Ray Hartwell, MDiv, is the director of Grateful Living, the Stewardship and Planned Giving Trust Services ministry of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, Calhoun, Georgia, United States.

A young boy was walking down the beach, carefully observing various people until he spied a matronly woman sitting under a beach umbrella on the sand. He walked up to her and asked, “Are you a Christian?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Do you read your Bible every day?”

She nodded her head, “Yes.”

“Do you pray often?”

And again, she answered, “Yes.”

After that, with some careful thought, he asked his final question: “Will you hold my lunch money while I go swimming?”

He had decided that she could be entrusted with his treasure.

Our trust

This young boy was looking for someone he could trust with his lunch and ice cream money for his day at the beach. You and I have been handed a trust by God’s people to lead and serve in God’s great work and His mission to reach the world with the joyful message of Christ’s return. To that end, we have also been entrusted with a salary provided by all the faithful members returning God’s tithe. That salary is a sacred trust. It is holy money set aside for a holy purpose. What a privilege it is for each one of us to be welcomed into a vocation with such a foundation of support. As such, we also need to be faithful in returning to God His tithe from our salary. The question to each one of us is, Can God trust us—the spiritual leaders in His church—with His money in our pockets?

Our privilege

When we were called by God, that call was affirmed by the church. Through extending an invitation to serve in a particular ministry or position, we were granted a great privilege. As you serve and faithfully return God’s tithe, you are part of expanding the gospel message and the call to be faithful to Jesus, our soon-coming Savior. We may not have perceived just how awesome this privilege is.

The Seventh-day Adventist church operates in 212 out of 235 countries and areas recognized by the United Nations, making it one of the most widespread Protestant denominations. Over 21,912,161 people are considered members in Seventh-day Adventist churches worldwide.1 We get to be stewards of this great mission!

Our calling

You and I are called to the gospel ministry by God Himself and by His church. As such, we have a spiritual commitment to be faithful stewards of this calling and His blessings and to return a faithful tithe in worship of the great God who called us. Faithfulness in tithe practice is part of our personal spiritual leadership today. It is one of the ways that we give evidence of integrity in our walk with God and in the leadership with which we have been entrusted.

Forbes, the publisher of Forbes business magazine, published this inspiring quote by none other than Ellen White: “The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”2

Herein is stated part of our calling as spiritual leaders: leaders “who will not be bought or sold.” Can you and I, even as leaders in God’s work, be bought off by keeping God’s tithe in our pockets or wallets?

Our integrity

“Men who in their inmost souls are true and honest.” Honesty in all things is desperately needed in leadership across our nation and our world today. And the calling is for us, personally, to be honest in all things, not gauging our practice of honesty by what we may see in others. Are we, as leaders in God’s work, being honest with God’s tithe by returning it through the storehouse to further His work?

When we serve the gospel mission of Christ, God’s Word is clear that we are to be financially supported by that ministry.3 In the Adventist Church, pastors, conference leaders and support staff, and certain academy staff are financially supported 100 percent by the tithe God’s faithful members return.

If we are willing to receive our salary from God’s tithe, integrity alone would say that we should be faithful in returning God’s tithe ourselves.

If we are willing to receive our salary from God’s tithe, integrity alone would say that we should be faithful in returning God’s tithe ourselves.

Our vocation

As servants in God’s cause, we have a vocation. A vocation differs from an occupation. An occupation is just something that you do or where you are employed. A vocation is being drawn into a higher purpose in life that accomplishes much more than fulfilling a role to earn a sum of money. A vocation is something that a person is convicted or compelled to do for greater motives than personal gain.

“Men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole.” For those of us who are serving in ministry, that service is greater than merely putting in our time and being able to pay our bills. As leaders in God’s work, our consciences should compel us to be faithful in returning God’s tithe. And our duty is clear, both as taught in God’s Word and in the expectation that the Adventist Church has for each person placed in spiritual leadership in the mission of Jesus for these last days.

