I know God commands me to tithe, but how do I do it? Here are answers to common questions about tithing.
[Steve Myers] The buck stops here. We've all heard that phrase before. When somebody says that, we know exactly what they mean. This responsibility shouldn't be passed on to anybody else. It stops now. So don't pass the buck. Well, is that the way we live our life? And if we had to say, "In my country, we never pass the buck," that'd be a fair statement? Well, how about in my community? Do we pass the buck, or we bring it home? Well, with my family, the buck stops here. Or by my personal life, can we say that? Or do we have that tendency to kind of fit in with our culture around us?
But it's a challenge when you really get down to the reality of where we live, how people live their lives, and the situations we can get ourselves into. I mean, think about not passing the buck literally for a moment. Imagine your friend coming to you with this problem. They tell you they make $36,000 a month. Okay. But then they tell you they spend $5,500 a month and they've been doing it for 7 years. Now, they're in trouble. They've got a home, they've got two cars, but they're all mortgaged more than they're worth. In fact, their unsecured debt is somewhere around $168,000. And so they borrowed from their parents, their life savings, in order to keep up with their debt payments. And now, they've got to take care of their elderly parents.
So what do you tell them? What kind of advice do you give them? I mean, they could try to generate some more money, maybe get a part-time job. I guess they'd get a couple of hundred bucks. But how is that going to help? Because they could file for bankruptcy but that doesn't pay back their retirement account or doesn't help their parents with the money they borrowed from them. So what do you tell them? Maybe you just tell them straight out, "Listen, what is wrong with you? You got to get real, you better take whatever it is you could sell and sell it. Pay down that debt, get rid of whatever you can start paying back what you owe, and get your head on straight, get your priorities right. Don't pass the buck. You've got to get those priorities in order."
And hopefully, you tell them something like that. Good advice? Oh, there's one problem. This is your relative, your Uncle Sam. That's what it would look like if we boiled down our government's gigantic numbers into maybe numbers we might think are a little bit more realistic, and it's things that are really worrisome. Have you been in a bank lately, or maybe a savings and loan? Many of us never go in those places anymore, we do everything online. But in all the banks, not so much savings and loan, but the banks have these little signs. I noticed one just the other day, and I looked at it specifically to see exactly what it says. And this little sign that had “FDIC” on it, it said, "Backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government." Boy, I felt good. That sign, it was supposed to make me feel good. It's like, "Wow, is that where I'm supposed to have my faith or what?"
I mean, think of the numbers of just the amounts we spend in this country. In 2019, the federal budget is $4.4 trillion. I don't know how much that is, but it's unbelievable how much when you boil that down, divide that by year, by day, by minutes in a day, do you know what that comes down to? We are spending, in the United States, $8.3 million a minute. I still can't imagine what that is. Okay, so let's divide it by the seconds. How much is that per second? It's around $140,000 per second. Got a second? It's kind of nice to have a little bit of that second there, wouldn't it? But that's where our government is at. And the challenge is, even though we're spending 4.4 trillion, guess how much we're bringing in? Somewhere around 3.4 trillion. So we're almost under budget $1 trillion this year.
And of course, like we said, we're spending our parents' retirement. We have a national debt that's already accumulated to $21 trillion, which is… it's almost incomprehensible how much money that really is. So if you tried to boil it down, well, how much is $1 million? Well, if you took $1,000 bills, which there isn't such a thing, but imagine if there were $1,000 bills and you started stacking them up till you got $1 million, how high would that go? Okay, not that high since it's $1,000, about 4 inches. So give me an inch, I'll take a mile. Think about that.
Now, convert that to a $1 trillion. Well, maybe we should do a billion first. Yeah, we did a million, now do a billion. A billion dollars then goes 300 feet high, $1 trillion dollars 67 miles high. Sixty-seven miles. So exponentially, this number just increased. And this whole system that we live in, they tell me it's built on confidence. Kind of makes me nervous. When you think about, well, if we have confidence in the government, confidence in the economy, it's all supposed to work and not fall apart. But then when you look at the statistics that the average person and what they're going through in their life when it comes to their personal finances, I mean, you can look it up on so many different websites. There's one that's called bankrate.com. They did a survey, 44% of us couldn't even cover a $400 emergency expense out of our savings. Almost half of us couldn't cover that.
And so I can't help but stepping back and think for a moment, "Wait a second, am I a part of the solution or am I part of the problem?" When you look at the Church, you look at us, we're God's people. Is there a difference? Is there a difference between the average church member and how they handle their finances versus anyone else in the world? Is there really a difference? You see, we tend to be Americans. We are Americans here in this room. Those probably watching you on the webcast this… We're Americans. Well, do we get taken in by the good old American way? I mean, the good old American way is, "It's my money, it's my job, it's my income, it's my salary." And we have a tendency to look at things like that. But that creates a big problem because there's a problem in our approach, and in our perspective, and God says a lot about the perspective that we as His people are supposed to have. And it's not the good old American way.
