How to Use the Tithe and Offering Envelope

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Understandably, there are many who are unaware of the difference between tithes and offerings. Many, even seasoned members are surprised to learn there is a difference. Tithe is not used for general use, like church maintenance, Sabbath School supplies and so on. The offerings cover those needs, while the tithe goes to pay the salaries of conference employed gospel workers. This is according to the direction of Scripture.

Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Numbers 18:21 NKJV

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

The tithe goes straight to the ministry, while offerings are in addition to the tithe. Occasionally local church treasures will receive a tithe envelope that looks something like this,

Tithe: $200.00

Combined Budget: $100.00

Conference Evangelism: $100.00

Total: $200.00

The problem is the total should be $400.00. The person filling out the tithe envelope was thinking that he was to divvy up the tithe between the other categories on the envelope, but tithe is its own category. IF one is only returning their tithe, it should look like this,

Tithe: $200.00

Combined Budget:

Conference Evangelism:

Total: $200.00

If you are returning tithe and offering, it would look like this,

Tithe: $200.00

Combined Budget: $100.00

Conference Evangelism: $100.00

Total: $400.00

Scripture makes a distinction between tithes and offerings.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. Malachi 3:8 NKJV[Emphasis supplied.]

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NKJV

Malachi shows us tithe is in addition to the offering. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us while the tithe that goes to the ministry is 10% of our profit, the additional offering is what we purpose in our hearts.

My father was a church treasure for over 50 years, and would occasionally receive tithe envelopes filled out by those who thought the tithe was divided into the other categories on the offering envelope. Other treasures have mentioned it to me as well, though of course never mentioning names. Understanding how this can be understandably confusing to some, when I give personal Bible studies on stewardship, I always make sure I carefully explain how the tithe is sacred to Gospel Workers, and the offerings are in addition to the tithe. I hope this explanation will be helpful to some.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; What Stewardship Really Means

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine. Proverbs 3:9-10 NLT 

When I was four years old, A family came by, who had lost everything in a fire. My parents gave them some of their own lamps and other things around the house. While the grownups were exploring the house, their little boy was watching me ride my tricycle up and down the driveway. When the grownups came out of the house, my dad walked over and told me, “the little boy does not have a tricycle or any toys.” I jumped off my tricycle and gave it to him.

Even after returning tithes and offerings, my family realized everything we had belonged to God. Some have the idea that stewardship is just about giving tithes and offering and then keeping what is left over for ourselves. Solomon says to honor God with our wealth and the best of everything we own. Stewardship is realizing everything we have belongs to God and should be used to His glory.

My car does not belong to me. It belongs to God. I use it to get to Bible studies, but also to give others a ride who need a ride. My neighbor calls me for a ride to work sometimes because she does not have a car. Actually she does have a car-mine! And she even has a chauffeur-me! I use my personal computer for blogging Bible studies and devotionals, and Bible study presentations. The food in my cupboard is not just for me. Its for whoever comes over and needs a meal, or if need be, I can bring it to them in my car. Sorry! I mean God’s car.

Honoring God with our wealth is not just about giving 10% plus an offering. Its about everything we have and are belonging to God. Stewards are managers, not owners. Stewardship is realizing everything we posses belongs to God, and we own nothing!

That is why I give thanks when I eat the food in my house, I mean God’s house. Because even the food in the house where I live belongs to God. That’s why I thank Him for letting me eat His food.

I am the Rich Person James is Talking About

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. James 5:1-4 NLT

King David heard a story about oppression and became very angry about it, until Nathan told him, “You are that man!” Like King David, I have to admit, for years whenever I read James 5:1-4, I thought I was among the poor that God’s justice would vindicate. I have lost money to dishonest and greedy people. I compared myself to those who had more. Then I realized there are many who consider me rich! With almost 7 billion people on the planet, there are only 1 billion cars.* This does not mean that 1 out of 7 people owns a car, because there are many people and companies who own many cars, meaning there are over 6 billion people who do not own a car. So if you own a car, even if its a 1980 Ford Pinto, you have something over 6 billion earthlings do not have. The other night when you got sick in the middle of the night and had to run to the toilet down the hall, you may not have realized what a luxury that midnight run was. Over two billion people don’t have a toilet to run to in the middle of the night. ** So their experience with sickness may be a little different than yours. The other night I got a headache and my bones became a little achy, so I took a hot bath and presto! Headache disappeared and my bones felt brand new. Again, a hot bath would not be an option for billions of people. What a luxury!

