The Pastor and Church Finance Part II

A helpful article for those who wonder if the preacher and the church really need our tithes and offerings.

ERLING E. CALKINS, Pastor, Southern California Conferenc

Why God Asks for Our Means

Someone questions, "Why does God ask for our means? I would gladly give them if He needs them. But He does not need them. He already owns the silver and the gold, the cattle upon a thousand hills, et cetera. He can speak a word and create more of everything, if He so desires. Why, then, should I give that which I need for myself?"

Another reasons thus: "Does the preacher need my tithes and offerings? Perhaps, but he doesn't need as much as he asks for. Besides, I don't like this preacher. I liked the one who was here before, but he is gone to a larger church and is well taken care of. So why should I give?"

"Do the poor need my offerings?" asks an­other. "Some of them do, but most of them would not be poor if they were not so lazy or such bad managers. If I should give to them, I should be encouraging indolence. Let them work as I have to; let them learn to plan ahead for emergencies as I do. Why should I give to them?"

"The missionaries? Yes, I suppose I should give a little. But I'm not so sure that I believe in the way they use the money. I think they could improve their methods and perhaps get along on much less."

Someone else says, "Really, in giving to the church, we are giving to ourselves, because we are the church. In that case, why should I give to the church in the first place? I'll just keep my share and spend it as I want to."

Many such questions have been raised. But how small they seem when placed beside the great truth of stewardship: God gives to us that we may give to others. God "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." Jesus "loved us, and hath given himself for us." " The angels of God "find their joy in giving." Herein is revealed "the great principle which is the law of life for the universe." " To mankind this principle is clearly stated, "Freely ye have received, freely give." t'

The question, "Why should I give?" is not answered primarily from the standpoint of how much the money is needed or who needs it, but, rather, of how much I need the experience of giving. Neither is it a question of giving to a church, a minister, a missionary or any per­son, but, rather, of giving to the Lord through His appointed channels.

The answer will be found in the three under­lying principles of stewardship; namely, (1) Giving is an acknowledgment of God's sover­eignty, His ownership of all things, His good­ness, His mercies to me. (2) Giving teaches me generosity and regard for others; it helps me to become Godlike in character. (3) Giving gives me the honored privilege to be a co-worker with God; it helps me to become Godlike in habit and practice.

Acknowledgment of God's Sovereignty and Goodness

All that a person is, all that he has, belongs to God. It is God who imparts health and strength; He gives talents and intelligence to earn money." Therefore, the tithes and offer­ings are but the returning to God of His own—"Of thine own have we given thee." 20 They are the acknowledgment of God's goodness, the ex­pression of man's thankfulness to and love for God.

In return for the great love wherewith Christ has loved you, you are to bring to Him your thank offering. You are to make a gratitude offering of yourself. Your time, your talents, your means—all are to flow to the world in a tide of love for the saving of the lost.2'

We return to Him His own, and with it an of­fering to testify our gratitude. Thus our practice will be a weekly sermon, declaring that God is the possessor of all our property, and that He has made us stewards to use it to His glory.20

So the Lord has imparted to us heaven's richest treasure in giving us Jesus. With Him He has given us all things richly to enjoy. . . . He asks us to acknowledge Him as the Giver of all things; and for this reason He says, Of all your possessions I re­serve a tenth for Myself, besides gifts and offerings, which are to be brought into My storehouse. This is the provision God has made for carrying forward the work of the gospel.22

Christlikeness in Character

Christian giving, however, was ordained for a higher purpose than merely to acknowledge God's sovereignty and goodness. The obligation of tithes and offerings was meant to teach les­sons of generosity and regard for others. The Scripture says, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself," and "let him be your minister."" We are told that "one of the great­est sins in the Christian world of today is dis­sembling and covetousness in dealing with God." We are to "beware of covetousness," for "the love of money is the root of all evil." 26 We are further admonished that—constant, self-denying benevolence is God's remedy for the cankering sins of selfishness and covetous­ness. . . He has ordained that giving should be­come a habit, that it may counteract the dangerous and deceitful sin of covetousness. Continual giving starves covetousness to death.27

Many of God's people are in danger of being ensnared by worldliness and covetousness. They should understand that it is His mercy that mul­tiplies the demands for their means.

Generosity is the exercise of Christian vir­tue. The law of life decrees that nothing can live long without exercise. Exercise strengthens the organs, but an organ that is not used, soon shrivels and dies. Christian giving is an agency in the hands of God for perfecting compassion­ate, loving character in His people. It is an opportunity to say Thank you to Jesus for His generosity to us when we were sinners:

I saw that it is in the providence of God that widows and orphans, the blind, the deaf, the lame, and persons afflicted in a variety of ways, have been placed in close Christian relationship to His church; it is to prove His people and develop their true character.29

God has in His wise providence placed the poor always with us, that while we should witness the various forms of want and suffering in the world, we should be tested and proved, and brought into positions to develop Christian character. He has placed the poor among us to call out from us Chris­tian sympathy and love.2°

There is no doubt but that God could rid the world of poverty and suffering in a word, but He chooses, in His omniscient love, to permit man to do this work in order that he might experience the highest of all joys—that of help­ing others—and enlarge his capacity to love. The thought is beautifully expressed that our offerings will be a "sweet-smelling savor to

God" and also that "the very act of giving expands the heart of the giver, and unites him more fully to the Redeemer of the world." " The thought is carried out further in these words:

God planned the system of beneficence in order that man might become like his Creator, benevo­lent and unselfish in character, and finally be a partaker with Christ of the eternal, glorious re­ward."

