what of the night?”
has come, the hour is striking and striking at you,
the hour and the end!" Eze. 7:6 (Moffatt)
LET’S TALK ABOUT MONEY
On our recent trip West in September, the issue of money - tithes and offerings - was raised in several places. In most instances, individuals, aware of the apostasy in the midst of nominal Adventism asked in sincerity - "Where shall I pay my tithes and/or offerings?" Others sought to raise the money question to discredit the presentation of historic Adventism. In one place, the first elder told members of the local Seventh-day Adventist Church that he had a "ten year file on Elder Grotheer." This sounded impressive. When confronted, it turned out to be simply that he had received the Thought Paper - "Watchman, What of the Night?" - for ten years! But based on his "file," he asserted that we were there merely to collect tithes and bleed the people of their means. What did he think - that we had some kind of a "Davenport Connection"? The simple truth is that at no Watchman Meeting do we even take an offering, much less solicit funds from anyone. However since the issue was made so prominent in recent meetings, we believe that all of our readers are entitled to know where we stand on such a crucial issue as tithes and offerings. The following presentation was prepared several months ago when the same issue was raised by Lewis Walton in his exchange of correspondence over the Questionnaire. We believe that its release now can serve an useful purpose in the light of further questions and baseless insinuations. (Underscored emphasis added.)
[Note: The payment of tithes and offerings by members of the world community of Seventh-day Adventists to entities separated from the Church Organization is the result of its perceived apostasy. These people categorically do not want their tithes and offerings to go to the Church Organization.]
[Text of Article:]
In the long shadows cast by the Davenport scandal, the subject of money is not very apropos. However, there is much that can be revealed as to real conviction when money and the work of God coincide. No one launching a program or a business can do so without first counting the cost, and to meet that cost, the question follows - "Where is the money going to come from?" Jesus Himself stated that no man "intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" (Luke 14:28)
About twelve years ago, a group of five men sat down in their first session as the Board of Directors of the Adventist Laymen's Foundation. Already the Thought Paper, "Watchman, What of the Night?" had been in circulation for four years. The mailing list was growing. Folk were writing in - some sending contributions unsolicited and asking for tax deductible receipts. To answer these requests was one of the main reasons why the Foundation was formed. One of the first items on the Agenda was how we would relate to the subject of money - money to operate. Should we solicit funds through the Thought Paper? Just how shall the work be underwritten? Though legally formed as a Foundation, there had been no grant, or any capital for its base. It would have to be solely dependent on the means provided by those who received the Thought Paper, and appreciated its objectives. Should we in circular letters let the readers know our needs? These and other questions were freely discussed. The final decision - voted as a regular operating policy - was that at no time under any circumstance would we solicit funds for the operation of the Foundation and its outreach.
There have been times when I, as the Executive Secretary, have been tempted to go to the Board and suggest - "Let's revise this policy. Perhaps with more funds, we could move forward more rapidly." But
p 2 -- no, we have rigidly held to this policy and at no time have we through the Thought Paper asked for money for the Foundation, nor have we sent letters to those on the mailing list soliciting funds. Why?
The discussion on the Board at that first meeting when formulating this guideline went something like this: Did we believe that which we were doing was of the Lord? The answer was emphatically - "Yes!" Then it was the Lord's work. Was He not, therefore, responsible to see that His work was sufficiently funded? The answer was again, "Yes. " This being so, He would provide through the moving of His Holy Spirit on human hearts. If we had to "beg" - and that is what soliciting is - then we would know that it is of human origin, and it was not the work we should be doing.
Soliciting money for religious purposes is quite revealing. If one appeals to men, and by so doing receives their support, then he will modulate his messages so as not to cut off the money supply. In whatever form a message is published - journal, paper, or folder - if there is a "begging" for money, you can mark down that work as of man, dependent on man, and will lead ultimately to the mark of the beast, which is really the mark of a man. See Rev. 13:18. God still owns the cattle upon a thousand hills; all the gold and silver are His. He has never made His work dependent upon man - the very stones would cry out, if human hearts, - many of them harder than stone - would not respond to the moving of the Holy Spirit.
