Ending Your Financial Worries

Despite an eight-year economic boom in America, personal bankruptcy filings for the last three years have hit record highs. Experts predict that by 2002, the U.S. will see a 43 percent increase to the astounding level of 2 million personal bankruptcies a year. Why are so many Americans experiencing the curse of such financial worries?

The entire world is looking to the American consumer to buy, buy, buy! And Americans are not disappointing: As of May 1999, retail sales in America have risen for ten consecutive months, as personal expenditures outpaced personal income.

American consumers are buying foreign automobiles, mainly from Japan and Germany, in unprecedented volumes. Americans are snapping up incredibly low-priced imported computers and accessories. Record amounts are being spent by Americans on travel abroad. Sales of foreign fruits, vegetables, coffee and wines in America are at previously unseen high levels. Clothing purchases, mostly imports from Asia and Latin America, continue at dizzying heights.

Foreign consumer electronics, including recent purchases of 20 million big-screen tvs costing $2,000 each or more, along with vcrs and stereos, are being rung up at a feverish pace. Such frenzied spending by American consumers will likely mean that this year foreigners will sell an astronomical $250 billionmore merchandise to Americans than foreigners will buy from U.S. companies! That is a record-breaking, economy-busting trade deficit!

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) of June 29 said, “A big contributor to the surge in consumer confidence has been strong gains achieved in the stock market…. That so-called ‘wealth effect’ has consumers feeling wealthier and willing to part with more of their earnings to buy more goods and services.”

But how long can this continue? How long can U.S. consumers carry the world on their shoulders? A booming economy is turning America into a land of big spenders. But at what price?

Give Them Credit

Most of the buying by Americans is on credit, and that is one of the major contributors to the enormous increase in personal bankruptcies mentioned above. People are running up record levels of debt in order to acquire bigger cars, bigger tvs and bigger houses, a phenomenon called “luxury fever” by economist Juliet Schor in her book The Overspent American.

U.S. News & World Report of June 24 stated, “Frenzied stock speculation and tales of overnight millionaires. Luxury-car orders pouring in faster than factories can turn them out and families blithely piling up debt to purchase the latest technical gadgetry. Sound like a wrap-up from today’s Wall Street Journal? In fact, it is a thumbnail portrait of early 1929….”

The article continued, “The assembly lines of the 1920s began spewing out luxury goods once available only to the rich.

“As credit lost its stigma, finance companies proliferated: Between 1920 and 1929, installment buying quintupled to $6 billion. But the 1929 stock market crash brought an abrupt end to the spending spree. In 1930, installment buying plummeted and thrift again became the defining ethic—a notion that would prevail until after World War II. Then, in 1950, with a postwar construction boom driving prosperity, Americans reopened their wallets.”

Since that time, American wallets have not closed very often or for very long. And today, the U.S. News article reports, “Americans are certainly borrowing more than ever, with the help of a proliferation of new credit-card deals and innovative lending instruments like the 125 percent second mortgage.”

In total agreement, The Economist of July 3 reported, “If America’s bubble economy bursts, a finger of blame is sure to point at the credit-card industry. The constant stream of junk mail offering pre-approved credit on a charge-card has helped huge numbers of people to get deeper and faster into debt than has ever been possible before. This has fueled the mother of all consumption splurges. And as buying [stock market] shares with borrowed money has become a working-class addiction, it has also helped to pump up the stock market.”

Low Savings Rate

Overextended credit and an overvalued stock market are without a doubt major threats to many Americans’ economic well-being. Equally a threat, however, is the financial collapse which is waiting in the wings due to a lack of preparation by the average American for any unanticipated event, national or personal, which rocks the boat.

In 1974, the U.S. Congress created the Individual Retirement Account, known as the ira, to promote tax-deferred personal savings. At that time, Americans saved 9.5 percent out of every paycheck. According to a Commerce Department report on June 28, the official U.S. household savings rate dropped to minus 1.2 percent in May, the lowest level since the Great Depression, and the largest single monthly drop since 1959.

Statistics show that one third of U.S. households have less than $1000 in total savings, and a little more than half have less than $5,000 in savings. In the event of life’s unexpected setbacks, like a job-loss, major health problems or costly car repairs, too many people have nothing to fall back on. Suddenly, families are being pushed over the brink into financial disaster by seemingly minor problems because they have not provided themselves a financial cushion.