The third reason given for God's asking a portion of man's means is that man might be­come Christlike not only in character but in habit and practice, that those characteristics mentioned might become part of his very nature.

In Partnership With God

It is true that God does not need man's silver and gold—neither for Himself nor for those doing His work. He can provide money in abundance by one word. In fact, God is not dependent upon man to preach the gospel at all except that in His love for man He has chosen this means for the accomplishment of His work. Man thus becomes a partner with God, a medium through which God's mercy and truth are carried to the world. He is thus honored by partaking of the highest, noblest, and most wonderful work in which it is possible to engage. Notice the following statements to this effect from the pen of Ellen G. White:

In His infinite love He has granted men the privilege of becoming partakers of the divine na­ture, and, in their turn, of diffusing blessings to their fellow men. This is the highest honor, the greatest joy, that it is possible for God to bestow upon men."

Everyone has his appointed work in the great field; and yet none should receive the idea that God is dependent upon man. Ile could speak the word, and every son of poverty would be made rich. In a moment of time He could heal the human race of all their diseases. He might dispense with ministers altogether and make angels the ambassadors of His truth. He might have written the truth upon the firmament, or imprinted it upon the leaves of the trees and upon the flowers of the field; or He might with an audible voice have proclaimed it from heaven. But the all-wise God did not choose any of these ways. He knew that man must have some­thing to do in order that life might be a blessing to him.. . . He thus makes man the medium through which to distribute His blessings on earth. God planned the system of beneficence in order that man might become, like his Creator, benevolent and un­selfish in character, and finally be a partaker with Him of the eternal, glorious reward. 24

God is not dependent upon man for the support of His cause. . . Whatever necessity there is for our agency in the advancement of the cause of God, He has purposely arranged for our good. He has honored us by making us co-workers with Him."

By a chain of circumstances which would call forth his charities, He bestows upon man the best means of cultivating benevolence and keeps him habitually giving to help the poor and to advance His cause. . . . And as we heed these calls by labor and by acts of benevolence we are assimilated to the image of Him who.for our sakes became poor. In bestowing we bless others, and thus accumulate true riches. 26

There are three points that stand out in the above statements: (1) God does not need our means or our help. (2) God honors us in mak­ing us colaborers with Him. (3) By giving to the poor and sustaining His cause, we are also helping ourselves by strengthening those habits of love, generosity, unselfishness, and compas­sion that are of the very nature of Christ.

God's plan of systematic benevolence, that is, tithes and offerings regularly planned and given, is one of the most wonderful means of putting into practice the plan of salvation which the Lord has given. It calls forth the noblest and best from man and likewise it develops the noblest and best in man. We are told that the system of tithing, "like the Sab­bath," is "founded upon a principle which is as enduring as the law of God," " and is for the best interest of man.

While the purpose of systematic benevolence or stewardship is not primarily to raise money for church goals, yet the application of this plan, we believe, will solve the financial prob­lems of the church. If it were followed by every church member, every financial objective would be met and exceeded. The work of God in the world would be finished speedily and Jesus would soon come. "

Encouragements and Promises

In promoting Christian stewardship and sys­tematic benevolence the minister ought always to hold up before his congregation the dying Saviour and His inexhaustible love for man­kind. "I gave My life for thee, What hast thou giv'n for Me?" Stewardship is, after all, a "rea­sonable service."

Someone, even with the very best of Christian intentions, will be shocked at the suggestion of giving away 20 per cent or more of his income, especially if he comes from a nominal church in which tithing is not practiced. The subject must be made deeply spiritual and should be presented tactfully. The promises of God and His constant loving care should be made very real both by quoting the scriptural assurances to the consecrated, cheerful giver and by citing examples of those who were blessed in their faithfulness.

We read of ancient Israel that contributions for religious and charitable purposes amounted to "fully one-fourth [25 per cent] of their in­come," and that "a conscientious few made returns to God of about one third [33 per cent] of all their income." Far from reducing them to poverty, "the faithful observance of these regulations was one of the conditions of their prosperity." " God dealt bountifully with them when they dealt faithfully with Him.

God's requirements are no less today than they were anciently. The revelation of God's grace, the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the fullness of the Word of God, are superadded blessings today. The multiplied material abun­dance, the comforts and convenience of today's life, are above comparison to those of Israel's day. Have we, then, reason to be less gener­ous, less willing to sacrifice, than they, especially when the promise is made, "Give what you can now, . . . and God will refill your hand," and "the more we give, the more we shall receive"? "

15 John 3:16; Eph. 5:2.

16 The Desire of Ages, p. 21.

17 Matt. 10:8.

18 1 Cor. 6:19, 20.

19 Acts 17:25-28; Deut. 8:17, 18.

201 Chron. 29:14.

21 Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 50.

22 Counsels on Stewardship, p. 80.

23 Ibid., po. 65.

24 Luke 9:23; Matt. 20:26.

25 Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 475.

26 Luke 12:15;1 Tim. 6:10.

27 Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 548.

28 Ibid., vol. 9, pp. 254, 255.

29 Ibid., vol. 3, p. 511.

30 Ibid., p.391.

31 Counsels on Stewardship, p. 30,

32 Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 255.

33 Counsels on Stewardship, p. 23.

34 Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 472, 473.

35 Ibid., vol. 3, pp. 390, 391.

36 Ibid., pp. 382, 383.

37 Ibid., pp. 395, 404.

38 Ibid., vol. 9, p. 58.

39 Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 527; Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 467.

40 Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 50, 90.


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ERLING E. CALKINS, Pastor, Southern California Conferenc

December 1958

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