In these days of financial crisis, life for many of us in the 20th century is very complex. The complexities of this century have ravaged not only the business world, but the tentacles have reached into the domestic and religious world as well.
Never in the history of the Church have such vast sums of money been poured into so-called Christian work. The annual expenditures by evangelical and fundamental groups are unprecedented in Church history. This raises the following questions:
How should this money be raised?
Where should it come from?
How can we best support the Lord’s work around the world?
What methods should we use?
We must go to the Scriptures for the principles and guidelines that God would have us employ.
Tithing in the Patriarchal Age
Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, “priest of the most high.” Genesis 14:20.
This was more than 400 years before the giving of the Law. Later in history Jacob promised God a tenth of all he received. Genesis 28:22.
Apparently there were laws and statutes given to the Patriarchs which have not been incorporated into the Scriptures.
Conditions in the Mosaic Economy
Israel was instructed that the tithe belonged to God. Leviticus 27:30-32.
These tithes were to be used for the support of the Levites who served in connection with the tabernacle. The welfare of the priests, the buildings (tabernacle and temple) were financed through the free-will offerings of the children of Israel. The upkeep and renovation of the tabernacle and temple was provided for through the half-shekel tax taken from every adult over 20 years of age. Exodus 30:12-16.
The financial principles that seem to emerge from these facts are:
1. The Lord’s work was supported by the Lord’s people.
2. Those who served the Lord were supported by certain obligatory tithes and free-will offerings.
3. Faithfulness in connection with the giving of the tithe brought the blessing of God. Malachi 3:8-10.
Consider Paul’s Teaching on Christian Giving
Paul deals with this question in only 3 chapters out of the hundred he wrote: 1 Corinthians 9, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.
Despite the scarcity of information regarding financing the Lord’s work, certain principles evolve which are unique:
1. Paul never made reference to his own immediate or future needs.
2. He never made appeals for funds for the Lord’s work.
3. His eyes were on the Master, and he knew that “omnipotence has servants everywhere.”
4. Interestingly enough while he never asked anything for himself, he reminds believers of their stewardship of material possessions, and exhorted them to use their substance for the Lord.
5. His exhortations were not directed to the Lord’s servants to rely on the Lord, but rather to the Lord’s people to render to the Lord that which is rightly His.
Paul’s exhortations may be classified in the following ways:
1. Exhortation to industry—Titus 3:14.
2. Exhortation to liberality—Romans 12:8; Hebrews 13:16.
3. Exhortation to regularity—1 Corinthians 16:1-3.
4. Exhortation to love—Romans 15:25-27; Ephesians 4:28.
5. Exhortation to hospitality—Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2.
6. Exhortation to responsibility—Galatians 6:6; Philippians 4:3.
A careful study of 1 Corinthians 8 and 9 reveals some Scriptural principles which should characterize our giving.
1. The Lord’s work and workers are to e supported by the Lord’s people.
2. Their offerings were to be given:
a. Regularly—1 Corinthians 16:2.
b. Liberally—2 Corinthians 9:6.
c. Cheerfully—2 Corinthians 9:7.
d. Proportionately—1 Corinthians 16:2.
e. Voluntarily—2 Corinthians 9:7.
f. Unobtrusively—Matthew 6:1-4.
g. Worshipfully—Philippians 4:8.
3. Those who are the recipients of spiritual ministry have a definite responsibility to materially support the:
a. Evangelist—1 Corinthians 9:11, 14.
b. Pastor—1 Timothy 5:17-18.
c. Teacher—Galatians 6:6.
Finally in 2 Corinthians 8 Paul tells us how we should give:
Paul was surprised at the intensity and generosity of their giving. “But they first gave themselves to the Lord.”
Principles of Spiritual Giving
1 Corinthians 9:14.
One of the clichés which is overworked today is, “If a man is the Lord’s servant, the Lord will provide for him.” While this is true, the only way God can provide for His servants is through His people. The giving of the tithe was not an act of charity, but a sacred responsibility.
All unpaid debts of this sort will come up for settlement at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Clearly there are degrees of obligation as to the gifts we make:
1. In one sense everything belongs to God. David prayed, “Of Thine own have we given Thee.”
2. In another sense everything belongs to us. Peter said to Annanias, “Whilst it remained was it not thine own, and when it was sold was it not in thine own power?”
The question now is how can we best use that which God has entrusted us with?
1. There are the home responsibilities. “If a man provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Love and care begin at home and end abroad.
2. Then each believer has obligations to the local church. We owe something for the maintenance of the local work and buildings.
3. Then in his stewardship the believer must support the Lord’s servants. To NT believers Paul writes, “As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them that are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10.
a. As to the evangelists we are left in no doubt. We must support them in their work. 1 Corinthians 9:14.
b. Instruction in our care of the teacher is just as emphatic. Galatians 6:6.
c. To the maintenance of the pastor we may apple the principle of 1 Corinthians 9:7.
If the shepherd has the moral right to live on the produce of the flock, can we withhold material support from those who feed us spiritually?