If you turn over to Deuteronomy 8:17 Deuteronomy 8:17And you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.
American King James Version×, in Deuteronomy, deals with that American perspective, if you want to call it that, that tendency that we all have to get taken into our society around us and our culture that we live in and reflect that even in our finances, even in the way we think about my job and my money and my salary and my income. But Deuteronomy gives us a whole different perspective. Chapter 8 verse 17, let's notice what God has to say. He tells us about the way we think, and God knows the way we think. Notice what He says, "You say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’" Well, that sounds like we Americans, doesn't it?
But our perspective needs to be different. Verse 18, God says, "You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth." He gives you the… We have the ability to live and to breathe and to earn because God sustains our life. That's why. And it says that He may establish His covenant, which He swore to your fathers to this day. So He points out very clearly, we’ve got to change our mindset. In fact, a couple of pages from here in chapter 10, verse 14 puts it a little bit differently but makes the same point. Notice Deuteronomy 10:14 Deuteronomy 10:14Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD's your God, the earth also, with all that therein is.
American King James Version×, is it my income? Is it my salary? Is it my money?
Notice what Deuteronomy 10:14 Deuteronomy 10:14Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD's your God, the earth also, with all that therein is.
American King James Version×says, it says, "Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord." "Okay, God, You take your part, I'll take my part.” Well, wait a second, there's more to it, isn't there? “Heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth and all that is in it.” So who owns my job, my income, my salary, my money, me? I mean, God owns it all. God owns it all. And all too often, we have a tendency to lose that perspective. And so God doesn't want us to lose that perspective. In fact, He wants to help us by establishing a financial godly system to help us, to help us to keep this perspective always on our mind. He wants to help us with our finances so we don't have to end up like good old Uncle Sam. He doesn't want us to end up like that.
So He's established a godly financial system. And it revolves around a whole different way of thinking than our good old American way. In fact, He describes it a little bit in Leviticus 27. If you want to hold your place here in Deuteronomy, we'll come back to Deuteronomy a little bit later. So maybe put a marker here, or hold your place here.
Turn over to Leviticus 27:30 Leviticus 27:30And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's: it is holy to the LORD.
American King James Version×. This particular passage begins to describe a little portion of God's financial system, and how that impacts us. And when it comes to thinking about my money, my job, my income, what will help me to keep the proper approach and the proper outlook? Well, God's designed the system to do just that. And Leviticus 27:30 Leviticus 27:30And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's: it is holy to the LORD.
American King James Version×points to that. And here it says, "All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's. It is holy to the Lord."
So God begins to reveal the system of tithing to help with our godly system of finance in our personal lives. And to begin with, He points out very clearly “Whose is this?” Not only is the earth and all that's in it His, everything I am, everything I own, everything I potentially earn is His, but even this tithe that He talks about is God's. God owns the tithe. In fact, we should always refer to it as God's tithe. It's not my tithe. It's God's tithe. In fact, we don't really give a tithe. That phrase is really not in the Bible very often. It rarely speaks in the Bible of giving a tithe. More often it says we offer a tithe, or we bring a tithe, or we pay a tithe. Those phrases are used much more than giving a tithe. Why would that be?
Well, who's the source? Who owns it? Who's given us the ability to earn an income? Well, God has. And so really, what's happening? When we pay our tithes and bring it before God, we're repaying the owner who gave it to us. We're repaying God, the owner of all things. And so we're bringing it before Him and offering it back to Him in that way since it's God who owns it. And that's why it is sacred. That's why it is holy. When He talks about it being holy, why is that the tithe holy? Because it's God's not because it's mine. God is holy, He sanctified it, He set it apart. And when we consider our understanding and belief about tithing and God's financial system, that is at the heart and core of it, it is something special, it is something set apart. It's made holy by God.
And we begin to see if we begin to put the passages together, that this isn't just some Old Testament kind of thing. Because oftentimes, various religions will relegate it, "Oh, you don't have to do that because that's an Old Testament, that's an Old Covenant kind of thing." But, you know, when you examine the passages here, this is not something that was done away with Christ. The tithing law was in effect long before there was an Old Covenant, long before Mount Sinai, long before Moses, long before Israel came out of Egypt. Tithing was already there. You can check it out in Genesis 14:18 Genesis 14:18And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
American King James Version×where it says Abraham tithed. Years and years before Moses, Abraham was already tithing, it was already there. And in fact, when you compare that to the New Testament, in Hebrews 7:4 Hebrews 7:4Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
American King James Version×, it reminds us that's exactly what Abraham did.
