The Good News is printed and mailed to about 500,000 subscribers around the world in five languages—English, Spanish, German, Italian and French. In addition, some 600,000 booklets and other publications were requested in 2006 and mailed to our global readership. We also mailed over 75,000 lessons of our Bible Study Course to students in the United States alone.
We also maintain several extensive Web sites, showing a strong and steady increase in visitors. We sponsor the Beyond Today television and radio programs. We publish a youth magazine, Vertical Thought, sent free to more than 20,000 subscribers around the globe. Our letter-answering staff answers biblical questions from our readers all over the world.
A dedicated and loyal staff supports the publishing of the gospel at our home office near Cincinnati, Ohio, along with our associated offices located in key areas overseas.
All these activities and many more constitute the understandable expenses incurred in spreading the true gospel all over the world. God wants to see His truth go out to this generation. The apostle Paul said, "Woe is me if I do not preach not the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16). The same could be said of the Church today.
The key biblical principles
God's Word, the Holy Bible, includes laws and instructions—some of them regarding financial matters. God is the Creator of everything and by right the owner of everything. King David said, "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1).
In effect, everything belongs to God. So it is within His divine prerogative to determine how wealth should be used. Since it belongs to Him, He has the right to specify how it should be used.
This does not mean that God mandates how we spend every penny. However, He has revealed instructions in the Bible as to how we ought to handle wealth. He also gives us the freedom to choose whether to obey His laws, including those that cover physical wealth, income and money (see Deuteronomy 30:19).
It's very important that we begin to understand the key points of God's method of financing as revealed in the pages of the Bible.
Old Testament teaching
The principal biblical method of funding the work of the Church is tithing. The definition of tithing is very simple. To give a tithe is to give a tenth part of the whole.
After the Israelites came out of Egypt, they were instructed to give a tithe of their increase to the Levitical priesthood, Levi being one of the 12 tribes of Israel. However, the first indication of tithing in the Bible dates back to the patriarch Abraham, the father of the faithful. This incident occurred long before there was a Levite or Levitical priest, since the early patriarch Abraham was Levi's great-grandfather.
Genesis 14:18 states that "Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed [Abraham] and said: 'Blessed be [Abraham] of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth . . . who has delivered your enemies into your hand.' And [Abraham] gave him a tithe of all" (emphasis added throughout).
Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of everything. (Our free booklet Who Is God? shows that Melchizedek was in reality the preincarnate Jesus Christ before the divine Word became the Son of God as explained in John 1:1-3, 14. Please request your free copy.)
What's the reason for tithing?
We learn three significant things from this first recorded act of tithing. These establish the key points of this biblical practice for all time.
The first is the basic reason for tithing. It is an acknowledgement of God as the ultimate Owner of all wealth and the Provider of all blessings.
How can human beings please God today in a monetary sense? By honoring Him with a portion of our increase in money and material things. Our Creator wants us to remember that He is the source of all physical and material blessings that come our way. He doesn't want us to develop a prideful sense of self-sufficiency (Deuteronomy 8:11-18).
Tithing is for our good. God doesn't need anybody's money since everything belongs to Him. How is He impoverished if we don't tithe? How is he enriched if we do? Tithing is for the good of our relationship with Him.
King Solomon wrote, "Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase" (Proverbs 3:9). The first thing that we should do with any financial increase that comes our way is to honor God with it. This practice reminds us that our Creator provides everything we have, including the power to earn wealth, our natural aptitudes, our health and any other blessings.
How is a tithe calculated?
The next point is determining the basis for tithing. It was to be done on all the increase. In Abraham's case it was the spoils of battle.
So a person tithes on his or her real increase from whatever source—earnings, profits, agricultural produce, etc.
Who should receive the tithe?
The third point to understand is the recipient of the tithe is God's representative on the earth at the time. Our Creator is the source of divine blessings to the tithe-payer, and in Abraham's case His representative was Melchizedek.
Long after Melchizedek manifested Himself on earth, God and the nation of Israel agreed on a covenant at Mt. Sinai. We need to understand its application to tithing. Leviticus 27:30 states that the tithe was holy to God. It was still based on the increase, but instead of going to Melchizedek, it was now given to a different designated recipient.
Under the terms of the Old Covenant at Sinai, the tithe went to the tribe of Levi, the Levites. Nothing changed here except God's appointed agent to receive tithes.
Leviticus 27:30 also shows us that the tithe of a person's increase is holy to God. It is not holy to the Levite, it is not holy to the Church, it is holy to God. That is a very important point for us to understand.
We cannot pay our tithes directly to God today as the patriarch Abraham did to Melchizedek (the pre-incarnate Christ). God is practical. He says, in essence, in lieu of giving it directly to Me, you give it to My designated agents. It is not, however, their tithe. It is still God's, to be used in His work on earth. The Bible reveals that over time the God-ordained recipients have shifted.