Worse yet, we see the same signs of speculative froth in the stock market as was seen in the late 1920s. The majority of Americans are already on the edge of the abyss because of a lack of personal savings, and most, by far, could never weather a major economic storm. Such a disaster was only narrowly averted in the fall of 1998 when the Asian financial meltdown threatened to capsize the U.S. economic ship of state. But the specter of that catastrophe is lurking in the wings—just waiting for its cue to again come center-stage.

People don’t seem to understand how vulnerable the U.S., and indeed the entire world, is to a repeat of the Great Depression, the worst economic disaster in mankind’s history. In the space of three years, total economic output plunged by 29 percent and unemployment soared to over 25 percent while prices plunged and deflation ravaged the world economy in the 1930s. It seems almost no one is even remotely prepared for an inevitablerepeat of that global financial implosion.

When, not if, that occurs, many Americans will have absolutely no financial cushion with which to ride out the storm. Just as with the Titanic disaster, America is plowing full-steam ahead into an ice field without the benefit of enough lifeboats. Financial disaster awaits on an unprecedented scale.

All of us should be asking: Why have these curses come upon us? Why are so many experiencing the curse of bankruptcy and other such financial worries? With such prosperity, why can’t people make ends meet?

What About You?

What concerns you the most?

Are you worried mostly about nuclear war, gang violence or race riots? Or perhaps global warming or disease epidemics?

It is astonishing, but most people are concerned primarily about their finances—just making ends meet! The problem is so great that the family is being sacrificed by “farming out” the children so both parents can work!

The Washington Post of May 31 says, “The share of married women with children under 18 at home who worked for pay rose to 68 percent in 1996 from 38 percent in 1969.” In 1959, only about 25 percent of mothers worked outside the home!

It seems nearly everyone is constantly struggling to make ends meet, and those worries are robbing us of real happiness and joy! But it does not have to be that way!

There is a reason that these financial curses are occurring in our present-day society. It is cause and effect. And you can change your life and be free from financial worry!

Ending Your Financial Worries

Most of the remainder of this article is a paraphrase of, and sometimes actual quotes from, a 1959 booklet by the late Herbert W. Armstrong titled Ending Your Financial Worries.

In that booklet, Mr. Armstrong made the point that the key to ending your financial worries is to recognize an important fact: Your income is notyours! What you earn in wages or receive as a return on investments is not yours—not any of it—that is, not until two prior claims on your income are satisfied.

One of those claims, of course, is taxes. In the case of wages or salary, the government extracts an average of about 20 percent for taxes before you get your paycheck. Jesus said to pay our taxes—render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s (Matt. 22:21). In other words, be subject to man’s government and laws (I Pet. 2:13-17), as long as they don’t break God’s laws.

The last phrase in Matthew 22:21 describes the first claim on all of mankind’s income. Christ said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Your income is not yours until the prior claim of the living God, the Creator-Ruler of this universe, has been satisfied!

Most people don’t realize it, but everything produced—money and all that money can buy—comes out of the earth, and mankind does not own the earth! God created it and owns every square inch of it.

We tend to think our labors have earned us an income with which we can do whatsoever we please. But that is not the case! To think so means we will bring a curse upon ourselves. It is God’s labor of creating and sustaining the earth and the universe which makes it possible for your labors to create income. God even created the energy you expend and even your thinking processes. That is why God has a prior claim on all of your income which is produced from His earth.

In Psalm 24:1-2 and I Corinthians 10:26, God makes it abundantly clear that “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.”

God says, “Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine” (Job 41:11). And other scriptures support that claim. (See Deut. 10:14; Ex. 19:5; Ps. 50:10, 12 and Hag. 2:8 to name a few.) Everything, including your income, belongs to God. It is His to do with as He wills!

God As Our Partner

God is a God of love. He knows that we have needs and He is concerned that they are met. Therefore, God made a law concerning income or any increase which is produced from His earth.

You can produce nothing apart from God’s matter which He created—apart from the use of laws of force and energy which God set in motion and which He sustains. Yet, God allows you to work on His earth and produce an increase for you and your family. Whether you realize it or not, you are working in partnership with god!

But what a great partner! God supplies about nine parts of everything man makes or produces, and man’s thinking, planning and working supplies only about one part. Yet God has reserved for His use only one little tiny tenth of what is produced out of His earth through His forces and energies!

