If God is intelligent enough to create the universe, wouldn't He be smart enough to understand finances? Then why not listen to what God reveals, in the Bible, about the subject?
Most people assume that tithing is the only law governing finances in the Bible — if they even believe in tithing! They could not be more wrong! Granted, Abraham paid tithes to God's High Priest, Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20). Granted, too, that man — not just the House of Israel and Judah — robs God when tithes and offerings are not paid. Read it for yourself: "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you?" And God answers, "In tithes and offerings" (Mal. 3:8-12). Robbing God is a spiritual sin. And all men are commanded to quit sinning — that includes the sin of withholding God's tithes. But tithing is not the only law governing financial well-being. Not at a1l!
The right to property
Consider this: God created the earth. It is His. It is His to do with as He chooses. He has chosen to put man on the earth. To the first man and woman, God revealed basic spiritual knowledge. That must have included one of the basic principles of love: You shall not steal (Ex. 20:15). When the first man, Adam, sinned, he stole fruit from a tree that God had put off limits to man. God had reserved that tree — the symbolic tree of the knowledge of good and evil — for Himself. It was God's property. Man should have learned from this experience the importance God attaches to the right to property. The first right or claim to property revealed in the Bible is, of course, God's claim to the earth (not to mention the universe). Because the earth is God's, He has a prior claim to all that man produces from the earth. But God, being a fair God, set limits on Himself. He limited His claim to 10 percent. That is why it is called, in English, a tithe. Tithe is an old English word meaning "tenth." In addition, God asks human beings to give generously, as each one is prospered. That is the give way - the way of love and outgoing concern for others. But God's claim to the earth is revealed in another way, in addition to tithing. No nation on earth understands and practices what we are about to understand. If the nations did, there would not be periods of great depression or periods of massive inflation. The God who owns the earth by right of creation determines the bounds of national and tribal territories — and also the time that nations and peoples are permitted to live on their allotted lands. "And he [God] made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation" (Acts 17:26, Revised Standard Version). In the days of Moses and Joshua, God determined that the Canaanites inhabiting the eastern Mediterranean coastlands had forfeited their right to the land because of their sins. God had earlier promised this land to Abraham and his descendants. Now the time had come to claim that physical promise. God subdued the land before Joshua. The land was then divided among the tribes of Israel by lot. You will find this recorded in Joshua, beginning with chapter 13, verse 7, and continuing through chapter 19. Nearly seven chapters of your Bible are devoted to the careful apportioning of the land to each of the families of Israel. God was in charge. After all, the earth is His. He determined, by lot, the right to property of His people. No other nation in human history had God held so near that He took special care to see that each of the heads of families had a place to live and land to cultivate. God was concerned that His nation would not become a country of landlords and impoverished tenants. But this is not all. God had earlier revealed, in Moses' day, how the property He would allot was to be managed. God, you see, is not only Creator, He is also manager and financial adviser. How does God want the land that is ultimately His managed?
The forgotten jubilee
Turn to Leviticus 25, beginning especially with verse 8. Every 50 years a proclamation was to be made throughout the land. Its purpose was to bring jubilation to human hearts, a chance to have a fresh start in life. Here is what we read — and what the nations of this world seem to know nothing about: "And you shall number seven sabbaths of years unto you [explained in the preceding seven verses 1, seven times seven years; and there shall be unto you the days of seven sabbaths of years, even forty and nine years. Then shall you make proclamation with the blast of the horn... throughout all your land. "And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and you shall return every man unto his possession, and you shall return every man unto his family" (verses 8-10, Jewish Publication Society translation). Further, in verse 23, God said to Moses, "And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and settlers with Me." And verse 24, "And in all the land of your possession you shall grant a redemption for the land." What nation today follows these principles? Is it any wonder that about every 45 to 56 years the industrial world has suffered a major economic collapse? God set the jubilee in motion to correct just such problems. There need not have been the economic crisis of the 1780s, for example, that ultimately led to the rise of Napoleon. Nor the crises of the 1830s, the 1880s, nor the Great Depression of the 1930s that led to the rise of Hitler. Not only could the economic troubles of these near 50-year periods have been averted, but so could the terrible wars that often ensued. An economic roller coaster is right now, in the 1980s, in motion. And the price we are paying for having so far escaped another Great Depression is the recent massive inflation. To avoid either ditch of inflation or depression, the money managers of this world are leading us through the rocky shoals of "stagflation." Forgotten altogether is God's cure — every 50 years a period of rejoicing in place of economic collapse or inflation. What could have been more wonderful in this material world?
