How are we able to give you The Plain Truth — without subscription price or advertising revenue? Because many people have voluntarily become co-workers, giving of their financial means so that we may give to you! Many of these volunteer co-workers tithe their income. They find that it pays! We give you here an explanation of why they tithe.
We all establish a sense of possession very early in life. My toys are very distinct from your toys. So are my clothes, my bed, my room, my house, my mommy and my daddy. We all begin with self-consciousness and work outward. Yet as we grow older, we begin to realize that, even though we call it my school, my city and my country, we do not have the same claim to these things as we do to my toys, my clothes or my bed. I realized my toys were mine because my father, aunt, sister, mother or friend had given them to me. Later, I learned a more direct sense of ownership because I worked to earn money which I spent to make things mine. Then my sense of possession was more mature. The thing which was mine was mine by choice — not just something someone else might think I would like — and by right of payment. I began to think more consciously about the day when I would buy a house and a car like Dad. But what seemed simple at first became more complex. I realized skills were necessary for a job to earn money in order to purchase the things I needed and wanted. Therefore, I had to look forward to a great deal more schooling before I would be as competent as my father, in order to possess and own more things.
I must admit it" was a little disappointing when I learned that Dad and Mom didn't really own our house and property. Later I learned about banks and mortgages. Swiftly on the heels of this knowledge came the realization that, even if banks and creditors were not involved, we would still have to pay for the privilege of calling the house we lived in "ours" in the form of tax payments! State, county and even city governments all held prior claim and right to demand payment for our right to say "This is our house!" Then, of course, came the shock that the income out of which I could purchase all these things and rights also had a tax on it, a prior claim. City, county, state and especially federal governments all insisted on a lawful demand and prior right to my money! Many little disillusionments were interspersed with these major experiences. All of you are aware of the seemingly endless demands on your income: sales taxes, excise, import and hidden taxes, license fees and assessments, tolls and surcharges, social security, insurance, pension, health and medical deductions, and union dues — until total deductions nearly equal your take-home pay. With not enough money to make ends meet, you borrow money. Then interest and lending fees are added to the already seemingly insuperable burdens of ownership. Some additional costs I didn't become aware of until much later also add their weight. One of these is outright theft from your possessions. Another is employee theft. It is estimated that the cost of employee filching adds about 15% to the cost of items you buy; government corruption and ignorance of how to manage your money further eats up your take-home pay. After all these realizations had eroded my concept of possession to a mere shadow of its former self, I was faced with an understanding that was the greatest shock of all! I discovered God had a prior claim to my income that superseded government claims and personal desires! He insisted on 10% off the top! He seems to think His claim comes first! I don't mean to be funny in the wrong way, but have you ever thought that there might be a fee for the license to live; that there might be a tax for the sun, moon and stars, not to mention the earth which we all — governments and individuals alike — take too much for granted and that the One who made and now owns all things might want a little return on His investment? Don't misunderstand. It rains on the just and the unjust alike. God does not charge us anything for His utilities. He freely gives us everything we have, beginning with life itself. But it is an interesting thought. He is God, after all, and if He so chooses to charge us for His many services that we take for granted, I wonder what the rate would be? Well anyway, thankfully all these are His free gifts to us!
Are All These Prior Claims Legitimate?
When I was very little, I realized that my toys, which had been given to me, could be taken away by my parents at any time — they had prior claim on them. As I grew older, I realized lowed certain duties and obedience to my parents just by virtue of the fact that they fed, clothed and sheltered me. My parents' prior claim was legitimate. Later, I came to see that governments which supply us with certain security and services exercise a prior claim on our possessions and income by virtue of their sober responsibilities. These are perfectly legitimate prior claims. Can any of us acknowledge our parents' and our government's prior claim as being legitimate and believe, on the other hand, that God's is not? There is a saying that surely must be universal: "There is nothing surer than death and taxes!" I have heard of people who have gotten away with tax evasion, but have you ever heard of someone who got away with death evasion? Solomon puts it down wisely and succinctly: "No one can hold back his spirit from departing; no one has the power to prevent his day of death, for there is no discharge from that obligation and that dark battle. Certainly a man's wickedness is not going to help him then"! (Eccl. 8:8, The Living Bible.) Do not misunderstand. I am not saying that you can buy life from God with tithe money. God cannot be bribed, and life is God's gift that cannot be purchased! But then no one would construe that you buy your house from the government when you pay taxes on it either — at least no reasoning person would. What is it then that you do get in return for the due payment of taxes? You get continued permission to live in freedom under the form of the government to whom you pay taxes! Fortunately for you and me, God is not nearly so harsh as human governments when it comes to delinquent taxes — but He knows what you owe Him. You may not have been aware of His prior right. However, it's your responsibility to act on that knowledge when you do become aware of it.