To every one to whom means has been given, that individual becomes a steward of those means. To the child of God, this becomes an awesome responsibility. His monies dare not be used to support error, but only truth. Only the Spirit of Truth, through the Word of God, can tell him where truth is being proclaimed. Furthermore, his monies to be blessed of Heaven, can support only that which is of heavenly origin and planning: in other words, God's program, not one of human devising, no matter how seemingly worthy. This takes faith and the guidance of the Holy Spirit on the part of all parties - those proclaiming truth, believing that God is able to provide for that proclamation, and faith on the part of the giver that the Holy Spirit can speak to his heart and tell him what is right, and where the means entrusted to his stewardship are to be placed.
I know of individuals who have some money. I believe that I could go to these persons and by persuasion obtain from them some funds to be used in the work of the Foundation. However, if they did respond to my pleadings, I could only tell them, "Thank you." I could not bless them. Only as they gave freely - and that doesn't mean only liberally, but also free from pressure - can they receive a blessing from Heaven, if in their giving they responded to the moving of the Divine Spirit. How much better the blessing of Heaven, than the "mouthings" of men!
There are various human motivations that have been and are being used to obtain money. There is the poverty appeal. One is so poor, yet he is devoting his time and pittance for the proclamation of historic Adventism - even living on "Food Stamps" so that the work might go forward - surely you must give to support that program.
I am reminded of the time when we first accepted the Truth - now decades ago - that a retired minister in whose home the Sabbath services were conducted each week assumed as his responsibility the annual solicitation of the business men in the small Mid-western town in which we lived. During the year - on Sabbaths and other special occasions - this minister would dress as if coming right out of the most expensive men's store in town. But in doing Harvest Ingathering, as it was called then, he dressed as if in dire poverty - and he got the money! My mother was acquainted with some of the business people and when they found out we had become Seventh-day Adventists, she would be asked, "Are you unable to pay your preacher adequately?"
Then sometimes the appeal of sensationalism is used: The Number 666 is appearing out of nowhere, and if you are not careful, you are going to be "marked" without even realizing it. Just anything to catch a headline! Sometimes we forget that the God of Elijah is not in the fire, whirlwind, or storm, but in the still small
p 3 -- voice of truth. To proclaim the truth, pure and unadulterated, is sensational enough today in the midst of the winds of apostasy and heresy which are blowing with gale force.
What is the appeal of heaven? "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isa. 55:1) He that is thus sustained - with the wine of pure doctrine, with the milk of the Word, and who has drunk freely of the waters of salvation - will respond in deep heart-felt appreciation whether out of his poverty, or out of his abundance. How then can any human motivation be in any way justified? It cannot. The appeal to the senses by human devisings, whether by sensationalism, the cry of poverty, or ill health, removes the need and opportunity for the Holy Spirit to move upon the human heart in either appeal or a test. And God is testing us in how we use our means, even as He is testing us as to our discernment of truth. Often these two tests blend into one.
Some folk believe that they can use the monies entrusted to them as "leverage" to obtain some desired objective. I recall as a pastor in a certain large city, a member became unhappy with my ministry. He went to the Conference President and told him that he was withholding his tithe until I was removed as pastor of that church. Fortunately, the Conference President was one of those rare men who could not be motivated by pressure. He told the young man to keep his funds; the conference did not need such money. A few years ago, I was invited to a fine home, and in the course of the conversation I was informed that they had laid up a sum of tithe which they did not feel free to place with the Conference. They suggested that if I would tone down the Thought Paper this money would be given to the Foundation. My answer was a simple but firm - "No." (This has occurred more than once since then.) God's message does not carry a price tag; it cannot be bought neither is it for sale. Believing what God has given me to do as Editor of "Watchman, What of the Night?" is of Him, I must remain free to speak His Word, and let the "chips" fall where they will, so long as the axe is laid to the root of the tree. This concept is shared by each member of the Board of Directors, and they do not seek to influence my work, nor bind it about with directives. This leaves me answerable to God alone to Whom I must give a final accounting.
