The Tithe Truth Revisited (Part 1 of 2)

tithe paying old testament

A few weeks back we did a post called, ‘The SDA’s Original “Systematic Benevolence” (listed under tithes and offerings). We posted on the original plan adopted by the SDA in 1859. As the Lord so often does, and as we continue on the path for truth, we are revealed more and more of His word and truth as we search. The “Spirit of Truth” is guiding, if we take the humble position that sometimes we can be corrected.

Recently I received an email from a brother of mine, and fellow SDA member. He pointed out that the position taken in the post was not entirely correct. He backed in up with references from the Spirit of Prophecy.  We began a series of email exchanges and looked deeper into the issue.

Many times we are so convinced of a point that we will try to sustain our position, even against some clear evidence against it. Such was my case. We had made the point that the SDA practice within the church since 1859 through 1915, EGW’s death, was that collection of tithes did not occur, for the most part,  on the Sabbath within our churches.

But as I  viewed  more and more of the references my brother showed me, it started me thinking that I should look much deeper into the subject. It was a case where I was believing that our founders made a tithe plan and thus they would keep their word and practice  come what may. I assumed wrongly. And there was reasons for this change , which in hindsight, was quite logical and practical.

I found these two quotes that are quite applicable here.”We cannot hold that a position once taken, an idea once advocated, is not, under any circumstances, to be relinquished. There is but One who is infallible–He who is the way, the truth, and the life.” (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 105)

“Do not read the word in the light of former opinions; but, with a mind free from prejudice, search it carefully and prayerfully. If, as you read, conviction comes, and you see that your cherished opinions are not in harmony with the word, do not try to make the word fit these opinionsMake your opinions fit the word. Do not allow what you have believed or practiced in the past to control your understanding. . . .Find out what is written, and then plant your feet on the eternal Rock.” (Messages To Young People p 260)

The main basic point has not changed–that our Lord does not want Sabbath collection of tithes, in the sanctuary. The truth of this situation has been restored by the Elijah prophet, this we are sure and we must abide. It does appear that it was acceptable to have a “collection box” placed somewhere on the church (temple) grounds, and that the people could give a free-will offering before entering the temple.

Some may ask– “Why is this important? What’s the big deal if we pay our tithes on the Sabbath and in the sanctuary?” It’s because  if we find out that this is an abomination before the Lord, we cannot be sealed in the forehead. This, I would say is worth looking into! Remember that only those who turn away from the sins in the church and “sigh and cry” about them will be sealed–no others. This point is confirmed by all three divine writings, Scripture (Ezek. 9, EGW- Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p.267, and the Elijah message- Shepherd’s Rod vol. 1 and 2)

So I embarked on a study which took several days and hours and sent it to the brother. What I’d like to do is show this study now. It is a more complete picture of what the historical evidence showed in tithe collection within our SDA church and our fore-fathers in the Bible.

                       The Tithe Report                


1 Scripture Promises                              

2 Purpose of Study                                    

3 Ellen White’s Study Counsel                  

4 Applying the Rules                                 

5 Positions taken                                      

6 References used                                   

7 References discussed                         



1 – Scripture Promises                                   

The Lord promises us two promises that are particular to our present study. 1) He shall guide us into all Truth (John 16:13) 2) If we do His will, we shall know what is correct doctrine (John 7:17).

Let us pray first and foremost for His guidance and our desire to know Truth above anything else. If we find It, let us rejoice and not be ashamed if we have side-stepped It or ignored It. The Lord said “I am the way, the Truth, and the life..”(John 14:16) (From here on I will capitalize the word Truth as it means Jesus)

We have the solemn warning that if we do not love the Truth (Jesus) we shall not make it to the promised land. “He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the Truth that would save them.” (2 Thes. 2:10)

2 – Purpose of this study

As mentioned above we have as our foremost goal and desire in this study to know what is the Truth of tithe paying. Specifically three areas of tithe paying. 1) What day is proper to pay the tithes per the inspired writings? 2) Should the tithes be paid in the sanctuary on Sabbath? 3) Should the tithes be paid on Sabbath in a location apart from the sanctuary?

