toledo church of god

Financial Support
FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR THE GOSPEL

The Church of God (Seventh Day) believes that Christians should freely and cheerfully support its ministries from what God has generously given them. This study examines the financial support of gospel work in the early Christian church and how it relates to the church today. It also examines the history of tithing and cites instruction for supporting the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Basic Principles of Financial Stewardship

When understood, these basic principles make the financial support of gospel ministry a blessing and privilege, rather than a burden and mere obligation. All Christian stewardship begins with the following Bible truths:

1. God is Creator and has entrusted the dominion of the earth to humanity. All abilities, opportunities, and possessions come from Him. “Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

The Bible begins by affirming that God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) and gave humanity dominion over all created things (vv. 27, 28).

Because God created us, we must depend on Him. In his address to the Greeks on Mars hill, the apostle Paul spoke of this: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth . . . in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:24, 28).

2. The earth and all it contains belong to God:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Psalms 24:1).

Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine (Psalm 50:10, 11).

The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty (Haggai 2:8).

If God owns all things, then humanity is not an owner but a steward. All we possess belongs to God. He has entrusted what He created to the human race for our sustenance, well-being, and comfort (Genesis 1:28).

3. Christian stewardship, when viewed through the gospel, is giving. Giving originated with God, not with us! As already stated, God has given humanity life and His creation. Subsequent to that, He gave His one and only Son for the sins of the world.

The joyful message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God loved us and redeemed us from our sins. By His unconditional love, He forgives us, removes our guilt, reconciles us to Himself, and offers us new life. Here are a few New Testament texts that confirm these blessed truths:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23, 24).

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All of this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, 18).

This is where stewardship begins:

Our response to the love of God is gratitude. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Christian stewardship is not motivated by self-interest or by the demands of biblical law but by our gratitude for a loving, merciful God. We give to God because He first gave to us.

Christian stewardship is more than just giving tithe and offerings. It encompasses the complete commitment of our life, time, abilities, and possessions to God’s service. Paul captured this thought: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

What is the Tithe?

The biblical definition of tithe is “one tenth of a person’s increase”: “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year” (Deuteronomy 14:22). Tithes included all increase, no matter its source, such as grain, fruit, or herds and flocks (Leviticus 27:30, 32).

The Church chooses to have its gospel ministries supported by both tithes and offerings, though the Old Testament tithing laws for Israelites are no longer in force. Instead of giving tithe as an obligation of law, believers now give tithes and offerings in gratitude for God’s bountiful and indescribable blessings and in recognition of God’s ownership of all things.

Most of the world’s economy is now based on a monetary system rather than on agrarian values as in biblical times. Thus, the Church considers a tithe to be a tenth of one’s net earnings.

The History of Tithing

Tithing is the oldest system of giving on record for religious purposes. Even before Israel became a nation, people tithed one tenth of their material possessions to God. The first mention of tithing in the Bible is when Abraham was met by Melchizedek while returning from battle with the Canaanite kings. Melchizedek was “king of Salem” and “priest of God.” Upon receiving the blessing of Melchizedek, Abraham, “gave him a tenth [tithe] of everything” (Genesis 14:18-20).

The next instance occurs after Jacob dreamed of the stairway to heaven. In the dream God renewed His vow to give the Promised Land to Jacob and his descendants (Genesis 28:10-22). Jacob then vowed to tithe all that the Lord would give him.

With Abraham and Jacob, tithing was an act of worship to God in gratitude for His deliverance and promise of blessing. It is particularly important to notice that these were voluntary acts of devotion to God — perhaps singular acts of worship, at the time not mandated by Old Testament law.

As Israel became a nation, tithing became a legal obligation: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19). The tithe — whether produce of the field, fruit of a tree, or animals — was declared to “belong to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30, 32).

The tithe was a part of Israel’s stewardship responsibility. They were instructed to take the tithe to the house of God (tabernacle or temple) as a means of accomplishing God’s work and purpose on earth. The tithe was the inheritance of the Levites, who performed religious service before God on behalf of Israel. “It is the Levites who are to do the work at the Tent of Meeting [tabernacle and later temple] and bear the responsibility for offenses against it. . . . They will receive no inheritance among Israel. Instead, I will give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithe the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord” (Numbers 18:23, 24).

