In March 2008, Pastor G. Edward Reid, North American Stewardship Director, entitled his monthly newsletter, "False Prophet of Tithing."1 In that newsletter he sought to convince his readers that Ernie Knoll was a false prophet because the Herald teaches that we are responsible for who we pay our tithes to, if we know it will be misused.
Much of what Ed Reid says has already been covered in the Wohlberg letters and in our study on tithe. However, to ensure a full and proper response is given to Ed's reason for rejecting the dreams, we will repeat where necessary our answers.
We must realize that the Herald is not the first to raise the issue of personal accountability in tithing. It was an issue back in 1991, as Pastor Ralph Larson points out.
"Today the question of accountable stewardship is becoming an issue in the minds of many Seventh- day Adventists. The awareness that we all have an individual accountability before the heavenly universe, to administer the trust committed to us of God has, in recent years, raised questions in our minds as to how to best fulfill that responsibility." Ralph Larson, The Tithe Problem, Who is Responsible?2
As we will see shortly, the tithing issues goes back further - back to the time of Ellen White. So, as we read and contemplate what the Herald has said, let us remember this is not a new concept. Many faithful church members, including some of our brightest theologians have believed that we are personally responsible for the tithe we return, if we know it will be misused.
Donor of tithe and offerings not responsible for mismanagement of it
"To say that the individual donor of tithe and offerings is responsible for any mismanagement on the part of church leaders is totally false. There is no place in the Bible – Old or New Testament – where God has told His followers to withhold or redirect their tithes when they feel that they are being misused by the church leaders." Ed Reid, False Prophet of Tithing, Mar. 2008
There are a number of issues we need to look at which arise from Ed's comments. These include:
- Where is God's storehouse?
- Is supporting an independent ministry or gospel worker not employed by the church "withholding" or "redirecting" tithe?
Q. What does God classify as withholding tithe?
"One tenth of all the increase was claimed by the Lord as His own, and to withhold the tithe was regarded by Him as robbery." Acts of the Apostles, p. 336.1
"As did Abraham, they are to pay tithe of all they possess and all they receive. A faithful tithe is the Lord's portion. To withhold it is to rob God. Every man should freely and willingly and gladly bring tithes and offerings into the storehouse of the Lord, because in so doing there is a blessing. There is no safety in withholding from God His own portion.-- MS 159, 1899." Counsels on Stewardship, p. 66.4
"A curse is pronounced upon all who withhold their tithe from God. He says: '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.' " Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 307.2
Withholding tithe from God is to rob Him. It means we are not returning to Him what is His. Ernie Knoll never counsels people to stop paying their tithe. On the contrary, tithing is reinforced. However, the church has come to the conclusion that if they don't receive the tithe, then people are robbing God. Is this correct?
Q. Where is God's storehouse?
“There are only two places in the universe where we can place our treasures,--in God's storehouse or in Satan's; and all that is not devoted to God's service is counted on Satan's side, and goes to strengthen his cause.” Counsels on Stewardship, p. 35.4
This quotation reveals that all that is devoted to God's service is considered to be God's storehouse. This would include the conference if it is doing God's service. However if it is in apostasy, it would by default no longer be God's storehouse. We need to realize that there is no Bible or Spirit of Prophecy quote that states explicitly that the organized church is God's only storehouse.
Q. Did Ellen White consider she was withholding her tithe when she did not return it to the conference?
"I have myself appropriated my tithe to the most needy cases brought to my notice. I have been instructed to do this, and as the money is not withheld from the Lord's treasury, it is not a matter that should be commented upon, for it will necessitate my making known these matters, which I do not desire to do, because it is not best...I commend those sisters who have placed their tithe where it is most needed to help to do a work that is being left undone." Manuscript release, Vol. 2, p. 99-100
Please notice that Ellen White did not consider she was withholding tithe from God's treasury (storehouse). Notice also she commended other people for doing what she herself was doing.
Q. Did our pioneers find evidence from the Spirit of Prophecy that teaches we should only pay our tithes to the conference?
