1. PERSONAL FINANCES
a. What may result now and eternally from neglecting the Lord’s cause? Haggai 1:5–11.
“Those who are selfishly withholding their means need not be surprised if God’s hand scatters. That which should have been devoted to the advancement of the work and cause of God, but which has been withheld, may be entrusted to a reckless son, and he may squander it. A fine horse, the pride of a vain heart, may be found dead in the stable. Occasionally a cow may die. Losses of fruit or other crops may come. God can scatter the means He has lent to His stewards, if they refuse to use it to His glory. Some, I saw, may have none of these losses to remind them of their remissness in duty, but their cases may be the more hopeless.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 661, 662.
“The neglect to confess Christ in your account books cuts you off from the great privilege of having your name registered in the Lamb’s book of life.”—Our High Calling, p. 192.
b. What should be considered by all who habitually tend to ask help, instead of offering it? Deuteronomy 28:12, 13.
“Those who share in Christ’s glory must share also in His ministry, helping the weak, the wretched, and the despondent.”—Counsels for the Church, p. 60.
2. CONDITIONAL PROMISES
a. What does God desire for His people even today? Deuteronomy 28:1–6.
“The word comes to every believer, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’ [Isaiah 40:3]. Economize in your expenditure of means upon yourself. The first step of self-denial is generally the most difficult but begin without delay. Your self-denying offerings shall be used in this field to supply workers to give the last message of mercy to a fallen world.”—The General Conference Bulletin, April 1, 1899.
“It is not God’s purpose that Christians, whose privileges far exceed those of the Jewish nation, shall give less freely than they gave. ‘Unto whomsoever much is given,’ the Saviour declared, ‘of him shall be much required.’ Luke 12:48. The liberality required of the Hebrews was largely to benefit their own nation; today the work of God extends over all the earth. In the hands of His followers, Christ has placed the treasures of the gospel, and upon them He has laid the responsibility of giving the glad tidings of salvation to the world. Surely our obligations are much greater than were those of ancient Israel.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 337, 338.
b. What promises are assured to all who follow God’s financial plan? Malachi 3:11, 12.
“All may feel that they can act a part in carrying forward the precious work of salvation. Every man, woman, and youth may become a treasurer for the Lord, and may be an agent to meet the demands upon the treasury. Says the apostle, ‘Let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him’ (1 Corinthians 16:2).
“Great objects are accomplished by this system. If one and all would accept it, each would be made a vigilant and faithful treasurer for God; and there would be no want of means with which to carry forward the great work of sounding the last message of warning to the world. 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.”—Messages to Young People, pp. 304, 305.
3. LESSONS FROM THE DAYS OF CHRIST
a. How can the wise men’s devotion to the Child of Bethlehem serve as an encouragement to us? Matthew 2:1, 2, 11.
“The magi had been among the first to welcome the Redeemer. Their gift was the first that was laid at His feet. And through that gift, what privilege of ministry was theirs! The offering from the heart that loves, God delights to honor, giving it highest efficiency in service for Him. If we have given our hearts to Jesus, we also shall bring our gifts to Him. Our gold and silver, our most precious earthly possessions, our highest mental and spiritual endowments, will be freely devoted to Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 65.
b. What should we learn from Mary’s anointing of Jesus? Mark 14:3.
“In determining the proportion to be given to the cause of God, be sure to exceed, rather than fall short, of the requirements of duty. Consider for whom the offering is to be made. This recollection will put covetousness to flight. Only consider the great love wherewith Christ has loved us, and our richest offerings will seem unworthy of His acceptance. When Christ is the object of our affections, those who have received His pardoning love will not stop to calculate the value of the alabaster box of precious ointment. Covetous Judas could do this; but the receiver of the gift of salvation will only regret that the offering has not a richer perfume and greater value.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 485.
c. How can those who are habitually dependent on charity become—like Mary—givers of charity? Acts 20:35.
“If those who have not made life a success were willing to be instructed, they could train themselves to habits of self-denial and strict economy, and have the satisfaction of being distributors, rather than receivers, of charity. There are many slothful servants. If they would do what it is in their power to do they would experience so great a blessing in helping others that they would indeed realize that ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ [Acts 20:35].”—Ibid., vol.3, pp. 400, 401.
4. IN THE TIME OF THE APOSTLES
a. In proclaiming the gospel, what intensity of purpose should we share with the early Christians? Acts 4:32–37.
“[Acts 4:34, 35 quoted.] This liberality on the part of the believers was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit. The converts to the gospel were ‘of one heart and of one soul’ [verse 32]. One common interest controlled them—the success of the mission entrusted to them; and covetousness had no place in their lives. Their love for their brethren and the cause they had espoused, was greater than their love of money and possessions. Their works testified that they accounted the souls of men of higher value than earthly wealth.
“Thus it will ever be when the Spirit of God takes possession of the life. Those whose hearts are filled with the love of Christ, will follow the example of Him who for our sake became poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich. Money, time, influence—all the gifts they have received from God’s hand, they will value only as a means of advancing the work of the gospel. Thus it was in the early church; and when in the church of today it is seen that by the power of the Spirit the members have taken their affections from the things of the world, and that they are willing to make sacrifices in order that their fellow men may hear the gospel, the truths proclaimed will have a powerful influence upon the hearers.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 70, 71.
b. What can we learn from Ananias and Sapphira’s artful deceit and its dire consequence? Acts 5:1–11.
“Desiring to gain a reputation for self-sacrifice, liberality, and devotion to the Christian faith, Ananias and Sapphira sold their property, and laid part of the proceeds at the feet of the apostles, pretending they had given it all. They had not been urged to give all they had to the cause. God would have accepted part. But they desired it to be thought that they had given all. Thus they thought to gain the reputation they coveted, and at the same time keep back part of their money. They thought they had been successful in their scheme; but they were cheating the Lord, and He dealt summarily with this, the first case of deception and falsehood in the newly formed church. He slew them both, as a warning to all of the danger of sacrificing truth to gain favor.”—Medical Ministry, pp. 126, 127.
5. SYSTEMATIC SELF-DENIAL
a. What must we realize in the operation and financial sustenance of God’s cause in this earth? 1 Corinthians 14:33.
“[God] desires His work to be carried forward with thoroughness and exactness so that He may place upon it the seal of His approval. Christian is to be united with Christian, church with church.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 96.
b. What must we learn from the ways in which God’s faithful people have exemplified self-denial? Hebrews 11:8–10, 24–26, 37–40.
“There was a time when there were but few who listened to and embraced the truth, and they had not much of this world’s goods. Then it was necessary for some to sell their houses and lands, and obtain cheaper, while their means were freely lent to the Lord to publish the truth, and otherwise aid in advancing the cause of God. These self-sacrificing ones endured privations; but if they endure unto the end, great will be their reward.
“God has been moving upon many hearts. The truth for which a few sacrificed so much has triumphed, and multitudes have laid hold of it. In the providence of God, those who have means have been brought into the truth, that, as the work increases, the wants of His cause may be met. God does not now call for the houses His people need to live in; but if those who have an abundance do not hear His voice, cut loose from the world, and sacrifice for God, He will pass them by and will call for those who are willing to do anything for Jesus, even to sell their homes to meet the wants of the cause. God will have freewill offerings. Those who give must esteem it a privilege to do so.”—Counsels on Stewardship, p. 215.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How can a receiver of charity become its distributor?
2. How should our benevolence compare to that of the ancient Jews?
3. What examples of generosity in Christ’s day should inspire us?
4. What can we learn from the spirit of the early Christian church?
5. How can the self-denial of the pioneers of present truth be revived today?