Chapter 13 -


Many have an intuition that tithing does not seem to fit the New Testament church. So far, I have given firm substantiation for that feeling. But it is also true that is does take money to do the works of the Lord today. The Bible teaches the principle of financial support for the ministry and the works of the church by all believers.

Generosity Commended

God does reward the generous giver, and He is faithful to those who trust in Him according to knowledge. It is the Bible that reveals God's will or mind on the matter, and it is the Bible that is misunder­stood and misused in the support of ungodly practices in the name of Jesus. It is the Bible, general education and my professional training in the archaeology and history of Israel that provide the source material for this book. I have not read extensively into other theologians' writings.

Yes, the Bible does command and encourage us to give to His ministers. They are His soldiers and servants, and they have a right to earn their living from the gospel and to even prosper and be in abun­dance as the rest of the members of the body of Christ. But there is no legal, obligatory tithe of ten per cent: the Christian does not sin by not tithing.

Today, God is building a spiritual temple. He accepts offerings joyfully given of free will to help accomplish that work. The tithe was never an offering to priests or to God, but the distribution of the physical inheritance, Canaan's agricultural production, to the Levites as their rightful portion of the Promised Land.

When God directed the construction of the original tabernacle and its implements He used freewill offerings and not tithes:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. And this is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver, and bronze.

And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:1-8)

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fel­low citizens with the saints, and are of God's household. having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

God's primary objective at this time is to build His Church. Thus, the attitudes of the co-builders, who are also the building, are more important to Him than any material donation or sacri­fice. As we have seen from this entire study, God's concern is for the welfare of man, whether it be his or her eternal welfare or the condition of the back or belly.

It Does Take Money

It does take money to preach the gospel, provide facilities for schools and services, and to feed, clothe, and house the ministry. Our overall objective must be the betterment of mankind including the ministry. If God would have us provide for the stranger, surely He would have us provide adequately, even generously, for His ministers.

That does not mean that a minister of God needs to live like a movie star. It does not excuse misrepresentation or waste. Prosperity is a trial for the ministry, too. God did not intend that they be exclud­ed from the trials of prosperity.

There is nothing inherently unrighteous or unspiritual about wealth. Many of God's servants in the Bible were wealthy. The Bible states that God blessed them with wealth! (See Genesis 13:2 and Job 42: 10-17.)

Let's review some scriptures about the ministry and its compensa­tion. Then we can discuss potential applications of these principles for Christians.

For, whoever shall call upon the name of the LORD will be saved.

How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not .believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15)

My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we not have a right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?

Or do Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?

I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.”

God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.

If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we should reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

Do you not known that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share with the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

But I have used none of these things…What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. (I Corinthians 9:3-18)

And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived.. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." (Galatians 6:6)

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is thresh­ing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.'' (I Timothy 5:17-18)

Again, Offerings Not Tithes

These verses show that Paul is aware of tithes and offerings. He doesn't criticize or deny the Levites' right to tithes. He supports the priests' right to offerings, that is, to "share with the altar."

Then Paul presents a separate right for God's chosen ministers. It is a right apart from, different and not related to, the rights of the Levitical priesthood. It is a right to "get their living from the gospel." Ministers get their livelihood from the gospel and not from the altar because the Melchizedek altar of spirit is in heaven, served by Jesus.

To support the right to these wages, Paul uses the example of an ox working. Ministers of Jesus Christ earn wages as a soldier or a farm laborer. Their work qualifies them to receive freewill offerings like the Aaronite priests. The gospel will not be heard unless there are preachers or evangelists, so they have a right to be supported for their efforts.

It is to wages and offerings, not to tithes or inheritances that Paul refers. It is a direct reward according to the ministers' works. Reward according to works is the basis of Christ's judgment of the saints apart from salvation, which is a free gift and totally undeserved.