That is the basis of God’s law regarding finances! Your income is not your own until you satisfy the legal requirement of keeping God’s law by paying him the one tenth which He requires for His use. Once that legality is satisfied, then the other nine tenths of income you produce becomes yours. Thereafter, your income is yours to do with as you decide.

How to Prosper

God uses that one tenth which you pay to Him to disseminate to the people His message of the way of life that will free them from fears and worries, give them peace of mind and happiness, give them joy and success and life eternal!

Even the tenth God receives is used for human good! It is used to proclaim God’s gospel of soon-coming peace, happiness, joy and salvation through the establishment of His government on earth! This wretchedly unhappy world is starving for that knowledge!

All of God’s laws are for man’s good! Obedience to God’s law brings blessings! But when we violate His laws, we bring curses upon ourselves. That is why this world is at war and why there is no peace. That is why life for so many is empty and fruitless, full of suffering and unhappiness, frustration and death.

The man who pays God’s tenth is a prosperous man—not necessarily wealthy, but one whose actual needs are always supplied. Many scriptures show how God wants us to prosper and provide for our families and even leave an inheritance for our children (Deut. 16:16-17; III John 2; Prov. 3:9-10; Mal. 3:10).

Are you behind financially? In debt? Your unfaithfulness in paying God His tenth may be the reason! So if you want to prosper, then remember the debt you owe God first.

Cursed With a Curse!

Is it any wonder that nothing in the Christian life—or even the non-Christian life—so plagues the average family today as this financial problem of making both ends meet? Part of the Christian life of growth in faith and in grace is the overcoming of this very financial situation!

In fact, these financial difficulties being experienced today by our Western “Christian” world were foretold in a remarkable prophecy!

God says in Malachi 3:5-9, “I will come near to you to judgment…. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them…. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.”

There is a cause for every effect. America is the wealthiest nation on earth. Yet personal bankruptcies are becoming epidemic! Trade deficits are stealing our wealth! Financial problems are destroying families due to a lack of personal savings! And the cause of all that is because people are robbing God!

“But ye say,” continues the Eternal’s message to us, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” And God replies, “in tithes and offerings”!

God is our senior partner, and if we do not faithfully pay Him His tenth, then we are robbing Him, and that results in our being cursed with a curse!

So let’s blow the dust off our Bibles and begin to study honestly, diligently and prayerfully what the Almighty has declared on this often-misunderstood subject.

What Is a “Tithe”?

The word “tithe” is an old English word which simply means “tenth.” A tithe of anything is a tenth part of it.

During Old Testament times, ancient Israel was required to tithe, that is, to pay one tenth of income—whether livestock, grain or money. But the matter of to whom each Israelite paid this tenth, which tenth was paid, and why and for what purpose it was paid, seems to confuse a great many people today.

Tithing is mainly a priesthood subject—the financing of Christ’s ministry—and therefore we should first look at the “priesthood book”—the book of Hebrews—which reveals the work and office of Jesus Christ today—the High Priest of God!

Speaking of the Christian hope of eternal life, we are told, beginning in verse 19 of chapter 6, that this hope (Christ) has entered “within the veil”—that is, the very throne of God in heaven—“whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (v. 20).

The New Testament Priesthood

Jesus of Nazareth came as a messenger, sent from God, bearing a message to man (John 3:32; Rev. 1:1). His message is His gospel—the gospel of Jesus Christ—the good news of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14).

After finishing His mission as messenger, Jesus took on Himself the role of savior, paying in our stead the penalty of our sins by His death on the stake. But it requires a living Savior to impart to us the gift of eternal life! So God raised Jesus by a resurrection.

Thereupon Jesus ascended to heaven, to the very throne of God, where He continues today as our everlasting High Priest, the living Head of the Church of God. And as High Priest, Christ holds a definite rank, one that outranks every priestly office—“after the order of Melchisedec”—or, in the plainer English of the Moffatt translation, “with the rank of Melchisedec.”

And who is Melchisedec? This is one of the most intriguing mysteries of the Bible! He was the High Priest of God during patriarchal times. And Christ occupies the same office now, holding the same rank.

During the years of the Mosaic dispensation (from Moses to Christ), the lower rank Levitical priesthood was in office—mere human rank, vastly inferior to the spiritual and divine rank of Melchisedec and of Christ.

A Tithe-Receiving Priesthood

Yet this lower-level priesthood had to be financed. God’s financing plan from ancient times, through the Melchisedec priesthood, was the tithing system. This system was continued through the years of the Levitical priesthood.

