The SDA’s Original “Systematic Benevolence”


In one of Doug Batchelor’s sermons, he presented  a very interesting story of the “Cuckoo” bird. Simply put, this bird searches for other bird nests and then deposits its own egg into the unsuspecting bird’s nest. Then later when it hatches,  the original nest bird probably wonders where the strange bird came from. In much the same way something has been “laid” into our church that wasn’t there in the beginning. And for the longest time we have not been truly aware of it, until it’s been exposed (hatched) more clearly through the Elijah message (to restore all things).

What you are about to read will surprise some of you no doubt. But it really shouldn’t. Why? Because that ol deceiver has been at his  bag of tricks for millenniums!  When I came across this eye-opening information, I read it in amazement. How could these  clear instructions have been  stamped upon and  ignored for nearly a century now? Especially since our prophetess received direct approval from the Lord for its original benevolence system and methods?

Before we get into the matter,  let’s recap on something very important. As we have shown  in our previous studies, our church will soon be the “first” to feel the wrath of God. After describing Ezekiel 9, our prophetess lays it out for us, “Here we see that the church– the Lord’s sanctuary– was the first to feel the stroke of the wrath of God.” (Test. for the Church, Vol. 5, p.211).

So how do we “survive” this judgement, this wrath of God? This is our most pressing concern, right? This is serious business!  Our prophetess answers it, “The day of God’s vengeance is just upon us. The seal of God will be placed upon the foreheads of those only who sigh and cry for the abominations done in the land. ” (Test. for the Church, Vol. 5, p.212). So we must be sealed in the forehead, similar to those who posted the blood on the door posts (their seal) in the Egypt midnight destruction from the Lord. The angel passed over those who have that blood seal. Same with us in the upcoming beginning phase of the “judgment for the living”(“first stroke”).

Contrarily, if we don’t “sigh and cry” over the sins in our life and the church, we will not receive the seal on our foreheads–plain and simple. Our lukewarmness will cause us to be “spewed out”.  The Lord’s words are too simple to be mis-understood here. Can we be considered “sighing and crying” when we  ignore the sins in our midst or worse yet — take part in them?

We needed to refresh the Elijah message  because we are about to learn of a serious sin that has crept within our church that happens every Sabbath. Something that certainly must be “sighed and cried” about. And once we are “aware” of a wrong doing in our midst,  we must turn from it and want no part of it.

Although our SDA church wasn’t formally established until 1863, the body of believers existed many years prior, from about 1844- 1845. But it wasn’t until 1859 that the SDA members were committed to establishing a formal system of “Tithing”. Apparently prior  to that there was some confusion as to what, where and when tithes were to be paid. No “Lord approved” system had been put in place yet.

Before we study this plan, it’s important to see what Ellen White,a founder of the SDA, revealed about it. Arthur White, her grandson, and head of the White estate for many years,  wrote–

“As Testimony No. 5 came from the press in June 1859, it bore the assurance that “the plan of systematic benevolence is pleasing to God.” Ellen White told of how in vision she “was pointed back to the days of the apostles, and saw that God laid the plan by the descent of His Holy Spirit, and that by the gift of prophecy He counseled His people in regard to a system of benevolence.”

So we see that this plan started with God’s approval through His prophetess and founding members.  Let us now look at Arthur White’s  historical study of the SDA’s beginning plan of the  “Systematic Benevolence” plan of tithing within our church.


Some Documentation on Systematic Benevolence and the Tithe as Launched in 1859

The following plan was recommended at the January 1859 meeting in Battle Creek:

“1. Let each brother from 18 to 60 years of age lay by him in store on the first day of each week from five to 25 cents.

“2. Each sister from 18 to 60 years of age lay by her in store on the first day of each week

  from two to ten cents.

3. Also, let each brother and sister lay by him or her in store on the first day of each week from one to five cents on each and every $100 of property they possess ….

“The lowest sums stated are so very small that those in the poorest circumstances (with very few exceptions of some widows, infirm, and aged) can act upon this plan; while those in better circumstances are left to act in the fear of God in the performance of their stewardship, to give all the way up to the highest sums stated, or even more, as they see it their duty to do.”-RH February 3, 1859, p. 84

“With only slight modification, this plan was adopted at the General Conference session, June 4, 1859. Reported in RH June 9, 1859, p. 20.”


As we highlighted in bold we see that the day to collect the tithes was “the first day of the week”–Sunday.   Sabbath collecting as far as can be gathered, did not exist nor even was mentioned. The next excerpt from his study reveals more.


