Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Question on use of tithes

QUESTION:

I have just read your answer to the evangelist who asked about TITHES.

I was "grateful" that you gave such a balanced and open answer - both to him, and also as regards to the honesty of there being NO CLEAR ANSWER regarding a New Testament Tithe.

My own question relates to the USE of tithes (to those of us who believe it remains as part of our Christian commitment), and to the CALLING of responsibilities to the individual as a part of our responsibilities and freedom (and the authority needed to DO what we are called) under the teaching of "Priesthood of the Believer."

How do we "respond" to a leading of our heart concerning a ministry we wish to support when our church "decision-makers" (Elders, Senior Pastor, Missions Team, etc.) DON'T share our view of supporting that ministry?

Does the authority given to each of us a believers, allow us to hear our OWN heart as regards to financial support (beyond just a GIFT)? Do we have the biblical "authority" to designate where a portion (or even ALL) the Tithe should be directed?

Robert P.

ANSWER:

Robert:

You speak of a long standing disagreement among fine Bible believing Christians. Let me first stake out the positions, and then give some reasons why people believe as they do. 

First, there are those denominations (and local churches) who believe that all giving should go to the church, and then missionaries and other worthy causes will be supported as determined by church officials. This falls under the general title of “storehouse giving” taken from Malachi, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10). However, that text does not say what happens to money beyond the tithe, and it is also addressed to the Old Testament Jewish arrangement – not the New Testament church. 

It is also true that the church should give to worthy causes and mission support. Paul wrote, “and you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone” (Philippians 4:15). That church had delegated Epaphroditus to deliver the financial support to Paul in prison. 

On the positive side of this viewpoint is that the church leaders may be better equipped to filter out bogus missions projects, or unproductive evangelists who have a great sales pitch. Denominations can also provide better selection, support, accountability, and planning for their missionaries. The advantage to the missionaries on the field is that they don’t need to worry about their support level, because they are paid by the denomination. 

Another advantage is that many times individuals in a local church will champion their own individual projects that are not very effective to the cause of Christ. Those projects siphon off funds from more productive mission projects. They may also detract from the good programs the church is involved in. If money is given to the church, better control can be maintained.

But then, sometimes church leaders are not well versed on how to determine a very productive mission or charitable cause – or missionaries. Furthermore, they may devote most of the funds to pay for pastoral wages and building projects, etc., to the neglect of missions. 

To complicate the issue, however, sometimes churches do not support activities that are within legitimate Christian mission. An example would be liberal churches that support and/or affirm abortion or homosexual marriages. The question then becomes, “Should I give my money to a church knowing that it will end up financing projects or beliefs contrary to biblical teaching?” Should I give to a church or denomination that endorses practicing gay or lesbian couples to be the pastors?

Since we all will stand individually before the judgment seat of Christ, how would He then judge me if I financially supported things so contrary to His will? (Cf. Romans 14:10-12).

As another practical matter, I have served as a pastor, missionary, and tried to be an evangelist and Bible teacher. The financial distribution was unequal. I never had to worry about making a living while pastor – most do not. However, it was a constant struggle to maintain support as an independent missionary, and impossible as an evangelist and Bible teacher. This website is my service as a Bible teacher (though I also teach at a seminary and get paid some), and I need to pay for it out of my own pocket. Yet, I reach thousands of people a month with Bible teaching.  

Now, let me switch gears. On the other hand, there is the “faith missions” movement and parachurch organizations in which individual missionaries go wherever they can to gain their individual support. People within this movement believe individuals are free to give as the Lord directs them. Organizations and individuals among this group include missionaries, evangelists, Bible schools, seminaries, Christian liberal arts universities, orphanages, hospitals, itinerant Bible teachers, rescue missions, Christian camps, and hosts of others. 

Even the most structured organizations appeal directly to individuals to contribute outside the official church structure. For example, I just received an appeal directly from a Roman Catholic university for me to give directly to them. Even some widely respected television preachers who have both a church and successful independent ministry appeal for individuals to give directly to their independent ministry. Both J. Vernon McGee and Charles Stanley come to mind. 

