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Lesson 8 February 17-23
Read for This Week’s Study: Mark 16:15; 1 Pet. 3:8, 9; 1 Cor. 9:14; Rom. 3:19-24.
Memory Text: “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:13, 14, NKJV).
As we saw last week, tithing is an important expression of faith. It is one way to reveal, or test, the reality of our profession. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5, NKJV).
The first biblical reference to tithing is Abraham’s giving tithe to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20, Heb. 7:4). The Levites also took the tithe for their services at the temple (2 Chron. 31:4-10). Today the tithe is for the support of the gospel. When rightly understood, it serves as a spiritual measurement of our relationship with God.
The impact, use, importance, and method of distribution in tithing are designed for our spiritual growth in supporting God’s work and providing the financial foundation for preaching the gospel. This is God’s plan and has been called the first step that a faithful steward takes.
This week we will continue our look at tithing: its distribution, what it means to others, and what impact it has on our spiritual lives.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, February 24.
Sunday February 18
Jesus commands us to “preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15) and to “make disciples”, “teaching them to observe all things” (Matt. 28:19, 20, NKJV). Thus, God wants us to be involved in the most important work on earth: bringing people to Jesus. Funding this mission from resources entrusted to us by God is the steward’s responsibility. Participation deepens personal commitment in presenting Christ to others. Every disciple, steward, and worker is to bring the entire tithe for this sacred work. We must pray for unity to be faithful in funding the mission, just as a successful mission strengthens our unity of faith.
What is God’s approved financial plan for accomplishing this mission? What does “the whole tithe” mean? (Mal. 3:10, NIV). What does the phrase “that there may be food in my house” mean? (Mal. 3:10, NIV).
As we have seen, people have been paying tithe since the days of Abraham and Jacob (Gen. 14:20, 28:22) and probably before.
Tithe is part of a system that funds God’s church. It is the greatest source of funding and the most equitable method for carrying out His mission.
In today’s cultures, the majority of Christians give relatively little to fund the mission of God. If every Christian gave an honest tithe, the result would be “almost unimaginable, simply astonishing, nearly beyond comprehension.” - Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson, Passing the Plate (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 27.
In every age God has had people who were willing to fund His mission. All of us have a responsibility to understand and work together to finance this global task. We cannot afford to be disorganized, careless, or haphazard about funding the mission. Our challenge is far greater than when the people and the Levites said to Nehemiah, “We will not neglect the house of our God” (Neh. 10:39, NIV), and more daunting than what faced believers in the 1800s. Today members and clergy must be united spiritually and pull together financially in a way that meets global objectives and funds the mission.
Think about the vast extent of the Adventist mission in the world (see Rev. 14:6, 7). How should each one of us understand his or her own responsibility in regard to helping fund this work?
Monday February 19
As we saw in Malachi 3:10, God promised a great blessing to those faithful in their tithe. Yet God’s blessing is not one-dimensional. To emphasize, for instance, the accumulation of material assets as a blessing, at the expense of everything else, is a very narrow view of what God’s blessing really is.
Blessing in Malachi is spiritual as well as temporal. The meaning of God’s blessing is evidenced by salvation, happiness, a peace of mind, and God always doing what is best for us. Also, when we are blessed by God, we are obligated to share those blessings with the less fortunate. We have been blessed in order to bless others. Indeed, through us God is able to extend His blessings elsewhere.
Read 1 Peter 3:8, 9. What is Peter saying to us about the relationship between being blessed and being a blessing to others?
From tithing a double blessing comes. We are blessed, and we are a blessing to others. We can give out of what we have been given. God’s blessings toward us reach inwardly and to others outwardly. “Give, and it will be given to you. . . . For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38, NIV).
Read Acts 20:35. How does this apply to tithing as well?
The greatest blessing tithing teaches us is to trust God (Jer. 17:7). “The special system of tithing was founded upon a principle which is as enduring as the law of God. This system of tithing was a blessing to the Jews, else God would not have given it them. So also will it be a blessing to those who carry it out to the end of time. Our heavenly Father did not originate the plan of systematic benevolence to enrich Himself, but to be a great blessing to man. He saw that this system of beneficence was just what man needed.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 404, 405.
Think about times you have been blessed by the Lord through the ministry of someone else to you. How then can you go and do likewise for others?
Tuesday February 20
Paul writes to Timothy: “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim. 5:18, NKJV). He is quoting Moses in Deuteronomy 25:4 regarding the ox and Jesus from Luke 10:7 regarding the laborer. The phrase about the ox appears to have been a proverb, and it means it is fair for the ox to eat grain while working. In the same way, the second proverb means that devoted laborers who preach the gospel should be rewarded with wages.
God creates and operates in systems. He has designed solar systems, ecosystems, digestive systems, nervous systems, and many more. The tithing system was used by the Levites (Num. 18:26) in caring for the tabernacle and for their support. The modern-day equivalent would be those who devote their lives to preaching the gospel. God’s tithing system is His chosen means for supporting the ministry, and it has been in use throughout salvation history. Supporting such laborers with tithe, then, is foundational and fundamental to God’s work.
What does Paul mean and what is the moral implication of the phrase “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14, NKJV)? What does 2 Corinthians 11:7-10 teach about the need to support those who spread the gospel?