Our God

All through Scripture, we see that God is always a great giver: from giving Adam and Eve an amazing garden home and then giving them the promise of salvation through One to come, to giving Noah plans for an ark of safety, to giving Abraham a new home and a son of promise, to giving Israel freedom from slavery in Egypt—all the way down to “unto us a son is given” (Isa. 9:6, KJV)—giving us Immanuel, and finally at the end of Revelation, a new heavens and a new earth. God is consistently a great giver.

On the other hand, Satan is always the great taker. Trace that same route through Scripture, and you will find that while God is always giving to humankind, Satan is always taking from humankind and seeking to ruin God’s great gifts.

The beauty is, just as we were created in God’s image and then re-created through the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus, so we have the heavenly genetic code within us to be great givers ourselves. That is why returning faithful tithes and generous offerings is an inherent part of what it means to be a Christian and a leader in God’s work.

And it brings our heavenly Father joy to see us becoming great givers, just like He is.

Our blessing

Daily we are blessed. Everything we might have comes from the hand of God to benefit us, bring us joy, and sustain us.4 In more ways than we may realize, we are preserved, protected, prospered, and provided for. As our employment is directly tied to the gospel and God’s work, our willingness to evidence faithfulness in tithing is an expression of the joy we have in playing a part in advancing God’s work. Accountability becomes a testimony—“I trust God, and I am glad to be on His team in the great controversy.”

You and I are accountable to a whole range of individuals in our life.5 We are accountable to our spouses and, in certain ways, to our neighbors, the society at large, and our nation. And there is a basic accountability to the organization that provides our salary. This involves adherence to biblical practices such as moral purity, Sabbath observance, healthy living, and faithful church attendance and participation. Included in these practices must also be faithfulness in returning a tithe in the worship of God.6

To return a faithful tithe is to joyfully thank God for His blessings in our lives and to share those blessings so that others may come to know the joy of Christ’s soon return and the power of His transforming grace. Truly, we are blessed so that we can be a blessing.

Our response

As one of God’s chosen spiritual leaders, what is your response to this great opportunity to enjoy faithfulness in God’s calling of stewardship? If you have had the practice of regularly returning God’s tithe, surely you have experienced the blessings and joy of honoring God and supporting His ministry. But what if you have not been participating in a regular tithe commitment to this point? Maybe this message is God’s voice calling you to consecrated spiritual leadership by making returning a faithful tithe a joyful part of your life.

Decide to prayerfully begin right now to dedicate 10 percent of your income each time you receive it by returning God’s tithe. Try it by faith—experiment by starting with a six-month commitment to let the Lord show you how He will supply your need and bless you sufficiently to make sure that you do not lack.7 As you teach your people to walk by faith, join them with your own faith commitment in regard to faithful tithe and see the evidence of His provision. Come experience the joy that millions have found as they have put God first in all aspects of life.

  1. Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, “Seventh-day Adventist World Church Statistics 2021,” Seventh-day Adventist Church, updated February 14, 2022, https://www.adventist.org/statistics/seventh-day-adventist-world-church-statistics-2021/.
  2. Ellen G. White, Education (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn, 1903), 57, quoted in “Quotes: Thoughts on the Business of Life,” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/quotes/2632/.
  3. See 1 Corinthians 9:14: “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (NKJV), and Matthew 10:10: “ ‘For a worker is worthy of his food’ ” (NKJV).
  4. See 1 Chronicles 29:14: “ ‘But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand’ ” (NIV).
  5. See Romans 14:12: “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (NKJV).
  6. Working Policy, North American Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2018–2019 ed. (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2018), E 80 20, V 04 08.
  7. Malachi 3:10, 11.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
Ray Hartwell, MDiv, is the director of Grateful Living, the Stewardship and Planned Giving Trust Services ministry of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, Calhoun, Georgia, United States.

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - SermonView - Medium Rect (300x250)

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - SermonView - WideSkyscraper (160x600)