“On May 9, 1907, a Charles E. Stewart of Battle Creek sent to Ellen White's office at Sanitarium, California, a 49- page compilation of questions and charges intended to cast doubt on the Spirit of Prophecy as manifested in her ministry. In October of the same year, the material was bound into a small book and published, apparently in Battle Creek. At some later date it was republished by another of Ellen White's critics, E. S. Baflenger, of Riverside, California. Document WDF 213, in the White Estate Office in Loma Linda, is a record of the plans made by Willie White, Daniells, and Prescott to deal with the charges in the book, one of which was that Ellen White's counsels and practice in regard to the tithe were not consistent, in that she did not always follow her own recommendations. Paragraph six on page two of the document is a clear statement of how these brethren understood the totality of Ellen White's teachings in regard to the paying of tithe." Ralph Larson, The Tithe Problem, Who is Responsible?3
"6. As to the proper use of the tithe: The outline of a statement on this subject which was agreed upon was briefly this: To give extracts from Sister White's writings as to the tithe and its use; to show that her testimony and her own usual practice was in favor of paying the tithe into the regularly designated treasury, to be used under the counsel of the committees appointed for such purposes; to show further from her writings that when those who have charge of the expenditure of the tithe so far fail in the discharge of their duty that the regularly organized channels for the distribution of tithe become hindrances to its proper use, then in order to carry out the divine plan that the tithe should be expended in the wisest manner for the furtherance of the work, individuals have the right to pay their tithes direct to the needy fields; but that this involves a considerable degree of personal responsibility, which must be assumed by those who decide to follow this plan. It was thought that this matter could be handled in a way to show that the departure from the regular plans was authorized only when the regular plans failed to be carried out by those in positions of responsibility.” - Document file 213 (unpublished from the White Estate) Reported to have been prepared by Willie White, Daniells, and Prescott4
Q. Is there an example in the Bible where the people of God stopped returning their tithe because of corruption in the leadership?
"Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being allied unto Tobiah, had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meal offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the wine, and the oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the heave offerings for the priests. But in all this time I was not at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went unto the king, and after certain days asked I leave of the king: and I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meal offerings and the frankincense. And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them; so that the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field. Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place. Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the wine and the oil unto the treasuries. And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their business was to distribute unto their brethren." Nehemiah 13:4-13
"Not only had the temple been profaned, but the offerings had been misapplied. This had tended to discourage the liberalities of the people. They had lost their zeal and fervor, and were reluctant to pay their tithes. The treasuries of the Lord's house were poorly supplied; many of the singers and others employed in the temple service, not receiving sufficient support, had left the work of God to labor elsewhere.
Nehemiah set to work to correct these abuses. He gathered together those who had left the service of the Lord's house, "and set them in their place." This inspired the people with confidence, and all Judah brought "the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil." Men who "were counted faithful" were made "treasurers over the treasuries," "and their office was to distribute unto their brethren." Prophet and Kings, p. 670.3
We provide this example not to "prove" that it is alright to withhold tithe, but to show that when apostasy arises in the church, faithful people are reluctant to support a corrupt ministry and the work of God suffers. We need to remember who is responsible for this situation. It is not the faithful church member who has caused the problem, but rather the leadership.
Jesus commended the widow for supporting a corrupt leadership
"In fact, the only offering that Jesus ever commended was when a poor widow gave two mites (apparently all she had) to a church that was just about to crucify Him! (See Mark 12:41-44)." Ed Reid, False Prophet of Tithing, Mar. 2008
Q. Why did Jesus commend the poor widow?
"The Saviour called his disciples to him and bade them mark the widow's poverty; and as they stood looking at her, words of commendation from the Master's lips fell unexpectedly upon her ear: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all." Tears of joy filled the poor woman's eyes as she felt that her act was understood and appreciated by Jesus. Many would have advised her to appropriate her small pittance to her own use rather than to give it into the hands of well-fed priests, to be lost among the many and costly gifts donated to the temple; but Jesus understood the motives of her heart. She believed in the service of the temple as appointed by God, and she was anxious to do her utmost to sustain it. She did what she could, and her act was destined to be as a monument to her memory through all time, and her joy in eternity. Her heart went with her gift, the amount of which was estimated, not by its intrinsic value, but by the love to God and interest in his work which had prompted the deed." The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 3, p. 72.1
Jesus did not commend the widow for supporting a corrupt church, but commended her motive in wanting to support the service appointed by God.
Continue to support a corrupt leadership
"We have two very relevant documents on our NAD website that address this very issue. They are “Timely Counsels” and “The Work in Michigan” under the Tithe tab. Here are some representative statements:
“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” (9T 249).
