Another Christmas season has come to an end. The presents, family dinners and corporate parties are all things of the past. Yet many will wake up in January with a financial hangover.
Americans are increasingly incapable of keeping up with credit card bills. An Associated Press analysis of financial data from many major credit card companies showed double-digit percentage increases in bill payment delinquency. According to the Federal Reserve Bank, Americans owe $920 billion in credit card debt.
Some say the expanded debt is partly the product of the deep-rooted American attitude that credit card debt is “no big deal.”
“The desires of consumers to want, want, want, spend, spend, spend—it’s the fabric of our nation,” Howard Dvorkin, founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., told AP. “But you always have to pay the piper, and that can be a very painful process.”
Despite affluence in the Western World that is unparalleled in human history, personal bankruptcies are soaring. Why? Consumer credit has never been so high. Why? Up to 25 million people in America are “two paychecks from the street,” with nearly 15 million just “one paycheck from the street.” Why? The U.S. national debt is measured in the trillions of dollars, requiring annual interest payments in the hundreds of billions! Why? Money woes are considered the second leading cause of divorce. None of this need be.
Much of the national news is devoted to the rollercoaster ride of the “leading economic indicators”—and whether they are moving up or down. Unemployment, inflation, recession, interest rates, bull or bear markets, stocks, housing starts, auto sales, layoffs, hires, available energy and fuel prices are all household words dominating the news.
What about you? If you are honest with yourself, you will admit that you spend a lot of time thinking and talking about MONEY. You probably wrestle with financial difficulties daily. Sometimes you feel that you are winning the battle, only to learn that you are either treading water or falling behind. Many today find it almost impossible to “get ahead.” For most, the “money struggle” is constant, and the pressure can seem unbearable. Just the stress of these problems can drive away the happiness and peace that everyone seeks but few find. All of this is unnecessary if you have God’s key to financial prosperity.
Your house belongs to you, right? So does your car, doesn’t it? You bought the clothes on your back with your money, didn’t you? Haven’t you heard yourself say, “I earned my money, it’s mine”? Isn’t it true that “what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine”? Not so fast!
Certainly we would all agree that before we have fully paid off the things that we have purchased, they are not truly ours. Banks and other lenders hold liens against houses, cars, boats and other expensive things that people buy on credit. Everyone understands this. But have you ever considered whether you really own everything that you think you do? Do you really have title to the things you own “free and clear”?
We must consider whether others could lay claim to what is “ours.”
Most are familiar with the phrase, “Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes.” Indeed, death is certain. Of course, everyone also recognizes that the government is entitled to a certain percentage of one’s income. Few dispute this, though most seek to get around taxes in as many ways as possible. No one wants to give the government a penny more than “its fair share.” Most feel that less than “its share” would be better.
Have you stopped to consider whether God instructs us to pay taxes? He does! These scriptures prove it. Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers…Wherefore you must needs be subject…for conscience sake. For this cause pay you tribute [Greek: taxes or assessment] also…Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due” (Rom. 13:1, 5-7).
Christ was asked if He felt that taxes should be paid—with the question actually directed to Him for the purpose of tempting Him into giving a wrong answer. Notice that those who questioned Him said, “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give?” Christ asked to be given a penny for the purpose of illustration. He then answered, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:13-17). Christ taught that there are things that belong to man’s government and things that belong to God.
We will momentarily address what belongs to God. However, what belongs to the government are taxes! In some countries this includes city, state and federal taxes. Woe to those caught not paying them! Interest, penalties and even prison can be the result for those guilty of tax evasion. But in doing this, people have disobeyed not only the laws of the land but also God’s plain instruction. So then, taxes are an undisputed fact of life for most people on earth. The fact that you earned the money you have does not negate the fact that human governments have a prior right to take a certain legal percentage of it to ensure their own operation. No government can function without tax revenue.
This is one way that what is yours is not always entirely yours.
Despite the fact that governments can legally collect taxes for themselves from the taxpayers of a country, no one would suggest that they own everything else that a taxpayer has. All that is left belongs to the taxpayer—or does it?
Now for a basic question. Look around you and ask yourself: Where do we get the things that we have? Where did they actually come from?
God says, “For all the earth is Mine” (Ex. 19:5). Have you ever considered this? The Bible also states, “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s your God, the earth also, with all that therein is” (Deut. 10:14) and “whatsoever is under the whole heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11). In the Psalms, King David was inspired to write, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psa. 24:1). Paul recorded the same statement in I Corinthians 10:26.
God says, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills…If I were hungry, I would not tell you: for the world is Mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psa. 50:10, 12). Finally, the prophet Haggai said, “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, says the Lord” (2:8).
In a sense, God is saying that all money is His (remember, the value of money is generally attached in some way to gold and silver). God owns absolutely everything there is to own. Human beings are “squatters” on His land and “renters” in homes that belong to Him. This is what these verses say! Make no mistake—what you think is yours is not! Everything that you think you own is actually owned by God. You are merely its temporary custodian.
People may manufacture products from natural resources, which come from the earth, but it is God who makes both the natural resources and the earth in which they are found. Men may own mining or timber rights, but it is ultimately God who owns the mine and created the timber, which grew because of the elements found in the soil of the earth—which He created and owns!
Any time He wishes, God could take back all that is His. After all, it is His! This includes your income. While you may have “earned it,” God owns it.
We have seen Christ said that, in addition to taxes belonging to Caesar, there are also “things that are God’s”—or things that belong to God. What are these things? We have read that God owns everything. And Christ said to “Render…to God the things that are God’s.” Render means give. Since the heavens and the earth (or the land on which we live) cannot be “rendered” back to God by human beings, to what is this referring?
We have proven that our entire income (salary, wages, interest earned, investments, bonuses, commissions and any other kind of financial increase) actually belongs to God.
What of a farmer and the produce from his field? What is the process whereby things grow? The farmer does his part—tilling, planting, fertilizing, watering, etc.—but so
does God, in that He sends rain and sunshine and provides the very soil in which the fruit, vegetables or grains take root and grow. Who did most of the work? In truth, the farmer did little more than a fraction of the work, while God did perhaps 90%. As a matter of fact, the farmer is far more dependent on God’s effort than God is on the farmer’s. Without God’s contributions, the farmer would produce nothing and, in fact, would not even be alive because no one would be able to produce the food necessary for all human beings to survive.
Think of it this way. You formed a partnership with God—whether you knew it or not—the day you took a chosen profession, job or vocation. You are using materials that belong to God, in order to invest, sell, distribute or produce goods or services, whereby you can earn a living—you have become a partner with God! There is no other way to view or understand this. Admit to yourself that, without God’s role and help in earning a living, it would be impossible to produce anything! God knows this and has chosen to make a special arrangement with you. His Word describes it.
God lays prior claim to the first 10% of everything that people earn as income. This is called the tithe, and it means “the tenth.” You may be familiar with the term. To tithe, or to be a tithepayer, means the same as to “tenth” or to be a “tenthpayer.” The word tithe is actually an old English word. The King James Version of the Bible was translated nearly 400 years ago—in 1611. At that time, the word was commonly used to mean tenth. People have long understood that to tithe is to pay a tenth of one’s income. We will thoroughly explore to whom this tenth was paid in the Old Testament, and to whom it is paid today.
There are small and large points within God’s Law. Some commands carry more “weight” than others. When speaking of some lesser points within God’s law, Christ said in Matthew 5:19 that, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: But whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Let us now examine an important verse about tithing. Christ said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these [the weightier matters] ought you to have done, and not to leave the other [tithing conscientiously] undone” (Matt. 23:23). God also inspired Luke to record the same account—and to repeat the same command (11:42). Love, mercy and faith are, indeed, weighty matters within the overall law of God. Christ acknowledges this. However, He also explains that tithing should not be something that people “leave undone.” The argument is often raised that tithing is not important—that it is least among God’s laws. This verse does not actually say that it is “least” among God’s commands. Matthew 5:19 merely says that, if it were, it is still required to be kept today by all who value the commands of God!
Any who are learning the truth of God’s tithing laws must pay His tithe—once it is clear where His chosen representatives are working! We will learn that tithing is the manner in which He finances the Work His true servants perform. Only after God’s tithe has been paid does God give the rest of one’s income back to the tithepayer. God’s generosity and love for those who are His children is why He gives nine-tenths of what He owns to the one faithful in tithe-paying. In other words, we are not giving God one-tenth of what is ours. God is giving us nine-tenths of what is His!
We should now examine several scriptures about tithing. People who dismiss this practice as a valid command often attempt to make the truth of tithing into a highly technical subject. Tithing is not a technical subject. It is not difficult to understand. It does require some careful examination of a relatively few scriptures. Doing this will make clear that tithing has always been, is now and always will be the means whereby God finances His Work and His Church.
Some theologians and “Bible critics” attempt to create confusion by saying that tithes in the Old Testament belonged only to the Levitical Priesthood of ancient Israel. Is this true? Does the Bible say this? We must ask, is there a place, anywhere in scripture, where God plainly says that tithes belong to Him? There is!
God states, in Leviticus 27:30, 32, “And all the tithe of the land…is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord…And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” These verses are direct. They are plain. Tithes belong to God alone. He may choose to give them to His servants, but it is completely within His discretion what He does with them.
These same “higher critics” often attempt to use Numbers 18:21 and 24 to prove that the tithe belonged to the Levites. Carelessly reading these scriptures causes them to be misunderstood by those who will not accept their plain meaning. This passage says, “And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve…But the tithes of the children of Israel…I have given to the Levites to inherit.” Carefully consider this verse. Did Israel give their tithes to the Levites? No! God gave His tithe, which was merely supplied by the Israelites, to the Levites. He twice said, “I have given.”
The tithes were God’s, not Israel’s, to give to whom He chose. Reading verse 20 makes this more plain.
There is much more to learn about God’s financial principles. You may wish to read End All Your Financial Worries.