Sometimes people ask, “Why do I always have money problems?” Or, “Why do I always have to worry about money?” The answer these same people might offer is, “Because I don’t have enough of it!” But, in reality, would having more money cause our financial problems to go away?
Years ago, Mr. Armstrong wrote two definitive works on achieving success—financial and otherwise: Ending Your Financial Worries and The Seven Laws of Success. God revealed that knowledge through him so that we would know the way to success in every worthy pursuit in this life. Yet some in God’s Church today, along with many of the rest of the world, are experiencing severe financial difficulties, seemingly unable to set things right. Every month is a serious struggle to make ends meet.
God is very concerned about these problems. His Word, the Bible, sets down definite rules and guidelines governing success. Mr. Armstrong pointed out that “[p]eople trying to live without the living CHRIST in their lives are missing the most practical and valuable asset they could have. In the language of our day, ‘it pays off!’ Of course, we have to expend our own effort. We have to really think. We use all our own resources and natural resourcefulness. But we have that added security of divine guidance. Often God simply works out circumstances. He literally gives us ‘the breaks’! IT PAYS!” (The Seven Laws of Success).
In finances, as everything else, these laws must be adhered to if we are to achieve true success.
The truth is, in most cases, the more we earn—the more we spend. It’s like a catch-22. But achieving financial peace does not demand a great amount of skill. As a matter of fact, it is completely within everyone’s grasp if two requirements are met.
To begin with, we need to ask ourselves the question: “To whom does the money we earn belong?” Most anyone would assume themselves. After all, we work hard for our money, don’t we? And we consider those earnings ours to do with as we please, do we not? Mr. Armstrong posed the question, “But is the money you earn really your own? Don’t be too sure. Notice these facts about your income you probably haven’t known!
“What you earn is not yours!
“The man who says, ‘What I do with the money I earn with my own labor is nobody’s business—I produced it—it belongs to me,’ is mistaken” (Ending Your Financial Worries).
Why? Because God claims that all of our earnings belong to Him! Notice Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Also notice Psalm 50:12: “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” Then, read Deuteronomy 10:14: “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.” And, finally, to whom does material wealth belong? “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:8).
So the first step to freedom from financial worries is to realize that everything belongs to God. There is a prior claim to our wealth. Could the financial problems of our nation, and our own individual blessings be affected by how we obey this prior claim? Is it possible that we are bringing financial curses on ourselves by denying God what is His by right? Indeed it is! More than that, if these laws are broken, it is an absolute certainty!
Let’s understand. As we have read, all the world—all the universe—all the gold and silver belongs to God. Not just a part, it allbelongs to the Eternal. Our salary, our income, our wages, all our profits belong to Him. We must fix this point in our minds, because it is the first key to ending our financial problems.
If we neglect to pay God His tithe, we are guilty of stealing all of the increase; it’s as simple as that. Anything that takes the place of God in our lives becomes a god. The 90 percent, which He gives to us, is not ours until the first 10 percent is paid to Him.
He says we rob Him if we do not pay it. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8). But far more sobering is the fact that failing to tithe breaks all 10 of the commandments—beginning with the first; “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The fact is, we are a financial partner with God. When we obey Him, we reap the blessings; when we don’t, we reap financial ruin and worse. God has, however, generously reserved only 10 percent to Himself and given us the use of 90 percent!
The first law of success that God revealed through Mr. Armstrong is to fix the right goal. In finances, getting out of debt is an overall goal, but to realize this success our immediate goal must be to obey God in the tithing law.
How to Tithe
What is tithable income? God’s law tells us that we tithe on the “increase” we receive. “Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year” (Deuteronomy 14:22). In other words, it is income that we earn ourselves. A tithe is 10 percent of the gross earnings before taxes. Therefore we would not tithe on unearned income such as social security, old-age assistance, unemployment compensation, gifts, inheritance or disability.
