This article is the third installment of a three-part series on tithing.
We are allowing various viewpoints on the topic of tithing and Divisional rebellion to be discussed, in an effort to bring a previously esoteric conversation out into the open. The first two articles have generated robust discussion. While we are hosting the conversation, Fulcrum7 is not necessarily endorsing every viewpoint expressed in this series. Fulcrum7 has (of course) no interest in receiving tithe. We strongly recommend that people pay tithe.
This Part 3 article was written by Floyd Sayler:
Our Current Situation
Loyal Seventh-day Adventist believers in North America are facing a real dilemma after the 2018 Autumn Council, and the subsequent NAD Year-end meeting.
What has emerged from that is a serious church fracture that places many who choose to follow the Lord’s counsels in an awkward position. The leadership in the NAD is now defying the highest authority in the church as it intends to pursue its own agenda regardless of the Lord’s counsels. Dan Jackson, president of the NAD, wasted no time after the vote to inform all the female pastors in North America that nothing will change after the vote. The big question facing North American believers is, which entity of the church deserves our loyalty and support.
The problem in North America is complicated by the fact that there are good leaders and good Conferences who do not follow the rebellious ways of the NAD and other Union Conferences. Should the faithful believers who happen to be in one of the rogue conferences send their tithes and offerings to one of the loyal conferences? And what should they do if faithful pastors, who uphold the truth in a conference that is in rebellion, are dismissed from their positions?
Any question about how the Conferences use the tithe money has usually been considered out of order. For many years we have been told that we are to pay our tithes into the regular treasury and ask no questions about how it is being used because we are not responsible if is misused. As a result, the laity have dutifully paid their tithes into the treasury regardless of what is done with it. Somehow it has never crossed their minds that God might expect them to make inquiry as to how the funds are being appropriated.
First of all we need to understand what the tithe is to be used for. 9 Testimonies p. 249 tells us,
“The tithe is sacred, reserved by God for Himself. It is to be brought into His treasury to be used to sustain the gospel laborers in their work.”
Then would it be right for the tithe to be used to build institutions or elaborate Conference offices like the new NAD headquarters? Would it be right for anyone to use his tithe to finance his own personal mission project or ministry? It is clear from Inspiration that tithe is to be used solely for gospel laborers who teach and preach the truth that God has given to this church. But everyone who pays tithe has a responsibility to inquire as to how the money is being used. Note the following:
“The churches must arouse. The members must awake out of sleep and begin to inquire, How is the money which we put into the treasury being used? The Lord desires that a close search be made?” (Kress Collection p. 120 (1900).
There are other pertinent statements which also need to be considered. These are not the kind of statements that we find quoted in any of our official church papers, but they need to be seriously studied at this time because we have a responsibility in this matter which we have not been informed about. Note the following:
“It would be poor policy to support from the treasury of God those who really mar and injure His work, and who are constantly lowering the standard of Christianity” (3 Testimonies p. 553).
“There are fearful woes for those who preach the truth, but are not sanctified by it, and also for those who consent to receive and maintain the unsanctified to minister to them in word and doctrine. I am alarmed for the people of God who profess to believe solemn, important truth, for I know that many of them are not converted nor sanctified through it.” (1 Testimonies pp. 261-262).
God has His plan ‘A’ and a contingent plan ‘B’ in the operation of His work on earth. In God’s plan ‘A’ the tithe is to be placed in the regular treasury to be used as He has directed, for gospel ministry. And we should not withhold our tithe at the first indication that it is not be properly used. We won’t find perfection in this matter, even in the best of situations. Some have been too quick to withhold their tithe when things have not gone as well as they expect. We have some good counsel regarding this matter in the following.
“Some have been dissatisfied and have said: "I will not longer pay my tithe; for I have no confidence in the way things are managed at the heart of the work." But will you rob God because you think the management of the work is not right? Make your complaint, plainly and openly, in the right spirit, to the proper ones. Send in your petitions for things to be adjusted and set in order; but do not withdraw from the work of God, and prove unfaithful, because others are not doing right” (9 Testimonies p. 249).
The foregoing statement is the general rule regarding the payment of tithe. That is God’s plan ‘A’ for the tithe. However, there also is God’s plan ‘B’ which has exceptions to the general rule.
When a situation arose in Ellen White’s day where the regular treasury failed to carry out its duty, she actually commended those people who paid their tithes directly to a needy field which was not receiving funds from the regular treasury.
“In regard to the colored work in the South, that field has been and is still being robbed of the means that should come to the workers in that field. If there have been cases where our sisters have appropriated their tithe to the support of the ministers working for the colored people in the South, let every man, if he is wise, hold his peace. I have myself appropriated my tithe to the most needy cases brought to my notice. I have been instructed to do this, and as the money is not withheld from the Lord's treasury, it is not a matter that should be commented upon, for it will necessitate my making known these matters, which I do not desire to do, because it is not best.
Some cases have been kept before me for years, and I have supplied their needs from the tithe, as God has instructed me to do. And if any person shall say to me, Sister White, will you appropriate my tithe where you know it is most needed, I shall say, Yes, I will; and I have done so. I commend those sisters who have placed their tithe where it is most needed to help to do a work that is being left undone” (2 Manuscript Release p. 99).
