By George Crumley

As pastors inspire hearts with the love and care of God, and faithfully keep the needs of His cause before a congregation, it naturally responds with a desire to do largehearted things for the Lord. When projects arise that need funding, it’s easy to give; it’s clear how the money makes a difference. For some people, however, “tithe” isn’t so easy to respond to because all they know is that it’s an optional line item on an envelope that is neatly pocketed on the back of the church pew. Yet, wanting to give their best to God, some have further inquired: Why tithe? Where did that practice even come from? How in the world is a person to survive on less than their full income? Why is it not kept at the local church? Should I give if the church is not functioning as I think it should be? Where does my tithe go when I put it in the church offering plate?

The ten percent tithe is not just something that the Adventist Church dreamed up, but it has a biblical basis that goes all the way back to Genesis. We are told that Abram, Jacob, and the Israelites returned God’s tithe. All through Scripture we are assured by and challenged with the truth that giving tithe actually increases our blessings; “Give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom . . .” (Luke 6:38, NKJV). The tool of tithing, in the hand of faith, has proven itself as a great benefactor. It is an understood truth by individuals of great wealth and fame as well as common folk throughout the world, and by a number of denominations.

One of the primary reasons for the system of tithes is that it’s God’s plan for supporting His workers on planet earth. When we shop at the grocery store, we not only receive food in exchange for our resources, but we provide a livelihood for those who work there. When we return tithe to the Lord, it provides a livelihood for those who actively minister in word and deed. It is preciously sacred to the heart of God because His church is His most precious possession on earth. To withhold His tithe not only weakens the hands and efforts of those who are giving up everything to obey the call of God, but it also withholds blessings that would have been ours.

Some within the Adventist church wonder why the tithe is not kept at their local church. Their argument is that so much more could be done if their tithe stayed in the local vicinity. Those with a heartfelt desire to do generous things for their local church are to be gratefully commended, but that is the purpose of our offerings and not of tithe. The use of the shared tithe is designed to collectively reach geo- graphic areas of weaker affluence, so that they too can have the possibility of pastoral oversight, evangelistic outreach, and Christian education. It is the sharing of the tithe that has helped spread the gospel of Christ around the world and not just to areas of privilege. Imagine a well-fed father, dressed in a warm jacket, gloves, and hat while his family is without— cold and hungry. So would be the result of God’s work if the tithes were only kept locally; others would suffer and go without, while a local few would be nurtured and grow.

There is something powerful about sharing and giving away. Imperceptibly, dynamics in and around me change. When I take intentional moments to contemplate His intimate goodness and extreme self-sacrifice for my happiness, my narrow agenda is eclipsed. My deep gratefulness can’t help but search for expression, and returning His tithe is the least I can do. Gratitude gives me direction, purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. Other relationships improve, self- esteem heightens, and joy increases as I exercise the faith that allows me to sacrifice and give.

There is a power in giving. I’ve learned that it is when I open my arms to give away that this is the very posture that allows me to receive blessings (see Malachi 3:10). I attribute all the blessings of life, from the tangible gifts down to the feelings of peace in the midst of life’s storms, to the Lord’s faithfulness. Why wouldn’t I reciprocate in response to His heart’s desire? Somehow, since the intrusion of selfishness, it’s easy to wander into the deception that fulfillment comes from getting. But the truth is that the Lord asks for the tithes and offerings in order to develop the life-giving force of benevolence in us. Our all-powerful God is not reliant upon us to support His cause. Giving is for our benefit; “. . . it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NIV).

In this region, when we return His tithe through our local church, 100% of that donation is forwarded to the Rocky Mountain Conference office located in Denver, Colorado. The conference retains close to 80% of the tithe once evangelism and education funds come back through the union. This percentage is used to support pastors, Bible workers, evangelists, teachers, and the conference office support staff. I believe that one of the primary reasons the church has grown to over eighteen million members world- wide is because at its foundation is God’s plan for the shared tithe. As the tithe increases, it allows for a corresponding expansion in the number of workers who are then able to touch more lives for Jesus. Below is a simple diagram for the flow of tithe.

As an accountable organization, audits are done every year at each conference, union, division, and at the General Conference, and are conducted every two years at the local church level. These audit findings are then shared with their governing committees.

Some find it hard to pay their tithe when others do not advocate their particular views. They withhold their gifts to  God as an act of protest against the people heading in what they perceive is a wrong direction. Though some unworthy ones may receive a portion of the tithe, there is a weighty caution to consider before boldly withholding a cent of God’s tithe and offerings. (see Malachi 3:8–9).

I remember reading a book by Stephen Covey, who worked as a management consultant with Fortune 500 companies. In that book he states, “. . . all organizations, even the best of them, are absolutely filled with problems.” Reflecting on the seven churches in the book of Revelation, it is clear that God’s church is not immune to issues. The vast majority of those churches had problems, and yet Christ was in their midst. He did not separate Himself from them. He put His energies into being part of the solution and to lovingly uphold the truth.

Another reason some withhold their tithe is that they wonder how they are going to live on less than their full income. But in light of God’s warnings for those who withhold and His promises for those who freely give, my question is, “How can one really live without returning their tithes and offerings?” My personal experience and observation has been that God somehow makes that remaining amount go further as He grants us wisdom on how to better manage our personal resources.

As an accountable organization, audits are done every year at each conference, union, division, and at the General Conference, and are conducted every two years at the local church level. These audit findings are then shared with their governing committees.

What a wise and good God we have. He is always faithful to His promises. When we do what He has asked us to do, He will always follow through on what He has promised.  

–George Crumley is RMC vice president for finance. Email him at: [email protected]