And so it reminds us this is not an Old Covenant thing, this is a godly thing. This is a godly system that He established and was not tied to something that was done away with. And so part of God's financial system is the tithe. So what do we use this tithe? How do we bring it before God? What is our practice when it comes to God's tithe? Let's notice a passage over in the book of Numbers, Numbers 18:21 Numbers 18:21And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
American King James Version×. Here in Numbers 18:21 Numbers 18:21And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
American King James Version×, we see a tithe described and how it's used. How is this tithe described and how is it used? Numbers 18:21 Numbers 18:21And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
American King James Version×. It says, "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance." Why? "In return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting."
So here we find the priestly tribe, the Levites, receiving the tithes, and doing the work of God in the tabernacle. And, of course, later in the temple, as well. And so we recognize this is a tithe that goes to God so the work, at this time of the tabernacle, could be accomplished. And so this tithe becomes known as the first tithe. A first tithe that was given to God so the work could be done. And so if we fast forward to today, God's work still needs to be done. And so that first tithe is used to fulfill the great commission so the gospel can be preached, so the work can be done so that the people can be prepared. That takes effort, that takes time, that takes money to have places for people to meet, for people to come together, for booklets to be printed, for programs to go out, for magazine. All of those things take money.
For the Levites to work in the temple, that took money. It takes animals, it took all those things, and they supported the work of God. Today, the work of the church, the ministry, the ministry of the church, we don't have a priesthood today, but we have a ministry. Should the ministry be paid out of tithes? Yes.
And there's a number of passages even in the New Testament we can turn to. So it's not just a priestly thing, but if you look at Galatians 6:6 Galatians 6:6Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teaches in all good things.
American King James Version×, or if you look at 1 Corinthians 9:13 1 Corinthians 9:13Do you not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
American King James Version×, it spells it out very clearly telling us that we share with those who teach, or that if you preach the gospel, you live by the gospel. And so we see very consistently throughout Scripture that this tithe, this first tithe was instituted by God to fulfill the mission of the Church, to spread the gospel, and to care for those that God has called. Of course, the question comes up then, how do I calculate the tithe?
You see, it's not done for us, so don't pass the buck. This is something we each have to do. As individuals, as families, we have to calculate our tithe. And so to do that, we have to consider, well, what exactly is a tithe? Now if you look up the Hebrew word that's used in these passages that we've been looking at, a tithe literally means a 10th, a 10th, or a 10th part. So we could think of 10%. So when we find a tithe in the Old Testament, it's a 10th. Or if someone is tithing, they're tenthing. It sounds kind of funny, but that's what literally the word means, tenthing.
So as a reminder, anything less than a 10th doesn't add up. That's not a tithe. That's not a tithe. So a tithe is 10% of our income. So if we earn $100, how much is this tithe that we've been talking about? Ten dollars. Okay, I can even figure that one out. Boy, God's system is pretty easy. A non-mathematician like me can figure it out. Yeah, simple math. That's the way it works out. In fact, turn back to Deuteronomy 14:22 Deuteronomy 14:22You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year.
American King James Version×. Deuteronomy 14:22 Deuteronomy 14:22You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year.
American King James Version×is one of those passages that teach us, don't pass the buck. This is something we calculate ourselves. So Deuteronomy 14:22 Deuteronomy 14:22You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year.
American King James Version×gives the instruction about how we begin to calculate that tithe, God's tithe.
So notice what it says here in Deuteronomy 14:22 Deuteronomy 14:22You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year.
American King James Version×. It says, "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year." So if you're a farmer, boy, that makes sense. I take a 10th of my grain, my corn, and my beans, whatever it might be, a 10th goes to God. Of course, today, what do we do? Well, the farmer would sell the commodities and take the money, and tithe from that profit, from that income that he would have. And so the principle then translates to the fact that we calculate our tithe based on increase. We base it on our increase. You shall truly tithe all the increase.
And so if we were farmers, it might be the money from the grain that we produce. If we work for a salary, for an income, we get a check, we tithe from that income, the income from our jobs. So if we work for wages, we set aside one-tenth of our increase, 10%. And so it's determined by our profit or earning that we receive. So, you know, if we work for ourselves, and we have to spend money to do business, the cost of doing business comes out of that because that's not part of our increase. And so we take that out, and then we recognize what our increase exactly is.
And so we do it that way, and there's a number of different areas in our lives that that could be tithable, in fact, that really are tithable when you really look at the details of what God teaches. Yes, my salary from my job. That is certainly tithable. If I invest, capital gains from investment in a property, or if I have stocks that earn dividends, that's money that increases my paycheck, my bank account, my pocketbook. So those are things that I would tithe from. If we're not like the rest of America, and we actually have a savings account, and you earn a little bit of interest, well, that money has earned interest, that is income that I've received. And so that's tithable as well. So I'd tithe on interest from a savings account, or maybe even some checking accounts pay interest. So we would tithe on those things as well.
