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How Is the Work of the Church Supported?

Today God's truth continues to go out free of charge to those who request it. Let's look at the biblical example for financing the work of preaching and publishing the good news.

Jesus Christ assigned His Church the work of proclaiming the gospel to the world and of making disciples and caring for those God calls (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20). This is a massive undertaking. Yet, at any one time, God calls only a "little flock" of people into the Church to accomplish this immense task (Luke 12:32).

Jesus instructed His disciples, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). God's whole way of life is a way of giving and serving. So it comes as no surprise that Jesus told His disciples to share the gospel without charge. Today God's truth continues to go out free of charge to those who request it. Let's look at the biblical example for financing the work of preaching and publishing the good news.

The Bible introduces God's financial support system through the example of the patriarch Abraham. But, before we examine Abraham's example, we need to consider the significance of God's role as the Creator of heaven and earth. He created everything, including all the physical resources He allows us to use during our lifetimes. He tells us that everything still belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1; Haggai 2:8). Therefore He reserves the right to tell us how to use what He has created.

God revealed His way of life to Abraham. He says of him, "Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Genesis 26:5). Abraham also knew that all physical blessings are a gift from God. As "the father of all those who believe" (Romans 4:11), Abraham set us the example of tithing—giving one tenth of the blessings He received from God to God's priest (Genesis 14:17-20; Hebrews 7:1-4)—as part of his partnership with God.

Abraham passed this practice on to his descendants. His grandson Jacob vowed, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God ... and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You" (Genesis 28:20-22, emphasis added throughout).

When some of Abraham's descendants became the nation of ancient Israel, after their deliverance from Egyptian bondage God gave His tithe to the tribe of Levi as payment for the Levites' services to Him. "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting ... For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, 'Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance'" (Numbers 18:21, 24).

This support provided the means for Israel to worship God and be taught according to His will. The book of Hebrews describes a change in administration because the New Testament Church—the spiritual temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:19-22)—replaced the physical temple in importance. The responsibility for teaching God's truth now falls on the New Testament Church. In the first century the followers of the gospel message gave monetary and other aid to Jesus, to His disciples and, later, to other laborers in the Church to support them in doing the work Christ had given His Church to do. Examples of such giving, and principles relating to it, are found in New Testament passages such as Luke 8:3; 10:7-8; 2 Corinthians 11:7-9; and Philippians 4:14-18.

Did Jesus uphold the biblical practice of tithing? He did indeed! Notice His comments to the scribes and Pharisees: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone" (Matthew 23:23).

The Pharisees were careful to accurately tithe even the smallest of spices, but they often neglected other "weightier" principles of the law. Jesus told them they should have done both. Neither tithing nor such weightier matters as "justice and mercy and faith" should be neglected.

Jesus and His apostles taught that a giving attitude should be a major part of the Christian way of life. "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 6:38).

Neglecting to tithe is compared to robbery—robbing God (Malachi 3:8-12). We can rest assured that He has promised to supply the needs of those who sincerely seek first His Kingdom and become willing and enthusiastic partners with Him in the work of preaching the gospel (Matthew 6:31-34; 2 Corinthians 9:8).

Christ has commissioned His Church to carry on the work He started. God's tithe funds that effort. As Christians, we are called to be coworkers with Christ.

"For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building" (1 Corinthians 3:9). "Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name's sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth" (3 John 1:5-8).

What an awesome gift and responsibility, to be a fellow worker, a coworker with God in preaching the gospel around the world! (To better understand the scriptural instruction about tithing, request your free copy of What Does the Bible Teach About Tithing?)

 

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