Financing the Work of Christian Organizations
Jonathan Kithcart

B. Childress
May 25 2011

Let us notice what happened when Christians first began to organize in the first century.  We are told in the New
Testament that 3,000 people became Christians on Pentecost in 30 AD.  A new Christian community then appeared on
the scene.  In the fourth chapter of Acts we read about how the financing of that group came into existence" (Acts 4:32-
35).  Clearly, this was no tithing system being used.  Tithe was never mentioned as a means for financing these
Christians' activities.  Yet in many cases, what those people gave was far more than a tithe.  Why did they do it?  Simply
because they saw that the work of God needed to be adequately supported, and they felt motivated by the Spirit of God
to finance it.

This  communal action of the first Christians was not intended to be the standard for Christian groups for all ages to
come.  This was because the people who were then in Jerusalem had come to the feast of Pentecost from all over the
Roman empire, and they wanted to stay longer in Jerusalem to hear the apostles speak about the Messiah and his
teachings.  This contribution of monies to support these people while in Jerusalem was a special case, but it was
motivated by a desire to give the opportunity to these pilgrims to hear this new teaching coming from the newly
invigorated apostles of Jesus.  The people simply did not want to miss out on this important teaching.  That is why they
decided to sell some lands in order to stay longer than they originally designed because they ran out of money with
which to keep themselves.

The Sin of Ananias and Sapphira

The most essential part of early Christian giving was a proper attitude expressed in the ability to teach the gospel to
others.  A lapse of such an attitude is given in the account on Ananias and his wife Sapphira.  The couple decided to
sell their property and donate the funds for the support of the new Christian community at Jerusalem.  Again it did not
involve a matter of tithing.  Peter said to Ananias, "While it [the property] remained was it not thine own?" (Acts 5:4).  In
other words, the money that Ananias had obtained by selling the property remained his own.  It was not ordained that
he had to tithe any part of that money.  A problem emerged, however, when he and his wife held back some of it,
though he said he was giving it all for the work of the gospel.  They were, in a word, hypocrites.

The difficulty with Ananias and Sapphira was not in what they gave or did not give, but in their lying.  They said they
were giving all, when they didn't.  This incensed Peter.  Peter said, "Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and
keep back a part of the price of the land."  He went on to say, "Thou has not lied unto men, but unto God."

It was their lying that prompted God to strike down Ananias and Sapphira, not because they held back some of their
money.  The matter of tithing had nothing to do with the situation at all.  In this matter, Peter took no tithe from the
people.  That was illegal to do in the first place.  Peter was no Levite.

How did Paul Finance His Work?

Paul never used biblical tithe to support his preaching of the gospel.  Paul was too trained in biblical law to suggest such
a thing.  It would have been illegal for him to take tithe because he was from Benjamin, not from Levi.

There is scriptural information that shows the manner in which Paul's work was financed.  He was by trade a tentmaker.  
He even exercised the trade while preaching the gospel and to some extent supported himself by working at tent
making.  In the funding of his work, Paul tells us in a number of places how it was financed and how he wished it to be
supported.  In Acts 20 are recorded Paul's words of farewell to the Ephesian elders: "Take heed therefore unto
yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God,
which he hath purchased with his own blood...I have coveted  [Greek: "desired"] no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.  
Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have showed you all things [Paul supported himself and helped others by
the labor of his own hands], how that so laboring [with your own hands too] ye ought to support the weak [Moffatt:
"needy;" Rieu: "poor"] and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to
receive" (Acts 20:28, 33-35).

Paul expressed a proper Christian attitude in his dealings with men - including members of the Christian community.  He
not only on occasion worked with his hands to support himself, but he had a little left over to help others in need.

It is revealing that Paul spoke many times about supporting the ministry and that Christians ought to give monies for the
propagation of the gospel, but not once did he refer to an Old Testament Scripture about tithing to show authority for it.  
For many years, when I was a member of a certain denomination, I thought tithing was a law for the Christian church.  
But when I taught it, I always had to appropriate Old Testament Scriptures (plus the mint and cumin example given by
Christ) to sustain its supposed relevance.  Yet I was always amazed that Paul never used such Scriptures when he
discussed the matter of monetary support.  Why?  Simply because he knew better.  Those "tithing Scriptures" of the Old
Testament did not (and do not) apply to financing Christian activities and Paul knew it.