God’s financing plan is explained in Hebrews 7: “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all…abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law” (vv. 1-5).

This vital passage of Scripture begins to compare the two priesthoods. Notice, back in patriarchal times, tithing was God’s system for financing His ministry. Melchisedec was High Priest. The patriarch Abraham knew and kept God’s commandments, His statutes and laws (Gen. 26:5). And he paid tithes to the High Priest!

Then notice that, during that dispensation from Moses until Christ, the priests of that time, the Levites, took tithes from the people by law. It was a law, started in the beginning and continued through the Mosaic dispensation.

Tithing, then, did not start with Moses!

Tithing: an Ancient Law

Many excuse themselves from tithing today on the false impression that tithing pertained to the Mosaic period only. They think it was for Israel alone. And that illusion has brought a curse on the entire world!

The Old Covenant is gone—that’s true. But its ending could not take away what it did not bring! Tithing was God’s law hundreds of years before the Old Covenant started.

Melchisedec, “having neither beginning of days, nor end of life…abideth a priest continually” (Heb. 7:3). Yes, He was High Priest from the beginning! Even from Adam! And the ancient patriarchs—from Adam down through Abraham, Jacob and on to Moses—financed this ministry of God on earth by the tithing system!

Tithing Commanded Now!

Since tithing is God’s permanent, continuous financing system, it had to continue through the Mosaic dispensation. During that period when the Levites were the ministers, their work and labors had to be financed. But when the priesthood was changed, God did not change His financing system. The Levites “had a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law” (v. 5).

And notice, the very subject of this seventh chapter of Hebrews is the tithing law!

Christians of Paul’s day did not need to be instructed that tithing is an obligatory and permanent law of God. But they did need much teaching to make clear to them that the Old Covenant was dead—the Levitical priesthood changed and replaced by that of Jesus Christ—the Melchisedec priesthood restored! The only question was as to which priesthood tithes were to be paid.

Notice verses 4-10: “Now consider how great this man [Melchisedec] was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils…. But he whose descent is not counted from them [the Levites], received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him [Abraham] that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less [Abraham] is blessed of the better [Melchisedec]…. And as I may so say, Levi also, who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.”

The Melchisedec priesthood is greatersuperior—and should receive tithes now! It has precedence! And it is again in force as God’s priesthood, under Christ! It, too, needs to be financed!

Now notice the conclusion in verse 12: “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” It does not say the law was abolished. The change in priesthoods made necessary a change in the law. What law was changed? The tithing law! “The sons of Levi…have a commandment to take tithes…according to the law” (v. 5).

So tithing, far from being abolished, is New Testamentlaw! Actually, the law is merely restored as it was from the beginning, along with the restoration of the Melchisedec priesthood.

How plain! Tithing is God’s law—His system for financing His great Work today. It is commanded now!

Why God Retains the Tithe

God is working out a great purpose through mankind. To work with those whom God calls (John 6:44), God has always had a priesthood—a ministry, representing Him, serving Him, carrying out His mission. At one time, Melchisedec was God’s representative on earth—His High Priest. Then came the Levitical priesthood during the Mosaic dispensation. Then, after Jesus Christ was resurrected, He ascended to heaven as a living High Priest. Today, God calls ministers as His true representatives in a darkened and Satan-deceived world, to carry on and to preach His message.

It costs a great deal of money to carry on the Work of God: television broadcasting, publishing, office space, personnel and office equipment, as well as a full-time ministry which works hard and long, observing no set hours. That first tenth—the first tithe—provides for the work of the ministry and those supporting that great effort.

But how can you pay God’s tenth to Him? God is on His throne in heaven. And “no man,” said Jesus, “has ascended to heaven” (John 3:13). You cannot go there. You cannot see God or hand your money to Him personally. How, then, can you pay Him His tithes?

To Whom Tithes Are Paid

Just as in paying the newspaper delivery boy of years gone by, we knew that when we paid him, we were paying the newspaper company, because he was a representative of the company. God’s system of receiving from you His tithe is just that simple. Because you cannot see God, or go to God’s throne in heaven, God instructs you in His revealed word to pay it to His representative who, in receiving it, represents God, just as the paperboy represented the newspaper company to whom you paid your debt.

This illustrates plainly God’s true principle of tithing. When you pay tithes today you are instructed by God’s directions to pay them to God’s called and chosen representative, the true minister of Jesus Christ.

