What does the New Testament Say?
1 Corinthians 9:11-14(NKJV) 11If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
In our study of divine prosperity, we have come to the practice of paying tithes. I am convinced that this practice is both relevant to the church today and beneficial. I do not teach this as a law. We do not make tithing a qualification for church membership. I teach this practice as a way to keep our hearts right before God where finances are concerned and as a practice, that opens the door to God’s economic system. This system is based on giving. The tithe is a part of that system.
Yesterday we looked at the purpose God assigned to the tithe in the Old Testament and how it relates to church life in the New Testament. I shared what God instructed me to do in our church. This is not doctrine. It is revelation to me and has produced great blessing in my life and the life of our church.
In the period of Israel’s history governed by the Mosaic Law, God told his people that the tithe was to be used to provide an inheritance to the tribe of Levi. This tribe was given the responsibility to labor in all things related to the house of God and the worship of Israel. They were not to work in the secular world. In the church today, we have a group of people who serve a similar function. They are those called to fulltime ministry as well as some called to do jobs that support the house of God and the ministries that function within it.
When we were starting our church, God showed us the pattern used in the Old Testament. He instructed me set up this system in our church. The system was simply this. We would not receive all tithes and offerings together and put everything into one big pot. We would separate tithes and offerings. The tithe was designated for the ministry while offerings would be used for the operation of the buildings and grounds.
The tithe goes first to pay the salaries of the people on staff. Second, it pays for equipment and supplies that are necessary for the function of various ministries. It is also used for travel to various mission fields. Heat, lights and supplies for the buildings are paid for out of free will offerings. For over 24 years this system has produced great blessing to our church and its people.
The question we must ask is whether there is any New Testament authority for this. Does the New Testament teach that the tithe belongs to the full time ministry of our day? The answer to that is no. What does the New Testament say about the support of ministry? Let us find out.
In today’s verse, we read the words of the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. This was one of the greatest and yet most problematic of the churches Paul dealt with. Paul states that he did not take any money from the Corinthian believers. In other places, he says he worked to supply his needs and those of his companions. One might say that all preachers should follow Paul’s example, but let us look closer.
Paul says a number of other things in these verses. He says that those who minister to spiritual needs have a right to compensation from the natural resources of those to whom they ministry. The word, right, is very strong. This is not charity. Paul tells the Corinthians he has this right but has chosen not to use it.
Paul also cites the same Old Testament pattern that we have been studying. Although the tithe is not specifically mentioned, what God designated it for is mentioned. “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” The tithe is what they lived on.
Paul then draws a parallel with those who preach the Gospel in the New Testament era. “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” Paul says the Lord commanded this. That is a strong statement. Why, then did Paul not partake of this “command of the Lord?”
There are two reasons. First, it would have hindered the preaching of the Gospel to the Corinthians. I go to many places where I do not receive any offerings. It would hinder the Gospel to ask for money and often the people have nothing to give. Money is never a factor for me in considering where I will preach or teach the Word of God. It should never be a factor for any true minster of the Gospel of Jesus.
The second factor is something in Paul’s own makeup. I will let you decide if it is a strength or weakness.
1 Corinthians 9:15(NKJV) 15But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.
Paul says that he has chosen not to partake of what he is teaching them as principle because he does not want anyone to make his “boasting void.” Again, I will leave it to you to decide whether that is a good thing or not. Either way, Paul taught the Corinthians that they should support those who minister them spiritually and he has cited the Old Testament pattern as proof.
Many other New Testament verses teach us to take care of those who minister the Gospel. I will quote only one more due to space limitations.
1 Timothy 5:17-18(NKJV) 17Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
The Amplified Bible expands the term “double honor” to include, “adequate financial support.” Paul again uses the Old Testament as his authority for encouraging Timothy to teach the church to support those minister the things of God to them.
Does the New Testament teach the system I use in my church? Is a church out of the will of God if they do not use this system? Of course not. I do believe that God revealed a pattern in the Old Testament that can be applied in New Testament times. Since this pattern was God’s idea to begin with, I just believe it is the best way.
Because we have used this pattern, our local church of 125 to 150 has been able to impact our area and over 20 other nations with the Gospel. Our people do not feel used or bound. They feel that we are all working together as a team to fulfill the great commission. No one, not the ministry or the people, is asked to carry a financial load greater than they can bear. This is not a law for us. However, it has been a blessed practice in my life and my ministry.
