Sabbath School Lesson for January 14-20, 2023

Overview of Lesson 3

Memory Verse: ” ‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this’ ” says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’ ” Malachi 3:10 NKJV

This week we will explore these topics:

  • Sunday: What is the meaning of “tithing” and when did it start?
  • Monday: Who should receive our tithe?
  • Tuesday: What should the tithe be used for?
  • Wednesday: How is our “increase” determined?
  • Thursday: Who is responsible for how the tithe is used?

No study of managing for the Master is complete without a close examination of the fiscal responsibility of tithing our income. There are many misunderstandings of its purpose and value in the Christian world.

Notice in our memory verse that God actually allows us to “test”, or “try” Him in this case. He invites us to tithe, and offers us abundant blessings when we do so. Returning what is His to begin with identifies Him as our Creator, the Owner of everything, and is a significant way to put our signature of agreement on the covenant He longs to have with us.

The spiritual meaning and blessings that come from tithing are intricately connected with God’s grace and therefore the salvation covenant we have with God.

Only by careful study of tithing in the Bible will we feel comfortable and assured that we are doing the right thing with one of our most precious resources–the money that comes from our hard work and is necessary to support ourselves and our families.

Starting in Genesis 14, with Abram returning a tenth of his goods to a priest named Melchizedek, the tithe, a Hebrew word meaning a “tenth”, is still needed to support God’s work till the gospel commission has been fulfilled.

Sunday: Tithe Equals a Tenth

Many Christians think that tithing was a Jewish custom much like the Sabbath, and that we are not obligated to observe either practice. However, we see in the Bible that both the Sabbath hours and one-tenth of our worldly goods are considered holy, belonging to God, both before and after the Jews’ extraordinary Sinai experience.

Young Jacob, fleeing from his brother Esau, had a pronounced conversion experience at Bethel when he dreamed of a ladder from heaven. God’s generous promises prompted him to give a tenth of all he had to God (Genesis 28:21, 22).

The Sabbath and the practice of returning tithe provide us with opportunities to express our faith commitment to God. They are both actually the minimum expressions of our desire to have a covenant relationship with the Father.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Leviticus 27:30, 32

  • How do these verses confirm the one-tenth principle of tithing?
  • Why should we think of the tithe as being holy? What makes it holy?

Genesis 14:18-20 and Hebrews 7:1-9

  • What principles connect this first and last mention of tithing in the Bible?
  • How is the tithe seen both preceding and following the Levitical system of tithing so many are familiar with?
  • How does tithing show our commitment to God?

Genesis 28:13, 14, 20-22

  • Why was Jacob inspired to return a tithe to God after his conversion experience?

Monday: Where Is the Storehouse?

There was no question of where God’s storehouse was in the time of ancient Israel. His “house” consisted first of the sanctuary, built in the wilderness on their journey to Canaan, then at Shiloh when they first arrived, and finally at the temple in Jerusalem.

Three times a year, at designated festivals (Exodus 23:14-17), the Israelites were to bring their tithes and offerings to God’s house, where they were systematically distributed to the Levite priests, as replacement for their not receiving a land inheritance in Canaan. Its purpose was to support those who ministered to the people, who led in their worship and praise to God.

Moses gave an important reminder, telling God’s people that it was not a matter of  “every man doing what is right in his own eyes” (Deuteronomy 12:8). We have been told where God’s storehouse was and what it was used for, when Israel was a nation of God. It’s up to the church now, not individuals, to determine where and how the tithe is spent.

Many churches, including Seventh-day Adventists, have determined that our tithe funds should be given to appointed departments of the church. SDAs have designated local conferences, missions, and unions to receive these funds and use them equitably to support the ministry, those locally who are striving full-time to advance God’s work of delivering the gospel message.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Malachi 3:10 and Exodus 23:14-17

  • Where was God’s storehouse for the Jews?

Deuteronomy 12:5-14

  • Why was God so specific in His instructions of where and when to worship, especially as revealed in verse 8?
  • What does this tell us about how we decide where to bring our tithes and offerings?

Tuesday: The Purpose of Tithing

It’s important to know the purpose of tithing. Some may think that God, the owner of everything, surely doesn’t need our money in order to advance His kingdom. But here are some reasons and outcomes to consider that might explain why the practice of tithing is still useful.