Perhaps it would be in order to tell you how this work began. I was employed in an educational project in the State of Mississippi which required driving a 120 mile round trip each day. [At that time, I had requested, and received a leave of absence from the ministry.] Due to testing that I had to supervise, sometimes it was late at night - midnight and after - when I would return home. This left me with little time for my first love - study, and research. The dark clouds of apostasy were getting darker and heavier, and voices of warning were few indeed back there in 1967. Already the last sign Jesus had given was in the process of fulfillment. I had not perceived this fact at that time - that came a few years later. One morning - after one of those nights of testing in this Adult Learning Program - I was returning to the Center in Yazoo City. My mind was agitated - torn between what I was doing, and what God was calling me to do. I pulled over to the side of the road, and broke down in crying. It was then that I told the Lord that if He would find me a job closer to home so that I would have time to study and write, I would do it. He did, and I, by His grace, kept my word - the first Thought Paper was published, January, 1968, and has been in continuous publication since then. (Underscored emphasis added.)
There are also other ways in which individuals seek to use their entrusted means to manipulate a work to their own ends. We were informed earlier this year that a sizable sum of money was to be given to the Foundation. It represented a sum equal to 60% of what the total annual receipts were for 1982. However, there were some strings attached. We would be asked to use the channels of the Foundation to transfer monies to some of this person's well-to-do relatives so they could avoid taxes. The integrity of the Foundation is not for sale - the man still has his money.
p 4 -- When we talk about money, there always arises the question - what about the tithe? Where do I pay my tithe? This is not an easy question, for to answer this question some other questions must be answered. What is truth, and where is truth being proclaimed? We dare not follow the tradition to which one has been subjected to over the years. We have been told - "The Lord has not specified any regular channel through which means should pass." (EGW, Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 498, Letter dated, August 15, 1898) Turning to the Word of God, we have some specific instruction: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse." (Mal. 3:10) And here is where the hierarchy would like the text to stop. They interpret the word - "storehouse" to mean the Conference via the local church treasurer. But the text in Malachi does not stop there - it states the purpose of the tithe - "that there may be meat [food] in Mine house." Now the "house of God" is His church - no question about that. But what is His Church - a building? The Bible clearly states that the Church - His Church - is to be "the pillar and ground of the truth." (I Tim. 3:15) Since the food which God provides is His word, which is truth, He designs that the tithe be used to support those who provide truth to His household. Those who so proclaim truth are called "faithful and wise servants" who have been set by God as overseers of "His household to give them meat [food] in due season." (Matt. 24:45) There can be no justification in using tithe to support error, and the spread of apostasy. Those who continue to so use their tithe will have to give an accounting in the day of judgment as to how they used the Lord' s means entrusted to them. (Underscored emphasis added.)
[Note: ALF has never solicited tithes and offerings or any other monetary contributions from the world community of Seventh-day Adventists; but is entitled in accordance with the principles of tithing to accept the freewill payments. These are the moneys that have been accumulated in the ALF bank accounts. The contributors would be furious to hear that these moneys have been turned over to the Church Organization.]
"All the tithe ... is the Lord's." (Lev 27:30) It has been defined as the tenth - "the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord." (Lev. 27:32) Over this we have no control, except in its allocation as a steward. The guidelines specify - "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." (Numbers 18:21) From the Levite who carried away the ashes of the Altar, to the High Priest who ministered in the Sanctuary, all were supported by the tithe. The tithe was not used for non-Levitical ministries. In the New Testament, Paul asks - "Do ye 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?" He then concludes - "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." (I Cor. 9:13-14) To appropriate the tithe to any other use, is a misuse of the tithe.
Beyond the tithe, there are offerings. (See Mal. 3:8) Now what is an offering? It is something freely given of an undetermined amount. This comes back solely and squarely on the individual with the entrusted means. It is beyond the tithe, monies which God recognizes as belonging to the individual. How then do we determine an offering? How did God use what belonged to Him - His Son? Our offerings reflect what we think of the gift of Jesus. This is why no man has the right to "beg" from you your means. Your appreciation of Jesus must be determined in communion with the Holy Spirit alone at the Altar of Prayer in the study of the Word. There at that Altar, both he that is doing the work of God, and he whom God gives the privilege to support that work find their common fellowship.