July 2, 2006 – July 8, 2006
“When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.” Deuteronomy 23:21, 22.
Study Help: The Acts of the Apostles, 72–76.
“A church is responsible for the pledges of its individual members. If they see that there is a brother who is neglecting to fulfill his vows, they should labor with him kindly but plainly. If he is not in circumstances which render it possible for him to pay his vow, and he is a worthy member and has a willing heart, then let the church compassionately help him. Thus they can bridge over the difficulty, and receive a blessing themselves.
“God would have the members of His church consider their obligations to Him as binding as their indebtedness to the merchant or the market. Let everyone review his past life and see if any unpaid, unredeemed pledges have been neglected, and then make extra exertions to pay the ‘uttermost farthing,’ for we must all meet and abide the final issue of a tribunal where nothing will stand the test but integrity and veracity.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 476.
1 Under what circumstances do men usually make vows? Psalm 66:13, 14.
note: “The Lord permits circumstances to come that call for the exercise of the passive graces, which increase in purity and efficiency as we endeavor to give back to the Lord His own in tithes and offerings. You know something of what it means to pass through trials. These have given you the opportunity of trusting in God, of seeking Him in earnest prayer, that you may believe in Him, and rely upon Him with simple faith. It is by suffering that our virtues are tested, and our faith tried. It is in the day of trouble that we feel the preciousness of Jesus. You will be given opportunity to say, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him’ (Job 13:15). Oh, it is so precious to think that opportunities are afforded us to confess our faith in the face of danger, and amid sorrow, sickness, pain, and death. . . .” Selected Messages, Book 1, 117, 118.
2 When God delivers His people from trouble, are they not under obligation to honor their vows to Him? Psalm 56:12, 13.
note: “It is for our own benefit to keep every gift of God fresh in our memory. Thus faith is strengthened to claim and to receive more and more. There is greater encouragement for us in the least blessing we ourselves receive from God than in all the accounts we can read of the faith and experience of others. . . . Like the people of Israel, let us set up our stones of witness, and inscribe upon them the precious story of what God has wrought for us. And as we review His dealings with us in our pilgrimage, let us, out of hearts melted with gratitude, declare, ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people.’ Psalm 116:12–14.” The Desire of Ages, 348.
3 In the Old Testament, when a vow or promise was made to give unto God, what was the offering called? Deuteronomy 23:21–23.
note: “It should be our first care to render our freewill offerings to God. Every manifestation of His mercy and love toward us should be gratefully acknowledged, both by acts of devotion and by gifts to His cause.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 106.
“Christ and angels are watching the development of character, and weighing moral worth. The Lord bears long with His erring people. The truth will be brought to bear closer and closer, and will cut off one idol after another, until God reigns supreme in the hearts of His consecrated people. I [Ellen White] saw that God’s people must bring to Him a freewill offering; and the responsibility should be left wholly upon the individual, whether he will give much or little. It will be faithfully recorded. Give the people of God time to develop character.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 237, 238.
4 When a man questions the vow he has made, and appropriates it otherwise, what does it become to him? Proverbs 20:25.
note: “If the Lord has blessed you with means, do not look upon it as your own. Regard it as yours in trust for God, and be true and honest in paying tithes and offerings. When a pledge is made by you, be sure that God expects you to pay as promptly as possible. Do not promise a portion to the Lord, and then appropriate it to your own use, lest your prayers become an abomination unto Him. It is the neglect of these plainly revealed duties that brings darkness upon the church.” Review and Herald, December 17, 1889.
5 When such promises are not regarded, what is such a sacrifice called? Ecclesiastes 5:1, 2.
note: “Now they [selfish men] draw back, they murmur, they complain of the Lord’s message and His messengers. They say things that are not true, claiming that they pledged under excitement, that they did not fully understand the matter, the case was overstated, their feelings were moved, and this led them to make the pledge. They talked as though the precious blessing they received was the result of a deception practiced upon them by the minister to secure money. They change their minds, and feel under no obligation to pay their vows to God. There is most fearful robbery of God, and flimsy excuses are made for resisting and denying the Holy Spirit. Some plead inconvenience; they say they need their money—to do what? To bury in houses and lands, in some money-making scheme. Because the pledge was made for a religious object, they think it cannot be enforced by law, and the love of money is so strong upon them that they deceive their own souls, and presume to rob God.” Counsels on Stewardship, 313, 314.
6 What judgment is threatened against those who disregard such vows? Ecclesiastes 5:4–6.
note: “[Ecclesiastes 5:4–6 quoted.] Here the matter is presented in its true light. Your work was done before the angel of God. Your words were not only heard by men, but the angel of God listened to them, and can you be surprised that God was angry with you? Can you wonder that He has not blessed you and made you able to pay your pledges? When you have grumbled and murmured and withdrawn your pledges and felt that God’s servants had deceived you and extorted from you pledges that were not just, the enemy has exulted. Could you see your course as it is you would never make one semblance of an excuse for it. . . .
