1. THE CREATOR OWNS ALL
a. Of what are we reminded when we consider the ownership of the world? Psalm 95:3–5; Proverbs 3:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19 (last part), 20.
“God has laid His hand upon all things, both man and his possessions; for all belong to Him. He says, I am the owner of the world; the universe is Mine, and I require you to consecrate to My service the firstfruits of all that I, through My blessing, have caused to come into your hands.”—Counsels on Stewardship, p. 72.
“Money is not ours; houses and grounds, pictures and furniture, garments and luxuries, do not belong to us. We are pilgrims, we are strangers. We have only a grant of those things that are necessary for health and life. . . . Our temporal blessings are given us in trust, to prove whether we can be entrusted with eternal riches. If we endure the proving of God, then we shall receive that purchased possession which is to be our own—glory, honor, and immortality.
“If our own people would only put into the cause of God the money that has been lent them in trust, that portion which they spend in selfish gratification, in idolatry, they would lay up treasure in heaven, and would be doing the very work God requires them to do. But like the rich man in the parable, they live sumptuously. The money God has lent them in trust, to be used to His name’s glory, they spend extravagantly. They do not stop to consider their accountability to God. They do not stop to consider that there is to be a reckoning day not far hence, when they must give an account of their stewardship.”—The Adventist Home, p. 367.
2. THANK, FREEWILL, AND TRESPASS OFFERINGS
a. What does the Bible teach us about giving? Psalms 50:14; 116:12.
“Jacob felt that God had claims upon him which he must acknowledge, and that the special tokens of divine favor granted him demanded a return. So does every blessing bestowed upon us call for a response to the Author of all our mercies. . . .
“Our time, our talents, our property, should be sacredly devoted to Him who has given us these blessings in trust. Whenever a special deliverance is wrought in our behalf, or new and unexpected favors are granted us, we should acknowledge God’s goodness, not only by expressing our gratitude in words, but, like Jacob, by gifts and offerings to His cause. As we are continually receiving the blessings of God, so we are to be continually giving.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 187, 188.
b. Why did Hezekiah see a need for reformation in Judah? 2 Chronicles 29:1–7, 27–33. What reformation do we also need today?
“There has been a great neglect of duty. Many have withheld means which God claims as His, and in so doing they have committed robbery toward God. Their selfish hearts have not given the tenth of all their increase, which God claims. Neither have they come up to the yearly gatherings with their freewill offerings, their thank offerings, and their trespass offerings. Many have come before the Lord empty-handed. ‘Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings’ [Malachi 3:8].”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 510.
“Bring in your trespass offerings, your thank offerings, and your freewill offerings; humble your hearts before the Lord, and He will be found ever ready to receive and pardon.”—The Review and Herald, July 8, 1880.
“[The Lord’s] messengers should not be handicapped in their work of holding forth the word of life. As they teach the truth they should have means to invest for the advancement of the work, which must be done at the right time in order to have the best and most saving influence. Deeds of mercy must be done; the poor and suffering must be aided. Gifts and offerings should be appropriated for this purpose. Especially in new fields, where the standard of truth has never yet been uplifted, this work must be done.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pp. 384, 385.
3. LEVITICAL LIBERALITY
a. How has God combined duty and blessing? Proverbs 11:24, 25.
“The Levitical dispensation was distinguished in a remarkable manner by the sanctification of property. When we speak of the tithe as the standard of the Jewish contributions to religious purposes, we do not speak understandingly. The Lord kept His claims paramount, and in almost every article they were reminded of the Giver by being required to make returns to Him. . . .
“A conscientious few made returns to God of about one third of all their income for the benefit of religious interests and for the poor. These exactions were not from a particular class of the people, but from all, the requirement being proportioned according to the amount possessed.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 467, 468. [Author’s Italics.]
“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.”—Ibid., vol.3, p. 395.
b. In making monetary pledges and vows, what must we never forget? Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5; Psalm 66:13, 14.
