Fine question, actually. Dr Robert Thiel seems to make a big deal out of this, as everything else in the article, in “Some of the Differences between the Living Church of God and the United Church of God, ia”. Yet, from what I see, it is another exaggerated difference based upon splitting hairs.
I have made the case in “Tithing, Part 5: Who Receives 3rd Tithe?” that how assistance to the disadvantaged really shouldn’t be such a big deal. Yet, if you are going to come down to the nitty-gritty, then the reality is that all 3 COGs, PCG, LCG and UCG, are incorrect in assuming that it was to be centrally collected and distributed! It seems obvious to me that it was intended to be given directly, locally, to the poor before the person appeared before the LORD in Jerusalem.
While HWA was alive, he had made the decision that in countries in which the taxes for welfare and social programs exceeded what one would pay for 3rd tithe to begin with, then it was not required to contribute 3rd tithe. In other words, he felt it would have been a burden to “tax” someone twice for the same purpose. It was considered an “administrative” decision. However, the Church strongly encouraged offerings above and beyond 3rd tithe if one could afford to do so. This stance has been repeated by every UCG minister I have ever asked about third tithe.
This is dripping with irony! It seems that the largest organizations who are the quickest to put HWA on a pedestal are the ones not following his mandate.
I’m not even going to analyze PCG’s position any further than this, seeing as they are
just stealing the funds put into it anyhow. misinforming their members about where the money goes anyhow. not practicing what they preach. So, let’s concentrate on LCG and UCG in the remainder of this article.
If it was an “administrative” decision that the government can collect and distribute assistance for the needy, then it should be acknowledged that it was also an “administrative” decision for the Church to collect it centrally to begin with! I think there are times and cases, such as the example of the famine in Jerusalem discussed in Paul’s writings, when it makes sense to help out in a larger more coordinated fashion. However, that is still an administrative decision, is it not? As a general rule, the OT Law does not describe a huge coordinated effort to assist the needy. Instead, it was a local decision about where assistance would go.
Even if the above programs are maximized, we still need to provide actual money for those in need of food, clothing and other basic necessities." (Holladay, Roy. Letter from the President March 13, 2003). [Emphasis Thiel’s.]
The last comments suggest to me that UCG’s position that the government meets third tithe needs is and was disingenuous.
Um, no. They are simply going by what HWA said. Furthermore, Holladay’s remarks obviously indicate there are needs above and beyond what the government supplies, so using the word “meet” is itself disingenuous.
LCG’s position seems to be that members are required to give 3rd tithe even if their tax burden meets or exceeds the tithe.
“…’I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all Your commandments which you have commanded me: I have not transgressed Your commandments, nor have I forgotten them’"(Deuteronomy 26:12-13). Notice that God calls this tithe a "holy tithe" …God places great importance on this tithe because He sets it apart for sacred use" (Ehman, Gary F. The Blessings of Third Tithe. Living Church News. Nov-Dec 1999; p. 10).
The Living Church of God sends out "third tithe assistance" (Dattalo Fred. Living Church News. Mar-Apr 1999; p.18).
I can only assume what is assumed here, as little other explanation is given. I would guess that the stress placed upon “holy tithe” and “He sets it apart” means, to them, that it must be given to God, i.e., the Church. However, does the principle that something is “holy” really mean it must go to the Church?
What does “holy” mean? By stating “set …apart for sacred use”, Ehman is simply repeating the definition of holy. This is confirmed by Strong’s H6944, “qodesh”. So, “holy” simply means “set apart” and “sacredness”.
Question: How do you keep the Sabbath holy?
I suggest you don’t answer that in too much of a hurry.
Did you say, “By assembling together at Church?” Really? Is that what “holy” means? How were things made “holy” then before there was a church? When Abraham was wandering the desert making altars to the LORD, how were the altars made holy? When Jacob was alone and dreamed about a ladder going up to Heaven, he set up an altar. Was it holy? When Moses was on the mountain and looking at the burning bush, he was told to take his shoes off because it was holy ground. Was there a church there on the mountain?
More to the point, if “holy” requires going to church, then that means all of the shut-ins who cannot make it to services are breaking the Sabbath every week they do not go. It means if you are the only one in the entire country that knows God’s truth, then you are breaking the Sabbath every week by not “going to church”.
Disclaimer: I shouldn’t have to say it, but I am not suggesting you shouldn’t congregate on the Sabbath! I’m using it as an illustration. It is not the gathering that makes it holy, it is God’s declaration that it is holy that makes it so! He also commands “an holy convocation” on the Sabbath. That does not mean you cannot keep it holy by yourself, but it does mean that in addition to not working you must attend somewhere if you are able.
By the same principle, 3rd tithe is not made “holy” by bringing it or giving it to a church! It is already holy, and since it is “set aside”, you are responsible for using it for the purpose in which it is “set aside”!
Now, I suppose I could be wrong, but I just don’t see where we are commanded to bring food, drink or money for the poor and needy to the Tabernacle/Temple/Church. By the same token, I don’t see commands to not do so. It seems pretty evident to me that it is more important to get it to the disadvantaged rather than quibble over how it gets distributed. Frankly, the more efficient means, in my opinion, would be to not have some centralized bloated bureaucracy, whether it be a government or church, distribute the majority of it.
So, if you disagree about the 3rd tithe distribution, please at least back it up with some Scriptures.