Now, there's money that we might get that's not tithable, that's not included in the instructions that God gives. And there's a number of things like that. If we receive Social Security benefits. Let's say we're a retired person and receive Social Security from the government, that's not tithable income. So you have received that, you're not earning, it's not because you're doing a job that you're receiving that. And so you have paid your tithes on that, technically, in the past when you earned it. And so that's not tithable.
If you receive food stamps, or you receive welfare through the government, or in some social program through our government, those things are not tithable. If you receive an inheritance, you don't have to tithe on an inheritance even though you've received something, it wasn't something that you earned. And so a gift or you receive money because you borrowed money, you took a loan out, you don't have to tithe in that because you're going to pay that back. And so those are examples of things that aren't tithable.
Now, can you give an offering because, "Wow, I got a windfall of inheritance that I didn't expect."? Well, of course, you can always give more. But the requirement doesn't go with those different aspects of money we might receive that aren't earnings. And so as you consider, how do I calculate my first tithe, those are the initial things I have to keep in mind. Now, the question often comes up, well, do I tithe from my gross because here's my paycheck, and I've got this amount. And then the government takes their part before I even get the rest. Well, what about that?
Well, an administrative decision about tithing on net or gross was made by the Council of Elders of the United Church of God. You can read the details about it in our doctrinal study paper on tithing, it's online, you could just download it and read the whole thing for yourself. In fact, if you haven't looked through that, or for a long time, it'd be good to kind of read through that. A lot of interesting information, a lot of details, you could put a lot of meat on the bones of the sermon today by reading through many different passages that are referenced there. So it does recount the Council of Elders coming to an administrative decision.
And in this tithing paper, it summarizes the council's decision and here's what it says, "The Church of God has needed to make decisions from time to time regarding administration of tithing. Our modern system of economics is quite different from that of biblical times. Furthermore, our system of taxation has a greater impact on wages and salaries than in previous ages, and the burden is often oppressive. Therefore, the Council of Elders has adopted the following proposal. While the Church acknowledges the validity of God's law of tithing…" Of course, you have to tithe, God says you must tithe. Yes, we acknowledge that. But they say, "We also recognize the excessive levels of taxation and their impact on individual incomes. The Church believes that the appropriate definition of increase is net income after income tax." Therefore, the Church teaches that the tithe may be calculated on net income after income tax has been deducted.
Now, of course, they go on and say, "Members are free to tithe on gross." Yeah, you can if you want to before those income taxes are deducted, if you choose to. You know, it never hurts to give more if you can, that would be wonderful. And so what a great way to express our appreciation of God's way and His blessings that He's poured out on us. And so the Council, I believe, has helped us to recognize what the Church teaches when it comes to tithing, that first tithe, on our net income. And it all points back to what tithing is all about. When you think about, well, what does tithing demonstrate? What does it show? I mean, you often think, "Okay, the primary purpose is, well, we got to preach the gospel, we got to take care of the people."
Wait a second. Is there something even deeper than that when you think about perhaps the primary purpose for the tithe? Why does God have me tithe? It helps me to put God first in my life. Isn't that really what it really comes down to? That tithing helps us all to put God first in our life, first in our finances, we give to God His tithe and it's a sign that we trust Him. We have our confidence in Him. It's not in my measly paycheck. It's not in my savings account. It's not in my stock dividends. I trust God, I believe in Him. And tithing shows that it demonstrates we're willing to put God first and worship Him and honor Him and follow His instructions because really, it comes down to a matter of conversion, a matter of conversion.
Does God reward those who diligently seek Him? Do we believe that? Do we know that to be true? Because ultimately, tithing reveals that, it shows that we trust Him, it is an act of faith. It demonstrates our faith. Yes, it's a command, no doubt, we are commanded to tithe. But God gives us the choice. God gives us the choice to actually do it. And so we show a good work that pleases God when we follow His commands. And so we give that first tithe to support His work, to help His people, to preach the gospel, to fulfill the Great Commission. And so tithing demonstrates a spiritual approach to life, even in this physical way.
Now, I was reminded about this as I thought about this whole topic of tithing and finances. It reminded me of a story that I heard about two men that got stranded on a desert island. They're floating along and they come into this island. The minute they get there, one of the men just started screaming, "We're going to die. We're going to die. There's nothing to eat. There's no food, we're doomed." The other man walked up to the palm tree, kicked his feet back, leaned back, and started sunning himself. The other man looked over and said, "What are you doing? Are you crazy? We are going to die. What's wrong with you? How can you be so calm about this?"
And he said, "No worries. I earn $100,000 a week." The other man went, "Who cares? You're crazy. We are going to die. There's nothing to eat. What are we going to do? We're doomed." The calm man says, "Listen, no worries. I make $100,000 a week. I tithe. My pastor will find me." Yeah, you can imagine, they sure would. Yeah, it's not the pastor. The tithe is holy to God and it's set aside to give back to Him. It was for the Levites, it is for the Church today. Now, do we take that tithe? Do we keep it for ourselves? Do we consume it? No. This tithe is given to accomplish God's work. That's why it's given. But there's further instructions about tithing that describe a tithe that was to be consumed by the tithe payer and his family.