  1. Tithing is an expression of our faith, which will be most appreciated when hardships are experienced and trust issues with God are likely to emerge.
  2. The funds from tithing allow pastors, and other full-time employees of the church, to devote all their time and energy to spreading the gospel message.
  3. The promised tangible blessings God pours out to us as a result of tithing provide us with added opportunities to give to those in need.

Going back to Old Testament times, we find that the appointed priesthood tribe of Levi did not receive large properties of land in Canaan as did the other tribes. Instead they were given the cities of refuge, with just enough land around them for personal gardens. In order to survive, they needed the added support of the tithe monies brought in from other tribes.

But, why do we still need to return one-tenth to God, when the Levitical system is not now in use? The gospel commission Jesus gave His disciples demonstrates that there are still those who must devote their livelihoods to spreading the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Certainly the growing faith that returning tithe offers will be extremely valuable in the final days, when God’s people will not be able to buy or sell (Revelation 13:16, 17). Economic tragedy will be one of the troublesome forces that will engulf the world in the end times, and the need to help those in dire circumstances will make tithing imperative for God’s people to survive. 

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Acts 20:35

  • Besides growing our faith, how does tithing change our perspective of the world around us?

Wednesday: Tithing on the Gross or the Net Income?

There is no set formula for determining the amount of our “increase”. The complicated nature of our paychecks today make some people question whether to return one-tenth of their gross income, before taxes or any deductions are taken out, or the net income, the amount we actually receive from our employer.

Most Seventh-day Adventists tend to give one-tenth of their gross income, reasoning that the taxes and other fees represent community services that we all enjoy. But there are valid arguments for those giving on their net income as well.

Ellen White helps resolve this issue by stating that: “Everyone is to be his own assessor and is left to give as he purposes in his heart.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 469. In other words, the church doesn’t dictate how much we should or shouldn’t give back to God. It is a matter strictly between us and God.

The widow of Zarephath was given the choice of whether to fulfill Elijah’s request by making him a small cake from the last of her supplies (1 Kings 17:13, 14). We also are given the choice of how to answer God’s call to tithe and become partners with Him in the management of our resources. God promises on His part to take care of our needs, just as He did for the widow when she willingly decided to make God her partner (1 Kings 17:15, 16).

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

1 Kings 17:9-16

  • Why was taking care of the prophet first more important than taking care of herself and her son?
  • What does this story teach us about what it means to make God our partner?

Thursday: An Honest or Faithful Tithe

It’s natural to be concerned about whether our tithes and offerings are used in an honest manner. But that does not seem to be a concern we necessarily need to have. As donors, we are told…

  • the amount to give, which is one-tenth,
  • what and when to give (our very best, and as soon as it’s received–in other words, the “first fruits”), and
  • where to give–to God’s storehouse to provide for the ministry.

It’s up to the managers of the storehouse to use the funds properly. The Lord appointed the Levites as managers back in Moses’ day, even though they, being human, were not always faithful in handling the people’s gifts. We, too, must prayerfully depend on our appointed church officers to honestly distribute the funds we provide for God’s work. It’s their responsibility, not ours, to see that it’s done properly.

Jesus told a parable about managing for the Master that reveals when and how the Lord will see whether we’ve been faithful and honest in our dealings with Him. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 ends with the accounts being settled when the master comes. Those who were most faithful were given the invitation to enter into the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:21). Being with Jesus in heaven, and later on a new earth, will provide us enough joy to last throughout eternity.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

1 Corinthians 4:1, 2

  • What are some of the ways of being faithful that we, as God’s stewards, are responsible for?

Matthew 25:19-21

  • When will we be held accountable for our dealings with the Master?
  • What reward will there be for those who have been faithful to Him?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Although the Lord expects us to devote our whole lives to Him, He specifically tells us that there is a portion of our time and money that is holy. By making both one day a week and the tithe holy, He claims ownership of the Sabbath hours and one-tenth of our income.

If we believe and love God, we will want to honor Him by giving Him what is His to begin with. As we do this, we are not only expressing our faith in God, but telling the world that He is the Creator and Owner of our lives. We also belong to Him.

Our love and faith grow stronger every time we follow His commands to keep His Sabbath and return our tithe to Him. In addition, God can use us more effectively as His stewards on earth. We have a direct part in advancing His kingdom and saving others. This is the essence of the salvation covenant we have with God, our Partner and Friend.

Next Week: Offerings for Jesus

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