Last night, after my annual screening of Citizen Kane (1941) for a class at Pacific Union College, we had a surprise discussion about stewardship. A student noted the obscene amount of objects that the powerful and very wealthy Charles Foster Kane collects throughout his life. Unused, they pile up in warehouse-sized rooms in his Xanadu house, and during the final moments of the film, after his death, workers toss Kane’s stuff into a fiery furnace. While key characters debate the meaning of Kane’s life, much of what he valued literally goes up in smoke.
Wow! So helpful and informative, Alex. I knew nothing of this history and find myself grappling with a plethora of feelings and issues over a 50 year ministry. Just the increase or the total? What spiritual and moral convulsions, for example, accompany a “pastor” with four or five children, who cannot pay both the faithful tithe and tuition in private SDA schools for them? If threatened with termination, is he not left with an impossible choice which is manifestly immoral and irreligious at the same time? Let’s hope many SS teachers of this upcoming lesson read your essay.
So well done!!
Very interesting the historical development of the tithing emphasis. I’ve been a church member since 1973. Since then, I’ve learned that a good steward takes good care of his body, talents, time, treasures, and God’s creation. Experience, as the best advisor on financial investments, has taught me that God keeps His promises. Me and my family have been very blessed as we follow God’s invitation to work with Him.
The NT doesn’t teach 10% of annual income to the Lord’s pastors/workers. The NT references are about the right of his disciples to receive support from the believers. The amount isn’t in $ or percent terms " but as the Lord has blessed you " Furthermore, all believers are not to be grudging givers but cheerful ones.
This is what our teaching should be & should be mentioned in teaching opportunities for inclusion & ongoing inclusion in the Body.
I posted this elsewhere. I think it fits here, as well:
The NT church post resurrection gives no evidence of continuing tithing, which was tied solely to the temple system and the gathering of produce into the temple storehouse for the support of the Levitical priesthood. Rather, Paul spoke of believers giving out of the purpose of their hearts in gratitude for God’s indescribable gift. Acts reveals the church giving vouluntarily to care for one another and for the poor. Those who preached the gospel were entitled to be supported from what was collected, even though Paul himself did not avail himself of such, but there is no record of tithe being imposed. Another example today of trying to impose law to get people to behave uniformly, rather than leaving people to live in the freedom of responding to the gospel.
The Adult SS Quarterly under the direction of Mr. Goldstein employs a conspiracy theorist, prosperity preaching type hack to author an apology for tithing…with no regard for what the NT and change of covenants reveals.
Money talks! Apparently that is what primarily drove the issue of tithing throughout the history of Adventism…and continues to.
but Frank, don’t you think that as the Church has grown, some kind of predictable income system has become necessary…if everybody only gave when they felt like it, like they did in the apostolic church, when there were only a few thousand members, with no real infrastructure, or payroll, maybe we wouldn’t be able to sustain an ordained ministry, local churches, conferences, unions, divisions, or our GC…keep in mind that tithe also supports some of our signature institutions, like Loma Linda and Andrews…
i don’t think it’s realistic for today’s Church to follow literally solutions highlighted in the apostolic Church, where, let’s face it, people were learning on the fly…an international Church, with 20 million members, not to mention significant infrastructure and a vast employee population, which requires a reliable, sustainable pay structure and retirement arrangements, can’t be expected to run on freewill offerings…the resultant unpredictability alone would mean long range planning wouldn’t be feasible, or even possible…
i think you’re jumping to assumptions if you think the only reason for adventism’s tithing system is greed…first of all, no-one working within the Church is loaded (hospital CEO’s are not sustained by Church tithe)…everyone from ministers to teachers to administrators is earning well below their secular counterparts…our current tithing system has served the Church well…i think it would be disaster to tinker with it purely for idealogical reasons…
I think our church has a few challanges around tithing as the article clearly exposes. Our current system was an obvious need for the growing movement with tweaks required from time to time based in general on the US economy, this off course was not really based on biblical reasoning, either OT or NT so could never be sustainable.
Secondly, the younger generation has no financial consideration when it comes to the church, here in the UK (and I suspect in many other parts of the world) the youngers would give where they see a need from the very limited income they have but does not systematically give to the church like previous generations. In fact, as the pandemic highlighted, they are even questioning the purpose of “doing church” and supporting a structure they don’t see obvious benefits with.
I think the biblical truth of tithing should be taught so that everyone is adequately informed, the lesson study unfortunately does not do this but instead tries to match texts to suit its current policies.
The cost of maintaining the current church structure is enormous and its multilayer configuration is eating away the hard earned giving by its members, a revised tithing system should be based on a flatter structure, maybe no GC but let the Unions be the top layer that orchestrates for each geographic region.
The majority of giving should then be retained locally for community needs (closer alignment to the NT model).
Here in the UK, every working person pays national insurance providing a safety net for all in need as well as providing free healthcare to each and every person at point of access, what part does tithes play in this if any? Again remembering that the biblical model was to support the priesthood and insure the poor and widows are taken cared of.
An arigricultural tithing model is not easily transferable to a modern capitalistic based economy and that is a challange for he modern day church so ongoing discussions are needed. The place to start is the SS study but we seem to fall at the first hurdle.