And that's described over in Deuteronomy 14:22 Deuteronomy 14:22You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year.
American King James Version×. So this is a second tithe. How do we know it's a second tithe? Well, from a number of reasons, but generally… well, the first tithe isn't designated a first tithe in the Bible, second tithe not necessarily a second tithe. It's how it's used that demonstrates what tithe it is. So this is a second tithe in addition to the first. And so notice what it says in Deuteronomy 14:22 Deuteronomy 14:22You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year.
American King James Version×. This is distinguished by a different use. Verse 22, Deuteronomy 14, "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide."
So here you take this tithe and go to the place where God puts His name. We understand that's talking about the Feast, Feast of Tabernacles, the pilgrimage Feast at that time. In fact, if we flip back a page or 2 to chapter 12 verse 17, this second tithe or festival tithes, sometimes we call that a festival tithe is described a little bit further here in Deuteronomy 12:17 Deuteronomy 12:17You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your corn, or of your wine, or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herds or of your flock, nor any of your vows which you vow, nor your freewill offerings, or heave offering of your hand:
American King James Version×. It says, "You may not eat within your gates" no, you're not supposed to, we're supposed to be in temporary dwellings, we know that. So, "You don't eat within your grains… the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock."
And so we see pretty specifically that we're not supposed to do that at all. In fact, it says in verse 18, “You must eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God chooses.” So it describes traveling, you're moving, you're going, and those pilgrimage feasts would have been fitting that exact bill. And so when we think about this particular passage, we begin to see this is different than that other tithe we were talking about.
In fact, if we were all Greek experts, and we could read the Septuagint version in the original Greek that it was written in, the Septuagint version of the Bible has the Old Testament in Greek, as well as the New Testament. And so it's interesting if you were to read verse 17 here, if you notice it, once again, read verse 17 in the Septuagint. When it talks about the tithe of your grain, this is the word, epidecaton. Epidecaton. And so it's the prefix epi with the word decaton. A tithe is a deca, a 10th. An epidecaton, the prefix epi means above, or in addition to. So it's interesting that the translators of the Septuagint recognized this was an additional tithe. In fact, in the Septuagint, in other cases where it talks about a tithe, it just uses decaton, but here, it uses epidecaton.
In fact, if you look at… even historical documents reflect this very fact. If you were to read the Jewish historian, Josephus, he wrote about this particular tithe in the Antiquities of the Jews. It's pretty big work. So in Book 4, chapter 8, section 8, here's what the historian Josephus wrote. He said, "Let there be taken out of your fruits a tenth, besides that which you have allotted to give the priests and Levites." Well, that would be the first tithe but this is one besides. Then he writes, "It's to be used for those feasts and sacrifices that are to be celebrated in the Holy City." So for the festivals, that's what it was for.
And so we see with the description that's given that this was an additional tithe, a second tithe, what we might call the festival tithe in addition to that original first tithe. So the Israelites would set aside this tithe throughout the year. And then they would use it when they would attend the festivals. And they would buy, eat whatever their heart desired. In fact, they used it for special things, not just for self, not just for self-gratification, but the whole purpose was to enhance their worship of God and bring that much joy to the Feast.
That sounds vaguely familiar for what we do? Yeah, we're to rejoice at the Feast. And so we do the same. So the same principle applies today when it comes to our festival tithe. We could look at the early church, look at the first-century church. When you read through the New Testament, they kept the feasts. It's evident throughout the New Testament, which also meant then they had to travel, that meant they had expenses as well. And there's nothing in the New Testament that says anything changed about God's instruction regarding festival tithe. It was provided for the expenses, the cost, the enjoyment, the worshiping of God at the feasts. And so we'd have to conclude that based on the New Testament practice of the church, this tithing law is still in effect today. And so when we examine it, it makes perfect sense that that's what should happen. And so, in our financial system, our personal financial system, we need to make sure we account for this.
As parents, we can't forget to teach this principle to our children. You can give your children an allowance. I know some that give their children a dollar, but rather than give them a dollar, they give them 10 dimes, 10 decatons, and 1 dime goes for first tithe. The other dime, we're going to save for the Feast, the second tithe. And so even though they didn't earn that money, we're teaching them the biblical principle of tithing, God's financial system, and they can begin to understand and it becomes so clear, it's so obvious, it's very visual. When we do that, it's a great object lesson to be able to teach our children God's financial way. And they've still got eight dimes to do whatever they want with, it's so wonderful. And then they're going to accumulate these dimes over the course of the year and they'll have their own little stash for the Feast, and that other dime, that one that came out first, that one goes to God, and it gives us an opportunity to explain that to our children. So what a wonderful blessing it is that God gives us the means to enjoy a physical abundance that He provides at the Feast as we worship Him, and we praise Him, and we learn reverence, we learn to fear Him, we learn to put Him first. And so what a blessing His system really is.
