That which has been set apart according to the Scriptures as belonging to the Lord, constitutes the revenue of the gospel, and is no longer ours. It is no better than sacrilege for a man to take from God's treasury in order to serve himself or to serve others in their secular business. Some have been at fault in diverting from the altar of God that which has been especially dedicated to Him. All should regard this matter in the right light. Let no one, when brought into a strait place, take money consecrated to religious purposes, and use it for his own advantage, soothing his conscience by saying that he will repay it at some future time. Far better cut down the expenses to correspond with the income, to restrict the wants and live within the means, than to use the Lord's money for secular purposes.
The Use of the Tithe
God has given special direction as to the use of the tithe. He does not design that His work shall be crippled
for want of means. That there may be no haphazard work and error, He has made our duty on these points very plain. The portion that God has reserved for Himself is not to be diverted to any other purpose than that which He has specified. Let none feel at liberty to retain their tithe, to use according to their own judgement. They are not to use it for themselves in an emergency, nor to apply it as they see fit, even in what they may regard as the Lord's work.
The minister should, by precept and example, teach the people to regard the tithe as sacred. He should not feel that he can retain and apply it according to his own judgement because he is a minister. It is not his. He is not at liberty to devote to himself whatever he thinks is his due. He should not give his influence to any plans for diverting from their legitimate use the tithes and offerings dedicated to God. They are to be placed in His treasury, and held sacred for His service as He has appointed.
God desires all His stewards to be exact in following divine arrangements. They are not to offset the Lord's plans by performing some deed of charity, or giving some gift or some offering, when or how they, the human agents, shall see fit. It is very poor policy for men to seek to improve on God's plan, and invent a makeshift, averaging up their good impulses on this and that occasion, and offsetting them against God's requirements. God calls upon all to give their influence to His own arrangement. He has made His plan known; and all who would co-operate with Him must carry out this plan, instead of daring to attempt an improvement on it.
The Lord instructed Moses, for Israel, "Thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they may bring thee pure oil olive beaten for light, to cause the lamp to burn always."[1 EX, 27:20.] This was to be a continual offering, that the house of God might be properly supplied with that which was necessary for His service. His people to-day are to remember that the house of worship is the Lord's property, and that it is to be scrupulously cared for. But the funds for this work are not to come from the tithe.
A very plain, definite message has been given to me for our people. I am bidden to tell them that they are making a mistake in applying the tithe to various objects, which, though good in themselves, are not the object to which the Lord has said that the tithe should be applied. Those who make this use of the tithe are departing from the Lord's arrangement. God will judge for these things.
One reasons that the tithe may be applied to school purposes. Still others reason that canvassers and colporteurs should be supported from the tithe. But a great mistake is made when the tithe is drawn from the object for which it is to be used -- the support of the ministers. There should be to-day in the field one hundred well-qualified labourers where now there is but one.
A Solemn Obligation
The tithe is sacred, reserved by God for Himself. It is to be brought into His treasury to be used to sustain the gospel labourers in their work. For a long time the Lord has been robbed because there are those who
do not realise that the tithe is God's reserved portion. Some have been dissatisfied, and have said, "I will not longer pay my tithe; for I have no confidence in the way things are managed at the heart of the work." But will you rob God because you think the management of the work is not right? Make your complaint, plainly and openly, in the right spirit, to the proper ones. Send in your petitions for things to be adjusted and set in order; but do not withdraw from the work of God, and prove unfaithful, because others are not doing right.
Read carefully the third chapter of Malachi, and see what God says about the tithe. If our churches will take their stand upon the Lord's word, and be faithful in paying their tithe into His treasury, more labourers will be encouraged to take up ministerial work. More men would give themselves to the ministry were they not told of the depleted treasury. There should be an abundant supply in the Lord's treasury, and there would be if selfish hearts and hands had not withheld the tithes, or made use of them to support other lines of work.
God's reserved resources are to be used in no such haphazard way. The tithe is the Lord's, and those who meddle with it will be punished with the loss of their heavenly treasure, unless they repent. Let the work no longer be hedged up because the tithe has been diverted into various channels other than the one to which the Lord has said it should go. Provision is to be made for these other lines of work. They are to be sustained, but not from the tithe. God has not changed; the tithe is still to be used for the support of the ministry. The opening of new fields
requires more ministerial efficiency than we now have, and there must be means in the treasury.
Those who go forth as ministers have a solemn responsibility devolving upon them, which is strangely neglected. Some enjoy preaching, but they do not give personal labour to the churches. There is great need of instruction concerning obligations and duties to God, especially in regard to paying an honest tithe. Our ministers would feel sadly aggrieved if they were not promptly paid for their labour; but will they consider that there must be meat in the treasure-house of God wherewith to sustain the labourers? If they fail to do their whole duty in educating the people to be faithful in paying to God His own, there will be a shortage of means in the treasury to carry forward the Lord's work.
The overseer of the flock of God should faithfully discharge his duty. If he takes the position that, because this is not pleasant to him, he will leave it for some one else to do, he is not a faithful worker. Let him read in Malachi the words of the Lord charging the people with robbery toward God in withholding the tithes. The mighty God declares, "Ye are cursed with a curse."[2 Mal. 3:9] When the one who ministers in word and doctrine sees the people pursuing a course that will bring this curse upon them, how can he neglect his duty to give them instruction and warning? Every church-member should be taught to be faithful in paying an honest tithe.-- "Testimonies for the Church," vol. IX, pages 246-251 .