Times of reformation
The history of the people of ancient Israel reveals that they were obedient to God only sporadically. Occasionally they would get into trouble and call out to God, who would respond by sending them a strong leader.
This often charismatic person would restore them to the ways of the Creator. During these periods of reformation, two things would be stressed—a return to keeping God's annual Holy Days and a restoration of the law of tithing.
One account is recorded in 2 Chronicles 29–31, where King Hezekiah brought the people back to God and His ways. One of the things this righteous king did was to reinstitute tithing (2 Chronicles 31:6).
When the Israelites stopped tithing, the Levites had no support for their religious service to God and the people. So the systematic provision of religious instruction was allowed to lapse and the people lost their moral guidance. Thus they often sank into the worship of Baal and the other false gods of paganism. This was
However, once tithing was reinstated, the Levites could concentrate on their many duties of representing God in various worship responsibilities. Order was then restored to the people of Israel and they received appropriate religious teaching.
Monetary instruction in Malachi
The Christian Old Testament ends with the prophetic book of Malachi. It includes an important reference to tithing in the third chapter.
Here the Creator asks: "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me!" Notice that the people responded in an insolent manner: "In what way have we robbed You?" God plainly replied: "In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation" (Malachi 3:8-9). It is clear from this account that God takes tithing quite seriously.
Did those who refused to tithe rob the Levites? Only indirectly. Who are those who do not tithe ultimately robbing? The answer is the great Creator God. The tithe belongs to and is holy to God!
Our Creator continues the challenge: "'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'" (verse 10).
We balance this prophetic account with the rest of Scripture to show that not every Christian, not every faithful tithe-payer, is going to be as wealthy as a Sam Walton, Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. Nonetheless, God does bless us in countless ways if we choose to obey Him.
New Testament teaching
The question may be asked: Does tithing continue under the terms of the New Covenant? Jesus clearly stated: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).
Notice His follow-up statement in chapter 23: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin . . ." (verse 23). Was Jesus condemning them for tithing? No, He is criticizing them because of their hypocritical approach and their lack of spiritual balance. A lack of spiritual perception was their basic problem.
Jesus continued: "For you pay tithes of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." Jesus Christ is not saying to forget tithing and focus only on these three spiritual components—justice, mercy and faith. He says to practice both, but keep them in proper perspective.
Counting every leaf and every little seed of these spices and herbs also revealed a stinginess on their part. They were not going to give God anything more than exactly 10 percent. They didn't understand that God is well able to bless us abundantly if we display a generous approach to giving (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Tithing not a ritual law
Luke's Gospel contains a parallel passage where Jesus upholds the law of tithing just as He did in Matthew's account. "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Luke 11:42). However, here He also upbraids the Pharisees for their added ritualistic washings (verses 38-40).
Jesus Christ makes a clear distinction in Luke 11 between something that He still upholds and something that is not necessary.
Men made many unnecessary additions to the ritualistic laws of God. True, there were certain ritualistic laws in the Old Testament that lasted only until Christ's sacrifice rendered them no longer necessary. But the Pharisees added things like washing not just their hands before eating, but the whole forearm up to the elbow. Jesus taught that these human additions were unnecessary but at the same time He upheld the law of tithing.
Preaching and publishing the gospel today
The United Church of God, publisher of The Good News, believes and teaches that tithing is the primary way God finances the work of the Church. Tithing is one of the means by which human beings can honor God—gratefully and obediently acknowledging Him as Creator of everything and Provider of all good things.
The Church believes that, as shown by the Scriptures, tithing has historically been the primary revealed method for financing God's work on earth and is equally in force today.
Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to take the gospel of the Kingdom of God to all nations (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20). They are to preach and publish God's message of repentance around the world (Luke 24:47).
While we certainly emphasize a warning message directing the attention of our readers and listeners to man's sinful activities and their consequences, the gospel also contains the wonderful good news of Christ's sacrifice for our sins and promises a utopian world to dawn on mankind soon after the second coming of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19-21).
Undertaking this divine mandate of proclaiming this message to the entire world requires enormous amounts of funding. As we have seen in this article, the biblical way of obtaining the necessary financing is the scriptural practice of tithing.
Obedience to God's laws is voluntary in this age of man. The Creator is not forcing His will on people. But it makes very good sense to follow God's way of life. His laws bring order to our lives and teach us to manage our affairs rather than simply let things happen. They also teach us to cultivate an outgoing concern for the well-being of others.
Why not take an active part in this crusade for sanity? The gospel of the Kingdom needs to be spread all over the globe. It is one of life's mountaintop experiences to participate in a work of God for the benefit of others.
Do you know what it says in Daniel 12:3 about those who bring truth to other human beings? "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament [heavens], and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever." What an awesome reward God promises to those who faithfully obey Him! GN