The Perfected Plan Delineated in an 1878 Pamphlet

“According to conference action the perfected plan was set before the believers in a pamphlet significantly bearing the title Systematic Benevolence or the Bible Plan of Supporting the Ministry. It was but a refinement with a better way of figuring the tithe and the presentation made under the familiar title of “Systematic Benevolence.” In the introductory statement in the pamphlet we read:

“The subject of Systematic Benevolence has been under practical consideration by Seventh-day Adventists for a period of twenty years or more. And no material changes from the system first adopted were seen necessary until two years since. The reasons for these changes are given in the pages that follow.

“‘How much ought I to give for the support of the gospel?’ After carefully viewing the subject from all points, we answer, ‘A tithe of all our income.’

“This does not mean a tenth of our annual increase of property after the cost of food and clothing, and other expenses, are paid, but that nine parts of our income are to meet all these expenses, while a tithe of our income is the Lord’s, to be sacredly devoted to the support of the ministry. We regard the plan of pledging a sum equal to one percent annually on our property defective in several respects:”

“We solemnly promise, before God and to each other, conscientiously to pay to the Systematic Benevolence treasurer a tithe of all our income, to be laid by when received, and paid on the first Sunday of each one of the four quarters of the year; namely, the first Sunday in January, the first Sunday in April, the first Sunday in July, and the first Sunday in October.”


We see that in 1878 ,  some adjustments and recommendations were made . These concerned subjects such as –what constituted proper tithes and so forth.What we notice in reading the above adjustments (and through out the full article) is that no where is there mention of any statement as to changing the “day” of paying the tithes. Sunday was confirmed as the day to pay the tithes.  So for 20 years,the official tithe paying olan within our SDA church was the first day–Sunday.  And as we mention, this had the full backing from the Lord per Ellen White’s aforementioned statement.

We also found these two confirming statements that this system was in place in 1868 and 1880.

“Nothing on the Battle Creek scene escaped this teenager. At the first Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting in Wright, Michigan (1868), Maud  rode on  a wagon to pitch tents made out of sheets. She also went to work in the composing room of the Review and Herald (for 10 cents an hour). After the plan of paying tithes was presented to the believers, Maud was usually one of the first in line when the collector came by on Sunday mornings.” (Adventist Review, March 3, 1994)

“Sunday there were no meetings in the other churches, and the house was crowded. The best of attention was given to words spoken from 1 John 3:1-3.
In the evening we again addressed an interested company. Monday we took the cars for Napa, where we spoke to the brethren and sisters there assembled in the evening. Some of the members of this church have moved away, and some have died, so that there are but few left. Although so few in numbers, one hundred and thirty-four dollars were paid in as their quarterly tithe ( *as per the benevolence plan stated above). When every church member does his part cheerfully in tithes and offerings the general treasury will be supplied. Napa needs judicious ministerial labor.”(April 22, 1880 St. Helena, Cal., ( * my comment)

Ok, we can see , so far, that from its inception through to 1880 (about 22 years) that the day of paying tithes was confirmed as Sunday.  Another statement found that confirms the Sunday paying of tithes.

In 1878 James White, JN Andrews and Uriah Smith further confirmed the Sunday plan of paying tithes, “We solemnly promise, before God and to each other, to conscientiously pay to the Systematic Benevolence Treasurer a tithe of all our income, to be paid on the first Sunday of each one of the four quarters of the year ; namely, the first Sunday in January, the first Sunday in April, the first Sunday in July, and the first Sunday in October. ” (Review and Herald , August 29, 1878)

Signed James White (Contributing editors are JN Andrews and Uriah Smith)  

“The directions given by the Holy Spirit through Paul in regards to gifts, present a principle that applies also to tithing: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him…and what more appropriate time could be chosen for setting aside the tithes and presenting our offerings to God?”  (Counsels on Stewardship, p.80, Review and Herald, 1902)

Also we noticed she specifically mentions our tithes to be stored  “at home” in the Testimonies– “Each member of the different families in our churches who believes the truth may act a part in its advancement by cheerfully adopting systematic benevolence. “Let every one of you lay by him in store [by himself at home], . . . that there be no gatherings when I come.” The burden of urging and pressing individuals to give of their means was not designed to be the work of God’s ministers.(Test. for the Church, Vol.3, p.412)

So we see that from 1878 to 1902, the stance was still the same–Sunday was tithe paying day. So now in 1902,  it’s 43 years since inception of the plan that the official tithe collecting day occurred on Sunday.