3 –Ellen White’s study counsel 

a) “Every man who bears the message of Truth to our churches must do his duty by warning, educating, rebuking. Any neglect of duty which is robbery toward God means a curse upon the delinquent.” (Special Test. For Ministers and workers, no.7, p.22)

b) “Those who desire to doubt will have plenty of room. God does not propose to remove all occasion for unbelief. He gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a humble mind and teachable spirit, and all should decide from the weight of evidence. (Test. Vol.3, p.255)

c) “The unbelief that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to the evidence that God is pleased to give. He requires of His people faith that rests upon the weight of evidence, not upon perfect knowledge.” (Test. Vol. 3, p.258)

d)“The evidence given one day, if rejected, may never be repeated.” (Ibid, p.258)

e) “Men, women, and youth, God requires you possess moral courage, steadiness of purpose, fortitude and perseverance, minds that cannot take the assertions of another, but which will investigate for themselves before receiving or rejecting, that will study and weigh evidence, and take it to the Lord in prayer.” (Test. Vol. 2, p.130)

f)“The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regard as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord” in it’s support.” (Great Controversy. p.595)

g) Error could not stand alone, and soon would become extinct, if it did not fashion itself like a parasite upon the tree of truth. The traditions of men, like floating germs, attach themselves to the truth of God, and men regard them as part of the truth.. And as traditions pass on from age to age, they acquire a power over the human mind. But age does not make error truth.”—Letter 43, 1895, cited in SDABC, vol. 5, p. 1094.

h) “If you had made God’s word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies. It is because you have neglected to acquaint yourselves with God’s inspired Book that He has sought to reach you by simple, direct testimonies, calling your attention to the words of inspiration which you had neglected to obey, and urging you to fashion your lives in accordance with its pure and elevated teachings.’”(Test. vol. 5, p.665)

4 – Applying the above rules to our study

From the above inspired counsel we gain at least 3 important guidelines to come to a clear conception of what is Truth in our matter. 1) We must carefully gather the evidence for and against, then weigh the total matter. Then accept the position in favor of the weight full position. 2) The “Bible standard” is what Ellen White counseled us to obtain. Her writings are to be judged against the Bible, not vice-versa. 3) The Truth is not to be judged and followed by how many are siding with a certain precept or doctrine. Traditions are not always an indication that the doctrine or precept is Truth.

Evidence of Truth shows that in history, the Truth stands with the few, our Lord being the perfect example (Thousands against – few for Him). Although a tradition is carried among His people, this is not proof the precept or doctrine is true and from God. The Lord Himself scolded the Jews for the many man-made traditions they had and yet the majority of people sided with the leaders and were convinced the Lord was wrong, yet they were wrong.

5Positions Taken

Some take the position that the tradition within the SDA church of collecting tithes within the sanctuary in Sabbath services on Sabbath is acceptable to God. The support of this position comes from Ellen White quotes and because it is our current tradition. 

Others take the position that this tradition is not from God’s historical plan, not Biblical, and is not acceptable to Him. The practice has been man-made. Or more precisely, was created by the adversary and is without Scriptural basis.This support comes from Scripture and the Elijah message. 

6 – References used

For                                Against

a. RH, March 2, 1905      k. 2 Kings, 12:9-10

b. RH, Nov.1, 1898          L. 2 Chronicles, 24:8-11

c. Ah, p.482-483             m. Nehemiah, 12:44

d. PH, 0929                    n. Mark 11:15-16

e. PH, 129, p.2               o. 1 Cor. 16:2

f. 4 Bio, Ch. 10, p.105     p. Desire of Ages, p.614

g. 1912 letter from         q. RH, Aug.29, 1878

W.C. White   

h. Sabbath School Worker,  r. Adventist Review, 3-94

April 1885  

I. 1916 letter from W.C. White    s. RH, Feb.4, 1902

j. EGW, Manuscript 176, 1907

(Some believe that Mal. 4:5 is a prophecy fulfilled within the SDA church, and included are Victor Houteff applicable quotes.)

