The study of nature demonstrates the existence of a God who is a Creator, but gives no insight into His purposes in creating the earth or in placing man upon it, or of His plan for the salvation of man. For this information we must go to the Bible. Why? Because it is the only source of revelation of that God and Creator, declaring His purposes in creation and presenting His plan of salvation. Anciently God spoke to certain men, prophets and apostles, making known His purposes and plans through them. These revelations have, in part, been gathered by divine direction, and now constitute what is known as the Scriptures, or Sacred Writings.
If men would study these writings and live out their teachings, they would find them a source of knowledge that would thoroughly furnish them “unto all good works.” [11 Timothy 3: 17.] But this they fail to do, hence God has given us instruction through the testimonies of His Spirit. But these testimonies were not given to take the place of the Bible. “God has seen fit in this manner to bring the minds of His people to His Word, to give them a clearer understanding of it.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 663.
“The written testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed.” Ibid., 665.
A Study of Tithing
With these two sources of light and knowledge, let us study more deeply, possibly, than we yet have done, the otherwise familiar subject of tithing; study the purpose of God in planning it; study it until we reach the foundation principle, love, the beginning of every purpose, every plan, of God. And as the light comes, and the beauty and charm of it all is revealed, let us turn our wayward feet back again into the dear old path, and tell the Lord that, won by his love, we are “coming home, never more to roam.” [William J. Kirkpatrick, “I’ve Wandered Far Away From God,” The Church Hymnal, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Takoma Park, Washington, D.C., 1941, 560.]
For an amplification of the truth of the biblical statements concerning tithing, we will place the Testimonies beside the Bible. Beginning, then, with volume 3, we shall obtain a clear explanation of God’s purpose in presenting the tithing system to man. From page 388 we will quote, commenting as we proceed: “The great work which Jesus announced that He came to do was entrusted to His followers upon the earth. Christ, as our head, leads out in the great work of salvation and bids us follow His example. He has given us a world-wide message.”
From this we gather that Christ opened up the work, illustrating how it should be accomplished, but that the work itself was to be and will be accomplished through human agents. Now what was this work, as defined by himself? “He announced in the synagogue of Nazareth: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ ” And this statement is followed by the further one. “He has given us a world-wide message. This truth must be extended to all nations, tongues, and people.”
Completing the Work
Did you ever have an important piece of work on hand which you were extremely anxious to see finished, yet so many annoyances and interruptions distracted your attention and consumed your time as almost to discourage you in your efforts to accomplish your undertaking? Well, there you have a picture of the predicament and perplexities of the missionary for Christ. Still that is not all or the worst side of the picture. The most discouraging and the most appallingly disheartening obstacle the missionary has to meet and allow for is unfaithfulness in support from the home center. It takes money to carry on war. How cruel to send gospel soldiers out into the field to meet the enemy, then rob the home treasury so that an adequate amount cannot be forwarded to meet the soldier’s needs and necessities!
The Lord’s servant has said, “An extensive war was to be maintained against the powers of darkness. And in order to do this work successfully, means were required. God does not propose to send means direct from heaven, but He gives into the hands of His followers talents of means to use for the very purpose of sustaining this warfare. He has given his people a plan for raising sums sufficient to make the enterprise self-sustaining. . . . The treasury will be full if all adopt this system, and the contributors will not be left the poorer. Through every investment made they will become more wedded to the cause of present truth. They will be ‘laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.’ ” Ibid., 388, 389.
When an individual enters the church through baptism, the act is a tacit pledge to “walk in newness of life,” which means not only to believe but to live out all the principles of truth. [Romans 6:4.] “Every person, upon becoming a member of the church, pledges himself to be a representative of Christ by living out the truth he professes. The followers of Christ should carry forward the work which He left for them to do when He ascended into heaven.” Ibid., vol. 4, 464. When you accepted present truth and became a member of the church, you agreed to cooperate with Christ in the giving of the message, in person and in time, and to contribute of your means, . . . to carry on the warfare to be waged against Satan. This is what it means to be a co-laborer with Christ, and in return the assurance is given that persistence in this cooperation will insure a change of character which will admit the faithful one to the heavenly courts. In God’s plan there is no other way in which a character can be perfected.
