Sabbath School Lesson for February 17-23, 2018
Last week we saw many benefits to be gained when we obey God by faithfully returning a tenth of our income to Him, the rightful owner of all our resources. This tenth, or tithe, truly has an impact on God’s plan of salvation, when properly used in the manner He prescribes.
The tithe is specifically referred to as holy. It is holy before and after we return it to Him for His use, which is why we need to be so careful in how it is used. This week we will see the impact that tithing has made to God’s church. God knew what He was doing when He implemented this system of giving. He has just the right idea in how He wants His money spent, and we best listen to His recommendations for this money that has been declared His.
Remember this: “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
Those from the tribe of Levi, the Levites, were chosen by God to take care of God’s holy sanctuary that Moses was instructed to build. The sanctuary, and later the temple, were dedicated to God and declared holy. The priests who ministered there were consecrated and declared holy. It stands to reason that the means to support the priesthood must be holy as well. God has provided for this, by declaring our tithe holy. It already fits the qualifications needed to sustain God’s chosen messengers.
This system has existed since before Moses. Just as the Sabbath, the time God has declared holy, has been a means for God to connect with His people as their Creator, the tithe requirement allows us even further connection with Him as our Provider.
Sunday: Together We Fund the Mission
Jesus has called each of us to “preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15) and “make disciples” of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). But how can each of us participate in this gospel commission? Are we all able to preach and teach? Paul had a lot to say about the different spiritual gifts and talents that people receive. We, as individuals, are not gifted in everything, but are to contribute as we are able, and build the church with our combined efforts.
God has provided the means for each of us to spread the gospel, even those with limited communication skills. We are to provide for this cause through our tithes and offerings. The tithe being set aside specifically for the financial support of those workers who are called to preach and teach.
The tithing system, as set up in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, has attempted to accomplish this goal in the most equitable manner possible. Of course, we see flaws in its implementation from time to time, as in any human organization, but when we pray for God to oversee the use of these funds, we have to trust that its overall purpose will be achieved and that God will be glorified through the end result of our efforts.
Read Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19, 20. How does returning our tithe help us fulfill this gospel commission?
Read Genesis 14:18-20 and 28:20-22. What do we learn from these examples about the timeless nature of God’s commandment to tithe? Was it just a requirement for the Jewish nation? Has God always had a “church” to support?
Read Nehemiah 10:39. Why is it important for the support of the church to be a group effort? Why are clergy and members alike both invited to unite, both spiritually and financially, in accomplishing the mission of the church?
Monday: The Blessings of God
The simple act of returning the tithe God has declared holy causes an outflow of God’s blessings that come from many directions and is manifested in many ways. We are amazed and refreshed just to think about it. No wonder Malachi describes it as the windows of heaven being opened.
- God is pleased by the trust and love that motivates our gift,
- we are blessed with increased faith and a sense of security,
- those receiving the provisions are encouraged by our support, and
- those receiving the gospel learn more about God.
These blessings coe in many forms, determined by God, who is totally trustworthy in distributing the blessings, as well as distributing the tithe funds to places they are most needed.
To limit the blessings to material things (which those promoting a prosperity gospel mentality are apt to do) may cause us more harm than good. We will overlook the bountiful spiritual blessings that are guaranteed. These consist of:
- salvation for those ministered to,
- our increased happiness and contentment in life, and
- also the growth of our faith and relationship with God.
Read Malachi 3:10-12. Who is the “devourer” spoken of in this passage? In what ways was Israel a blessing to those nations that surrounded it? Was it just its material wealth that impressed them?
Read Luke 6:38 and 1 Peter 3:8, 9. In what way does our tithe become a double blessings? How is God blessed in this process?
Read Acts 20:35. How does giving become more of a blessing than receiving? Although it’s important to be a cheerful giver, why must we practice grace-filled cheerful receiving as well? If we don’t receive well, how does this distract from the blessing of our benefactor, the giver of the gift?
Tuesday: Purpose of the Tithe
Since the tithe has been declared holy, its use must be sacredly guarded. This was most dramatically demonstrated by the sanctuary system developed at Mt. Sinai. Since the Levites were the tribe chosen by God to care for the tabernacle and conduct its services, they were the ones to whom God directed tithes to be used for.
The poor and needy, and many other worthwhile causes, including the upkeep of God’s temple, were not to be provided for with God’s holy tithe. The people were to supplement and add to the tithe requirement as they were able, in order to provide for those additional needs.
But the tithe was to be used specifically for supporting God’s ministers, and that is what is generally done in churches today, in one way or another. Something holy used for something else holy is the principle God uses in this process.
God understands that the salvation He has provided is most effectively promoted through human beings, who have been consecrated and dedicated solely for the purpose of spreading the gospel.