t.Jezreel Letter, no.3, p.1-3

u.Jezreel Letter, no.9, p.8

7 – References discussed

We will show each reference and then breakdown the clear points made therein by a comment section below each. Then we’ll add or subtract that reference either for or against the positions taken.

a) RH, March 2, 1905    “Elder W.W. Simpson had been holding tent-meetings in the heart of the city of Los Angeles during a large part of the summer and the large tent, then standing on Grand Avenue and Seventh street, was being use by the church for their Sabbath meeting. Soon after our arrival, letters were sent to our people in the neighboring churches, suggesting that a general meeting be held at the Los Angeles on Sabbath and Sunday. In response to this, two or three hundred brethren and sisters came in from surrounding towns and these, with the believers in the city, filled the large tent on Sabbath morning. The Lord helped me to speak to this congregation of over thousand of souls, all of whom seemed much interested. At the close of my discourse, a collection amounting to seventy-five dollars was taken up for the work among colored people of the Southern States.”

Comment- This quote can be seen as inconclusive because it says she speaks, but it does not say it was Sabbath or Sunday, as the event covered both days. But one can make the argument that after saying the tent was filled on Sabbath morning she spoke. The collection occurred after whatever day she spoke, this is sure.

Further it is noted that this was not in a “sanctuary” setting per se. It was a “tent” gathering, similar to a traveling road show in those days. If we believed that these tent meetings held the sanctuary, it would be similar to saying one of Doug Batchelor’s or Mark Finley’s travelling bible seminar meetings held within an auditorium,  in a city,  was where one of the Lord’s sanctuaries was.

Point for Sabbath collection based on a further reference (I). No points for sanctuary tithe collections.

b) RH November 1, 1898 Par 2    There was a large attendance at our meetings on SABBATH June 4. Besides the families of the Avondale church, there were about forty present from Dora Creek, making a congregation, old and young, of over two hundred. The weather was excellent, and about thirty took their dinner under the large gum-trees near the church. This was the last Sabbath of the week of prayer, and the time appointed for the bringing in of the annual offerings for missions.”

“During the week, envelopes had been distributed, in which the gifts to the missions might be enclosed: and on the envelope was a place for the name of the giver, and for the reference to a Scripture text expressing the thought accompanying the gift. A Similar provision was made for gifts to the school.”
                                                                  Comment- This quote appears to confirm a Sabbath collection. However there is not the slightest indication that the collection occurred within His sanctuary. There does present an argument that the collection was held outside. Perhaps in a park like setting “under the gum-trees near the church” after dinner, or under a tent as the meetings were so often held. This is speculative.

Point for Sabbath collection, no points for within His sanctuary.

c) Ah p.482-483     A tree laden with offerings is not Sinful.–Let not the parents take the position that an evergreen placed in the church for the amusement of the Sabbath school scholars is a sin, for it may be made a great blessing. Keep before their minds benevolent objects”

Provide Innocent Enjoyment for the Day -Will you not arise, my Christian brethren and sisters, and gird yourselves for duty in the fear of God, so arranging this matter that it shall not be dry and uninteresting, but full of innocent enjoyment that shall bear the signet of Heaven? — “(All) should bestow their gifts and offerings proportionate to the means with which God has entrusted them. Let there be recorded in the heavenly books such a Christmas as has never yet been seen because of the donations which shall be given for the sustaining of the work of God and the up building of His kingdom.”

Comment – In the top paragraph it is seen that obviously there can be “offerings” placed upon the tree. However in that paragraph there is no evidence that the offerings were placed there on Sabbath, Sunday or any other day.

Additionally in this quote we see that it appears that the tree where the offerings are placed isn’t specified as to what location of the church the tree is located. “In the church” can mean sanctuary, foyer, adjacent room, or?. One can only speculate. Bottom paragraph gives no indication on the specific day or if in sanctuary to ‘bestow their gifts”.

