By Donnie V Rader
Those who are familiar with material published by the Worldwide Church of God know that it contains a lot of advice concerning one’s finances. I have before me three of their booklets: Ending Your Financial Worries, Managing Your Personal Finances and Tithing. Each one of these, as well as many articles that appear in the Plain Truth, have a lot of advice as to how one should handle his money. They will tell you ways of getting out of debt, how to establish a budget, how to live within your means and avoid financial pitfalls. However the point that stands out most in all of their material is that you need to pay your tithes. This is the key to managing your personal finances. Armstrong has always put great emphasis on tithing.
Tithing is “tenthing” or giving of ten percent (10%). Tithing did take place under the old covenant. Actually it began much earlier and was practiced before the law of Moses was given. Ve read of Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20). Paul later said, “Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils” (Heb. 7:4). Jacob vowed that “of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (Gen. 28:22). The fact that tithing was ever practiced or required no one will deny. The question is whether or not God requires that of people today.
Let us now examine some of Armstrong’s proof of tithing today. In their booklet Tithing, they cite a number of Old Testament examples of tithing. Our attention is called to Abraham and Jacob (Gen. 14:20; 28:22). Next, those under the law were required to tithe (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:21; 1 Sam. 8:15). Then beyond the day of Moses, during the period of captivity and restoration the people were instructed to pay their tithes. A failure to do so was considered robbing God (Neh. 10:37-38; Mal. 2:8; 3:1-ff). Reading all of this is interesting, but it proves nothing relative to tithing today. The law has ended. Paul shows in Galatians 3:24-25 that the law was our schoolmaster. He then says we are no longer under the schoolmaster. Hence we are no longer under the law. The law has been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). We now are living under the law of Christ (Heb. 9:16-17). Paul says that whatever we do in word or deed, we must do it by the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17)., Where in the new covenant does God bind tithing? Will Armstrong and his followers do all that is found in the Old Testament? In Tithing they make a plea for the fact that the Old Testament is inspired. Well, I don’t know of anyone who denies that. Does that prove that we are bound by all that is found in the law and before the law? Will Armstrong offer animal sacrifices (Heb. 9:1-7; 10:4)? Will we find them dwelling in booths (Neh. 13)? The old law is a package deal. Paul told the Galatians that if they kept part of it, they were bound to keep it all. “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (Gal. 5:3).
Another argument with reference to the Old Testament is made from Ephesians 2:20. It is argued that since the true church is founded on the apostles and prophets, then what the prophets taught (i.e. tithing, Mal. 3:5-9) is bound upon the church.(1) Again we ask if Armstrong will be bound by all that the prophets taught? Will Armstrong rebuild the temple and the wall around Jerusalem (cf. Haggai, Ezra and Nehemiah).
When we come to the New Testament their arguments are interesting. They begin by citing passages that show that the work must be supported (1 Cor. 9:13-14). Other passages on giving are cited (Matt. 22:16-ff; Acts 20:35). None of these even hint at the concept of tithing. The New Testament is silent on the subject. Listen to their own words concerning the silence of the Scriptures. In answering a question on how one should figure his tithe, it was stated that we cannot say because “the biblical record is silent on the matter.”(2)Likewise we cannot rightfully bind tithing on people today because “the biblical record is silent on the matter.” If I speak I must do so from the word of God (1 Pet. 4:11). If I practice something I must do so by the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17). And so I ask, “Where is the passage in the New Testament that even suggests that we are to tithe?”
In an effort to find such a passage, the writers for the Worldwide Church of God cite Hebrews 7 and Matthew 23:23. Neither passage proves anything about us today.
Hebrews 7 just shows that there were some in the Old Testament that paid tithes. Matthew 23:23 states that Jesus instructed some Jews while the law was still in effect to pay tithes. It is obvious to the careful student of the Bible that these verses prove nothing about us today.
What does the New Testament say about giving? Though we are not required to tithe, we are required to give of our means. We are to give as we have been prospered (1 Cor. 16:1-2). We are to give willfully and cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7). We are to give liberally (2 Cor. 8:1-7).
Someone may ask, “How much should I give?” The answer to that question is really no problem to one who desires to give. One who desires to pray has no problem with the question, “How much do I have to pray?” If the Jews under a temporal kingdom could give a minimum of ten percent, should we not exceed their righteousness (Mt. 5:20) and give the most we can? The real question is “How much do you want to give?”
The Extravagance Of The Armstrong Empire
Our purpose here is to show that the Worldwide Church of God is an empire and show its extravagance. They collect money from all over the world into one fund to accomplish all that they do. This is nothing like the church of the New Testament.
The mail that this group received in 1970 consisted of 3 million pieces which required 180 employees to open, read and process daily.
