“Someone has asked what is the Biblical way to look at tithing? Especially that we are now in the New Testament or the new covenant. Well, as usual, what does scripture say?
The Question of Tithing is Emotive
Often, when people turn to the Bible, to consider this whole question of tithing, you will find that it’s a very emotive subject. Because on one hand, you had the individuals that have completely abused it: pastors who are making themselves stinking rich from the poverty of their parishioners. But you also have on the other hand, individuals that want to have nothing to do with it whatsoever. And so they have their own passages which we will look at in a moment.
Ministry Must be Financed by the Local Church
Usually the question that people tend to go to, and the passages they tend to go to, relate to free will giving that is clearly taught in the New Testament. Sadly, what they fail to bring out is the fact that all those passages that they go to are not teaching about how finances are to be raised within the church in order to support the ministry of the word and the mission of the local church.
It is still the tithe from the people of God that supports the ministry. Those who are abusing it are wrong. But that doesn’t mean we should drop the command of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Goodwill Offerings are called for To Support Needs Beyond the Local Church
You find, for instance, that they go to passages such as Romans 16. Now Romans 16 actually teaches about giving in the church. But it is finances that are to be collected to be taken from Rome, and taken to Judea where there was an actual famine. That’s where the teaching is. It is not about giving in the local church. Again I leave that to you – its Romans 15. Others go to 1 Corinthians 16. Which if you also go there, you will find its also exactly the same thing. Its finances being raised in order for the church in Corinth, which was in Europe together with the church in Rome, to support the brethren who were undergoing a famine in Judea. And that you cannot miss because Pauls says – when I come I’ll come and collect the money and take it with me.
Let me quickly read that to you. He says there “now concerning the collection for the saints as I directed the churches of Galatia, so also I am directing you. On the first day of each week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.” So clearly, it is money to be given to the brethren in Jerusalem.
2 Corinthian is also another passage that individuals refer to: chapter 7 and chapter 8. You will not miss the fact again – talking about God loves a cheerful giver – it is about money being collected from the church in Corinth. Macedonia had given. Achaia is now being told to give so finances can go to Jerusalem.
Where is the New Testament Basis for the Local Church Tithing?
So the question is, where then in the whole New Testament does the Bible teach concerning how we are to give to the local church itself? Where? The answer is found for us in 1 Corinthians, chapter 9 and verse 14. It says “in the same way the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living from the Gospel.” Now, he begins by saying “in the same way.” What is he comparing himself to? Let’s read the previous verse. Verse 13 “do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple. And those who serve at the alter share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel.” In other words, exactly the way in which in the Old Testament the Priests in the temple, the Levites in the temple, were being supported, that’s the way in which in the New Testament Christians are to support those who are serving in the ministry of the church. And how is that? You have the answer. It is through believers tithing.
Exactly the way in which in the Old Testament the Priests in the temple… were being supported, that’s the way in which in the New Testament Christians are to support those who are serving in the ministry of the Church
Why is the Old Testament Teaching Relevant?
Those who say “well, you know that’s Old Testament, we are now in the New,” get a surprise. Because in this same chapter earlier on the Apostle Paul uses the Old Testament to convince us that by that authority we should do the same.
Paul is using the Old Testament, the old covenant, as the authority by which he is saying ‘you should have been supporting.
Listen to this in verse 8: “do I say these things on human authority? Does not the law say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses ‘you shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain. Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake?” Meaning those of us who are preachers of the word? Paul is using the Old Testament, the old covenant, as the authority by which he is saying ‘you should have been supporting.’
And its the same method – in the Old as in the New. This text is saying it has not changed. It is still the tithe from the people of God that supports the ministry. Those who are abusing it are wrong. But that doesn’t mean we should drop the command of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Editor’s note: The original audio podcast is a ministry of Kabwata Baptist Church in the heart of Lusaka, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ!