is worthy of his hire.’ When any such decision
as this is made, I will in the name of the Lord, protest. I will feel it my
duty to create a fund from my tithe money, to pay these women who are
accomplishing just as essential work as the ministers are doing, and this tithe
I will reserve for work in the same line as that of the ministers, hunting for
souls, fishing for souls. I know that the faithful
women should be paid wages proportionate to the pay received by ministers. They
carry the burden of souls, and should not be treated unjustly. These sisters
are giving their time to educating those newly come to the faith, and hire
their own work done, and pay those who work for them. All these things must be
adjusted and set in order, and justice be done to
all.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 21,
Why We Lack Ministers
Ellen White warned that a great mistake is
made when the tithe is withdrawn from the object for which it is to be used and
she described the results that have followed. “There is a lack of ministers
because ministers have not been encouraged. Some ministers who have been sent
to foreign lands, to enter fields never before worked, have been given the
instruction, ‘You must sustain yourselves. We have not the means with which to
support you.’ This ought not to be if the tithe, with gifts and offerings, was
brought into the treasury. When a man enters the ministry, he is to be paid
from the tithe enough to sustain his family. He is not to feel that he is a beggar.…The tithe is sacred, reserved by God for Himself. It
is to be brought into His treasury to be used to sustain the gospel laborers in
“The tithe is to be used for
the support of the ministry. The opening of new fields requires more
ministerial efficiency than we now have and there must be means in the
treasury.” Echoes from the Field, June 21, 1905.
We are living in strange times.
Now, probably more than any previous time in Adventism, this plain instruction
is being overlooked and people are spending their tithe for all sorts of
projects. And the result is that people that are trained to do Bible work
cannot engage in the work full time because they do not receive enough to
support their families. Many times I have seen qualified gospel workers
spending their days working as computer technicians, nurses or carpenters in
order to feed and clothe their families and then trying to work for the Lord in
the time that remains. At the same time, we receive calls from people all over
the country who are seeking for historic Adventist ministers and Bible workers
to serve in their churches. The truth is that there are almost no historic
Adventist ministers and the reason can be summarized as follows:
The leaders in the revival and
reformation movement in Adventism have often refused to organize home churches.
And when the home churches were organized, they were not organized into
sisterhoods of churches that could help each other. As a result, only those
churches large enough to support a pastor of their own could have pastors at
Now, if congregational church
government is all you have, and that is all that Seventh-day Adventists had at
one time, that, of course, is better than total disorganization, but we have
never taught congregational church government. We have always believed in full
New Testament church organization where the local churches work together for
the common good of the cause of God. And we must face the facts squarely. The
work of revival and reformation in Adventism is years behind where it could be
if all historic Adventist believers would cease the rebellion against New
Testament church organization and learn how to work together to plan more
organized outreach and distribution of tithe in harmony with inspired counsel.
We have to recognize the sad fact that God’s work is lame because of a lack of
New Testament church organization.
Of course, the Lord is able to
finish His work whether the work is lame or not. We read in Micah 4:6, 7: “‘In
that day,’ says the Lord, ‘I will assemble the lame, I will gather the outcast
and those whom I have afflicted; I will make the lame a remnant, and the
outcast a strong nation; so the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from
now on, even forever.’”
The Lord is able to gather
those that are lame, those that are outcasts and have been disfellowshiped
from their local churches, into a mighty army to finish His work. The Lord is
not dependent on you or me to finish His work. His work will go forward. But
the problem is, if we do not follow divine
instruction, we will not reap the blessings that God wants us to have. The Lord
does not want us to work in a haphazard way. The Lord wants us to come into
The Need for Human Workers
We can spend millions of
dollars for all kinds of good projects—radio, television, literature—and I
believe in all of these projects, but we will never finish the work with those
means alone. The work can only be finished by human workers. That is the way
God has ordained it. All of these other methods only plant the seeds, and then
human reapers are necessary to gather in the harvest.
A farmer would never spend
thousands of dollars to plant a crop which he had no way to harvest. Yet that
is what is done in God’s work all the time. People spend hundreds of thousands
or even millions of dollars to plant seeds when there is no provision to send
workers to reap the harvest. And then people wonder why there is so little
harvest. One of the reasons is because the tithe is not being used to train and
hire reapers to go out and reap the harvest.
Ellen White wrote, “The tithe
is the Lord’s, and those who meddle with it will be punished with the loss of
their heavenly treasure unless they repent. Let the work no longer be hedged up
because the tithe has been diverted into various channels other than the one to
which the Lord has said it should go.…The opening of new fields requires more
ministerial efficiency than we now have, and there must be means in the
treasury.” Echoes from the Field, June 21, 1905.