When Paul said, “I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you” (2 Cor. 11:8, NKJV), he was speaking ironically of receiving wages from a poor Macedonian church while ministering to a rich Corinthian church. His point to the Corinthian church was that those preaching the gospel deserve to be paid.
Tithe is to be used for a particular purpose and must remain so. “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.” - Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 103.
Read Leviticus 27:30. In what ways is the principle seen here applicable to us today?
Wednesday February 21
What other names are used in Scripture to identify the storehouse? 1 Chron. 26:20, 2 Chron. 31:11-13, Neh. 10:38.
Bringing the sacred tithe to the storehouse is the model presented in Scripture. In every dispensation, God has had a central storehouse to manage the tithe. Seventh-day Adventists make up a worldwide religion/church in which the storehouse principle is accepted and practiced. Members are encouraged to return their tithe to the conference/mission through the local church where they hold membership. That conference/mission treasury is where pastors receive their salary.
“As God’s work extends, calls for help will come more and more frequently. That these calls may be answered, Christians should heed the command, ‘Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house.’ Malachi 3:10. If professing Christians would faithfully bring to God their tithes and offerings, His treasury would be full. There would then be no occasion to resort to fairs, lotteries, or parties of pleasure to secure funds for the support of the gospel.” - Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 338.
Think what would happen if people were to send their tithe to wherever they wanted. If everyone did that, what would happen to God’s work? Hence, why is it important that we send our tithe to where it belongs?
Thursday February 22
Read Romans 3:19-24. What crucial truth, central to our faith, is taught here? Why must we always keep this teaching foundational to our beliefs?
The gist of the biblical message is that all of us are undeserving of redemption (Rom. 3:23). If we deserved it, it would be by merit, or by works, and that idea is contrary to Scripture.
Read Romans 4:1-5. What do these verses teach about grace as opposed to merit?
Thus, salvation is a gift (Eph. 2:8, 9) given to the undeserving. Salvation comes because the merits of Christ’s own perfect sacrifice are credited to our account. As for the matter of tithe, there is no credit obtained from God by returning it. After all, if the tithe is God’s to begin with, what merit could there possibly be in giving it back to Him?
Tithing is not an act that saves us, any more than any of the other good deeds that we have been created to do as Christians. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10, NKJV).
Nevertheless, the returning of tithe does reveal an attitude that is either humble and submissive or opinionated and defiant regarding what God has asked us to do. If we love God, we will obey Him. Tithe is an outward expression of our realization that we, indeed, are just stewards here, and that we owe God everything. Just as the Sabbath is a weekly reminder of God as the Creator and Redeemer, the returning of tithe can function in a similar way: it reminds us that we are not our own and that our life and salvation are gifts from God. As a result, we can recognize that reality and live a life of faith, acknowledging that the returning of tithe is a very tangible expression of that faith.
What does Luke 21:1-4 say to us about what it means to live by faith?
Friday February 23
Further Thought: It is so easy to forget that every breath, every heartbeat, every moment of our existence comes only from the Lord. In Acts 17 Paul talks to the Athenians about the true God, who is not only the Creator (the “God that made the world and all things therein” [Acts 17:24]) but also the Sustainer (“For in Him we live and move and have our being” [Acts 17:28, NKJV]). The Athenians didn’t know about the true God. We as Christians do, and this realization must be central to how we live. God has many claims on us, and as a result, we have to live in accordance with those claims:
“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. 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.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 386.
Several students neared decisions for baptism at the end of my third year of teaching English at a camp of 50,000 refugees in Thailand.
But the Seventh-day Adventist pastor told me that the students were hesitating. They were afraid of becoming Christians and seeing the missionaries leave before they understood Christianity enough to live real Christian lives.
When the pastor shared this with me, I didn’t know what to do. I had been planning to return home to the U.S. state of Nebraska after three years as a student missionary. My mother was looking forward to seeing me. But my main goal was the salvation of souls. So I began to pray, “Lord, what shall I do?”
Then I read during my morning devotions: “The cause of God is to hold the first place in our plans and affections” (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 220)
I thought, “This passage is pointing right at me.” I wanted to finish college, have a profession, and start a family. But it was like God was saying, “Terri, here is the guidance that you have been waiting for. God needs to be first in your plans and affections.”
I decided that my first responsibility was to my family. But my family already knew God. So I decided to call my mother and heed her advice.
I traveled 35 kilometers (22 miles) to find the nearest post office with a public telephone. I called collect because I didn’t have any money. I knew it was expensive.
I asked my mother, “What would you think if I decided to stay another year or indefinitely?”
Her response was immediate. “Terri”, she said, “I will never tell you to come home. If I told you to come home and even one soul failed to hear the gospel, I would regret it for eternity. But if by staying you can help even one soul to know God and to be in the kingdom, it would be worth it even if I never saw you again.”
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I sat in post office. I praised God for a mother who loved so much. My mother wanted to see me, but she had already made the sacrifice in her heart. The salvation of souls was so important to her that she would give up seeing me again.
Terri Saelee is director of the North American Division’s Adventist Refugee and Immigrant Ministries, which got jumpstarted with a Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in 2011. Under her leadership, more than 140 new churches comprised of refugees have opened across North America.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.adventistmission.org
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