No points for Sabbath collection. Inconclusive. No points for sanctuary tithe collections

d) PH 0929     The Sabbath meeting will be like meat in due season; for all will bring precious offerings to the Lord.”

Comment – This appears conclusive that a collection will occur at the Sabbath meeting”. However no evidence as to collecting within the sanctuary. Speculative.

Point for Sabbath collection. No points for sanctuary tithe collections.

e) PH 129 p.2      ….”Urge the members to make the subject a matter of family study and prayer during the week, and then bring their gifts the following Sabbath. The dedication of the gift be a season of prayer will bring a blessing to the church. We pray that this may be more than an ordinary collection. This gift would be a beautiful one -large in proportion to the need.

Comment – This appears conclusive that a Sabbath collection will happen “the following Sabbath”. Are they to “bring their gifts” to be deposited or will a collection take place? We don’t know. No indication it’ll be collected in sanctuary.

Point for Sabbath collection. No points for tithe collection in sanctuary. Inconclusive.

f) 4 Bio, Ch 10, p.105     “It was thought, as the brethren counseled together, that the time had come when Mrs. White could return to Australia, by way Auckland. But just then a telegram came informing them that the missionary brigantine Pitcairn (A hundred-foot sailing vessel built in 1890 for use as a missionary ship in the south pacific, PAID FOR BY SABBATH SCHOOL OFFERINGS.”)

Comment – This appears to confirm Sabbath collections had previously occurred, hence the “paid for” comment. No indication offerings were collected in the sanctuary, foyer, adjacent building, court-yard

Point for Sabbath collections. No points for collections in sanctuary.

g) 1912 Letter from W. C. White     The question of proper Sabbath observance is one about which Mother has often spoken. She has often appealed to our people to make the Sabbath a day of worship, devotion and communion with God, and to sacredly guard it from secular business. Also during the years she has often pointed out that bringing of gifts to the Lord is a very important part of worship, and as a part of worship is proper for the Sabbath.” (EGW Estate, March 20, 1957 file)

Comment – This is evidence of support from EGW that approves “gifts” brought to the worship service. As the gifts are not specific, we can assume that money is included. One cannot conclude if the gifts are brought in and deposited or collected within the sanctuary, foyer, at entrance, or wherever. Speculative.

Point for Sabbath collections. No points for collection within the sanctuary.

h) Sabbath School Worker, April 1885

Question – “Why is it right or proper to take up collections for the Sabbath-school on the Sabbath more than for any other branch of the work?”

Answer – “We do not believe it to be appropriate to pass around the hat in the ordinary way of taking up a collection. There are quieter ways of better accomplishing the desired result. In the supply department is noticed a cloth-lined envelope, the use of which seems to us to be the simplest plan yet proposed.

The scholars bring their contributions, and at the appropriate time place them in the envelope, the contents of which is not counted by the teacher till after the Sabbath.

For some schools that might desire to be even more quiet in this work, we have secured small envelopes for individual scholars. During the week the scholar can put his contribution in the small envelope, and then when he comes to the school it can be dropped into the larger one. We rather like this way ourselves.”

Comment – We gleam some specific information in this SDA advisory publication in 1885. The first is that they say it is not “appropriate to pass around the hat” during the Sabbath school collections. The comment about the hat passing does suggest that there was a practice (we don’t know the extent) of sanctuary hat passing for tithes in some of the churches. 

But they advise completing the donation in the envelope and then it can be “dropped” into a larger container, which would assume this would not be in the sanctuary. Also it’s noted that the contents are “not counted” until after the Sabbath. A practice that is ignored today within the SDA church. We find three specific counsels on tithing concerning Sabbath school within this reference.

Point for Sabbath collections. No points for sanctuary tithe collections.