How it would have worked
Here, in brief, is how it would have worked. If anyone became impoverished through some kind of mismanagement or poor judgment (and that includes get-rich-quick schemes), he could sell some of his land. But his relatives had an immediate right to exercise the give principle and redeem — buy back — the land from the new owner (Lev. 25:25). Relatives were expected to care for each other. Or if the fellow who had become temporarily poor had accumulated money enough, he could buy back the land at any time and return to his possession (verses 26-27). But if no one of his extended family could help him and he continued to be poor, then he always had the hope of a new start in the jubilee. The creditor who bought some of his land had to relinquish use of it at the next jubilee (verse 28). Agricultural-land and residential lots in small farming towns — the unwalled villages of antiquity (verse 31) — were never sold in perpetuity. What a break for the small farmer! What a difference this would make in the quality of agriculture. Huge agribusinesses that have developed since the Great Depression would, if the jubilee were practiced today, vanish with one blow on the ram's horn on the Day of Atonement every 50 years (verse 9).
Developing one's talents is a major key to coping with the economic roller coaster of the 1980s. A willingness to work and being ready for new opportunities are important, as are faith in God and keeping one's heart in God's Work.
And families living in small farming towns would never permanently lose title to their homes through poverty. They and their children could receive them back free and clear every jubilee — if they could not redeem them (buy them back) earlier. And another of the plagues of the modern world — the flight of millions of poor from the land to the major cities in search of elusive prosperity — would not exist. Wealth would not be concentrated in the hands of the few throughout the countryside. God, of course, wisely foresaw that invested capital in major cities — the walled towns of antiquity (verses 29-30) — should be treated differently. A former owner had a right of redemption for only a year on a piece of property he may have sold. If neither he nor his relatives could afford to buy back such city property, the new owner became the title holder in perpetuity. This law had the effect of encouraging urban development. Urban blight would have been discouraged.
Why not enforced today
Jesus announced that the law of the jubilee would be a cornerstone in reestablishing the government of God on earth (Luke 4:16-19). When He returns He will reinstitute the jubilee — the "acceptable year of the Lord." This He quoted from Isaiah 61:2. All commentators have correctly understood the reference in Isaiah to be to the jubilee. Today, the nations have forgotten God and God's law. Their governments have assumed to themselves the right to determine matters of inheritance, property title and transfer — all contrary to the laws of God. God, of course, has allowed it — to the end that the nations learn the bitter fruits of going their own ways. Jesus, in His ministry, refused to involve Himself in matters of inheritance in this world (Luke 12:13-14). So does the Worldwide Church of God today. Now is not the time God is restoring His government and His law to the world. He is only having an announcement made that He will restore it. Then, when Jesus Christ returns, the nations, tribes and peoples will be brought under the government of God and assigned their own inheritance for a thousand years. The jubilee will be enforced. No more will greed reign. Today, God expects each of us as individuals to tithe to His representatives, and to let farm land rest (lie fallow) according to the principles of Leviticus 25:1-7. But since title to property is today a secular matter regulated by the state, God's Church cannot announce a jubilee — which is a national, not an individual, spiritual matter. Every nation is reaping terrible economic penalties for not keeping the jubilee or the sabbaths of the land or tithing. And as long as we live in this world, we, too, reap some of the penalties brought on by the world's rejection of God's government and laws. Members who are farmers have little or no control over farm prices. Members who are workers have little or no power to keep the company for which they work solvent. And members who are businessmen must learn to deal with a world filled with greed and selfishness. Even the Jews have not been in a position to keep any jubilee since the days of the Assyrian invasion of their land.
