Is there such a thing as tithe arrears?

Q: Is there anything like paying tithe in arrears? For the past few months I’ve been working but haven’t been paying tithe. But now I want to start paying tithe. Should I cover the previous months? — Name withheld

A: Yes, there is. In “Counsels on Stewardship,” Ellen White encourages the “paying back” of tithe.

She wrote: “As they have received the light, many have made confession in regard to their indebtedness to God, and expressed their determination to meet this debt. … I proposed that they place in the treasury their note promising to pay the full amount of an honest tithe as soon as they could obtain the money to do so” (p. 97).

She also tells of “one brother [who] said that for two years he had not paid his tithes, and he was in despair; but as he confessed his sin, he began to gather hope. ‘What shall I do?” he asked. I said, ‘Give your note to the treasurer of the church; that will be businesslike’” (p. 95).

I personally know someone who, after learning about this counsel, went back and calculated her tithe for the first six years of her employment. She said: “I believed in tithing, but was not consistent. I repaid that amount plus interest. It seemed impossible, but somehow the Lord blessed and it was not a burden.”

Certainly this situation is between the individual and God, but the Spirit of Prophecy does encourage the returning of tithe owed from the past.