“The Lord will not accept an offering that is made unwillingly, grudgingly. With your present feelings there would be no virtue in making more pledges. When you recover from this snare of the enemy, when you heal the breach that you have made, and realize that the wants of God’s cause are as continual as are His gifts to the children of men, your works will correspond with your faith, and you will receive a rich blessing from the Lord.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 284, 285.
7 Who among the apostles made a consecration of his possessions? Acts 4:36, 37.
note: “As the disciples proclaimed the truths of the gospel in Jerusalem, God bore witness to their word, and a multitude believed. Many of these early believers were immediately cut off from family and friends by the zealous bigotry of the Jews, and it was necessary to provide them with food and shelter.
“The record declares, ‘Neither was there any among them that lacked,’ [Acts 4:34] and it tells how the need was filled. Those among the believers who had money and possessions cheerfully sacrificed them to meet the emergency. Selling their houses or their lands, they brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet, ‘and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.’ [Verse 35.]
“This liberality on the part of the believers was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit. The converts to the gospel were ‘of one heart and of one soul.’ [Verse 32.] One common interest controlled them—the success of the mission entrusted to them; and covetousness had no place in their lives. Their love for their brethren and the cause they had espoused, was greater than their love of money and possessions. Their works testified that they accounted the souls of men of higher value than earthly wealth.
“Thus it will ever be when the Spirit of God takes possession of the life. Those whose hearts are filled with the love of Christ, will follow the example of Him who for our sake became poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich. Money, time, influence—all the gifts they have received from God’s hand, they will value only as a means of advancing the work of the gospel.” The Acts of the Apostles, 70, 71.
8 What shows that 26 years later Barnabas labored with his hands to support himself? 1 Corinthians 9:6, 7, 12; 11 Thessalonians 3:8, 9.
note: “Among the Jews physical toil was not thought strange or degrading. Through Moses the Hebrews had been instructed to train their children to industrious habits, and it was regarded as a sin to allow the youth to grow up in ignorance of physical labor. Even though a child was to be educated for holy office, a knowledge of practical life was thought essential. Every youth, whether his parents were rich or poor, was taught some trade. Those parents who neglected to provide such a training for their children were looked upon as departing from the instruction of the Lord.” The Acts of the Apostles, 346, 347.
9 What other persons consecrated a certain possession? Acts 5:1.
note: “Ananias and Sapphira had made a pledge to give to the Lord the proceeds from the sale of certain property.” The Acts of the Apostles, 72.
10 In keeping back part of the price, what sin did Ananias and Sapphira commit? Acts 5:2–4.
note: “Afterward, Ananias and Sapphira grieved the Holy Spirit by yielding to feelings of covetousness. They began to regret their promise and soon lost the sweet influence of the blessing that had warmed their hearts with a desire to do large things in behalf of the cause of Christ. They thought they had been too hasty, that they ought to reconsider their decision. They talked the matter over, and decided not to fulfill their pledge. They saw, however, that those who parted with their possessions to supply the needs of their poorer brethren, were held in high esteem among the believers; and ashamed to have their brethren know that their selfish souls grudged that which they had solemnly dedicated to God, they deliberately decided to sell their property and pretend to give all the proceeds into the general fund, but really to keep a large share for themselves. Thus they would secure their living from the common store and at the same time gain the high esteem of their brethren.” The Acts of the Apostles, 72.
11 What was the result of Ananias and Sapphira’s sin? Acts 5:5–10.
note: “Desiring to gain a reputation for self-sacrifice, liberality, and devotion to the Christian faith, Ananias and Sapphira sold their property, and laid part of the proceeds at the feet of the apostles, pretending they had given it all. They had not been urged to give all they had to the cause. God would have accepted part. But they desired it to be thought that they had given all. Thus they thought to gain the reputation they coveted, and at the same time keep back part of their money. They thought they had been successful in their scheme; but they were cheating the Lord, and He dealt summarily with this, the first case of deception and falsehood in the newly formed church. He slew them both, as a warning to all of the danger of sacrificing truth to gain favor.” Medical Ministry, 126, 127.
12 What will give us confidence to ask God to deliver us in the time of trouble? Psalm 50:14, 15.
note: “Often when placed in a trying situation we doubt that the Spirit of God has been leading us. But it was the Spirit’s leading that brought Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. When God brings us into trial, He has a purpose to accomplish for our good. Jesus did not presume on God’s promises by going unbidden into temptation, neither did He give up to despondency when temptation came upon Him. Nor should we. [1 Corinthians 10:13; Psalm 50:14, 15 quoted.]” The Desire of Ages, 126, 127.