In fact, there are those that can't afford to go to the Feast, that have challenges because of their situation, and they need help. And so many, many years ago, there was a fund that was established to help those who couldn't afford to go to the Feast. And so a festival fund was started. Sometimes way in the past, it was called a tithe of the second tithe, a tithe of a tithe. And so the Church encouraged us to send in a tithe of our festival tithe, of our second tithe, to help not only with those who couldn't afford to attend but also to help with the expenses of the Feast. It cost money today to have the Feast of Tabernacles, doesn't it? Well, where does that money come from? Well, we know it doesn't grow on trees. And so a vital part of the planning and preparation for God's Feast is the fact that we, as God's Church, as members, are asked to contribute a portion of our festival tithe. I mean, do we do that?
Don't pass the buck. Don't pass the buck. Every year in the United News, there's a little kind of coupon looking thing that talks about the festival fund. And what that's used for. How do we rent halls? How do we print those nice bulletins we like to get and page through and see all the activities? Well, that costs money. How do you put on all the activities and the senior banquets and the team socials? And how do we do all that? Well, it takes money. It takes money. And so we, as God's Church, as His members, we're asked to donate a part of our second tithe to cover all those expenses at the Feast.
Now, it's not a command from God, we can't look up a particular passage that says, "Oh, we need to do this." But it's a request from the Church, it's a means that we can help support each other. In fact, it's a way as well that we can help those who otherwise wouldn't be able to go to the Feast, to be able to go to the Feast. So those who might be widows, those who are on a fixed income, they couldn't possibly save that money aside to be able to go on a trip and be able to go for those days during the Feast to be able to celebrate it. So we can help them by contributing to the festival fund.
So we can be together as God's family, as His people. And so we can do that very thing. Now, we do have a responsibility, even if we need help, even if we need help… These last couple of years, those numbers that need help keep going up and up and up, and it's grown to really bigger levels all the time. So there're more members of the Church that need help to go. Now, of course, that doesn't mean we're totally indigent, does it? I mean, even if we're on assistance, even if we need help going to the Feast, can we save anything? Or should we just say, "No, I can't save, my contribution is zero."
That doesn't seem right. Shouldn't I at least be personally invested at some level, even though I can't afford much? I think when we think of the lessons of the Bible, and even the widow's mite, that even that poor widow who really was indigent was somehow able to save a little bit. So even if we just put a buck aside, don't pass the buck. Could we maybe save a buck a week? That “Even though I need help from the Church, and I couldn't possibly afford, you know, the whole expense of the Feast, could I maybe save somehow 50 bucks a week, you know, a buck a week, a year…” could we do that? Hopefully, we could so that we could take some personal responsibility and make sure the buck stops here, that we can contribute even though we need help, even though we need help. And so we do have that responsibility.
Now, it's interesting when we consider God's financial system, it doesn't stop with the Feast. Because there are those who don't just need help at the Feast, they need help throughout the entire year. They always are in need of help because that's their situation. That's where they've found themselves. And so when we consider, you know, God's system, yes, He sets up a system to finance His work so that the gospel can be preached, so people can be taken care of. Yes, He sets up a funding of the Feast, God's annual festivals, with a second tithe. But in God's generous financial system, He also provides a third way, a way to take care of those in genuine need. And if we turn a couple pages over to Deuteronomy 14, notice verse 28. Deuteronomy 14:28 Deuteronomy 14:28At the end of three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your increase the same year, and shall lay it up within your gates:
American King James Version×describes a third tithe, a third tithe. Notice what it says here. It says, "At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because He has no portion or inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, they may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you and all the work of your hand which you do."
And so here we see another principle. Here, we have really the principle of the second great commandment, isn't it? You love God. You love your neighbor as yourself. This principle of loving your neighbor, taking care of those who are in need, those widows, those who are fatherless. God accounted for a third tithe to fulfill that very aspect of the spirit of giving and concern and love, that should be outpoured from His people. So we can take care of those that are in need. So this 3rd tithe or third 10th was collected every third and sixth year of a 7-year cycle. Every third and every sixth year of a 7-year cycle. Now, back in the day, they would store it in a central location and give it out to those who were in need throughout the year. So this wasn't, you know, just relegated to the Feast, this was throughout the whole year. Now, it's also interesting that we can see pretty clearly from Deuteronomy 14, this is a different tithe. It's not the festival tithe and it's not that first tithe, but this is a different one. I think Deuteronomy 14 spells that out. But you might write down Deuteronomy 26.
Deuteronomy 26:11-13 Deuteronomy 26:11-13  And you shall rejoice in every good thing which the LORD your God has given to you, and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.
