1. FROM THE DAYS OF GENESIS
a. By what means did God reserve for Himself a portion of the garden of Eden? Genesis 2:16, 17. How does this compare to the tithe? Malachi 3:7, 8.
“The Lord created every tree in Eden pleasant to the eyes and good for food, and He bade Adam and Eve freely enjoy His bounties. But He made one exception. Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were not to eat. This tree God reserved as a constant reminder of His ownership of all. Thus He gave them opportunity to demonstrate their faith and trust in Him by their perfect obedience to His requirements.
“So it is with God’s claims upon us. He places His treasures in the hands of men but requires that one tenth shall be faithfully laid aside for His work. He requires this portion to be placed in His treasury. It is to be rendered to Him as His own; it is sacred and is to be used for sacred purposes, for the support of those who carry the message of salvation to all parts of the world.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 386.
b. What was the practice of the early patriarchs regarding the tenth portion of their income? Genesis 14:18–20; 28:20–22.
“The tithing system did not originate with the Hebrews. From the earliest times the Lord claimed a tithe as His, and this claim was recognized and honored.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 525.
2. IN THE HEBREW ECONOMY
a. What specific instruction was given to the early Hebrew nation regarding the tithe? Leviticus 27:30–32. How is this principle emphasized in all ages? Malachi 3:10.
“In the Hebrew economy one tenth of the income of the people was set apart to support the public worship of God. . . .
“As the Israelites were about to be established as a nation, the law of tithing was reaffirmed as one of the divinely ordained statutes upon obedience to which their prosperity depended. . . .
“ ‘The tithe . . . is the Lord’s’ [Leviticus 27:30]. Here the same form of expression is employed as in the law of the Sabbath. ‘The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God’ (Exodus 20:10). God reserved to Himself a specified portion of man’s time and of his means, and no man could, without guilt, appropriate either for his own interests.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 525, 526. [Author’s Italics.]
b. What was required before the tithe could be reserved? Exodus 22:29; 34:26 (first part); 2 Chronicles 31:5, 6.
“Even before the tithe could be reserved there had been an acknowledgment of the claims of God. The first that ripened of every product of the land was consecrated to Him. The first of the wool when the sheep were shorn, of the grain when the wheat was threshed, the first of the oil and the wine, was set apart for God. So also were the firstborn of all animals; and a redemption price was paid for the firstborn son. The first fruits were to be presented before the Lord at the sanctuary, and were then devoted to the use of the priests.
“Thus the people were constantly reminded that God was the true proprietor of their fields, their flocks, and their herds; that He sent them sunshine and rain for their seedtime and harvest, and that everything they possessed was of His creation, and He had made them stewards of His goods.
“As the men of Israel, laden with the first fruits of field and orchard and vineyard, gathered at the tabernacle, there was made a public acknowledgment of God’s goodness.”—Ibid., p.526.
“Besides the tithe the Lord demands the firstfruits of all our increase. These He has reserved in order that His work in the earth may be amply sustained. The Lord’s servants are not to be limited to a meager supply.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 384.
3. PERPETUAL PRINCIPLES
a. What was included among the reformations made in the days of Nehemiah? Nehemiah 10:34–37; 12:44.
b. What practice of the Pharisees met with Christ’s approval? Matthew 23:23. Why does the tithing principle apply also in the New Testament era? Hebrews 7:1–5, 8, 20, 21.
“The New Testament does not reenact the law of the tithe, as it does not that of the Sabbath; for the validity of both is assumed, and their deep spiritual import explained.
“God has made an absolute reservation of a specified portion of our time and our means. To ignore these claims is to rob God.”—The Review and Herald, May 16, 1882.