When Elder Watson, the president of the Colorado Conference, objected to having the tithe diverted from the usual conference treasury, she wrote him a letter telling him to keep his cool and not become stirred up about the matter. She made the point that “Circumstances alter cases.” In other words, God’s plan ’B’ will come into effect at times, and her advice to church leaders is not to become unduly stirred up when that happens.
There are other passages upholding the same principles which are seldom considered. Note the following:
“Do not worry lest some means shall go direct to those who are trying to do missionary work in a quiet and effective way. All the means is not to be handled by one agency or organization” (Ibid. p. 421).
“The arrangement that all moneys must go through Battle Creek and under the control of the few men in that place is a wrong way of managing. There are altogether too many weighty responsibilities given to a few men, and some do not make God their counselor” (Testimonies to Ministers p. 321).
However, the church leaders at the head of the work were not pleased with the stand that Ellen White took in support of the irregular lines. We can sense her exasperation in her reply to Elder Daniells after receiving letters from him and Elder Kilgore protesting against what she was doing. Here is her letter to Elder Daniells.
“When your letter and Elder Kilgore's, regarding the work in Nashville, were read to me, a great burden came upon me, and for a time I thought that my reason would give way. I was so weary, having just come from the Portland camp meeting and having labored very hard while there, that I was in no condition to have such matters brought before me. It takes so long for our leading brethren to read beneath the surface that I feared that perhaps I had said something which would have been better deferred in regard to the publishing work in Nashville being conducted as separate and independent from the work in Battle Creek. So often the same old difficulties arise and are presented in regard to disturbing the "regular lines." But God will work in some way to make His people understand that the regular lines have become full of irregular practices. . . .
God alone, by the quickening, vivifying influence of His Holy Spirit, can enable men to distinguish between the sacred and the common. God alone can make men understand that working on regular lines has led to irregular practices. God alone can make men's minds as they should be. The time has come when we should hear less in favor of the regular lines. If we can get away from the regular lines into something which, though irregular, is after God's order, it may cut away something of the irregular working which has led away from Bible principles” (Manuscript Release, Volume 20, p. 142-143).
The seriousness of the situation in Ellen White’s day which prompted her to divert tithe from the regular lines was actually quite mild compared to the present situation. They didn’t have the open abandonment of the Third Angel’s message in favor of social justice and alignment with the degraded culture of our time. They didn’t have church leaders advocating acceptance of sexual perversion and Sodomy. They didn’t have educational leaders denying the literal six-day creation. They didn’t have the irreverent worship styles and worldly music or rampant spiritualism as we have in spiritual formation and mysticism in our midst. These things were unimaginable in her day.
The following testimony that Ellen White wrote to men in responsible positions is very pertinent today for the divisions and conferences who are conforming to the culture of the world and negating the truth of God. The testimony is entitled, To Men Who Occupy Responsible Positions in the Work.
“The men who have been connected with the greatest interests upon this earth have tainted and corrupted the work of God. The instrumentalities which He designs shall be used in advancing His cause, have been used to forward unlawful schemes, which are in direct opposition to the work which God has specified as His and which He cannot vindicate. God has been forsaken by the men who have voiced decisions regarding His work, which has thereby become entangled. . . This state of things is maintained by men who should have been disconnected from the work long ago. These men do not scruple to quote the word of God as their authority, but the god who is leading them is a false god” (EGW 1888 Materials p.582).
After enduring the criticism from some of the leading men regarding her support of the irregular lines, Ellen White apparently decided to avoid the frustration she was experiencing by turning the matter over to her son Willie who, along with some other faithful men, wrote out a church policy on this contentious issue. It would be well for us today to follow the guidelines that was published and approved by his mother. The following is from Document File 213, also known as The Blue Book.
“As to the proper use of the tithe: The outline of a statement on this subject which was agreed upon was briefly this: To give extracts from Sister White’s writings as to the tithe and its use; to show that her testimony and her own usual practice was in favor of paying the tithe into the regularly designated treasury, to be used under the counsel of the committees appointed for such purposes; to show further from her writings that when those who have charge of the expenditure of the tithe so far fail in the discharge of their duty that the regularly organized channels for the distribution of tithe become hindrances to its proper use, then in order to carry out the divine plan that the tithe should be expended in the wisest manner for the furtherance of the work, individuals have the right to pay their tithes direct to the needy fields; but that this involves a considerable degree of personal responsibility, which must be assumed by those who decide to follow this plan. It was thought that this matter could be handled in a way to show that the departure from the regular plans was authorized only when the regular plans failed to be carried out by those in positions of responsibility.”
We can see in what has been presented a reaffirmation of Ellen White’s statement that “Circumstances alter cases.” We need to consider objectively the counsel that has been given and then follow what is written in Romans 14:5, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
Floyd Sayler attended Walla Walla College as a music major and completed his diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music, University of Toronto. Along with a passion for Bible study & research, Floyd also enjoys writing for Creation Illustrated, Fulcrum7, and the Adventist World magazines.