This systematic and proportionate giving was part of the law Israel observed. When Israel tithed, they prospered spiritually and materially. When Israel neglected to tithe, they showed their spiritual indifference toward God and brought ruin upon themselves.

Malachi the prophet charged Israel with robbing God when the people withheld their tithe (Malachi 3:7, 8). This is a sad note on which the prophet brought the Old Testament writings to a close.

Tithing in the New Testament

Three scriptures in the New Testament refer to tithe.

1. Jesus commented on the practice of the Pharisees, who tithed on the smallest of their produce (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42). Giving tithe was an established practice then and was not to be neglected while pursuing other important godly concerns. While Jesus condemned the Pharisees for various things, including neglect of justice and mercy, He commended them for tithing.

2. Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, who were praying in the Temple. The Pharisee boasted to God about his lifestyle, including his tithing practice (Luke 18:12).

3. Hebrews 7:4-9 mentions Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek, as it points out the greatness of the latter’s priesthood — a type of the greater, benevolent priesthood of Jesus Christ.

None of these references indicates that tithing continues as a law under the new covenant.

Jesus and Stewardship

Jesus said much about Christian stewardship and our material possessions.

1. He did not condemn material possessions. Without hesitation, Jesus attended a great banquet, held in His honor by Levi — an obvious display of Levi’s wealth (Luke 5:29).

2. Jesus warned against greed in the well-known parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21): “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (v. 15).

3. Jesus said our primary concern should be the kingdom of God. He assured His followers that God would provide for life’s needs. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

4. Jesus taught that our greatness is not measured by wealth but by our service to others. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43).

5. Jesus explained that total Christian stewardship is the complete surrender of ourselves to God. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39) and “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

Jesus recognized and praised those who gave generously. During a visit with the Master in his home, Zacchaeus declared, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor.”

Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house
” (Luke 19:8, 9).

When Jesus saw the poor widow put two small copper coins in the temple treasury, He commended her not because she gave a tenth but because “she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (21:4).

Jesus taught that giving material possessions in itself is inadequate to express our gratitude and devotion to God. Christian stewardship, in the mind of Christ, means we dedicate to God all we are as people and all we possess. Once we achieve this attitude in our hearts, we give spontaneously.

When He sent the twelve disciples and then the 70 to the villages of Palestine, Jesus told them not to take extra clothing or supplies with them. Jesus was saying that the people they ministered to should provide the disciples’ needs while they were on their tour: “a worker is worthy of his food” (Matthew 10:10); “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7).

The Teachings of the Apostle Paul

Paul followed Christ’s teachings on stewardship. As a steward of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he said to the Corinthians, “So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well” (2 Corinthians 12:15a). Paul gave us the most direct instruction found in the New Testament concerning the financial stewardship of the gospel ministry:

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? (l Corinthians 9:7-11).

This text makes financial support of the gospel minister a responsibility of the Christian. Paul appealed to a principle that transcends law. He presented three analogies from the practice of making a living through warfare, farming, and shepherding as an argument for supporting the gospel minister. Paul quoted from the law (Deuteronomy 25:4), which forbids that oxen should be muzzled while they tread out the grain, as a means to ask, “Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us. . . .” His point is that if oxen should not be muzzled as they go about their work, neither should those who labor for the gospel be prevented from making a living from the support of those they serve. This goes beyond the limits of law and makes stewardship a matter of principle.

Then in verses 13 and 14 Paul referred specifically to those who performed the spiritual work under the old covenant:

Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:13, 14).

Paul said the Levites and priests received their living from their “work in the temple” and service “at the altar.” The tithe and offerings contributed by the other eleven tribes of Israel were the inheritance of the Levites (Numbers 18:23, 24), providing for their livelihood. Paul was commending tithe and offerings as a means of support for the gospel ministry of the New Testament church. He declared that Christian ministers should be supported “in the same way” as the Levites and priests.

The Christian’s support of the gospel ministry should stem from gratitude for God’s grace, received through the preaching and teaching of the gospel. Support of the church’s ministry is not an option. Paul emphasized the validity of this truth in his writing to Timothy: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘the worker deserves his wages’” (1 Timothy 5:17, 18). He used the same words that Jesus used in Luke 10:7: “the worker deserves his wages.”

