Some have not come up and united in the plan of systematic benevolence, excusing themselves because they were not free from debt. They plead that they must first "owe no man anything." But the fact that they are in debt does not excuse them. I saw that they should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. Some feel conscientious to "owe no man anything," and think that God can require nothing of them until their debts are all paid. Here they deceive themselves. They fail to render to God the things that are His. Everyone must bring to the Lord a suitable offering. Those who are in debt should take the amount of their debts from what they possess, and give a proportion of the remainder.
Some have felt under sacred obligations to their children.
They must give each a portion, but feel themselves unable to raise means to aid the cause of God. They make the excuse that they have a duty to their children. This may be right, but their first duty is to God. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. Rob not God by withholding from Him your tithes and offerings. It is the first sacred duty to render to God a suitable proportion. Let no one throw in his claims and lead you to rob God. Let not your children steal your offering from God's altar for their own benefit.
I saw that anciently the covetousness of some led them to withhold a suitable proportion; they made their offering stinted. This was recorded in heaven, and they were cursed in their harvest and their flocks just as they withheld. Some were visited with affliction in their families. God would not accept a lame offering. It must be without blemish, the best of their flocks, and the best fruits of their fields. And it must be a freewill offering, if they would have the blessing of the Lord rest upon their families and their possessions.
The case of Ananias and Sapphira was presented before me to illustrate the course of those who put down their property below its value. They pretended to make a freewill offering of their possessions to the Lord. Said Peter: "Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?" The answer was: "Yea, for so much." Some in this evil age would not consider that a lie. But the Lord regarded it thus. They had sold it for so much, and much more. They had professed to consecrate all to God. To Him they had dissembled, and their retribution lingered not.
I saw that in the arrangement of systematic benevolence, hearts will be tested and proved. It is a constant, living test. It brings one to understand his own heart, to see whether the truth or the love of the world predominates. Here is a test for the naturally selfish and covetous. They will put down their possessions at very low figures. Here they
dissemble. Said the angel: "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully." Angels are watching the development of character, and the acts of such are carried to heaven by the heavenly messengers. Some will be visited of God for these things, and their increase will be brought down to their figures. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself." Proverbs 11:24, 25.
All are required to have an interest in this work. Those who use tobacco, tea, and coffee should lay aside those idols, and put their cost into the treasury of the Lord. Some have never made a sacrifice for the cause of God, and are asleep as to what God requires of them. Some of the very poorest will have the greatest struggle to deny themselves of these stimulants. This individual sacrifice is not required because the cause of God is suffering for means. But every heart will be tested, every character developed. It is principle that God's people must act upon. The living principle must be carried out in the life.
"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. 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. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts." I saw that this scripture has been misapplied to speaking and praying in meeting. The prophecy has a special application to the last days, and teaches God's people their duty to bring a proportion of their substance as a freewill offering to the Lord.