The plan of salvation is founded upon [Jesus Christ, and it, by His example and command, includes] self-denial. The cultivation of that spirit is, therefore, a necessity as a fundamental principle of truth. God has made this absolutely obligatory. “Whatever necessity there is for our agency in the advancement of the cause of God, He has purposely arranged for our good. He has honored us by making us co-workers with Him. He has ordained that there should be a necessity for the co-operation of men, that they may keep in exercise their benevolence. . . . Christians are required by the Scriptures to enter upon a plan of active benevolence which will keep in constant exercise an interest in the salvation of their fellow men.” Ibid., vol. 3, 391, 392. “This is God’s means of exalting man. It is just the work which he needs, for it will stir the deepest sympathies of his heart and call into exercise the highest capabilities of the mind.” Ibid., vol. 4, 472.
“God is not dependent upon man for the support of His cause. He could have sent means direct from heaven to supply His treasury, if His providence had seen that this was best for man. He might have devised means whereby angels would have been sent to publish the truth to the world without the agency of men. He might have written the truth upon the heavens, and let that declare to the world His requirements in living characters.” Ibid., vol. 3, 390.
“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 the 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.” Ibid., vol. 4, 473.
To Give or To Get
The primary object, then, in presenting the tithing system is the salvation of man through cooperation with God in his plan of salvation, the support of his cause being supplemental, as one of the incidents connected with the plan. The spirit of heaven is to give. Christ first gave himself, and then gave all that he had, for the redemption of man. The angels put aside the quiet life of absolute bliss, and gladly took their places as ministers to fallen man. The plan of salvation began with a sacrifice, and will end with one. All heaven has been emptied by a loving, sacrificial offering for souls. The man who would cooperate with God and with the angels in such a work must have a heart and mind like theirs, or the work would fail of attraction to him.
The natural desire of the human heart is to retain, to get. This nature must be changed until it learns to delight in giving, loves to labor for others. Selfishness is a fundamental sin, is the natural condition of fallen natures; the tithing system is intended to eliminate this deformity, and replace it with the love of God. As a man faithfully tithes his income, the blessing of the Master tenders his heart. He becomes interested in the work into which his money goes, and as time passes, he learns to love others as himself, and obtains a burden for their salvation. He learns to think God’s thoughts after him, and gradually develops a character like God’s. Then he is ready for admission into heaven, and for association with God and the holy angels. This is God’s purpose in presenting the tithing system to man—to insure the eradication of self and the development of character, so that man can be accepted as an heir of God, and admitted to companionship with his holy family.
“Christ saw that in the prosecution of business the love of riches would be the greatest cause of rooting true godliness out of the heart. He saw that the love of money would freeze deep and hard into men’s souls, stopping the flow of generous impulses and closing their senses to the wants of the suffering and the afflicted.” “The system of benevolence was arranged to prevent that great evil, covetousness.” Ibid., vol. 3, 547.
“God in His wise plans has made the advancement of His cause dependent upon the personal efforts of His people and upon their freewill offerings. . . . As the work enlarges, means will be needed to carry it forward in all its branches. Those who have been converted to the truth and been made partakers of His grace may become co-workers with Christ by making voluntary sacrifices and freewill offerings to Him.” Ibid., vol. 4, 464.
“Whenever God’s people, in any period of the world, have cheerfully and willingly carried out His plan in systematic benevolence and in gifts and offerings, they have realized the standing promise that prosperity should attend all their labors just in proportion as they obeyed His requirements. When they acknowledged the claims of God and complied with His requirements, honoring Him with their substance, their barns were filled with plenty. But when they robbed God in tithes and in offerings they were made to realize that they were not only robbing Him but themselves, for He limited His blessings to them just in proportion as they limited their offerings to Him.” Ibid., vol. 3, 395.
—To be continued . . .