Here are Paul’s instructions to the Christian church regarding its stewardship responsibility in supporting the gospel ministry. Paul did not appeal to law but, more importantly, to a timeless and universal principle: the simple but fair rule that a worker, regardless of whether he sows the seed or harvests the crop, is entitled to his wages. Thus, Christians should give freely and generously so that gospel workers might receive their wages.

Proportionate giving is needed no less under the terms of the new covenant than it was under the old covenant. Financial support is needed for the Christian church to carry out the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations. . .” (Matthew 28:19), just as financial support was needed to support the Levites who performed the service before the altar in Israel’s time (Numbers 18:23). The people of God must exercise the God-approved principle of stewardship as a part of their worship and support of the gospel ministry.

The Blessedness of Giving

In addition to appealing for financial support for gospel workers, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give offerings for the poor saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:23-26). He challenged them to give as generously as did the Macedonian churches:

I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will (2 Corinthians 8:3-5).

The thought that stands out in Paul’s reflection on the Macedonian churches’ generosity is their liberality: “They gave . . . even beyond their ability” (v. 2). They gave sacrificially. Next, he observed that they were so generous because they had given themselves to God first (v. 5). This is in reality the true beginning of responsible Christian stewardship.

In 2 Corinthians 9 Paul enumerated the benefits that the Corinthians were to receive as a result of their generous giving:

1. Abundant blessings. The law of the harvest was at work — giving generously results in abundant blessings.

2. God’s love. God loves those who give cheerfully.

3. God’s grace. God would make His grace abound toward them so that all their needs would be supplied.

4. A grateful heart. Their generosity expressed a grateful heart that would prompt others to praise and thank God (vv. 6-8, 11-13).

Paul taught that first, Christians must give themselves to the Lord, then give sacrificially to the church and to the needs of others. We, too, must give freely out of a cheerful, grateful heart. Paul’s instruction regarding financial stewardship and the Macedonian churches’ example of providing for the poor saints in Jerusalem give ample biblical support for the present-day church’s appeal for financial support for its needs and the needs of others.

Practical Reasons for Financial Stewardship

The foregoing pages reviewed the biblical support for Christian stewardship, including tithing, as an appropriate means to support the gospel ministry. We will now review some practical reasons that support the concept of tithing.

1. The tithe is proportionate giving. It is fair in that it is calculated on one’s income regardless of whether it is large or small.

2. As we earn income, we tithe to provide regular, stable support for the Church’s ministry.

3. Through our tithe, we participate in the greater ministry of the church. While all Christians are to witness for Christ in one way or another, not everyone can be directly involved in the church’s evangelistic or pastoral ministry. Our tithe and offerings combined with those of other Christians enable the church to perform a greater ministry than we can individually.

4. Participating in the church’s gospel ministry through faithful financial stewardship brings us joy. When Paul reported to the elders in Jerusalem “what God has done among the Gentiles through his ministry . . . they praised God” (Acts 21:19, 20). We, too, can praise God for the many who are converted to Christ through the ministry we have helped to make possible.

Conclusion

Throughout the pages of the Bible, God’s people have honored Him with gifts from their material possessions. From early times, they gave tithe and offerings cheerfully and freely to God, recognizing Him as creator, owner, and benevolent giver of Himself to humanity. In the days of Israel, the tithe and offerings of God’s people supported the religious service carried out by the Levites on behalf of the nation. Today we believe our generous contributions should support the gospel minister.

Paul instructed the church that just as any other person should expect to receive his living from his work, the gospel minister is to receive his living from believers who are being served by him (l Corinthians 9:14).

We should give our tithe and offerings out of gratitude for the love and grace God has so freely given us and not by compulsion of law. We give freely and cheerfully because God gave to us first!

We believe our complete stewardship responsibility can only be fulfilled when we yield our life, time, abilities, and possessions to God. However, tithing our income to support God’s work is essential to Christian stewardship. It provides a regular, dependable source of income for spreading the gospel.

The Church’s motivation in addressing financial stewardship may be summed up in Paul’s expression to the Philippian church, who had repeatedly contributed to support His work: “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account” (Philippians 4:17).

Become a faithful steward of all God has given you so that your account may be credited with God’s richest blessing!

All scripture quotations in this publication are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.



More brochures in this series...

                         Baptism   Financially Support the Church   Law of God   Lord's Supper