As the Levites were not to perform other work besides that pertaining to the tabernacle, our ministers today deserve to be supported by our tithes. We must reserve the tithe for this purpose.
Read 1 Timothy 5:17, 18 and Luke 10:7. Why aren’t God’s ministers to labor outside their church duties to provide for their physical needs? How are they instead to be provided for?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:14 and 2 Corinthians 11:7-9. How are gospel workers able to live off the gospel? What does this mean?
Read Leviticus 27:30. Why is it particularly important how tithe monies are spent?
Wednesday: The Storehouse
Deuteronomy 12:5, 6 describes a central location for the Israelites, later called God’s storehouse, as the place that tithes and offerings were to be brought and distributed to the various agencies that would receive them.
This systematic and equitable method certainly matches the way God operates in nature. The Bible tells of a place where the wind comes from (Jeremiah 10:13), where water is collected (Psalm 33:7), and where snow and hail are stored (Job 38:22). It makes sense that God’s holy funds would be managed in a systematic, fair way, with His tithe “stored” in a central location.
Seventh-day Adventists are among the few denominations who attempt to model this pattern, given by God to benefit the Levites. Our church, when it was being organized in the 1800s, decided to create conferences and divisions, based on the geographic location of the members.
Other denominations have done this to a certain extant. But these SDA conferences would also become the central storehouses, where tithe monies would be stored and distributed to the ministers, based solely on living expenses, not on the size of their congregation.
This fair system has worked well over the decades, and continues to be a good model we can depend on to achieve the best results in promoting the gospel message to all parts of the world. As with any organization on this sin-filled planet, it is not without flaws and instances of abuse, but as a whole, it has served the church well in sustaining a steady flow of ministers, who are able to devote their whole efforts in service to God, not having to supplement their living in other ways.
Read Malachi 3:10 and 1 Chronicles 26:20. Notice that “storehouse” and “treasury” mean the same thing here. What is the purpose of storing things in this “storehouse”, according to Malachi?
Read Deuteronomy 12:5, 6. Why is it important that God chooses the place to bring our tithe? What are the dangers of everyone deciding individually where to return their tithe?
Read Nehemiah 10:38. Are priests directed to return tithe also, and why do you think God expects them to participate in tithing?
Thursday: Tithe and Salvation by Faith
One must not fall under the assumption that only one-tenth of our income belongs to God. When we return tithe, we must do it with the acknowledgement that God truly owns it all. How we spend the 90% must reflect the same love and devotion that motivates us to return His tithe.
The same principle applies to keeping the Sabbath. The seventh day has been declared holy (Exodus 20:11), but this does not mean that the rest of the week belongs to us, and not to God. One purpose of the Sabbath is for us to acknowledge that all our time belongs to God.
With this in mind, we must remember that there is no limit in returning tithe. That portion of our earnings does not belong to us to give. It belongs in a very special way to God. This, of course, mirrors how salvation works. We must recognize that Jesus’ sacrifice is a gift from God. There is no way we can ever pay Him back for our salvation. All we can do is allow Him to transform us into worthy reflections of His character and love.
The Sabbath and the tithe are two requirements of God that stand out as reinforcements of everything we need to understand about salvation. They both require our humble surrender to His will and our faith in what God can do in our lives.
Read Romans 3:19-24. How does remembering that salvation is a free gift, and that we all have sinned, impact our returning tithe? How does the principle of tithing support what we know about our salvation?
Read Romans 4:1-5. If tithe is not a debt we own to God, then what is it?
Read Luke 21:1-4 and Psalm 51:16, 17. Does God want our 10% when we haven’t given Him our 90% Why is it dangerous to think that by returning tithe, we have done all that is required? What else does God want of us?
The main points of the week were:
- Clergy and members must work together to finance the global task before us of evangelizing the world. (Sunday)
- There are many blessings that come with returning tithe. Both the giver and the receiver benefit from this transaction. (Monday)
- The purpose of the tithe is to support God’s ministers. (Tuesday)
- There should be a central location, where all send their tithe. God chooses that location; it should not be determined on an individual basis. (Wednesday)
- God requires more than our 10%. He wants our whole lives to be given to His service. We aren’t earning anything by what we do; we just merely recognize that He owns it all. (Thursday)
Tithing has its greatest impact when we allow God to direct us in the manner and method it should be implemented. It doesn’t hurt to assess our motivations for giving either. If tithing and giving an offering doesn’t provide us with some kind of satisfaction or happiness, then perhaps an attitude adjustment is needed, concerning our giving habits.
Recall the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Jesus didn’t have to give this humble, joyful man any instruction or encouragement to give of his means. Zacchaeus offered it without hesitation. We too must become more like Zacchaeus, when it comes to giving. It really is linked to our appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice for us, just like it was for Zacchaeus.
Next Week’s Lesson: Offerings of Gratitude
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/