When Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia they brought with them a financial gift from the church in Philippi. Apparently, a man named Epaphroditus actually carried the money, and then stayed in Corinth for awhile to assist Paul. He was sent home after surviving a life-threatening illness (Php 2:25-30). The effect this gift had on Paul was not to change what he was doing, but to release him to do it more. Luke says, Paul began devoting himself completely to the Word
(v5). He had been working six days a week making tents in order to support himself and then, in what must have been a very weary condition, he would reason in the synagogue on the Sabbath. No one had to pay Paul to minister. He did what he did with or without support, but the gift from the Philippians released him to focus all his energy and time on doing what he was called to do.
If you have to pay someone to minister, theyre not really a minister. People who know their calling will find a way to fulfill their calling. Theres a passion in them, its who they are. They cant stop serving God anymore than they can stop breathing. But providing for the practical needs of life can limit the time they have available to care for others. Every human needs food and clothes and a place to live. Yes, God promised to clothe us like the lilies of the field and feed us like the birds of the air (Mt 6:25-32), but the way He prefers to do that is through the consistent, generous giving of His people.
Giving in the Bible
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel tithed. They gave one-tenth of their produce and income to support the tribe of Levi, who in turn led them in worship and ministered to them. When we read the New Testament were looking at the early days of the church. It was a time when the number of believers was growing rapidly, but structures for caring for all those people were still developing. At first, most churches were home groups, small enough to be led and cared for by a few elders and deacons. They had no buildings, so they met in houses, which limited their size. But as more people came to Christ, more houses had to be found to meet in, and more elders had to be identified to lead each one, and caring for all these people required more time, so the churches began to pick up the support of certain elders so they could devote themselves to pastoring the flock (1Ti 5:17, 18).
When we read through the letters in the New Testament, there is no passage that proves that churches were taught to tithe. Undoubtedly, Jewish believers continued to do so because they understood this as a way to honor God as their Source. Tithes and offerings were a foundational part of their worship, and theres nothing about coming to Jesus that would have made them want to give less. The first church, in Jerusalem, endured so much persecution they gave far beyond their tithe in order to provide food and housing for those who had been thrown out of their homes or lost their jobs (Ac 2:44-45; 4:32-35).
Gentiles who came into the church had no such history of giving. When they went to a pagan temple, they had to pay for the various services they received, so receiving ministry just because you belong to Gods family was a new concept. And none of the apostles imposed on them a law about giving once they became Christians, but they surely would have learned about giving as they listened to the sayings of Jesus and watched mature brothers and sisters. Paul, himself, taught them to support those who ministered in the church (1Co 9:1-14), and pointed out that Jesus taught the same thing (1Co 9:14). But he personally refused to receive any support from those churches in which he was ministering because he did not want to be a burden to them (2Co 11:7), and he wanted them to know the gospel came to them from God free of charge (2Co 11:7-9; 12:13-18).
Jesus said, The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest (Mt 9:37-38). Since the day of Pentecost there has been a struggle in the church to provide enough ministers to care for those God brings in. People come to Christ with great needs:
1) They need to be taught the Word of God. If they are left ignorant, they will continue to suffer from foolish decisions and lack of faith.
2) They need to be led in corporate worship. No one should have to worship alone. We need each other. Theres power and breakthrough when we worship together.
3) They need to be healed physically, emotionally, and even mentally, depending on the circumstances of their past. Some will need deliverance from demonic bondage.
4) They need to be welcomed into Gods family. Real Christianity is meant to be lived as part of a community where people love one another, confess their sins to one another, and serve God together as a team.
5) They need to be trained to do ministry. Every believer has a unique call to serve God, yet if that person is neglected that call can go undiscovered.
The great crisis facing the exploding church in much of the world today is that there are way too many people being cared for by way too few ministers. And the danger is that un-pastored new believers can fall back into old ways or be lured into cults. The same problem develops in our own country when large numbers come to Christ. If were not careful, tender new believers fall through the cracks.
The Foursquare Church
The Foursquare Church has historically been a movement that chose to tithe. All our churches tithe, its a covenant weve made with one another, and our members are asked to tithe. Its not a law to us, we dont do this in order to go to heaven. Its a self-imposed discipline that we embrace because we long to reach as many people as possible, and we realize that generous giving is part of that. We focus on training leaders, planting churches, and sending missionaries. This has always been our passion, and the result has been amazing.
Why I give
Im a Foursquare pastor and were a Foursquare church, and we dont:
Tithe because its the Law
Tithe so God will make us rich (though weve discovered the blessing is real)
Tithe so well get healed or our prayers will be answered
And I admit those things are said so often, Ive tended to avoid the topic of giving altogether. I assume that the minute I even say the word, most people have been so conditioned by the barrage of requests theyve received, they cant hear me. They think they know what Im going to say. But lets try. Heres what I believe:
1) I believe we are not under the Law. There is no percentage we have to meet.
2) I believe giving is a major part of discipleship. God always wants His people to give generously. Whether were in the Old or New Covenant makes no difference. Were to care for the poor, support those who are devoting themselves to ministry, and send missionaries to the world.
3) I believe that in Gods thinking a tenth is a starting place that shows us what He means by the word generous. I realize there are people in difficult financial situations where debts need to be paid off or family members are opposed to giving.
4) I do believe tithing releases a miracle of provision. God rebukes the devourer (Mal 3:11) and multiplies our seed for sowing (2Co 9:10-11). The 90% simply does go farther than the 100%. I personally wouldnt even consider not tithing because I need Gods protection on my finances. I dont do it as a work but I have discovered that my obedience releases a blessing. Tithing has been a major way God has taught me faith.
5) I believe a church gets the level of ministry it deserves. Churches filled with generous givers enjoy an abundance of ministry and care. Churches that are not generous have less.
6) I believe people can choose to be more fruitful. We can increase the harvest by deciding to give more, pray more, and serve more. Paul said,
he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2Co 9:6)
So, as we pray for revival, and are already seeing many coming to Christ, we realize well need more people who are devoting themselves to preaching the Word and caring for the church, and for that to happen we all need to give, pray, and serve generouslynot as a law, nor as a greedy tactic to get rich, but out of a passion for souls, out of a desire to be as fruitful as we can for Jesus. Lets listen once more to what Paul said to the church in Philippi after Epaphroditus brought that gift to him in Corinth:
But I have received everything in full and have an abundance. I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Php 4:18-19)
1) Who is the most generous person youve ever known? How did they help people? What difference did it make?
2) Has God ever done a financial miracle for you? If you feel comfortable telling us about it wed love to hear what happened. What did God teach you?