The Government Doesn't Exist!
Have you ever seen a government? I've read about government. I've seen buildings where they tell me the government resides. I've read laws the government puts out — especially about my money! I've talked to people who say that they represent the government. I've also read about people being jailed, fined and maligned by the government. Everybody seems to believe there is a government. But I don't believe government exists! To quickly borrow a phrase from the apostle Paul, let me hasten to say, "I speak as a fool!" Permit me a little more foolishness. How far do you think I would get with my disbelief in the existence of government? If I didn't pay my property tax, it wouldn't be long before the government would be telling me — and backing it up with force, if necessary — that my property no longer belonged to me! If I paid no tax on my income — and stubbornly refused to do so on the basis of my disbelief in government — people who do believe in government and claim to represent it would remove me from all my freedoms and security and put me behind bars until I had paid my debt to "society"! The only consolation I would have would be that I could spend the money I didn't spend on taxes for things I might want — for the short space of time between the committing of the crime of not paying taxes and the time of being apprehended for that crime. Solomon's logic is hard to beat in this connection. Solomon says: "Because God does not punish sinners instantly, people feel it is safe to do wrong. But though a man sins a hundred times and still lives, I know very well that those who fear God will be better off" (Eccl. 8:11-12, The Living Bible). You see, whether I believe government exists or not has nothing to do with the actual fact. The government, in time, proves in a very persuasive manner that it does indeed exist! The same reasoning applies to God. My point is not to prove God exists in this article. (However, we have a free booklet on the subject if you'd like. Just read Does God Exist?) In fact, I'm sort of taking for granted that anyone reading an article like this has at least a hunch, if not a conviction, that God does exist!
The First Reason I Tithe
I tithe because God exists! Let's face it. It's the reason upon which all the other reasons hang. God lives! If the government didn't exist, you know you would not pay taxes. You and I pay taxes because of two basic reasons based on our belief that government does exist: (1) If we pay, the government does things for us; and (2) if we don't pay, the government does things to us! Certain benefits accrue to us by the paying of taxes, and certain punishments come if we don't. In truth, I believe God exists just the same as I believe government exists. I pay my tithes. I pay my taxes. I am happily at peace with God and government. I follow Jesus' advice: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matt. 22:21). You and I can only "own" things in a partial way for a short time, with many restrictions. Even governments rise and fall, and the governmental stamp of ownership on earth is a passing thing. I tithe for the same reason as did Abraham, the father of the faithful. He gave his tithe to Melchizedek, who was the earthly representative and the high priest of the Most High God whom Abraham recognized as the Possessor of Heaven and Earth. I tithe because God is the true and ultimate owner of everything. Read about it in Genesis 14, beginning in verse 18. Also read Psalms 24:1 — "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." That's why God has prior claim on everyone's possessions and income. Any rules He wishes to apply or taxes He wishes to assess come first! God explained this principle to the ancient Israelites to whom He gave the possession of the Holy Land: "The land shall not be sold into perpetual ownership, for the land is Mine; you are [only] strangers and temporary residents with Me" (Lev. 25:23, The Amplified Bible). God is the One who owns everything forever! It is wise to keep on the good side of such a powerful Landlord! But I must also say that after practicing tithing for many years, I have learned to do it joyfully!
The Bible Teaches Tithing
The Bible is very plain on the principle of tithing. Tithing is mentioned in Genesis 14, which was long before the law was codified and given from Sinai's top. Long before there was an Israel, our father Abraham (by faith, Romans 4:16 and Galatians 3:29) practiced tithing. So
God blesses those who faithfully pay His tithes so that the 90% that they keep for themselves will spread out to accomplish what the 100% would have.
did Jacob (see Genesis 28:22). Surely there is no question about it being a law in Israel. "And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service... even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Num. 18:21). This law itself changed the manner of tithing in the sense of to whom it was paid at that time. Abraham paid his tithe to Melchizedek, God's representative on earth in his time. It is not stated to whom Jacob paid his tithes, but he did pay them. The tithe belongs to God. God governs to whom it is to be paid. In Abraham's day it was Melchizedek. At the establishment of ancient Israel as a nation, Melchizedek did not make himself available to have tithes paid directly to him. God made a change in the law regarding tithing. He' didn't alter the amount: He just changed the recipient, the one(s) to whom it should be paid. That's why He says, "I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel." The tenth (tithe) belongs to God, and God at this time chose to give it to Levi. The Levites were at that time performing the religious duties for the church of that day. Stephen called Israel the "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38). From the time God gave the tenth (tithe) to the Levites until the time of the establishment of the New Testament Church of God, the law of tithing remained in effect with no further change regarding to whom the tithes should be paid. But Christ established a ministry called by the Spirit and not chosen only through the lineage of Levi. He did away with the need for sacrifices by His own sacrifice; thus temple services were no longer required. He commanded His own Spirit-filled ministry: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). In the New Testament period the services God commanded to be performed for all people changed, and with that change the tithes were to be paid to His servants doing His service to mankind. For the reader who would like a more detailed and technical exposition of the tithing system, read our free booklet entitled Your Best Investment.