The Levitical priesthood was supported proportional to the pro­duction of the land. The land's yield was partly dependant on the labor of the Israelites. Weather, rain in particular, was another important factor. If the local Levite was doing his job properly, there would have been better production due to a better educated population and God's blessing. Doing his job well yielded an indirect bonus for his efforts.

An increase in reward due to increase in production was not totally a reward according to works because the right to the tithe was the Levites' inheritance. The right itself was not earned, which is analogous to salvation, a gift of grace. God gave the land to Israel and its tithe to Levi based on His purpose. God’s gift of the land was not founded on any human merit. Israel was His choice. He was not theirs.

Both Israelite and Levite had to work in faith in order to eat the production of their inheritance. Historically, when the Levite failed in his job, most Israelites also ceased to tithe as they ceased to obey God in general. The relationship between the Levites’ performance and general Israelite behavior, or state of faith, is not causally related directly. Some Israelites tithed – or did not tithe - regardless of whether the local Levites were Godly or not

Paul often supported himself when visiting a church. Perhaps he didn't want the new converts to think he was after their money. Per­haps he didn't want to take the chance of competitive feelings with the other (especially locally-based) elders over finances.

In any event, Paul is plain that he did have the right to receive material support from the people he served. In fact, he did receive aid from some of the churches on a consistent basis. Like God, Paul's first concern was for those he served.

Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself that you might be exalt­ed, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge?

I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to serve you; and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia, they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a bur­den to you, and will continue to do so. (II Corinthians 11:7-9)

The Bible encourages giving to God's work. Paul had some prob­lems because he did not always claim his right to wages. In any case, Paul would not have apologized about the whole matter if he believed that a law of tithing was in force for the church.

How God Rewards

God rewards generosity if it is done with discernment, wisdom and a humble heart. The totality of the Jewish widow's gift to the temple was symbolic more of her attitude of total sacrifice to God than a literal example to follow.

God does not expect us to foolishly give away our own inheritances and become dependant on the church for our living.

We are to be dependant on Him in faith and financially responsible for our families and our own support. We are to work our inheritances just as the ancient Israelites worked the land of Canaan. We are to use our talents and opportunities to bear practical fruit. We are to let the Holy Spirit work in us to bear spiritual fruit.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, “He scattered abroad, He gave to the poor, His righteousness abides forever.”

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.

Because of the proof given by this ministry they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. (II Corinthians 9:6-14)

The whole purpose of mortal life is to learn. There will always be financial ups and downs. These circumstances provide lessons, opportunities to learn. The key is to learn how to bear spiritual fruit out of a physical life. The fruits of the spirit include faith, love, righteousness, and generosity to our neighbor and the min­istry.

For I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both having abundance and suffering need.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my afflic­tion. And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone, for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.

Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, and acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:10-19)

Pragmatic Application of Principles

The scriptures give us broad direction in the use of church funds. From its received donations, a church may pay its elders, support edu­cation of children and adults, pay for any cost incurred to further the gospel, and support the needy and disadvantaged. The key is that the source of the funds be voluntary, freewill offerings given with a cheerful heart.

God does not grant spiritual blessings in proportion to a Christian's zealous obedience in tithing on his material increase. Tithing is not a law binding on Christians today. We do not need to tithe to please God. But, the tithing laws do provide many useful guidelines.

For example, the Levitical tithing laws may provide some ideas for practical church administration. First of all, the members of a group may voluntarily agree to encourage donating ten per cent of their income as a means of supporting their work. It would be a decision of that group, or even a collectively imposed condition of membership in a particular church congregation. But it is not tithing, and it should not be presented as a biblical law.

A broad application might be found in the case of a large religious organization organized into local, regional, and/or national structures where ten per cent of the locally received contributions could be set aside for the national or the next larger division's support or projects.

Another idea is to use ten per cent as a measure of evaluating an organization's or a department's efficiency of operation. For example, does a national organization's efficiency of operation enable it to remain within a budget based on ten per cent of local donations? A budget ceiling, such as one determined by a ten per cent contribution from local income, tends to put a reasonable damper on wild expendi­tures or eliminate projects that do not possess wide support or usefulness to the contributor members.