If either you, Jeremy, EGW or anyone else on this planet can show me where Jesus insisted that his church was to be a physical one, I’ll gladly send 10% of my increase in order to defray the cost of the upkeep of that building.
my understanding is that people do give less…in any given congregation, there are those who choose either not to return tithe, or funnel it through other channels, all without consequences…it’s really only employees, who benefit directly from tithe, who are under a required agreement…
And, how is such compulsion for employees in line with the freedom of the gospel and giving out of gratitude and what one desires out of inner purpose as Paul articulated in the NT? And, how is a tithing requirement encoded into baptismal vows in line with such a gospel climate? Where is that found in the NT?
This gets down to the idea that Law/Torah as producing moral and unselfish behavior is overrated. It simply can’t. The gospel and the spirit can and do. It’s why there is the account of the early NT believers selling property and goods so that no one went without in their midst…through no law, but by the Spirit. It’s why the apostles are never seen imposing Levitical tithing on the churches. They preached the gospel, and giving followed. It still happens in many gospel centered churches today.
@NY_G_PA2 caring for one another and those in need is giving to the building so to speak, the body of believers being the “temple.” God’s spirit is among his people which places this in line with Jesus saying what you do to the least of these you do to me.
the NT cannot be expected to be a model or provide guidance for a time and circumstances that it couldn’t have contemplated, anymore than the OT…rather than moving to Galatia and adopting clothing and food choices Paul exhibited, our slightly more challenging task is to study the OT and NT for indications of how our bible heroes solved problems in their circumstances, and apply the principles of those solutions to problems we encounter…
the bottom line is that people who enlist as employees with our Church aren’t doing so under duress…they are doing so willingly, and for hopefully worthy motives…the constraints and obligations accepted by employees are analogous to those adopted by marriage partners each and every day…i don’t think people happy in successful marriages believe their freedom has been torpedoed…
in general, i think you take your concept of the NT vision, vested exclusively in your views of Paul, as if he were the only authority in the NT, too far…this question is really related to the place of the Law of God (egw’s Great Controversy theme) in the NC life…think about it: if our entire world, subsequent to the Fall, were living in obedience to some version of the Decalogue, no-one in the world would be lying, stealing, committing adultery or murder, stuck to false ideas and envying their neighbours, and everyone would be availing themselves of healthful physical rest on the 7th day of each week - a galling, freedom-deprived world, to be sure…
Dear brethren, I have been reading with much interests your posts. Some have been an eye opener to continue supporting the cause of God, others make me think if we are looking for an opportunity to give less. Am I missing something? My own experience goes back to the beginning of my pastoral ministry. (1980). I heard for the first time about the concept of sistematic benevolence. My wife and I decided to adopt it, and we’ve been blessed. I have no regrets. The Lord has provided for us and our family more than what we deserve. Again, I understood that stewardship is more than tithing. It encompasses taking care of your body, talents, time, and possessions. For sure it also incloudes taking care of nature (Notice that this is not supporting Laudato Si: In care of our common house, of Pope Francis) This goes back to Eden. Blessings to you!
You propose the law and some form of coming under its letter as the solution to the human dilemma. It is not. You either ignore or have no grasp of Paul’s letters, which happen to comprise the majority of the NT. According to those letters, the law brings wrath, the law is the power of sin, and the law being weakened by the flesh actually becomes an unwitting tool in the hands of sin to enslave and ultimately kill people. Iow, the the law can only exacerbate the human dilemma, and human attempts to bring people under its letter lead to the exact opposite of what you describe.
The law in the form of the written Sinai covenant code is not to be central to the life of the church or the new covenant experience as far as Paul taught. Christ and the Spirit were and are. While I get your practical institutional concerns regarding finances and tithing, you overplay the capacities of the law because of your Adventist indoctrination, and your near worship of EGW. A focus on the gospel, its power, and the presence and work of the spirit is still what needs to guide and drive the church, including our giving patterns, which are to be left to what each purposes in his or her own heart in free response to God’s grace and generosity. That includes employees…unless you simply see the church as a multi national business arrangement.
As Paul said to the Corinthians in the context of the impetus for their giving, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.”
Jeremy: I don’t think people happy in successful marriages believe their freedom has been torpedoed…
Me: True. Nor, in a healthy mature marriage do they live by a set of rules pasted onto the refrigerator. They live in love given and received freely. A model of the NC relationship.
I agree with your analysis. I too, am based in the UK and feel that the purpose of tithing, as presented by the church is uporting a huge( and largely irrelevant) administrative overhead.
The cost of programmes like the Great Controversy distribution, the cost of G C sessions, spring and autumn councils etc, plus unnecessary global travel by " the great and the good" are all efectively funded by tithing. Such a waste of money.
Good history of tithing teaching in early Adventist.
I don’t agree that the church teaches tithing is equivalent to stewardship. This is a big oversimplification, it teaches stewardship means caring for everything we’ve been given by God, including our bodies and planet. This week is about tithing but past quarterlies have made this bigger point very clear.
On the specific issue, I understand the argument that NT doesn’t command tithing. But there is the incident where Jesus criticized the Pharisees for tithing on mint and spices but neglecting the more weighty matters like love and justice etc. He ends His instruction by saying, these you should have done without leaving the other (meaning tithing) undone. Yes this was said before His death to those under the law…but it was written well after His death and so I can interpret that as meaning it is continuing guidance to tithe. Also, tithing wasn’t initiated with the law so why would it pass with the law? At any rate, if we all have as the early church then way more than 10% would be going to the gospel and needy. Happy sabbath and blessings to all