Billy Graham appeals directly to individuals for support. I exercise at the local YMCA, and they have fund raising events that appeal to individuals outside the confines of a church – although they appeal to churches too. Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, Youth for Christ, and YWAM are other examples. Even Conservative Baptists and other independent groups ask their missionaries to raise their own support from churches and individuals.

There is abundant Scriptural support for individual Christians to direct their giving to projects as led by their own conscience and wisdom – outside the official church channels. I must be quick to add that Christians need to belong to a local church and financially support it. 

In your question you based your position on the degree of authority exercised by the church leaders, and also the priesthood of the believers. One can certainly use those arguments, however, they can draw one into a never ending digression that become as complicated as the giving issue. I believe it is better to appeal to direct instructions and examples given in the New Testament. Let me do that now. 

There is abundant Scriptural support for individual Christians to direct their giving to projects as led by their own conscience and wisdom – outside the official church channels. I must be quick to add that Christians need to belong to a local church and financially support it. 

In your question you based your position on the degree of authority exercised by the church leaders, and also the priesthood of the believers. One can certainly use those arguments, however, they can draw one into a never ending digression that become as complicated as the giving issue. I believe it is better to appeal to direct instructions and examples given in the New Testament. Let me do that now. 

First, there is the story of Jesus and the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The master gave money to his individual servants while he was away on a trip. He called them individually before him to give an account of the responsibility he had left them with. The results were that the master was happy with those individuals who had wisely invested in his work. Each individual had the responsibility and authority to invest the money wherever they wanted in the Kings work. 

Second, let me take another case: the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-4). You recall that they sold a piece of property, and pretended to give the entire sale price to the Apostles. Their sin was in deception, not on whether or not they gave all or just a portion to the Apostles (the official church). Peter said of the property and money, “While it (the property) remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it (the money) not under your control?” It seems to me that the couple was free to personally do whatever they wanted with the money.

Third, in another case, Paul took up a collection from individuals to support humanitarian needs for the Christians back in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4). He, as an itinerant missionary, requested individuals within the churches to contribute to his fund raising appeal. He did not appeal to the church leaders to have people put money into the church account, and then decide on a predetermined amount to give to Paul. The verse states, “On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2). 

Again, Paul instructed the Corinthians regarding giving, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion” (1 Corinthians 9:6). This seems to me to indicate that individuals were under obligation to take individual responsibility as to where their money was invested in the Lords work. 

Fourth, then there is Jesus. He certainly was not supported by the official religion of Judaism. They did not pay Him. But, he was supported by individuals (women) who went around the religious machinery to directly financially support Him (Cf. Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:40, 41). 

Fifth, James tells us, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2:15, 16). James did not call on the official church structure to support the poor person, but “one of you” as individuals. 

One might couple James teaching about individual responsibility to that of Paul who instructs those with money, “…do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). 

Sixth, there is the famous story of the Good Samaritan. The poor victim was traveling; robbers beat him up, robbed him, and left him in dire straits alongside the road. A priest passed by the poor fellow and ignored him, and so did the Levite. They both were in charge of the religious machinery and levers of power. They could have had the local synagogue help out the poor victim in the story. But, they refused. 

However, an individual Samaritan stumbled across the wounded man, picked him up, took him to help, and paid the entire bill individually out of his own personal finances. He did not donate to the local synagogue to have them pay the hospital bill. He paid it directly from his own pocket. Jesus greatly commended this individual action, and condemned the indifferent actions of the leaders of the local synagogue. 

Seventh, there is also the instruction by Paul who states in the context of personal responsibility in the building the work of God, “but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor…But let each man be careful how he builds upon it…each man’s work will become evident…the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work” 1 Corinthians 3:8, 10, 13). Again, we see the emphasis on individual effort, responsibility, and accountability on how we serve Christ – which includes our giving.

To summarize my evidence, we as individuals are held responsible and accountable to Christ for the opportunities, resources, and quality of work we do toward the advancement of the cause of Christ. This is for eternal reward, not for salvation, which is by faith alone. We are individually responsibility for our salvation, spiritual growth, Christian service, our support of the state, church, family and work relationships. And, based on the above sample of instructions and examples, we are also individually responsible to see to it that our financial giving ends up in the greatest profit to the advancement of the cause of Christ. 

R. I hope this helps you. All the best, and may you continue your faithful service to Christ. 

Dr. Newman

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