“The light which the Lord has
given me on this subject, is that the means in the
treasury for the support of the ministers in the different fields is not to be
used for any other purpose.” Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers, 18. (See also
Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, 193.)
A Blessing or a Curse
God is able to bless His people
when they obey Him, but when they disobey they are under His curse. In the Old
Testament, the Lord told His people that they were under a curse because they
were not returning the tithe. Notice what it says in Malachi the third chapter.
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you
say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.You
are cursed with a curse for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.”
God has a specific purpose for
the tithe. Hundreds and thousands of laborers are needed, and God has provided
for their support if men will simply listen to the divine instructions. “The
Lord regards the tithe as His own, to be used for a certain purpose.…” It
“should be used only, to sustain the ministers in new fields as well as in
other places.” Manuscript Releases,
vol. 1, 193.
“Let none feel at liberty to
retain their tithe to use according to their own judgment. They are not to use it for themselves in any emergency nor to apply
it as they see fit, even in what they may regard as the Lord’s work.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 247.
We are not to use the tithe
haphazardly or just decide we are going to use it on some missionary project
that we see fit. We are to look and see what the divine instruction is and
We must be careful that we do
not use the tithe simply for things like church expense. Ellen White gave much
counsel on this. She wrote, “The writers supposed that they were authorized to
use the tithe-money in meeting the expenses of the church, as these expenses
were quite heavy. From that which has been shown me, the tithe is not to be
withdrawn from the treasury. Every penny of this money is the Lord’s own sacred
treasure to be appropriated for a special use.” Special Testimonies for Ministers and
Workers, Number 10, 12.
“I have been shown case after
case where men are working in the ministry, who are just as deserving of their
wages as those who are employed in the publishing houses, are left without
sufficient means to support their families.…Let not those to whom are entrusted
responsibilities, allow the treasury that God has appointed to sustain the
ministers in the field, to be robbed to supply the expenses incurred in keeping
in order and making comfortable the house of God..” Special Testimony to the Oakland and Battle
Creek Churches, 11.
A Solemn Warning
In another place this startling
warning is given. “When the Lord’s portion which He has reserved as His own in
tithes and offerings is used for common purposes while the church is displaying
a love of self-indulgence and selfish gratification, the Lord will not, cannot
bless churches and will withdraw His spirit from all who serve themselves and
dishonor God.” Manuscript Releases,
vol. 21, 185.
This is one of the most
frightful statements in the Spirit of Prophecy about the tithe question. If we
take the tithe and we misappropriate it, God will not and He cannot bless our
churches and He will withdraw His spirit from them.
Is there any use in even having
a church if you do not have God’s spirit there? Of course not, “for the
presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth
eternity can alone constitute a church.” Upward Look, 315. Do you realize, then, just how important
it is that tithe be used for its divinely intended
“Those who have used the tithe
money to supply the common necessities of the house of God, have taken the
money that should go to sustain ministers in doing His work, in preparing the
way for Christ’s second appearing. Just as surely as you do this work, you
misapply the resources which God has told you to retain in His treasure house, that it may be full to be used in His service. This
work is something of which all who have taken a part in should be ashamed. They
have used their influence to withdraw from God’s treasury a fund that is
consecrated to a sacred purpose. From those who do this, the blessing of the
Lord will be removed.” Manuscript
Releases, vol. 1, 183. This is a serious matter. Tithe is sacred and we are
not to take it and appropriate it to whatever project we deem best. Tithe is to
be used to support the gospel ministry.
There is a desperate need among
historic Adventists today for the churches to work together so that the tithe
is used to enable gospel laborers to go forward. Because of a lack of New
Testament organization, people do not know where to send their tithe, so they
send it to this ministry or that ministry or it goes to this or that good
project, but it is not distributed to the gospel workers in the field, as we
are told, in the Spirit of Prophecy, that it should be. A reform must be made
before the end of time. We cannot go into the kingdom the way we are right now
because we are not in harmony with divine counsel in regard to tithes and
There is going to be a people
who will follow God’s instruction. Maybe it will be just the poor people like
the widow of Zarephath. But there is going to be a
people that are going to listen to what God says and determine to follow it
exactly, and they will receive a priceless blessing from the Lord. But God is
not going to use people to finish His work that are taking His tithe and using
it to sue the brethren or for all kinds of projects that He has not ordained.
It is time for a reform. The question is, How is it
going to be with you when the world closes up? Will you be under God’s blessing
or under His curse? Part of that depends on how you spend your money and what
you do with God’s tithe.