I Like God's Blessings
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Mal. 3:10). Or, as it expresses it at the end of Deuteronomy 14 where tithing is discussed, one of the main biblical reasons given is "that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest" (verse 29). It is not wrong to want to be blessed by God. And often the blessing does not come in the form of immediate monetary increase. In fact, I'm sure from some sour examples I'm personally familiar with that if someone tithes with a belligerent attitude, just to "prove" tithing doesn't work, sure enough it doesn't for him — until his attitude changes! Paul explains the principle of the attitude toward giving, and it most certainly pertains to giving to God "not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver"! (II Cor. 9:7.) God, the giver of all good gifts, hopes we will all learn to give lovingly, generously, even eagerly as He gives. I will not apologize for God's blessing. No one can outgive God. There are thousands of others among our inner family of co-workers who help support this worldwide Work of God and who share experience with me in this. Let me quote just a few excerpts from letters they have sent to us as a witness that God indeed blesses those who tithe:
My husband and I have been tithing for a little more than a year now, and I would like to say that God always keeps His promises. After tithing about six months, my husband received a raise that was actually more than we had given in tithes. We have never found tithing to be a financial burden, but it has been a true blessing. We feel privileged to help in God's Work. Here is our tithe, and our thanks to you for hitting us help. Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. R., Roanoke, Virginia
We've found that it is really true about what blessings are bestowed when one tithes. We do find more and more that we are better able to enjoy our earnings, and not just be squeaking through like before. And we have also had occasional unexpected opportunities to earn extra money and still not be interfering with the time we need to spend together as a family. In fact, we have more time to enjoy than before. Thank you very much for the guidance you've been instrumental in bringing us! Mr. and Mrs. P. G., Greenfield, Maryland
Since I have started sending a tithe regularly, my income has increased many times over. I have been able to payoff most of my debts and still have a little left over to spend as I please. Tithing certainly does help me with my financial problems. S.D., Houston, Texas
Now this doesn't mean that all those who begin tithing suddenly inherit a huge sum of money, or that God immediately performs some incredible miracle. But over the long haul, God blesses those who faithfully pay His tithes so that the 90% of income that they keep for themselves will spread out to accomplish what the 100% would have. God promises to prosper the tither. And God keeps His promises!
Don't Rob God
How long you can get away with evading taxes before you are indicted, tried, fined and/or jailed I don't know — nor will I find out because I pay them when they are due. How long anyone can be guilty of tithe evasion and not suffer the consequences without even realizing it is a question the answer to which I personally don't want to experience. Malachi admonished an end-time generation to repent. Immediately
Tithing helps teach you self-control. It teaches you to be responsible with all that God has given you financially. It teaches you to be a good steward.
after the verse where he explains that God does not change (Malachi 3:6), Malachi gives a specific example of an ordinance (or statute) God has not changed. It explains one way in which an individual or nation can begin to return to God: "Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye say, Wherein shall we return? "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation"! (Mal. 3:7-9.) I certainly don't want to be brought before the court of final judgment with the sin of having robbed God! Admittedly, this is a negative reason, but it is a reason, and a powerful one to me.