When Your Responsibility Ceases

Remember that the first tenth of your income is not yours. It belongs to God. And the method God Himself instituted for your payment of His money to Him is to pay it to His called and true ministers.

When you have done that, your responsibility for that money ceases! You have no further concern, responsibility or direction in the handling of it than you have in money you owe the electric or telephone companies which you pay to their representative. Once paid, you have done your part—you have satisfied your obligation.

Just as you would assure yourself that you are paying a true representative of the newspaper company, you should be equally sure you are paying your tithe to a called and true minister of Jesus Christ. Do not be deceived by a satanic imposter who poses as a minister of Jesus Christ, putting on sanctimonious airs, speaking in pious and spiritual-sounding language. (II Cor. 11:13-15). Look for the fruits of God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and the fruits of revealed prophecy (Amos 3:7; Eph. 3:3-5). It is by their fruits that Jesus said you will know God’s true ministers (Matt. 7:15-20).

So when you pay tithes to God’s true and accredited spiritual representative, you pay it as to God. And you may be sure that God’s justice is perfect—that He will hold every minister far more strictly accountable than you would be capable of doing!

Financing God’s Work God’s Way

God uses the tithe for His ministry—for carrying on His work! In ancient Israel, God took one whole tribe of the 12 tribes of Israel—the tribe of Levi—for His service. Today, the Levitical priesthood is gone, and Jesus Christ is High Priest. Today, all true ministers of Jesus Christ are called by special spiritual call from God through His Holy Spirit—not by flesh birth—neither by self-desire to become a minister—nor by selection, appointment or vote of the people.

Today, the ministry is a spiritual ministry—a ministry of prophecy—a ministry of salvation—a ministry of warning! And Christ’s true ministry is a huge undertaking. This Work is proclaiming a thunderous warning message to a sinning Church of God which has become God’s very enemy (Mic. 2:8), as well as proclaiming a warning to a sin-sick and dying world!

God has provided for the financing of His powerful ministry by the same system He has used from the very beginning—His tithing system!

That is how the Trumpet is published without subscription price, free to all who request it for themselves, as are all publications of the Philadelphia Church of God.

That is God’s way, carrying out God’s plan in His great purpose being worked out here below!

Jesus Taught Tithing

In speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, who often made a self-righteous display of strictly keeping some of the smaller points of God’s law, Jesus said: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done [these weightier matters], and not to leave the other [carefully tithing!] undone” (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42).

Isn’t that clear enough? Jesus said that carefully and strictly paying tithes on every little plant that might grow in your garden ought not be put ahead of spiritual qualities such as mercy and faith. But Christ said “not to leave the other undone”—not to fail to pay your full tithes as God has commanded!

Tithing While in Debt

Yet so many say: “I don’t think it would be right for me to tithe while I’m in debt.” Yes, it is right, and the other way is wrong. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 16:25). God’s word tells us what is right, and God tells us to pay to His Work the first fruits of all our income. Regarding our material and financial needs, even debts, God says: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

The tithe is the debt that you owe God. This debt is first in time and principle. Pay your debts to God, make Him your partner in your finances, and receive His blessing in earthly matters. This will enable you to pay your debts, or to get a job, or to have your needs supplied more quickly than if you evade His debt.

Remember your all belongs to God, not to you (Deut. 10:14). You are in the position of a steward handling money which belongs to another: your silent partner. And you must pay Him His share—the first tenth. To do otherwise is to rob your partner and be cursed with a curse (Mal. 3:8).

Your Glorious Opportunity

Some will say, I never tithed, and I know God never frowned on me, for I have the feeling in my heart that I am His child without having to tithe.

God has blessed you according as you have yielded to Him, and He will bless you even more for obeying the light He has just revealed to you from His word! While you have the light, walk in it, lest darkness come upon you (John 12:35-36; Rom. 11:22). “Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord” (II Pet. 3:18).

If every professing Christian would accept this plain instruction from God, honoring Him instead of themselves with their substance, they would receive God’s financial blessings, and the Work of the Eternal would go forth with such mighty power that the world would be shaken to its foundations!

Seek ye first the Kingdom, and your material needs shall be added. Try it! Take God at His word. Prove Him! (Mal. 3:10). Be a faithful steward, and make God your partner. Then, see how you begin to prosper and leave your financial worries behind!