The annual budget was $40 million in 1974. It has doubled every 2 years and 7 months or on the average every 3 years. Armstrong himself said that it grows at a rate of 30% annually. That being true, then by 1978 the budget would have been over $100 million, making the 1983 budget between $400 and $500 million if it increased at the rate Armstrong said it would.
They have three major printing plants. One is in California, another in England, and another in Australia and a smaller one in Texas. They have only the latest and the best equipment. As of 1974 they had a Goss p-50 press that could “transform a reel of blank white paper 50 inches wide into, printed pages with full-color pictures at the rate of 1200 to 1500 feet per minute. That’s one mile of paper every three and one-half minutes.”(3) “The August, 1971 issue of Tomorrow’s World boasted: `The Ambassador College Press complex in Pasadena occupies more than 100,000 square feet of floor space. Last year this plant used 2,500 tons of paper and 70,000 pounds of ink to print 33 million pieces of literature – including 10 million PLAIN TRUTH’s and 3 million TOMORROW’s WORLD magazines . . . . “(4)
“Armstrong’s school, Ambassador College, is described as `ONE COLLEGE with THREE uniquely different campuses.’ The original one, in a Pasadena, California residential area, is a 45 acre campus with `contoured lawns, sparkling fountains and colorful gardens.’ The second campus, located in the `Green Belt’ area of St. Albans, is just a few miles from London, England. The newest campus is in East Texas at Big Sandy. It has a 4,500-acre campus utilized largely by its agricultural research department.
“Leslie L. McCullough called the Big Sandy campus a `capsule society’ and said: `We operate our own water treatment plant, dispose of our own waste, maintain our own grounds, produce the majority of our own dairy products, raise all our own beef (for both United States campuses) and grow a portion of our own vegetables.”(5)
The vast empire of Herbert W. Armstrong has grown tremendously since 1934. At that time he started with a home-made “magazine” that was printed on a borrowed mimeograph. By 1970 the empire was publishing the Plain Truth magazine with a circulation of 2,136,000. Tomorrow’s World had a circulation of 500,000. The World Tomorrow was broadcast over 300 radio stations and 50 television stations.(6) And remember that has been 13 years, ago!
You may ask how they do what they do. They do this by begging tithes and contributions. “Everything is free” is the song they sing. Your subscription to Plain Truth is prepaid. That is made possible by the tithes they receive.(7)
They make claims that they do not solicit your money and yet they do. On the inside cover of every Plain Truth we read, “Contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S., Canada and N.Z. Those who wish to voluntarily aid and support this worldwide Work of God are gladly welcomed as co-workers in the major effort . . . .”
Armstrong has stated that to be unfaithful to their annual feast days is a “tremendous sin.” Yet he stated, in connection with that, that many were not paying their tithes as they should and hence putting their business office in a “serious bind.” He urged the members not to forget God’s work during the days of unleavened bread. Armstrong put it this way, that it would be far better to miss meeting with others during this season than to cripple God’s great work. In other words, it would be far better to commit what he calls a tremendous sin than to stop those tithes from coming in.(8)
Armstrong begs from outsiders as well as those who are members. That is seen in the statement found on the inside of the cover of Plain Truth. Armstrong has stated that tithing is for non-Christians as well.(9)
You are promised great blessings if you will send in your tithes. Armstrong’s own experience was that at the time he made a study of tithing, he had very little on hand. He then sent a tenth plus an offering to the Oregon Conference treasurer. That very day Armstrong was able to stock up at home with a reasonable amount of food. He never went hungry from that day until now.(10) We are told that the best assurance of getting and holding a job – of continuous and increasing income is to end in your tithe.(11) Now if that wouldn’t be appealing to a man with financial problems, I don’t know what would.
I think it is obvious to anyone who has a fair knowledge of the Bible that the Worldwide Church of God and its money is nothing like the New Testament church and the funds it may use.
1. Herbert W. Armstrong, Ending Your Financial Worries (U.S.A.: 1959), p. 14.
2. Tithing (Worldwide Church of God publication: 1975), p. 36.
3. Robert L. Sumner, Armstrongism: “Worldwide Church of God” (Biblical Evangelism: 1974), p. 25.
4. Robert L. Sumner, Ibid, p. 25.
5. Robert L. Sumner, Ibid, p. 29.
6. Salem Kirban, Doctrines of Devils: Armstrong’s Church of God (Penna.: 1970), p. 40.
7. Inside Cover of all Plain Truth magazines.
8. Robert L. Sumner, op. cit., pp. 360-361.
9. Robert L. Sumner, op. cit., pp. 370-371.
11. Robert L. Sumner, op. cit., p. 368.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 11, pp. 334-335
June 2, 1983