toledo church of god

How Should the Church be Supported
HOW SHOULD THE CHURCH BE FINANCIALLY SUPPORTED?

The Church of God (Seventh Day) believes the Bible establishes the financial standard for the Christian church. God’s work on earth has always been supported by His people. Therefore, we believe God looks to them to be stewards of the gospel ministry of Christ’s church. Dedicated Christian men and women give their tithe and offerings to fund the church’s many-faceted ministries, promote the gospel, and proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. To a large extent, our giving to support the proclamation of the gospel is a measure of our commitment to Christ.  In this brief study, we want to illustrate from the Bible how Christians are called to be stewards of the possessions given them by God: “Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

Biblical Stewardship

At the time of Creation, God identified man as the steward or caretaker of His creation: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over . . . all the earth, and over all the creatures’” (Genesis 1:26). God has entrusted us with His possessions for our use, but they still belong to Him.

The psalmist understood this concept of stewardship when he wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 21:1). When we affirm these words, we acknowledge the sovereignty of God and confess that nothing in this world really belongs to us. All that God entrusts to us are provisions of His grace. Thus, when we return something to God through the church, we are returning only a portion of what He first placed in our care. Essentially, then, stewardship implies a divinely ordained relationship between God and man, Creator and created, Owner and caretaker.

The pages of both the Old and New Testaments describe a number of ways God’s people participated in this relationship, thus providing the church and believers today with financial principles to support the gospel ministry.

Tithing

Tithing — giving a tenth of one’s material increase — is primarily an Old Testament concept that predates the formation of the nation of Israel. Abraham gave a tithe to the priest Melchizedek after defeating the Canaanite kings (Genesis 14:18-20). Years later his grandson, Jacob, vowed to give a tithe to God to express his thanks and acknowledge God’s providential care (Genesis 28:20-22).

After Israel became a nation, a system of tithes and offerings was instituted (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21-32; Deuteronomy 12:5-18; 14:22-29; 26:12). Tithes were given from the Israelites’ grain, fruit, and livestock — their chief sources of income. Tithe was given for a number of purposes, including sacrifices, payment to the Levites who served Israel in the priesthood, and welfare of widows, orphans, and strangers.

Tithing was practiced throughout Israel’s history. During the reign of Hezekiah, tithes were so generous that additional storerooms had to be built to contain them (2 Chronicles 31:4-12). Later, when the nation backslid, the prophet Malachi rebuked Israel for withholding tithes, comparing it to “robbing God” (Malachi 3:7-12). Jesus commended the Jews of His day for their careful practice of tithing (Matthew 23:23).

New Testament Giving

The apostle Paul appealed for financial support for the gospel ministry on the principles of love and commitment, higher than the “law of tithing”:

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).

Paul instructed the Corinthian church regarding the material support of those dedicated to serving it (1 Corinthians 9:7-12). He referred to the Old Testament priestly practice of receiving a share of the altar offerings and applied the same principle to those who preach the gospel:

Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at 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).

Thus, the New Testament church was taught that “the Lord has commanded” that its gospel ministry should be willingly and generously supported by those who benefit from its preaching and teaching.

Offerings

The Bible speaks of another form of stewardship: giving offerings. Offerings were given for worship and sacrifice, and for the welfare of the poor and needy.

The attitude with which offerings were to be given is especially significant. In ancient Israel, animals dedicated for sacrifice were to be of “first quality,” the idea being that an unblemished animal represented a true sacrifice on the part of its owner. Giving an inferior animal to God indicated giving something less than best.

Paul emphasized the benefit of giving both generously and cheerfully:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6, 7).

Stewardship of Time and Talent

We are creatures made by God himself; therefore, our very being and the time we have available to us are also gifts from God. As good stewards, we want to use our God-given time and talents in ways that are both pleasing to Him and beneficial to others. A common New Testament theme illustrates that every member of the church has something significant to contribute. The various gifts of the Spirit were given for the common good of the church and its members (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; Ephesians 4:11-13). Using these gifts requires an expenditure of time and talent by every believer.

Summary of Stewardship Principles

This study reveals a number of important stewardship principles:

1. Stewardship is a divinely ordained relationship between creator God and caretaker man.

2. True stewardship first comes from the heart in recognition of God’s sovereignty, grace, and provision.

3. Based on biblical examples, the church should expect its members to finance its gospel ministry.

4. Those who serve the church should be supported by the church.

5. Tithe is a biblical precedent for proportionate giving.

6. Stewardship concerns itself with more than just giving a tithe of a person’s material resources. It includes giving yourself, your time, and your talent in service to the Lord.




More brochures in this series...

                         Baptism   Financial Support  of the Gospel   Law of God   Lord's Supper