Now when I read James 5, I realize I am one of the rich people James is talking to. But how could I be holding back the wages of the workers in the field? I don’t even own a field. How about the gospel workers in God’s field? Do I return an honest tithe and offering? If not then I am cheating the field workers of their wages just like James says. Do I give an honest tip to the waitress, hairdresser or the boy who carried my grocery bags to the car? If not, I am the cheater James is talking to. I could go on but I think you get the point.

Withholding money which rightfully belongs to others is not the only form of oppression. How about when we snub someone from our social circle because they don’t conform to our beliefs or opinions? That is emotional oppression! How about when we sneer at the kid who just let the ball go in the other goal, costing our kid’s team the game? That’s emotional oppression. So you don’t have to be a millionaire to be oppressive.

No matter what my losses in life have been, I am still the rich person James is warning in James 5.

If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Romans 8:31-32 NLT

If I give my bread to someone who never pays me back that is okay. My Father will give me all the bread I need. If I love someone who never loves me back that is okay. My Father gives me all the love I need. Whenever the Bible gives warnings to the rich, I know those warnings are for me personally. Nathan woke David up by saying, “you are that man!” When I read James 5 the Holy Spirit woke me up by saying, “You are that man!”

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

*http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/08/23/car-population_n_934291.html

**http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/impact/water-sanitation-hygiene?gclid=Cj0KEQiAneujBRDcvL6f5uybhdABEiQA_ojMglo4kAT0afufxpjEU4q0va_pKJZXhX7eZB8yElpImHEaAjY78P8HAQ

Confessions of a Rich Bible Worker

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. Acts 2:44-46 NLT

As an extremely rich Bible Worker I would like to speak out today on a social issue. It seems we have more and more conservative Christians ridiculing the liberal Christians for wanting to help the poor. In the posts that I read from these conservative Christians, they assume all poor people are lazy, and thus do not deserve help. This is a misnomer. They also assume all rich people are hard workers who have earned every cent they have, another misnomer.

They forget that when the landowner in Matthew 20:7, asked the people why they had been standing around all day, it was not because they were lazy but “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.” They also forget that in Daniel 4:27 King Nebuchadnezzar was greatly humiliated because he refused to take the prophet’s advice to “Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor.” They also forget Nebuchadnezzar was greatly humbled when he took credit for his riches! “‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’Daniel 4:30 NLT

Before I go any further, let me explain why I call myself a very rich Bible Worker. First of all, I am filthy rich, not just because I have a car while 91% of the earth’s population has no car. It is not because I have a nice clean home while millions are homeless. According to over a billion people walking this earth, I am filthy rich because I have access to clean drinking water!

I am also a rich Bible Worker, because my church, the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church believes in supporting its Bible Worker with a fair salary. They also provide me with full medical benefits. I know many Bible Workers who do not make half of what I do. A few years ago I was actually offered my own church with a pastoral stipend position out west, but I turned it down because it would have been a huge pay cut. Why take a pay cut for a bigger headache? Many Bible Workers do not have benefits or their own place to live. Since I am well taken care of, after my tithe and local giving, I often send money to help other Bible Workers who are not being supported anywhere as well as I am. Why do I say this? Isn’t our giving supposed to be in secret? Yes it is. But while we live in a world of conservative Christians thinking they have earned everything they have and that all poor people are lazy, I want to share why I give to other Bible Workers. The reason? Because while many of them are doing a much better job than I am, they are not getting paid anywhere close to what I am! In order to be fair I feel I need to share some of my blessings that have been given to me. God has given me a wonderful working situation in South Florida. I have not earned it! Here are a few things we need to understand.

While God has been blessing the Tampa First Church with many baptisms and church growth over the last several years I have been here, it does not mean I am working harder or better than anyone else. I am in a fertile field. There are Bible Workers you have never heard of because they can’t afford their own website or computer to post their experiences, but they are working long hours on hard soil.