 When you have made an end of tithing all the tithes of your increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within your gates, and be filled;
 Then you shall say before the LORD your God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of my house, and also have given them to the Levite, and to the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all your commandments which you have commanded me: I have not transgressed your commandments, neither have I forgotten them.
American King James Version×describe this tithe as well. And if we, as Greek experts, once again, went to the Septuagint, went to the Greek version of the Old Testament, and read verse 12, it would become very clear in the Greek that this is a third tithe. Because literally, what it says in the Septuagint in verse 12 of Deuteronomy 26, it refers to a second additional tithe, a second additional tithe. So we had the first time supporting the work, then there was an additional tithe that was the festival tithe. And now there's a second additional tithe, which is this third tithe that's described, one that is to help those in genuine need. In fact, the historian Josephus once again refers very specifically to this third tithe. He recounts it in "Antiquities of the Jews" chapter 8 section 22. Here's what he writes.
He writes, "Besides those two tithes, which I've already said you are to pay every year, the one for the Levites, the one for the festivals,” he writes, "you are to bring every third year a third tithe to be distributed to those that are in need." And so Josephus spells it out pretty clearly. Now, it's not inspired Scripture but it certainly backs up what Deuteronomy 14 and Deuteronomy 26 are talking about, that there is a means that we can provide for those that are in need, so for those that are poor, for those that are hurting, those that are widowed.
Today, we do this very same thing. And so we might count these years, every third, and every sixth year out of seven, we might count that time from our baptism, or we might count that time from the Feast, the spring Feast or the fall Feast. And we can calculate that tithe. And so as we do that, then we can help contribute for those that are in need. Of course, this is not a tithe that those that are needy would pay, it's not a tithe that the needy contribute to because then we'd have to help them more. So they don't have to pay for this. It's for the needy, not paid by those that are needy.
So as we consider this third tithe, we see it is the means to help those that are hurting. Now, how does this fit in our modern world? The Council of Elders of the United Church of God have looked at God's instruction regarding third tithe. And like the other tithes, they came to the conclusion, we have to obey scripture. So do we have to pay third tithe? Yes, yes, absolutely. But there's been a number of decisions throughout the years going way back in time, 1982, back in the distant past, a principle was applied that is now presently applied in the United States. As an administrative matter, the Council of the United Church of God issued a statement. And summing it up, it says this, "Members do not need to pay what in effect is an additional third tithe to the Church when governments are taxing them and using that tax for the same intent and purpose as the biblical third tithe."
And so what does that look like in real life? Well, you get money taken out of your paycheck, it goes to the government, what do they do with that money? Well, they pay Social Security, they pay welfare, they give food stamps, those are the kinds of things that you do to help those in need. So if the amount of your income balances out, there's no need to pay an another, additional… well, it would be almost be like a fourth tithe to the Church because the government's already taking your money and distributing it to those that are in need. And so we're not requiring that. And so you take that into account in your personal finances, take into account the government-assisted programs.
And so if, for whatever reason, you're earning money that they're not taking what would be a third tithe, then are you obligated to pay the rest to the assistance program of the Church? Well, yeah, it makes sense, that makes sense to do that. And so third tithe is something that we still, scripturally, we have to obey. And so just don't pass the buck and say, "Well, paid my taxes, so it must be covered." Don't take it that lightly. You know, because this is something that God has said is a really serious matter. And so we take that into account. Now, when the Church assists individuals who are needy, those who may be widows or fatherless and difficult situations like that on fixed incomes, we take into account that the government does help. And so those that are in need, we help them and we assist them to get on every government program that might be possible to assist them with Medicare, or Social Security, or waivers, or whatever it might be so we can take advantage of the money that we as church members have paid to the government. We want to take advantage of that because that's one of the reasons we give it, and so we take it.
Now, oftentimes, that's not enough. Social Security is not enough, the waiver is not enough, the Medicaid isn't enough. And so then we have a responsibility as God's Church to help the fatherless, to help the widow, to help those who are genuinely in need. And of course, since it's the ministry that generally is more aware of the needs of our members, that third tithe that might be paid in addition to the government goes to the Church, so that they can distribute it fairly and equitably to those who are in need. And so what a blessing it is to be able to help those that are truly hurting. And God's given us that third tithe in order to accomplish just that.
I thought, maybe not to mention this, but I should probably say that our church has been robbed recently. Thankfully, nobody's hurt, no problems in that way, but it does seem evident, more than one person's been responsible. It seems maybe many were responsible. And unfortunately, there's no assurances it won't happen again. And the really unfortunate thing is it seems that it's come from members of the Church. That it's kind of an inside job. I mean, it's bad enough theft has occurred, but hard to imagine that brethren of the Church of God would participate in a terrible crime. I mean, we can hope people would repent and change and repay what's been taken. But we can only hope.
