Over the years, we’ve heard these words echoed throughout the pulpit, “The Lord tells us to bring our tithes to the storehouse!” But what is a tithe? The dictionary defines the word as “a tenth part of something paid as a voluntary contribution for the support of a religious establishment.” But does this idea of giving 10% of your income to the church exist in the Bible? Do we ever see New Testament Christians tithing? The answer to both of these questions is: No. In this week’s episode, Dale expands on his previously written article “Why Tithing is Biblical, but It’s Not Christian.”
Key Takeaways From This Episode
1. Give To The Poor
I don’t even think I need to list the plethora of Scriptures featuring Jesus’s heart for the poor, so let’s first go back to God’s book of wisdom. Proverbs 19:17 states, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” If this Scripture is true, which I believe it is, then any giving to the poor is merely a loan to God—and God never fails to make good on His promises.
In Luke 12:33-34, Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This Scripture along with many others (Matthew 5:42, Matthew 25:35-45, Matthew 6:1-4) are all pieces of a system of generosity that lead up to this incredible statement that our Lord makes in Luke 6:38 regarding giving:
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
In theological circles, this is called the Law of Reciprocity. Jesus wraps up His entire heavenly economic system with this gigantic promise. Interestingly, many Christians ignore it. Instead, they go about calling themselves victims to unfortunate financial circumstances when in reality they are only meeting the financial rebound of their own choices. In other words, those of God’s children who are not generous are generally wanton and greedy. It reveals their very heart, they cannot let go of their treasure, they simply do not have enough faith to engage this passage.
Now, this scripture is not allegorical, it is a direct promise of our Lord and a confirmation that your generosity (to any of these three categories) will be paid back generously in some capacity. Is it claiming to be repaid strictly in money? No. However, the Lord does affirm, that in some way, whether relationships, opportunities, money, or sustenance you who give will be paid back in blessing from on High.
Do you seek out the poor? Do you make it a priority to give to those in need around the world? Let me spare you from the very real circumstances many are facing this moment while you read this article from the comfort of your bearable life. The Lord says what we do for the poor, we do for Him. Sponsor a child, support a Christian charity, give to the poor in your own city, after all, you are simply lending money to God.
2. Give to Needs of the Saints
Romans 12:10-13 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” This is one among many passages that command Christians to meet the needs of the saints. This is also a principle clearly upheld throughout the New Testament by the overwhelming number of “one-another commands” given to the Church to carry out with our Christian brothers and sisters.
Sadly, most churches have nurtured a culture that inhibits the closeness and connection required to hear about needs and facilitate an opportunity for those needs to be met. Instead, the churches give much of their gathered funds to outreach that has little to do with their own community all while sitting in large crowds of local church members living on credit cards and digging themselves into deeper holes of debt. Now, I am not ignoring the need for biblical financial stewardship. However, I am pointing out that when churches are small, close, and relationally connected the needs of the local saints begin to surface.
I say this because the command discussed above in the Romans passage is the universal doctrine for the church but it is to be played out locally. Not to say that international giving is wrong. But it should not replace the call to meet the needs of the local saints in your own life. The question you might consider asking yourself is, “Am I meeting the needs of those around me?” Better yet, “Am I close enough with people at my church that they would even express their needs to me if that had them?”
Verse 11 tells us to, “not lack in diligence” in fulfilling this passage. That is to say, this is something we should pursue in our communities. Like Christ, we are called to meet people’s needs. Generosity is one of humanity’s greatest forms of love. To receive what you didn’t earn in some way is a reflection of the Gospel. It is another form of continuing the grace that the Lord has bestowed on each of us.
3. Give to Shepherds in Your Life
I’m going to open with a passage from 1 Corinthians in which Paul discusses the rights he has as a spiritual shepherd in the lives of the Corinthians to collect payment for his spiritual labor. Now, for those Bible scholars who know this passage, Paul declines his liberty to exercise this right because he doesn’t want to give the skeptical Corinthian church any reason to believe his motives of sharing the Gospel had anything to do with a financial return. That said, Paul absolutely exercises this right with other churches in other New Testament letters. That is to say, just because Paul has chosen to waive this right with the Corinthians is not to say that all pastors are to waive their rights to be paid for their spiritual labor. Let’s break this verse down together.
1 Corinthians 9:5-12 “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?
Let’s first discuss his comment about muzzling the ox and work backward.
What is a muzzle? In short, a muzzle is a device to prevent an animal from eating while it’s working. Paul makes the argument clearly when he says, “Is it oxen God is concerned about or is it the benefit of the plowman?” The lesson Paul is teaching to the Corinthians is: Don’t allow the ox who is working in the spiritual fields of your life to stop working! And it’s not about the ox… it’s about you! He’s saying, DON’T MUZZLE YOUR OX!
Don’t stop the shepherd in your life from eating. Why? Because if you stop your ox from eating he will quit working. If your ox quits working you will no longer be fed.
Many ministers have been forced to limit or end their spiritual labors (their study time, their private meetings, their discipleship meetings, their phone calls, their emails, and their answering of spiritual questions) solely because they were unable to sustain the time required. In other words, they needed to go somewhere else or do something else which provided an income for their families and naturally prohibited their ministries—even Paul had to make tents for a season.
Paul continues on to defend a shepherds right to receive payment from those he ministers to. In verse 11-12 he says, “If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?”
How much would you pay for a doctor to heal an infection in your throat? $125? Maybe more? Why do we hesitate to pay the pastor who heals the infections in your soul? Is the healing of your pornography addiction not more valuable than a throat infection? Is the saving of your marriage not more valuable than changing the oil in your car? Is having the wisdom and counsel on how to navigate big life decisions not more valuable than the man who installs your dishwasher?
All of these individuals exercise their right to collect money for the material solution they provide. Do shepherds not have the right to collect an income for the spiritual labor they provide?
Paul and Jesus affirm this idea in Luke 10:7 and 1 Timothy 5:18 when they say, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Galatians 6:6 brings additional support when it says, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.”
- Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
- Luke 10:7 “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house.”
- Luke 12:33-34 “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
- Matthew 5:42 “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
- Matthew 6:1-4 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
- Matthew 25:35-45 “for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’”
- Romans 12:10-13 “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”
- 1 Corinthians 9:5-12 “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Whoever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?
- 1 Timothy 5:18 “For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
After watching or listening to this episode, what is your opinion? Do you have any questions or comments? Maybe you have something to add to the discussion? If so, let us know in the comments below.