I) 1916 Letter from W. C. White    Dear Brother, … She has never taken the position, so far as I understand, that there shall be no collections on the Holy Sabbath. On the other hand, she herself has called for funds for various missionary enterprises, on that day; and it is a matter of common knowledge that she has ofttimes published in the Review and in other periodicals, stirring appeals to our people to make donations on certain occasions, often on Sabbath days, for missions, and for other worthy missionary enterprises, including the Colored work in the South; the Orphans; the religious Liberty Work; our Educational work; the relief of Skodsburk Sanitarium and of the Christiania publishing house, etc, etc.—all Sabbath collections. She has on Sabbath days called for gifts to help establish the work in Portland, Maine.

.I understand that scriptural teaching has been written on by several. I am enclosing one herewith, which you may keep.”

During the General Conference held Nov. 18 to Dec.6, 1885 (as reported in the year-book for 1886), the committee on Resolutions presented the following report, which was accepted:

9. RESOLVED? That we hereby indorse the standing rule of our Sabbath-school Associations in regard to taking offerings on the Sabbath, for the following reasons: (1) It trains our young to the habit of giving. (2) If appropriated, nor merely for school expenses, but, as is now being done in some places, in part for missionary work, it cultivates a missionary spirit in the children. (3) It is in harmony with the Lord’s will as expressed in the law, when more offerings were made on the Sabbath than any other day.*** (4) it is in harmony with the light given us as a people. And–

10. RESOLVED? That the same principles apply to the subject of donations on the fourth Sabbath of the month, which day is devoted to the missionary work; and we recommend that they be so taken.”

Comment – Confirmation that shows EGW supported Sabbath collections. Appears to be a Conference guideline as well in 1885. No mention is made as to the place of collections. The sanctuary, the foyer, the connected buildings, drop box at entrance, or any other various locations cannot be excluded as the collection spot. Speculative. Note— the ? after the RESOLVED is original and can’t be readily explained.

*** – This statement is speculative and needs clarification and support from Scripture. A sacrificial offering, grain offering or fruit offering would be quite different from a gold, silver or copper offering (ie. Money). We cannot find any evidence of such money “offerings” being made within the sanctuary on Sabbath in the Old or New Testament.

Point for Sabbath collections. No points for sanctuary tithe collections.

j) EGW Manuscript 176, 1907

Question – Should we take up Collections on the Sabbath?

The question has been brought before me, Shall we take up collections on the Sabbath? The occurrence which brought up this question was that of taking up a collection to purchase an organ for the church. I replied that I would not advise this being done.

When collections are taken on the Sabbath for foreign missionary work, it is that the gospel may be given to those who are in darkness. This is genuine missionary work, and often these collections could not be taken up so fully at any other time. To gather these offerings could not be called transgression of the Sabbath.

But if this is to open that way for taking up of contributions for such purposes as buying of instruments of music, then I would advise that it be discontinued… Let our people avoid the passing of the contribution boxes, even if it becomes a much more difficult matter than it now is to raise money for foreign missionary work.

It would be well if our brethren and sisters would consider the advisability of laying by during the week their offerings for missionary work. As they call to mind the blessings and mercies that god is affording them, let them put a thank offering in an envelope. These envelopes could be presented on the Sabbath, when it could be stated for what purpose they are intended…

The sacredness of the Sabbath could be in no way violated by such gifts, and the results would be for good… My brethren and sisters, try this method. Let there be no collections taken on the Sabbath, but let praise and thank offerings be made.”—EGW

Comment – This is one of the last statements written from EGW on our subject. It contains specific advise. Emphasis is placed on the purpose of a collection being important. The goal raising collections seem not supported by EGW. Then we see that additional emphasis is placed on “free-will” offerings as opposed for the requested collections as this statement confirms, “Let our people avoid the passing of the collections boxes..” and “let there be no collections taken on the Sabbath, but let praise and thank offering be made.”

The weight of her statement appears to advise laying aside “during the week” the offerings and presenting them on Sabbath as “thank offerings”, rather than be asked as a corporate body to put in a collection box that is passed around.”

Point for Sabbath collections. Point against sanctuary tithe collections.

This concludes our references “for” Sabbath collections. Next week we will be looking at the references “against” the subject. Then a summary of the subject.

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