I mean, I've even heard that this money has gone for things like cars, or Starbucks, iPhones, houses, clothes, eating out. I mean, we don't know the list of subjects, but God knows. I mean, how much was taken? You might ask that, how much has been taken? Not really determined. But we know it's probably… what? Hundreds of thousands of dollars. And you know how it's happened? How could that possibly happen? It's when people don't give God His tithe. When we don't put God first, when we don't give our best, when we give God our leftovers, isn't it the same as robbing the Church? And when you look at what Malachi tells us, he tells it in a little bit different terms. And hopefully, you weren't thinking, "Oh, somebody upstairs is taking the money." No, hopefully, that's not the case. No, that's not the case. You can rely on the fact that when you give your money, the Church protects it and keeps it, and nobody is stealing it in that sense.
But have we robbed God? Have we passed the buck? Or are we fulfilling our God-given responsibilities? I mean, that's really what it comes down to. Turn the Malachi 3:8 Malachi 3:8Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings.
American King James Version×. You're probably familiar with it. Malachi tells that same story, as surprising as it may be to think that somebody stealing from the Church, that's exactly what Malachi says. Malachi 3:8 Malachi 3:8Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings.
American King James Version×, "Will a man rob God?" How in the world could that happen? But Malachi says, "Yet you have robbed Me! You say, 'In what way have we robbed You?'" Answer? “Tithes and offerings.” Tithes and offerings. So Malachi forces us, like that story I told, to think in real terms. Where do I stand in relationship to God, His financial system, and the way the world looks at money? Do we have a confidence in this world system, or in the way God says we should manage our finances? He says very clearly, look down to verse 10, verse 10, He says, "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in…" Whose house? …God's house. "In My house," God says. "Bring in all the tithes in the storehouse, that there may be food in My house," in the Church today. He says, "'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 a blessing there will not be the room enough to receive it.'"
Boy, I'm sure you can imagine a lot. But here we see God's perspective on this. He wants to bless us. He wants to see us put Him first. And we recognize His system, that His real purpose is, "Yes, we support the work, we preach the gospel, we prepare a people." But primarily, we put God first in our lives. God is foremost in our lives. And when we put God first in our giving, where is He in all the other parts of our life? I think He's first in all those areas then. When He comes first, He's first everywhere. We pay God first. We put Him first and we don't pass the buck, we don't shirk our responsibility, and we don't reverse the process either. Well, if there's anything left after I get everything I want, God, I'll give you something. No, we don't do that. That's what was happening in Malachi's day. They were giving God the leftovers. We can't do that. We can't do that.
Now, oftentimes, we'll read this robbery story and we stop right there. We stop at verse 10 and we see this great blessing when we tithe, that God is going to pour out from the windows of heaven, great blessing, and there's no doubt He will do that. And we begin to imagine, "Wow, if I give God, He's going to, boy, make that savings account of mine just balloon." And we have a tendency to think in those terms alone. But is that really what He's saying when He says “such a blessing? Well, if we don't read verse 11, I think we miss out on the real significance here in Malachi. And notice what He says in verse 11, not only will the windows of heaven open when we bring our tithes, but He also says, “'I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes… I'll rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ says the Lord of hosts.” And so thinking back to Malachi's day, agricultural system, wow, God's going to rebuke the devourer. Get out of here, you rotten locust, the grasshopper, you ain't having this. And so we think in those terms. He's not going to take the fruit, he's not going to take the crops. God's going to rebuke that terrible insect.
But wait a second, we're spiritual Israel. How is God going to pour out these blessings to us? I mean, look at that passage. Who is the devourer? That's Satan. Satan would love to eat us up. Who is the vine? Christ is the vine. We are the branches. The vine won't fail. And what does it do? Well, what's the fruit? Our spiritual growth, our character, our spiritual character. What's the field? That's our life. That's our life. What does God promise to do? He will stay the hand of Satan. As we obey God, it will produce spiritual fruit in our life through Jesus Christ. And in the field of our life, we will prosper, not necessarily monetarily millionaires, it's not what He's talking about, but spiritually speaking, we will be living, breathing examples of Jesus Christ and His way. That's what He's talking about. And so He's reminding us here, if we can trust God with our eternal destiny, do you think we can trust Him with our money, with our careers, with our finances, with our giving?
I mean, in the end, when we fall short in this area, who are we really stealing from? I mean, yes, we're stealing from God, but we're robbing ourselves as well. We're robbing ourselves of spiritual blessings. We're robbing ourselves of God's provision. We're robbing the Church of the ability to meet the needs of others. That's what's really happening. So as we consider God's financial system, let's make sure we look at it personally. Make sure our own personal financial train is on the track. And in every area of our life, we need to make sure we're different than what's going out in our culture, in the society around us. Let's take personal responsibility. And by taking personal responsibility, we will dedicate ourselves to be good and faithful stewards of all of these things that God has given us. And when we do that, we'll be sure that we don't pass the buck.