A while back after I baptized a couple of my Bible study students, an elderly lady walked up to me, and said, “We can see by these baptisms you have been working very hard.” Granted, I have. However, there are Bible Workers out there working twice as hard as I am but without any baptisms. They are working in hard places where the soil is not fertile and the financial support is weak. I would be crazy, and the laughing stalk of angels, if I thought I was getting paid more or getting baptisms because I was working harder and doing a better job than anyone else.

Please understand I was not always a rich Bible worker. Well I guess I was because I always had clean drinking water available, but I didn’t always have a great salary. There were times I was really struggling. There were times a certain church did not have the money to pay me, but I still put in the time, and spent my own gas money and paid for my own supplies, and at the end of the month I was in debt, because the money for my pay did not come through. There was also a time I sent my car to be repaired by a brother in the church so that we could mend fences, but instead of fixing it, he destroyed it leaving me without a car or money to get one, as he refused to give me my money back after destroying my car, by what the other mechanics said was a “gross and deliberate error.”

Still I survived and made it through thanks to those who knew the situation, and understood I was a workman “Worthy of his hire” and not just some lazy charity case. Sure, I also sought part time and sometimes full time secular employment to provide for my needs and even my ministry. Still, I was not a charity case. Speaking to gospel workers, Christ Himself says, “Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.” Luke 10:7 NLT

Today, when I give my money to Bible Workers who are working hard in hard places, I do not consider it charity. I do not consider it giving my money away. They have earned it. They deserve it. It is not a gift. God has given the money into my hands so that I may pay them what they have worked for and earned.

Some say I should be saving that money for my own retirement instead of helping other Bible Workers. Well you know what? If I end up retiring under a bridge in the Florida Keys instead of a nice Adventist retirement village guess what? There are millions before me who have retired and lived under a bridge, who probably deserved a retirement home much more than I do! I understand the home I have now and the clean drinking water are gifts from God, which I do not deserve, and God can take those gifts away anytime He wants. I haven’t earned a thing!

I’m not bragging or boasting. I am just being real and transparent. Two Thousand years ago the entire church realized they had not earned anything or deserved anymore than the poorest church member. That’s why, “all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” Acts 2:44-46 NLT

So please fellow conservative Christians, please stop calling all poor people lazy. There are poor people who deserve a lot more than they are getting, and a lot of rich people like me who haven’t earned a dime!

Before I go, I would like to thank those who have supported the Bible Worker in all the places I have served over the years, and for supporting other Bible Workers around the world! I will be thanking you throughout all eternity!

Expressing Our Love

Nativity St. Pete

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give]; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

I heard someone ask this Christmas season, why we give gifts to each other when it is Jesus’ birth we are celebrating and not our own. Good question. I think the answer comes from Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Really, if you think about it, it is no different than when we give tithes and offerings. Our money does not float up to heaven. It stays right here on earth where the tithe helps support the pastor, and the offerings help support everyone else, including the poor who represent God to us just as the pastor does.  So they way we express our love to the church and the poor, ultimately shows God how much we love Him.

 

Soviet Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the author of Tortured for Christ, suffered terribly for the Lord. Yet he said that even while in prison, he saw fellow Soviet believers practice generous giving. “When we were given one slice of bread a week and dirty soap every day, we decided we would faithfully ‘tithe’ even that. Every tenth week we took the slice of bread and gave it to the weaker brethren as our ‘tithe’ to the Master.”

 

I am sure God did not demand that these prisoners tithe their bread and soap. Yet they felt compelled to, in order to express their love for God.  After understanding the awesome sacrifice Christ had made in expressing His love for them on the cross, they wanted a way to express their love for Christ. They wanted to give all of themselves to Christ since He had given all of Himself for them.

 

It is the same case with the woman in John 12, who broke open a bottle of ointment costing a year’s wages, so she could anoint the feet of Jesus. She was simply giving all she had because Jesus was giving all He had for her. Like the Soviet prisoners she needed a way to express her love.

 

God did not give us the tithe and offering system because he needed our money, but because He knew we too would need a way to express our love. God nor the church needs our money. Both were getting along just fine before we came along and both will do just fine after we are gone.

 

So why did God give us the tithe and offering system? I have a plaque with a picture of the cross and written are the words, “ I asked Jesus how much do you love me?” “This much” He said, ’Then He spread out His arms and died.”  God will finish the work with or without our money. Yet He has given us the tithe and offering system so that when He asks us, “How much do you love me?” We will have a way to answer.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.