“The tithe should be consecrated to God. His requirements come first. We are not doing His will if we consecrate to Him what is left after all our wants have been supplied. Before any part of our income is consumed, we should take out and present to Him that portion which He claims as His. When this is done, the remainder will be sanctified and blessed to our own use. But when we withhold that which He says is His, the curse rests upon the whole, and we are recorded in the books of heaven as guilty of robbery. God gives man nine-tenths, but the one-tenth He claims for sacred purposes—as He has given man six days for His own work and has reserved the seventh day to Himself.”—Pacific Union Recorder, October 10, 1901.
“While we as a people are seeking faithfully to give to God the time which He has reserved as His own, shall we not also render to Him that portion of our means which He claims? . . .
“A tithe of all our increase is the Lord’s. He has reserved it to Himself to be employed for religious purposes. It is holy. Nothing less than this has He accepted in any dispensation.”—Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 66, 67.
“The small and the larger streams of beneficence should ever be kept flowing. God’s providence is far ahead of us, moving onward much faster than our liberalities. The way for the advancement and upbuilding of the cause of God is blocked by selfishness, pride, covetousness, extravagance, and love of display. The whole church is charged with a solemn responsibility to lift in every branch of the work. If its members follow Christ, they will deny the inclination for display, the love of dress, the love of elegant houses and costly furniture. There must be far greater humility.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 296.
4. WARNINGS FOR US
a. How does the tithing principle relate to the eighth commandment? Exodus 20:15; Malachi 3:8, 9.
“God lays His hand upon all man’s possessions, saying: I am the owner of the universe, and these goods are Mine. The tithe you have withheld I reserve for the support of My servants in their work of opening the Scriptures to those who are in the regions of darkness, who do not understand My law. In using My reserve fund to gratify your own desires you have robbed souls of the light which I made provision for them to receive. You have had opportunity to show loyalty to Me, but you have not done this. You have robbed Me; you have stolen My reserve fund. ‘Ye are cursed with a curse’ (Malachi 3:9).”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 387.
b. What must we never forget about the tithe? 1 Corinthians 9:13, 14.
“The tithe is set apart for a special use. It is not to be regarded as a poor fund. It is to be especially devoted to the support of those who are bearing God’s message to the world; and it should not be diverted from this purpose.”—Counsels on Stewardship, p. 103.
“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 an emergency, nor to apply it as they see fit, even in what they may regard as the Lord’s work.”—Gospel Workers, p. 225.
“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 that 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. There should be today in the field one hundred well-qualified laborers where now there is but one.”—Ibid., p.226.
5. OUR FIRST FINANCIAL PRIORITY
a. What is the key to spiritual and temporal prosperity? Matthew 6:33.
“Not only does the Lord claim the tithe as His own, but He tells us how it should be reserved for Him. He says, ‘Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase’ [Proverbs 3:9]. This does not teach that we are to spend our means on ourselves and bring to the Lord the remnant, even though it should be otherwise an honest tithe. Let God’s portion be first set apart. The directions given by the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul in regard to gifts present a principle that applies also to tithing: ‘On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him’ [1 Corinthians 16:2]. Parents and children are here included. Not only the rich, but the poor are addressed.”—The Review and Herald, November 10, 1896. [Author’s Italics.]
b. What does God declare to us about that which is His? Malachi 3:10.
“Let the Lord’s people pay a faithful tithe, and let them, also, from parents to children, lay aside for the Lord the money that is so often spent for self-gratification. The Lord has made us His stewards. He has placed His means in our hands for faithful distribution. He asks us to render to Him His own. He has reserved the tithe as His portion, to be used in sending the gospel to all parts of the world. My brethren and sisters, confess and forsake your selfishness, and bring to the Lord your gifts and offerings. Bring Him also the tithe that you have withheld. Come confessing your neglect. Prove the Lord as He has invited you to do.”—Ibid., November 23, 1905.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What object lesson from Eden illustrates the tithing principle?
2. How were the Hebrews to acknowledge God’s claims before returning their tithe to God’s storehouse?
3. Why is the tithing system applicable in the New Testament era?
4. What would happen if every Christian paid a faithful tithe?
5. How does faithful tithing benefit everyone?