Let’s notice Leviticus 27:30: “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.” Continuing in Hebrews 7:5: “And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham.” So there is a tithe commonly referred to as the “first tithe,” which God provides for His Work.
In addition to the first tithe, there is a second tithe required, which God gives to us that we may keep His festivals. “Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee” (Deuteronomy 14:22-24).
Here is the tenth we are to save in order to keep God’s holy days, the Feast of Tabernacles for instance. Notice, unlike the first tithe which God reserves for Himself and His Work, this is a tithe which we are allowed to consume. Will the Feast of Tabernacles be observed in the Millennium? Let’s read Zechariah 14:16: “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.” We can definitely see, therefore, that God’s festivals will be celebrated in the Kingdom, and therefore, the tithing laws will be taught, and obeyed.
Then, in the third year, there is a widows’ tithe. “When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them” (Deuteronomy 26:12-13). This third tithe applies in the third and the sixth year of a seven-year cycle, generally dating from the festival season closest to one’s date of baptism (either Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles). The second and third tithe are a part of the restored truths of God. They were forgotten until God restored them to the Church through Herbert W. Armstrong.
Tithing is commanded by God. What does God want to achieve through His tithing laws? Could He have purposes in mind other than financing His Work? Absolutely! As we tithe, we demonstrate to God aspects of our character that a loving Father wants to know.
By commanding us to tithe, God can gauge our attitude. As stated before, God is a giver, not a taker. He doesn’t take a 10th, He gives all but a 10th. A whole 90 percent of what is rightfully His, He gives to us! How do we act as we return to Him what is His? Are we cheerful while doing so? God wants to know, because as we read in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” Are we truly thankful to be able to return to God’s Work tithes and offerings? Do we rejoice to be able to support the Work of Jesus Christ? God wants to know!
Mr. Armstrong said many times that we will grow spiritually in proportion to how much our hearts are in God’s Work. God has instructed us in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It would be very easy for God to support His Work through miracles alone, but God has a much higher purpose in what He does. Through tithing and giving offerings, He has made it possible for humans to build perfect spiritual character as we labor with Him to finish this warning Work. Our “works” include having a part in supporting the Work which God has called His Philadelphian Church to accomplish. As we accomplish this purpose, He will bless and multiply our efforts, and provide financial blessings to those who obey!
When we are obedient in the tithing laws, we give God the opportunity, the open door, to show His power in supplying our needs. And this is just one reason why it is so important to teach this law to our youths. By our obedience, we give Him the “OK” to shower blessings upon us—and He is most eager to do so. In short, we allow Him to bless us and build our faith in the process.
After all, tithing is an act of faith. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t plan ahead for the third tithe year—we most definitely should. It doesn’t mean that we can ignore sound financial planning or that we can spend our money foolishly while thinking, “God will provide.” That will only end in financial ruin. We must be careful stewards of His blessings. God will not give us more until we learn to manage what He has already given us.
It does mean that God has made a promise to us, and to our children, which is recorded in the book of Malachi. It says: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). He is saying, if we are obedient, cheerful, and thankful to participate in His Work through tithing and giving offerings, He will bless us and make us successful. God also says: “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).
God knows how we feel about money. He is fully aware that our work is sometimes hot, dirty, and sweaty; that we often put up with all types of annoyances. He knows that on occasion our boss may not be the most genial fellow to be around. As humans, we’re pretty possessive about what we earn!
God wants to know if we will recognize His sovereignty over every dollar we make. After all, we’re using His Earth—His resources to make a profit. Will we obey Him in such things as paying tithes and giving freewill offerings? He needs to know, because if we’re not, how will He ever be able to trust us with a planet or a solar system or a galaxy? If we refuse to obey Him in a small thing, how could He expect our obedience over great things? We can see how obedience in this area is of paramount importance.
