1. LABORING UNDER A CURSE
a. What happened to the Jews while building the temple? Haggai 1:2–11.
b. How does God consider the withholding of tithes and offerings, what are the results—and why does that end up as a curse? Exodus 20:15; Malachi 3:8, 9; Deuteronomy 8:18; Proverbs 10:22.
“Those who are selfishly withholding their means need not be surprised if God’s hand scatters their possessions. That which should have been devoted to the advancement of His work and cause, but which has been withheld, may in various ways be taken away. God will come near to them in judgments. Many losses will be sustained. God can scatter the means He has lent to His stewards, if they refuse to use it to His glory. Some may have none of these losses to remind them of their remissness in duty, but their cases may be the more hopeless.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 4, p. 1183.
c. What is necessary to bring about a change? Haggai 1:7; Malachi 3:7.
2. THE ELIJAH MESSAGE
a. Why do we need to study the life of Elijah? Malachi 4:5, 6.
“Those who are to prepare the way for the second coming of Christ are represented by faithful Elijah, as John came in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for Christ’s first advent.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 62.
b. How is giving a vital part of a life-giving message? 1 Kings 17:13–16.
“No greater test of faith than this could have been required. The widow had hitherto treated all strangers with kindness and liberality. Now, regardless of the suffering that might result to herself and child, and trusting in the God of Israel to supply her every need, she met this supreme test of hospitality by doing ‘according to the saying of Elijah. . . .’
“The widow of Zarephath shared her morsel with Elijah, and in return her life and that of her son were preserved.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 130, 131.
c. Why does God give possessions to people—including the poor? Mark 10:21, 22; Luke 21:1–4.
“God gives to them in order that they may impart to others.”—The Signs of the Times, October 31, 1900.
“The Lord sometimes tests His people with prosperity in temporal things. But He intends that they shall make a right use of His gifts. Their property, their time, their strength, and their opportunities are all of God. For all these blessings they must account to the Giver. While want and destitution are seen among our brethren, and we withhold relief from them when our own necessities are supplied, we neglect a plain duty revealed in the word of God. He gives to us liberally that we may give to others. It is beneficence that overcomes selfishness and ennobles and purifies the soul. Some abuse the talents given them of God; they close their eyes that they may not see the necessities of His cause and turn away their ears that they may not hear His voice showing them their duty to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Some who profess to be children of God seem anxious to invest their means in the world lest it shall return to the Giver in gifts and offerings. They forget their divine mission, and if they continue to follow the dictates of their selfish hearts, and expend precious time and means to gratify their pride, God will send reverses, and they will feel pinching want because of their ingratitude. He will entrust His talents to more faithful stewards, who will acknowledge His claims upon them.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 619, 620.
3. REVERSING THE CURSE
a. Is there a way to reverse a curse? Malachi 3:10–12.
“Some had not dealt honestly with their neighbors, and they confessed these sins and have since made restitution. During the following week some of those who had not been dealing justly with God, and consequently had been separating themselves from Him, began to restore that which they had withheld. One brother had not paid tithes for two years. He gave his note to the secretary of the conference for the tithe he had withheld and the interest on it, amounting to $571.50. I thank the Lord that he had the courage to do this. Another gave his note for $300. Another man who had backslidden from God so far that but little hope was cherished that he would ever turn his feet into the path of righteousness again, gave his note for $1,000.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 643.
b. What is the result if the tithes are not going where they should? Nehemiah 13:10.
“Had God’s plan been followed, means would now be flowing into His treasury; and funds to enable ministers to enter new fields, and workers to unite with ministers in lifting up the standard of truth in the dark places of the earth, would be abundant.” —Ibid., vol. 6, p. 386.
“Some have been dissatisfied and have said: ‘I will not longer pay my tithe; for I have no confidence in the way things are managed at the heart of the work.’ But will you rob God because you think the management of the work is not right? Make your complaint, plainly and openly, in the right spirit, to the proper ones. Send in your petitions for things to be adjusted and set in order; but do not withdraw from the work of God, and prove unfaithful, because others are not doing right.”—Ibid., vol. 9, p. 249.
c. What is the storehouse and who was in charge of it? Nehemiah 13:10–13.
“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 their work. For a long time the Lord has been robbed because there are those who do not realize that the tithe is God’s reserved portion.”—Ibid.
“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. 248.
a. How do we see the principle of giving in recognition of God’s ownership in the history of the garden of Eden? Genesis 2:15–17; Leviticus 27:30.
“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.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 386.
b. For whom was the tithe set aside—and why? Deuteronomy 18:1, 2; Numbers 18:20–24.
“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. Provision is to be made for these other lines of work. They are to be sustained, but not from the tithe. God has not changed; the tithe is still 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.”—Gospel Workers, pp. 227, 228.
“[God] 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. He reserves this portion, that means may ever be flowing into His treasure house and that the light of truth may be carried to those who are nigh and those who are afar off. By faithfully obeying this requirement we acknowledge that all belongs to God.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 386.
“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.”—Ibid., vol. 9, p. 248.
a. Who was to be with the Levites in gathering the funds? Nehemiah 10:38.
b. What were the Levites required to do with the tithes in order to support the priests? Numbers 18:26–28.
“ [God] places His treasures in the hands of men, but requires that one tenth shall be faithfully laid aside for His work. . . .
“And has not the Lord a right to demand this of us? Did He not give His only-begotten Son because He loved us and desired to save us from death? And shall not our gratitude offerings flow into His treasury to be drawn therefrom to advance His kingdom in the earth? Since God is the owner of all our goods, shall not gratitude to Him prompt us to make freewill offerings and thank offerings, thus acknowledging His ownership of soul, body, spirit, and property? Had God’s plan been followed, means would now be flowing into His treasury; and funds to enable ministers to enter new fields, and workers to unite with ministers in lifting up the standard of truth in the dark places of the earth, would be abundant.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 386.
c. How does this principle apply to the Christian era and what will be the result if we are faithful in giving? 1 Corinthians 9:11–14; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7.
“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.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What does the withholding of tithes and offerings cause in our personal lives?
2. What can we learn in the life of Elijah regarding the importance of giving?
3. How can a curse be reversed?
4. For whom was the tithe specifically reserved?
5. Were the tithes and offerings designed only for the local worship services?