So it’s safe to assume that at least until Ellen White’s death in 1915, the official stance from our church was not altered.

So it appears that somewhere from 1915 to 1930, the Roman church custom of plate passing crept into our church and became the church norm.

Also it’s important to note,  along with Sabbath collections, there are other important aspects occuring  concerning paying of God’s money into His storehouse. Particularly what constitutes His storehouse. For more on this see the link below.

As we mentioned before, the Lord’s Elijah message is to be for us the anti-type of the type.The type being the original Elijah message of calling out the sins of God’s people and pleading for reformation. As such brother Houteff’s writing must be considered as they are the very last from the Lord. And he certainly called out this tithe situation. Remember there is no other prophet prophesied to come before the great and dreadful day, except “Elijah”.

“In order to eliminate money changing for tithe and offering, paying for books, etc. on the Sabbath, a Laodicean practice which the word of God condemns, let us carefully attend to all such matters on the first day of the week (1 Cor.16:2) by placing all monies in envelopes.” (Vol. 1 Symbolic news code, no.9, p.11)

Here we see that brother Houteff  in 1935 gives us an update on the tithing activity. Apparently, some of the churches where changing money and buying and selling books, etc. on the Sabbath, and he makes mention of it as a “Laodicean practice”. So it appears this practice had established some type of foothold by then. But clearly he instructs us to “attend” the matter on the first day, just as our prophetess gave our Lord’s instructions on tithing.

One of the last publications after 1950 from brother Houteff, was the “Jezreel Letters”. He made 9 of them.The quote below confirms that the Roman custom had taken solid hold within the SDA church.

“Look and see what a difference there is between God’s method for supporting His work, and the Roman system that is now carried on by the church: plate-passing, high-powered speeches, Big Day, Book Day, high pressuring, campaigning, selling, auctioneering, Harvest Ingathering, birthday offerings, Christmas-tree hangings, baby weighings, Dorcas sales, investment funds, and what not!  As none of these squeezings are Biblical, and as all of them are Pagan in origin and condemned by the Scriptures, they could not possibly be considered freewill offerings. Search and see.“(Jezreel Letter, No. 9, p.8)

So there we have it. There can be no doubt that we are witnessing each and every Sabbath a gigantic “Cuckoo bird egg”  in our midst. The question is– are we going to participate in this? Or are we going to mail in our tithes of the first day of the week-Sunday?

The question may be asked–“Is it ok to send it in on Monday or other day of the week? The scripture says “let” each. I think it’s a good foundation to know that Sunday is not a command day. The main point being to keep the Sabbath holy by not dealing in money.

Some may also say, “This really is not such a big deal, why get worried over it?”  I would answer– because God specifically instructed our church to NOT pay tithes on His Sabbath as evidenced by never authorizing this custom throughout all of scripture history and his two last prophets as well.  Here’s something to ponder. What do you think would happen if we as His remnant church started obeying in this regard?  Our Great God would bless us for it and the money would be much greater into the church! Obedience always results in blessings.

Furthermore, what is the house of God for anyway? Is it not for prayer and the reading of His word? “He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” (Matt.21:13)

We recall our Master whipping the money exchangers from the temple courts. Can we imagine if  He found the people dealing and handling money in His house??


The devil trick is “You are doing a good cause, the Lord accepts the handling , discussing and requesting of money and raising goals within His house.”

Let us close with appropriate words from our prophetess,  “The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin in its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God’s professed people.” (Test. for the Church, Vol. 3, p.266)

“It is not safe for us to linger to contemplate the advantages to be reaped through yielding to Satan’s suggestions.  Sin means dishonor and disaster to every soul that indulges in it; but it is blinding and deceiving in its nature, and it will entice us with flattering presentations.  If we venture on Satan’s ground, we have no assurance of protection from his power.  So far as in us lies, we should close every avenue by which the tempter may find access to us.”(Mount of Blessings, p.171)

For the full article from Arthur White, click here —

For a more indepth look into tithing, such as where is God’s true storehouses are, and other important aspects, click our post “Tithes and offerings” —

3 Responses to “The SDA’s Original “Systematic Benevolence””

  1. wilfred Ragogi Ondande Says:

    It is a very good message!

  2. godsloveandlaw Says:

    Let us heed it brother. This is one of the most obvious sins done each and every week within God’s house.

  3. vegaraw Says:

    I like the “cuckoo egg” comparison. Quite funny, yet to the point.

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