“God would have the members of His church consider their obligations to Him as binding as their indebtedness to the merchant or the market. Let everyone review his past life and see if any unpaid, unredeemed pledges have been neglected, and then make extra exertions to pay the ‘uttermost farthing,’ for we must all meet and abide the final issue of a tribunal where nothing will stand the test but integrity and veracity.”—Ibid., vol.4, p. 476.
“God has made an absolute reservation of a specified portion of our time and our means. To ignore these claims is to rob God. Christians boast that their privileges far exceed those of the Jewish age. Shall we then be content to give less to the cause of God than did His ancient people? The tithe was but a part of their liberalities. Numerous other gifts were required besides the freewill offering, or offering of gratitude, which was then, as now, of perpetual obligation.”—The Review and Herald, May 16, 1882.
4. THE SECOND TITHE
a. In the Hebrew economy, what was the second tithe—and what was its purpose? Deuteronomy 14:22, 23, 27–29; 26:12, 13.
“To promote the assembling of the people for religious service, as well as to provide for the poor, a second tithe of all the increase was required. Concerning the first tithe, the Lord had declared, ‘I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel’ (Numbers 18:21). But in regard to the second He commanded, ‘Thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which He shall choose to place His name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always’ (Deuteronomy 14:23, 29; 16:11–14). This tithe, or its equivalent in money, they were for two years to bring to the place where the sanctuary was established. After presenting a thank offering to God, and a specified portion to the priest, the offerers were to use the remainder for a religious feast, in which the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow should participate. Thus provision was made for the thank offerings and feasts at the yearly festivals, and the people were drawn to the society of the priests and Levites, that they might receive instruction and encouragement in the service of God.
“Every third year, however, this second tithe was to be used at home, in entertaining the Levite and the poor, . . . [Deuteronomy 26:12 quoted.] This tithe would provide a fund for the uses of charity and hospitality.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 530.
b. How did the second tithe benefit the giver in a spiritual sense, and in what ways can it be a blessing today? Proverbs 19:17.
“The consecration to God of a tithe of all increase, whether of the orchard and harvest field, the flocks and herds, or the labor of brain or hand, the devotion of a second tithe for the relief of the poor and other benevolent uses, tended to keep fresh before the people the truth of God’s ownership of all, and of their opportunity to be channels of His blessings. It was a training adapted to kill out all narrowing selfishness and to cultivate breadth and nobility of character.”—Education, p. 44.
“There will be an abundance of places to use the second tithe in doing earnest missionary work in new places.”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, p. 139.
5. GIVING IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT
a. What should we realize in giving to God’s cause? Mark 12:41–44. How can we determine the amount of first fruits and other offerings? Deuteronomy 16:17.
“ ‘How much owest thou unto my lord?’ (Luke 16:5). It is impossible to tell. All that we have is from God. He lays His hand upon our possessions, saying: ‘I am the rightful owner of the whole universe; these are My goods. Consecrate to Me the tithes and offerings. As you bring these specified goods as a token of your loyalty and your submission to My sovereignty, My blessing shall increase your substance, and you will have abundance.’ ”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 245.
“The contributions required of the Hebrews for religious and charitable purposes amounted to fully one fourth of their income. So heavy a tax upon the resources of the people might be expected to reduce them to poverty; but, on the contrary, the faithful observance of these regulations was one of the conditions of their prosperity.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 527.
b. What attitude would the Lord have each of us manifest when giving? 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7; Matthew 6:1–4.
“The Lord does not need our offerings. We cannot enrich Him by our gifts. Says the psalmist: ‘All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee’ [1 Chronicles 29:14]. Yet God permits us to show our appreciation of His mercies by self-sacrificing efforts to extend the same to others. This is the only way in which it is possible for us to manifest our gratitude and love to God. He has provided no other.”—Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 18, 19.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Why does the Lord require us to render our firstfruits unto Him?
2. What types of offerings does the Lord still specify for us today?
3. What can we learn from the Hebrews’ example in giving?
4. For what purposes might the second tithe be used in our days?
5. How is the value of a gift measured in God’s sight?