Can't Afford Not to Tithe
The fifth reason I tithe is that I can't afford not to tithe. And this reason is not as negative as it might first appear. So many demands are laid on our income, as I explained at the beginning of this article, that, when we come to the knowledge of tithing, it seems an impossible burden to be added. But the proof of practice of many thousands over many years shows this is not valid. When God begins to intervene in your life, He helps you in so many ways that you can't possibly recognize them all. Somehow, despite the mathematics and all the other prior-claim deductions, the ninety percent you are left with after you tithe covers much more of your needs than the 100% did before. Exactly how this works I don't know, but I do know it does. Thinking on it from time to time, I've come up with ideas. How many accidents have I been saved from because God is with me? I don't know. The troubles we all get into are easy to see, but what if we could see all the problems we were kept from! How many ' times have I been kept from illness (my doctor bills are virtually nil for a family of four)? How much has God given me grace and favor in the eyes of officials, employers and friends when I most needed it? Others also feel this way. Let me share with you the experiences of some who temporarily stopped tithing:
About two months ago I had all the money a person might need to cover himself in any emergency that might come up. At that time I was tithing to your program. But for some reason (I don't know why), I stopped tithing, and since then I have had more misfortune hit me than I feel like I can stand. It is just like an invisible hand turned everything against me. I had wanted to go to Pittsburgh, but my car is in need of repair and that was only a part of my misfortune. But you can bet before I get my car repaired that I will tithe at least ten percent, if not more, this coming payday. Now I sincerely believe that it really pays to tithe, and in more ways than one. Money is something that has never bothered me like it has a lot of people, though I know now that I must learn to use it wisely, or more so than I have. J. H., Engleside, Virginia
I know $3 is a very small amount to send for my tithe, but at present it is all I can afford. I was at one time. a faithful tithepayer, but because of certain circumstances I stopped. Since then I only live from payday to payday. Financially things have gotten so bad I really don't know what to do. Week in and week out creditors are asking for their money and I don't know where to get it from. The children (two boys) need clothes, and I can't get enough money for them or gas for the car without charging it and getting deeper in debt. So I looked back and started tithing again and wonder if you could send me the booklet Your Best Investment. J. L., Norco, Louisiana
Have a Part in God's Work
The Work God is doing today is financed by tithes and offerings. It is God's law of financing. We can't all be physically active in performing the Work. But we can all participate with our prayers as well as our money. There is a deep joy in knowing that my tithes and offerings are in part responsible for this magazine you have in your hand, for the Garner Ted Armstrong telecast and broadcast you and so many others hear, for the many booklets and articles that are sent free to others who ask for them, and for every facet of this great Work of God worldwide! There is a special feeling nobody can deny you that you experience from knowing that your tithes and offerings have a direct part in fulfilling the commission Jesus Christ gave His Church!
The Principle of Giving
Sharing in the responsibility of carrying the gospel to the world brings us into harmony with God's way of giving as opposed to the world's way of getting. Paul quoted Jesus as saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Tithing teaches this principle. Tithing is for the service of others. Tithing is outgoing. Tithing weans you quickly from the "love of money" which is a "root of all evil" as Paul warns Timothy in I Timothy 6:10. You begin to think of how you can give more so others can know more of God's truth. You begin to practice much more concern about the Kingdom of God and God's righteousness and much less concern about clothing, food and shelter as Matthew 6:24-34 teaches. Not that these basics are ignored, but they take on lesser importance. Besides, once we turn our attention in the right direction of giving, with a right attitude, God comes through with His promise that He gives in this context: "... All these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
This world says, "Buy now, pay later!" The "pay later" part is made to sound like good news. People get drawn into the credit syndrome to such an extent that they are bound in an interest and fee-paying cycle that seems impossible to break. "Lust" is the guide word. "Get" is the message. Hardly anyone seems to realize that a person has only so much money in a lifetime to spend. If he spends much of it on interest and purchases that feed his vanity — keeping up with the Joneses — he is wasting a great amount of his buying capacity on a big, fat nothing! Tithing helps teach you the principle of self-control. It teaches you to be responsible with all that God has given you financially. It teaches you to be a good steward. It teaches you budgeting. It teaches you to be faithful with the little you have, so that you may share in the greater blessings of God later. It helps teach you to plan and think ahead, to be circumspect, not careless, to be realistic and not live in a world of lust-fantasy! (If you need help in these particular phases of money management, read our free booklet entitled Managing Your Personal Finances.)
Put God First
God's tithe is the first tenth of your income. When you pay it, you focus your attention and interest on God and away from self-interest. God says: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21). We all too often put our trust in things instead of God. Some put trust in gold and silver (money) to see them through their trials, but God warns that a time will come soon when He will intervene in mankind's affairs. "In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold [anything we trust in and worship is an idol], which they made each one for himself to worship; to the moles and to the bats" (Isa. 2:20). A man's money too easily becomes his god — or it comes between him and his God. Money is close to a man's heart, and when he freely gives to God and to others through God and His Work, his heart, interest and direction of life all focus on God! And that's a very good reason to tithe!
Eternal Partnership With God
At the beginning of this article I explained the concept of possession and ownership. I explained how God is the ultimate owner of all things, the Possessor of Heaven and Earth! When He calls you to understand this, when you realize God really does exist, that He has a message for the world today arid that He's bringing His Kingdom soon, then you are called to a partnership with God! God made all things, and you and me. But God is not selfish. He has invited you and me to share His eternal glory with Him. He has urged us to be partakers of the divine nature, to share His mind, His heart, His kingdom. He has given us life. He has given us the earth and the good things that come from it. He wants to give us much more! "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8:16-17). Can you comprehend what this means? God, the Father, is Possessor of Heaven and Earth — He owns everything! It is His to give. He has chosen to give it all to His Son, Jesus Christ, and He says we were born to share that gift! That total partnership and sharing in the — eternal possession of all there is begins at the resurrection, when we can be born into the very family of God as His sons! But knowing about it is possible now. Beginning to live toward that goal starts now. I tithe because I want to be God's partner now and forever!