A look at interest
One of the biggest economic curses today is high interest rates. Perhaps a more accurate and blunt way of wording it would be to say: One of the biggest economic curses today is interest! Let me explain. When God set up His nation Israel under Moses and Joshua, He gave them a fundamental law: "You shall not lend upon interest to your brother: interest of money, interest of victuals, interest of any thing that is lent upon interest" (Deut. 23:20, JPS). God did permit Israel, a physical nation living in this world, to charge interest of other nations, "but unto your brother you shall not lend upon interest; that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you put your hand unto, in the land whither you go in to possess it" (verse 21, JPS). This law, if applied today, would bring a nation renewed prosperity. To especially care for the poor, God not only instituted a third tithe fund every third and sixth year out of seven (Deut. 14:28-29, 26:12-15), but He gave the Israelites another command. They were to lend to the needy (Deut. 15:1-11). Such loans were to be without interest to a fellow Israelite. And if the loan, when past due, were not repaid by the end of the following sabbatical (seventh) year, the loan was to be forgiven. How much better this method than the modern human legal procedures governing bankruptcy courts. The specter of short-term debts was wiped out in ancient Israel every seven years. What a change that would make in today's credit-charge and revolving-charge society. Here is one source of inflation that would be plucked up by its roots. Jesus amplified the law on interest, given through Moses, in Luke 6:34-35. "Lend, hoping for nothing again," He said (verse 35). Paul was, later, inspired to prevent some from abusing others' generosity: "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (II Thess. 3:10). "For we hear," Paul continued, "that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread" (verses 11 -12). God's law is a law based on giving and outgoing concern for others. But that applies to the receiver as well as the giver. Jesus, of course, understood that lending to the poor and needy, whether Israelite or gentile, was quite a different matter from investing capital as in a business. Interest on return of invested capital in this kind of endeavor is permissible and expected. It is a form of legitimate profit. In the parable of the pounds, Jesus said, "Why then did you not put my money into the bank, and at my coming I should have collected it with interest?" (Luke 19:23, RSV).
Advice in a world gone wrong
How to meet the unexpected in a world beset with high interest rates, illiquidity, rising unemployment, business recession, escalating costs of defense — that is the question. Part of the answer we have already understood — faithful tithing, generous offerings, generosity to the needy, faith and trust in God who promises to bless the tithe-payer. Then there must be willingness to work. Some, in this world, seek job interviews to qualify to continue on unemployment. Others seek out "hiring now — will train" signs so they can become employed. They are willing to train for new responsibilities and to study nights to improve their skills. They are the ones who will get ahead financially. King Solomon understood the importance of being skilled in more than one field — of being willing to change jobs if necessary. Whether it involves your money or your talent, now more than ever it pays to diversify. In poetic words we read Solomon's advice for a world gone wrong — whether his or ours: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you shall find it after many days" (Eccl. 11:1, JPS). In the ordinary course of events, if you cast bread on waters of a lake or sea you most certainly will not find it after many days. It will be eaten up or sink to the bottom. But Solomon is giving a lesson in faith — you may catch, after many days, the fish that ate your bread. Continuing, "Divide a portion into seven, yea, even into eight; for you know not what evil shall be upon the earth" (verse 2). Develop your several talents, your skills, and don't put all your financial resources into one basket. Diversification enables you to survive when first one thing and then another turns sour. "If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; and if a tree fall in the south, or in the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there shall it be" (verse 3). You want to be where the rain falls and not on parched earth. You want to be where the tree falls. That means you prepare yourself to be there where the action is. You make yourself ready for the new opportunity.
Attitude of pioneering
It involves an attitude of pioneering, of fresh-mindedness, of faith in God, of being alert for new opportunities. No sitting in smoke-filled rooms or waiting drearily in lines for government handouts! "He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As you know not what is the way of the wind... even so you know not the work of God who doeth all things. "In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand; for you know not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good" (verses 4-6). Never cultivate the negative attitude that nothing will turn out right. Develop yourself, study, practice, look for new opportunities, see the silver lining on the clouds. Maybe, if you take the positive attitude Solomon had, more than one thing will turn out right! Keep in contact with God through prayer. Wives, be the kind of practical, farsighted woman described in Proverbs 31 (don't assume the only working wife is one who has a job outside the home). Everybody, seek counsel from those who know of job opportunities, go to the library for information, avoid get-rich-quick schemes (Eccl. 5:9). Above all, keep your heart in the Work of God. Be at church regularly. Share your problems with others. Bear each others' burdens.