Is tithing to the local church actually a form of giving, or is it a form of paying? This will be the third Little Lesson we’ve been talking about the subject of tithing, very common subject amongst Christians who are trying to follow the Bible and, particularly, pastors who need money.
I’m questioning the very basis of what so many people believe: first of all, that the tithe belongs to the local church. It’s not a biblical idea at all. Anyone who says so is fooling themselves, and they ought to be challenged on it in a loving way.
Where the Tithe Actually Belongs
If you’re going to extrapolate Malachi 3:8-12, you’d have to say that the tithe, if you’re going to tithe at all, belongs to those whom God has called to serve Him in ministry. This is contained in Scripture. Paul wrote, “Whoever is taught the word, let him share all good things with him who teaches” (see Galatians 6:6).
So little guys like me who are not pastors… I was a pastor at one time. I was a fairly honest pastor, although not entirely, but I can remember saying to my congregations, “I cannot tell you that your tithe belongs to the local church,” so at least I was that honest.
Little guys like me, teachers who are out there and people who benefit by our ministries, people never think about giving a tithe to them or even a part of their tithe. Same thing is true for apostles, what we maybe might refer to today as missionaries, and evangelists, and prophets, if you believe that they’re for today. There isn’t any reason in the world why part of people’s tithes who want to tithe couldn’t go to those other ministry gifts, because they would be the equivalent to the Levites under the Law of Moses.
As I already said to you, I would never ever tell anyone to restrict themselves to 10%. Jesus told us, “Lay up treasure in heaven,” so of course you want to lay up as much as possible because that’s the only place where we can lay up an eternal investment. Everything we lay up on here is destined to perish, and we’ll leave it behind one day. So I’ve covered that.
Paying for Services Rendered
Here’s a foundational question about giving, in itself. Pastors are often honest enough to say, “You know, the Scripture talks about paying tithes.” And I wish they’d take that thought to its logical end because, if they did, then they’d go on to say, “So, really, it’s not giving at all. It’s a payment for services rendered.”
You’re paying your tithe to your local church. All right, fine, I’m glad you’re supporting the services there that primarily benefit you and your family and others who are part of that local church. You are also paying their tithes because, cumulatively together, you should all be pitching in to pay for the expenses that are incurred.
But the early church, for the most part, had no such expenses. Meeting at homes or in public places, they didn’t have to have special buildings. They didn’t have youth pastors. They didn’t have children’s ministers. They didn’t have secretaries. They were focused on making disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded, and you don’t need a building to do that. I’m sorry to say that, but you don’t.
Again, I’m not anyone’s judge. Everyone has to answer to Jesus themselves one day. I had my own crisis as a pastor recognizing that I was not following a Biblical pattern. In the early church, no tithe, no giving ever supported any mortgage payment or any youth pastor, any children’s pastor, any secretary, any church administrator, all those things that have become so necessary in modern wealthy countries and wealth churches.
Laying up a Little Bit of a Treasure
If you think you’re laying up treasure in paying tithes to your church, I submit to you, really, in reality, that you’re laying up maybe a little bit of treasure, whatever escapes your church through the missions program or through the benevolence program that actually doesn’t benefit you but benefits somebody else. Then you’re getting credit for that in heaven, but paying for the mortgage, and paying for the lights, and paying for the air conditioning, and the heating, all that stuff is just for you and the other people who are there, so that’s not giving. That’s just paying your dues.
What do I suggest you do? Well, I think you can probably figure it out yourself, but look at the Bible and prayerfully consider, what would Jesus have us do? Well, he would have us lay up treasure in heaven.
He defined, specifically, how to do that, didn’t He? If you look up the Scriptures about when Jesus mentioned laying up treasures in heaven, it’s usually in the context of giving to the poor, right? Sure. Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “Sell what you possess. Give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” He didn’t say, “Pay the mortgage payment on your church. No, give to the poor, and you’ll have treasure in heaven,” so that doesn’t benefit you, Mr. Rich Young Ruler. That benefits the poor, and you’re laying up treasure in heaven when you do that.
My Own Transformation in Giving
So that’s what I started doing.
I give a portion of my income, and I give it to ministries that are serving the “least of these,” because I read Matthew 25 when Jesus talked about the future judgment of the sheep and the goats, and I started doing the bulk of my giving to help the “least of these” and also to help spread the gospel to those who haven’t heard it, because I want people to be saved.
If your giving doesn’t involve somehow supporting people like the early church supporter…
They supported the apostle Paul. There are Scriptures about that, and he said to the Philippians, “I’m so happy for your participation in the gospel” (see Philippians 1:5). “You’re involved because you’re supporting me, the guy that brought you the gospel in the first place and now who’s taking it to the uttermost parts of the Earth.
You’re involved because you’re supporting me. I don’t have to work sewing tents. I can devote myself fully to the work of the Lord.” Well, Paul wasn’t a pastor, and early Christians were sending money to an apostle, so when folks say, “Well, the tithe, what you’re giving should all be centered here, and then we make decisions as to where it should go,” sorry. Sorry, Charlie, that’s not Biblical.
Okay, much more to say on this subject. I wrote a very controversial e-teaching one time called Tithe to the Local Church? You might thank me for it. I hope so. Okay, I hope to see you next time. God bless you.