Teachers in Training
We are in training to be teachers in the World Tomorrow. Certainly we can be teachers now by showing our children how to experience the joy and the benefits of being business partners with God in tithing and giving offerings. If we don’t have children of our own, we can encourage the youth of the Church by our own example of obedience. It is most important that they learn this principle early in life. Let them see how God blesses those who obey Him. Give them the priceless opportunity of learning faith at an early age. Lessons learned well in youth are seldom forgotten in later years. The God who created the brain and the process by which we learn instructs us in this principle in Proverb 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Will tithing be taught in the Kingdom? The answer is, as we have seen, most definitely. We, along with our children, will be the ones doing it. The question is how will we teach anything that we have not learned by doing first?
Once we understand the tithing laws, the next step to achieving freedom from financial worries is to plan for the remainder of our income. How will we account for the rest of the money we earn?
Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” To avoid ending up with nothing, again, we employ the laws of success. First we must set some goals; we must chart a financial course.
Ideally, we will be living within our income, paying bills on time, and reducing or eliminating credit borrowing. How can we accomplish these goals? The answer is—we must construct a budget.
Is budgeting necessary for everyone? Many people feel that their income is so small that a budget isn’t required. Somehow, for those same people there always seems to be too much month left over after the money runs out. Look at the condition of our government today. Instead of operating within a balanced budget, Congress continues to raise the “acceptable” level of debt. Can a nation continue to be prosperous while practicing harmful financial policies? Of course not! Neither can a family. The reason everyone needs to live within a budget is that, unless we do, we will never know when we are going beyond the dictates of our income.
The principles of financial planning are not overly difficult. Clearly, making a budget should be a family affair, but in the end, the full responsibility rests with the head of the home. If a husband and wife are both working, then both incomes should be combined. There is no reason to make two budgets. Those who are on assistance, either government or third tithe, should also set goals and budget to insure that they are careful stewards of these funds. In short, budgeting is for everyone.
Establishing a Budget
The first step to establishing a budget is to record all fixed expenses. This category would include set amounts of money paid each month: tithes, rent or mortgage payment, insurance premiums, loan payments, utilities and taxes. Next, record all living expenses such as food, transportation, and household needs. (Items such as entertainment and personal allowances will be determined by the condition of our finances after fixed and living expenses are determined.) All these major expenses must be identified before establishing a budget. Be careful to include all fixed and living expenses in these categories. Being less than honest with ourselves at this point will only result in failure later on.
It is simple to subtract the total amount of expenses from the total income available. The amount left over, if any, may be divided into savings, clothing, entertainment, and personal allowances. If properly set up, the budget will tell us what we can afford to spend.
What happens if there isn’t enough to go around? The answer is to begin by going back over the fixed and living expenses. Ask yourself the tough questions: Can we get more affordable housing? Can groceries be obtained more economically? Can the utility bills be reduced? Does our insurance coverage accurately reflect current needs, or could we be paying for benefits which are not cost efficient? Counseling with a minister and an insurance professional in this area would be very advisable. Obviously, trimming excess spending in fixed and living expenses will result in more money for the things we’d like to do.
Information is readily available from expert sources on ways to cut food and energy expenses. For instance, planning meals from a menu, shopping from a grocery list, not shopping for food when hungry, using coupons only after comparing store brand prices—these are just a few hints for saving food dollars. To save energy costs, raise the thermostat in the summer and lower it in the winter. Reduce the temperature on the hot water heater control, and close all air leaks in the attic, basement and around doors and windows. Check the amount of insulation in the home; an extra layer now could result in major savings later.
The great thing about budgeting is no special skills are needed to accomplish the task. All it takes is a determination to live God’s way. Planning ahead financially is definitely God’s way. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).
By employing the seven laws of success in our tithing and budgeting, we will solve our financial problems. Begin today, and have faith in our Creator when He promises, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). After all, the entire universe is His, and from His abundance, He will bless. Achieving financial freedom is within everyone’s grasp, but it does require obedience, determination and diligence. Actually, the beginning of freedom from financial worry is only a decision away!