The other article notes: “Cannot you see that it is not best under any circumstances to withhold your tithes and offerings because you are not in harmony with everything that your brethren do? The tithes and offerings are not the property of any man, but are to be used in doing a certain work for God. Unworthy ministers may receive some of the means thus raised, but dare anyone, because of this, withhold from the treasury and brave the curse of God? I dare not” (2 Sermons and Talks, 74)." Ed Reid, False Prophet of Tithing, Mar. 2008
Both of these quotes primarily deal with people who had stopped paying their tithe because they had lost confidence in the leadership. Her counsel is therefore to warn these people that under no circumstances does God allow us to stop tithing. What then are people to do? Are they to continue returning their tithe to a corrupt ministry, or do they like those faithful women who Ellen White commended, return their tithe to needy gospel workers? The answer to this question can only be answered by God's guidance. If we do choose to continue to support a corrupt ministry, we need to make sure we heed the following counsel:
“I pay my tithe gladly and freely, saying, as did David, ‘Of Thine own have we given Thee.’ A selfish withholding from God will tend to poverty in our own souls. Act your part, my brethren and sisters. God loves you, and He stands at the helm. If the conference business is not managed according to the order of the Lord, that is the sin of the erring one. The Lord will not hold you responsible for it if you do what you can to correct the evil. But do not commit sin yourselves by withholding from the Lord His own property. ‘Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully’ or negligently.” Sermons and Talks, Vol. 2, p. 74.4
Will not lose your reward for supporting a corrupt leadership
"There are several statements in the writings of Ellen White where she notes that those who are faithful in returning to God that which is His “will not lose their reward” but those who (among church leaders) make a wrong use of the funds will be required to give an account of their stewardship. (See 2T 518,519)."
Q. What did Ellen White really mean in 2T 518,519?
I was shown that the recording angel makes a faithful record of every offering dedicated to God and put into the treasury, and also of the final result of the means thus bestowed. The eye of God takes cognizance of every farthing devoted to His cause, and of the willingness or reluctance of the giver. The motive in giving is also chronicled. Those self-sacrificing, consecrated ones who render back to God the things that are His, as He requires of them, will be rewarded according to their works. Even though the means thus consecrated be misapplied, so that it does not accomplish the object which the donor had in view,--the glory of God and the salvation of souls,--those who made the sacrifice in sincerity of soul, with an eye single to the glory of God, will not lose their reward." Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, p. 518
You will notice that the reason why these people do not lose their reward when the money they have given is misused is because they had no idea that it would be misused. They gave believing it would be used for "the glory of God and the salvation of souls."
The leadership is responsible for the misuse of the tithe
"The bottom line here is that, when we play the role of donors we must be faithful in returning to God through His church storehouse what he requires. Once the money gets there, those in charge have the responsibility of using it in harmony with God’s plan."
Is Ed suggesting that we willingly support false teachings that are destroying peoples' eternal lives? This would be like saying we should continue to support an organization that is found to be supporting terrorism. No one in their right mind would do this because they don't want to aid an organization in achieving destructive goals.
We need to point out here that there is no quotation that proves the church is the only storehouse. Why then do people in responsible positions, like Ed's, try to tell us that the church is the only storehouse? What did the Apostle Paul write?
"Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." 1 Corinthians 9:14
"For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward." 1 Timothy 5:18
Paul did not write "those who are employed by the church should live of the gospel."
Q. Does God hold us responsible for the money we give once it "gets there"?
"The Lord will not hold you responsible for it if you do what you can to correct the evil." Sermons and Talks, Vol. 2, p. 74.4
Q. Does God want us to support corrupt ministers?
“It would be poor policy to support from the treasury of God those who really mar and injure His work, and who are constantly lowering the standard of Christianity.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, p. 553.2
“There are fearful woes for those who preach the truth, but are not sanctified by it, and also for those who consent to receive and maintain the unsanctified to minister to them in word and doctrine. I am alarmed for the people of God who profess to believe solemn, important truth, for I know that many of them are not converted nor sanctified through it. Men can hear and acknowledge the whole truth, and yet know nothing of the power of godliness. All who preach the truth will not themselves be saved by it. Said the angel: “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, 261-262
We agree with Ed that anyone receiving tithes or offerings from people have a responsibility once they receive the money. Ellen White supports this idea. However if we know the money will be misused before we give it, God will hold us responsible if we don't try to correct the problems. Given that there is so much apostasy in the church from the leadership down, trying to correct the problems is an impossibility. Only God can do this. Should we continue to support a corrupt ministry? Only God can guide each of us as to what we should do.
When ancient Israel started to entertain their enemies in the temple of God, the tithes and offerings began to cease and the work of God suffered. Today we face a similar situation. It is our hope that as more and more people begin to send their tithe to where it will be used properly, that the church leadership will, like Nehemiah, enquire "Why is the house of God forsaken?". Maybe then there will be a purifying of the church and we would not have to worry about tithing issues. Until that time, the example and counsel of Ellen White teaches us that God will hold us responsible for our stewardship of His tithe. To concluded that Ernie Knoll is a false prophet because of the counsel he gives regarding tithing effectively denies the clear Bible and Spirit of Prophecy statements which support his counsel.
"And may we never be confused or uncertain as to who is responsible for the present tithe problem. The responsibility must be placed squarely at the doors of those who are preaching among us the false doctrines of Calvinism and the administrators who are supporting and maintaining them in their positions." Ralph Larson, The Tithe Problem5