Another application of the same principle of the Levites' payment of a tithe of their tithes to the sons of Aaron might be found in the cal­culation of ministerial and staff compensation. A church might look at ten per cent of its income being the portion budgeted for ministerial salaries. Other activities such as relief for the poor or education would come under separate consideration as the general work of the church. The humanitarian needs the tithe anciently fulfilled could be used to set priorities for other church expenditures.

In some cases, a religious organization's income may be too large or too small to justify a ten percent dedication to its evangelist(s) and/or minister(s). Larger organizations usually have proportionately larger fixed costs that make this application of tithing principles unrea­sonable. Small groups may need to allocate more than ten per cent to enable a full time minister to live decently.

On a personal basis, many find the principle of setting aside ten per cent of their income a useful rule of thumb to plan their giving. Obviously, it is up to the giver to determine what his or her increase is since it is strictly a freewill offering. Some may use net income, and some use their gross. It is a matter of indi­vidual choice, not one of some misplaced sense of obligation. The decision of how and when to give, if at all, is voluntary as it was with Abraham and Jacob. It is not a sin to "tithe" by giving a ten per cent offering of first fruits, for example.

The Bible is plain about one thing, however: God is not glori­fied by self-imposed poverty. He wants each family to stand on its own feet economically.

That does not necessarily mean in luxury, but it is His purpose that no one be permanently dependant on the church or society for their physical survival. God encourages us to save and to invest in our means of support and production. He gives us the power to make wealth that we may support His works of proclaiming the gospel and aid to the poor.

Festival Budgeting

The tithing laws also illustrate suitable ways to spend donations to God's glory. Anciently, the Israelites celebrated the festivals, support­ed the Levites, and aided the widow, the orphan and the stranger from one tithe. That was efficiency! It was not an onerous burden.

Some may desire and can afford to budget more than one 10% portion of their increase or tithe. He might choose to dedicate 10% for others' religious efforts and then set aside another 10% for their own observance of the festivals and personal evangelistic efforts.

Personal Evaluation of How Much

If you feel this is what you want to do, I would encourage you to honestly evaluate the long term impact of any program of charitable giving. Yes, you should exercise faith, but also common sense. One test: will you be able to live up the Biblical description of a righteous man, someone who provides for his grandchildren as well as his children?

Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (II Corinthians 12:14)

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children. (Proverbs 13:22)

It is better to be able to give slightly more each year than to give a lot in anyone year to the serious detriment of reinvestment in your personal financial well being. That could perhaps be a refusal to recognize an opportunity God has given you to make additional wealth to provide for future needs in His church.

I think that the best section of scripture to guide one in regards to monetary priorities· and attitudes is Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6:19­24:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…

No one can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You can­not serve God and mammon. For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life…

Do not be anxious then, saying “What shall we eat?” or, “What shall we drink? With what shall we clothe ourselves?”

For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The message here is that God has promised to provide for our physical life and all its needs if we dedicate that life to His service. Mammon is materialism, the God of self-preservation and physical survival. It is concerned with food and clothes and shelter. Jesus states that if we worry and put first worldly survival, we will be incapable of serving God for we will despise Him.

Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever. (I John 2:15-17)

We must be willing to die to sin, this world, and (most difficult­ly) to ourselves in order to live unto God spiritually in an attitude of humility and repentance. The Bible warns us to be wise, howev­er, so that we don't functionally commit suicide by becoming useless to Him.

Christians will suffer persecution for following Jesus and obeying God, but God's word advises us against suffering for our own foolishness and vanity. God is not impressed by human pain and suf­fering.

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God; to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove that the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:11-13)

For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building ... But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now if any man builds upon the foundation…each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward…

Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:9-17)

For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?

But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. (I Peter 2:19-20)
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