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Financing the Gospel December 21, 2011

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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Supporters of tithing often make the claim that God intended for the church (i.e., the Gospel) to be financed through the mechanism of the tithe. In establishing this doctrine they cite Old Testament scriptures to support their claim. However, did God really intended for the church to be financed through the tithe? This is the question I hope to answer in this short study.

 The apostle Paul has laid down some clear guidelines on “financing the gospel” that the church should follow. For instance, Paul made the following declaration in 1 Cor 9:

 13Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 14Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.


The central question here however is whether tithing was the means by which the Lord ordained those who preached the gospel to live of it? After all, aren’t pastors living of the gospel when they collect their stipend and other forms of remuneration and aren’t they doing so from the tithes and offerings? It should be noted here that some churches teach that the tithe is strictly for the pastor’s enjoyment. So what examples do we glean from scriptures of people who lived of the gospel?

 I believe as the church and the body of Christ, our starting point should always be to look at Christ’s example as after all He is the Chief Shepherd (or Chief Pastor) of His church (1 Pet 5:4). In the early stages of the Gospel going forth, Jesus called the twelve disciples and sent them out to deliver the good news to the lost sheep. Interestingly, Jesus told them not to take money or even a change of clothes or shoes with them yet he assured them that “the workman is worthy of his meat” (Matt 10:10). This was the first example shown to us in scripture of people who preached the gospel being fed by it and this was the same principle that Paul alluded to in 1 Cor 9:14 quoted earlier and also in 1 Tim 5:18. After the disciples returned from their travels however, Jesus asked them if they lacked anything whilst they journeyed to preach the message of the Kingdom and they replied they lacked nothing (Lk 22:35). All their needs were met by some of the people they came into contact with. What we do not see however is a commandment from Jesus to the disciples to go out and as they preached to collect tithes. What a contrast to today’s churches that declares that the work of the Lord cannot be done without “exacting” tithes?

 Christ went about establishing the church and wherever He went preaching, great multitudes gathered to Him yet we do not see a single example of Christ collecting tithes and offerings from the multitudes. What we see however is that there were some dedicated women who ministered to Him out of their own means (Lk 8:1-3). The early church also demonstrates in Acts 4:32-34 how that the church ministered to one another, including the apostles, so that everyone’s needs were being met. Verse 32 is particularly important in answering the question of whether or not the early church tithe. The verse says:

 32And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

 Here we see in this verse that the believers in Christ did not take ownership of the things they possessed but shared it commonly with their brethren. Within such a construct it is clear that tithing could not have been practicable because this would imply that they gave a tenth part and kept the rest for themselves but this is not what was observed.

 The final example we may draw on comes from Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians concerning ministering to the saints in 2 Cor 9:1-7 (which actually is a continuation from 2 Cor 8). Here Paul was collecting gifts in order to distribute to the poor saints in Jerusalem but what we noticed is that he did not over-burdened the church but ask them to give according what each man had purposed in his own heart.

 The system we have in churches today is indicative of the Levitical system, whereby the pastors now assume the office of the Levite priests in the temple and are sustained by tithes. This construct is however foreign to the Gospel of Christ as the early church did not demonstrate these traits. The collection of monetary gifts and the like were strictly for meeting the needs of everyone in the church who had a need, not just the pastors’. One did not simply pay their tithes and offerings from their limited resources and go home despairing as to where the next meal was going to come from or how they were going to pay their rent. Certainly the poor in the church weren’t being told that if tithe faithfully, God would open up the windows of heaven.  Contrarily, everyone’s needs, including those of the apostles, were met from the proceeds of what was gathered. This was the means by which those who preached the Gospel were to live of it and not through a crudely reconstituted Levitical system.

 Will the church stop propagating the lie that God intended the gospel to be financed through the tithe?

The Modern Church: A Replica of the Levitical System? June 23, 2010

Posted by Henry in Tithing.
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In many respects the modern church seems to be a reproduction of the Levitical system which was operated in Israel under the Old Covenant. Today the pastors seem to occupy the office of High Priest whilst the deacons, junior pastors and elders form the rest of the “priestly” class. Thus there is a division of “labour” between those who are part of the priesthood (the Levites) and those who form the laity (the other 11 tribes).  This importation from the Levitical system seems to be the generally accepted method of “doing church” across the whole of Christendom today. One of the main practices which has been brought along with this system is the paying of tithes to the Levites. Indeed in attempting to justify the tithe many Christians argue that the pastors and leaders do indeed represent or stand in the place of the Levites and thus should be given the tithe. Along with the tithe the Levitical priests would also accept offerings from the people, which they would then present before God their behalf, a practice that is carried on in the church today. Although in today’s terms the symbols of the tithes and offerings have changed (from goods to money) the practice is nevertheless the same, whereby the priest/pastors take the tithes and offerings to the altar and offer them before God. Only the mode, such as burnt offerings, seems to have changed.

The main question here therefore is whether such importations from the Levitical system are Biblical in the context of the New Testament church. Is the church model we have today founded in the New Testament scriptures? For one thing the Levitical system was abolished along with the Old Covenant which decays and vanishes away (Heb 8:13) through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Why then should we even think to seek to try and re-establish a system that has long been abolished? Could the main motive be to guarantee the churches’ finances? And or to establish a system of authority and control?

In looking at the first question aforementioned scripture tells us that in our Gospel we have one High Priest (Heb 3:1, 8:1-2) who is Jesus Christ and who is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5). Furthermore in the light of the Gospel all who are in Christ are priests (1 Pet 2:9) and whereas the old priesthood offered tangible items as sacrifices we are required to offer Spiritual sacrifices unto God through our High Priest Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:5). This is in stark contrast to the Levitical system in which sacrifices of tangible items were given to the priest to make propitiation for the sins of all Israel. The modern church system however seems to have appropriated this system into the new church as a way of ensuring the church coffers are kept fed. Some churches have even gone to the extreme of blatantly suggesting that the church today should observe certain religious dates in the Hebrew calendar, such as the Day of Atonement, and to bring the associated offerings (translated into money of course) to be offered before God. Of course all of this is simply preposterous in light of the Gospel message.

 Under the Levitical system the high priest had a lot of sway in directing the affairs of the tabernacle or temple. His authority derived not only from his senior rank but perhaps also from the fact that only he could enter in to the Holy of Holies to stand before God and as it were “advocate” on behalf of the people of Israel. In today’s churches however many pastor appropriate lofty titles such as, senior pastor, general overseer, bishop in order to establish their rank and authority in much the same way as the high priest. To add to this the vestry (or sacristy) is treated as some kind of Holy of Holies from which the pastor/priest emerges to deliver his sermon and this in turn adds to an air of mystique about the pastor/priest.

 None of these associations with the Levitical system are however biblical. Perhaps it should be said that one of the reasons the traditional churches aren’t growing is because a lot of them have moved away from the examples shown to us in the New Testament scriptures and instead sought to institute man-made structures and organisation based off a defunct system.