The Blessing of the Tithe
Malachi 3:10-12(KJV) 10Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. 12And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
This week we have been studying the tithe. I believe this practice predates the law and is part of covenant relationship. God is the source of all we have. I believe it is a reasonable thing for us to give back to him the first ten percent of what he provides for us. Although this is certainly not the only thing we need to do to keep our heart right toward God where finances are concerned, I find it to be something that helps me.
This week we have focused on the way the tithe was used under the Mosaic Law. God instructed Israel to bring the tithe into the storehouse. For me, this is the local church. It was to be the inheritance of the tribe of Levi, those called to fulltime service in the house of God, so they would not have to work in the secular world. This was not some form of charity. This was God’s method of paying those whom he employed.
In the New Testament, I believe this system is the best way to care for those who meet our spiritual needs. This is not a matter of law or doctrine, but I believe it is the wisdom of God. We have used the tithe in this way for 24 years and it has produced great blessing in our church.
To finish our look at the practice of tithing, I want to point out the blessing that God ties to it in Malachi 3. The first thing he says in verse ten is that we can prove him in this. What does that mean? It means that God is challenging us to see if he will keep his Word. This is very interesting.
I do not know of another area where God makes this kind of statement. God is a faith God. Faith is not something you just “give a try.” You either believe God or not. The very nature implies that God is true to his Word and we can stand on the promises contained within it. The idea of proving God to see if he will do what he says he will do almost seems the opposite of faith to me. What is the significance of this?
I do not believe this means we can tithe for a week and see if it works. I believe the only way to receive the benefits we are going to talk about is to tithe because we believe God will do what he says. We must be willing to be faithful in this even if we see no results at first. If we are not faithful, we will never see the blessings. Most of the time, when people step out into something like tithing, things will get worse before they get better. The Devil does not want us to get established in truth so he tries to pluck it up before it really gets rooted in us.
Yet God does tell us to prove him in the tithe. I believe this is to emphasize to us how important these things are to God. We must still stand on the promise by faith, but God wants us to know that in this area we will see results. He will move on our behalf. If we tithe, certain things will happen. They may not happen in a week or a month, but they will happen. This is God’s covenant to us.
What will happen? God will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing we cannot contain. Wow. That is almost too big for us to handle. What could the open windows of heaven mean to us today? I do not really know. I know it sounds like there is no need in my life that will go unmet if the windows of heaven were open over it. It sounds to me like God is saying that there are no limits to the blessing available to the tither.
Specifically this can mean different things to different people, but I think it is bigger than most of us are able to accept at face value. We recently went through a devastating flood in our area. It rained heavily for almost two days. When it rains that way, we sometimes say the heavens opened. This is the idea behind this statement concerning the tithe. God is willing to pour out a torrential rain of blessing on the tither. He will meet every need in abundance. We need to grasp this truth with our faith.
The reason this must be so is the covenant. God established the blood covenant with Abraham. The church lives in the age of the New Covenant, but the basis is still the idea of blood covenant. When two parties come into covenant together, what belongs to one belongs to the other. If I give the first fruits of my increase to my covenant partner, he will give to me the same and more. It is not that God needs to obligate himself to bless us. It is that this covenant relationship means the devil has no right to stop God from blessing me. I am in covenant with God. I am exercising that covenant by paying my tithe. The devil has no legal right to keep me from receiving the blessing of God.
God uses this extreme term so we will understand that it is his will to bless us abundantly. It is his will that our needs should be me. It is his will that we have the desires of our heart. The most important aspect of this blessing, however, is that we become the same kind of channel of blessing as our covenant partner. Note the next part of this blessing. “And pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
In this study, I have tried to emphasis the balance in what God wants to do for us. He loves us. He wants to meet our needs. Nevertheless, there is a more important purpose in God’s heart. He wants to use us to bless others. If we are blessed so much that we cannot contain it, God’s intention is that we give it to others. Jesus taught that the man who simply built bigger barns to contain more was not rich toward God. That has not changed.
God wants to do something very big in the life of his covenant partners. When they bring him their tithe, he promises a huge blessing. He does not intend for us to squander this blessing on the lusts of the flesh. He expects us to become a channel of that blessing to the world around us. As we do, we are also able to share with people an even greater blessing. That is the blessing of knowing Jesus as savior and lord. That is the real point of all that God gives to us.
Release your faith in this blessing today. If you have never tithed, prove God in this and see if he will not do what he said. If you have been a tither for years but have not seen the blessing God says you should have, start to stir up your faith in this promise. If you are experiencing the blessing of the tithe, make sure that you are the channel God wants you to be. That is the best way to ensure that the channel of blessing continues in your life.