Paul did need financial help, though, to teach the gospel.  In II Corinthians 11:8 he wrote, "I robbed other churches,
taking wages of them, to do you service."  It has been said by some ministers that Paul had been taking tithe from other
churches in order to give a free preaching service to the Corinthians.  Nonsense!  If that were so, why does he use the
word "robbed"?  When the Levites of the Old Testament took tithes of other Israelites, the other tribes of Israel were not
being "robbed."  Paul's usage of "robbed" was to prick the conscience of the Corinthians to let them know that others
were paying their way for them while they paid nothing.

Furthermore, if the Corinthians were expected to tithe to Paul in the Old Testament manner, Paul would have been
forcing them to break the laws of God if he refused to take their tithe.  In fact, he did not want to burden them by taking
money from the Corinthians.  "And in all things have I kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep
myself."  Paul "kept himself" by working at tent making.

To say that these Scriptures written by Paul "prove" tithing, is a classic example of reading into Scriptures what is not
there.  True, Paul did give an Old Testament example in I Corinthians 9:9 that one should not muzzle the mouth of the
ox that treads the corn, but this had nothing to do with tithing.  If tithing were an ordained method of funding the
Christian ekklesia, why didn't Paul merely quote Leviticus 27 or Malachi 3, which commanded tithing?  Paul knew better!
He could not legally quote those Scriptures because they didn't apply to any Christian activities.

Still, Christian workers needed to be supported.  Paul continued with I Corinthians 9:14: "Even so hath the Lord
ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."  This is fair enough.  Just as an ox had the right
to eat from the corn which it treads, so should proper teachers or ministers of the gospel also be supplied with funds.  
But the ox did not get a prescribed tithe.  He simply got a share of the work, and the ox deserved it.

With this, it should be no surprise why Hasting's
Dictionary of the Apostolic Church states:  "It is admitted universally that
the payment of the tithes or the tenths of possessions, for sacred purposes did not find a place within the Christian
Church during the age covered by the apostles and their immediate successor."  Likewise the
Encyclopedia Britannica
records: The Christian Church depended at first on voluntary gifts from its members." And the
Americana says:
"[Tithing] is not practiced in the early Christian Church." Even the
New Catholic Encyclopedia, published by a
denomination that later called on its members to pay tithes, states: "The early church had no tithing system...It was not
that no need of supporting the Church existed or was recognized, but rather that other means appeared to suffice."  
These quotes are under the articles "Tithe" or "Tithing" in each case.

There is not the slightest evidence in the New Testament, or in early church history, to show that the Christian church
used the tithing system of the old covenant to finance its operations.  After all, they were sensible enough to know that it
would have been illegal for them to have done so.  The early Christian authorities knew that they were not Levites.

The fact that the laws of tithing were no longer applicable for the Christian church (because the Christian
ekklesia did
not need Levites and priests performing the ritual of the temple) now gave people the opportunity for providing
contributions (that is, offerings of their own volition) for the upkeep of the
ekklesia and the teaching of the gospel of
Christ to the world.  Look at the advantage this gives the Christian.  In temple times, when sacrificial services were
required by the Levites and priests, the Israelite would not be giving
freewill offerings until he or she paid the tenth to
the Levites.

Now it is different. The rules have changed.  Since tithing is not applicable for members of the Christian
ekklesia, all the
money (and this includes all the increase of the crops and animals) belong to the Christian who produces the income.  
This means 100 percent of his or her income still belongs to the income producer as far as God is concerned.  Now,
some of that money will go to pay taxes (and the Bible states that taxes should be paid - Romans 13:6,7), but as far as
God is concerned, 100 percent of the money Christians earn is theirs.

This means that when a Christian gives the first one percent of income to support the work of the gospel, that one
percent is from the start reckoned as a freewill offering.  
If one gives five percent or even ten percent (or
whatever one gives), it is
all a freewill offering.  But with the tithing system that was in force in the Old Testament,
that one percent (or more) of
freewill offering started only after one gave the required ten percent to the Levites.

With Christians, all the support is reckoned to be
freewill.  Also concerning the Apostle Paul, Dr. Martin said: "The
apostle even said that Christian laborers in the Word and doctrine could receive 'double honors.'"  But why 'double
gifts'?  This should not be difficult to understand by any normal business or professional person today.  There are
always extra things that Christian teachers and ministers need in order to serve the people correctly and in a
professional way.  For example, they should have adequate funds to buy books, study aids, things for being hospitable
to the brethren and many other ministerial needs.  Today, such things are normally called "business expenses."

Paul certainly did not mean that workers in the gospel should live on a "double income" (or to have "double financial
blessings" to put them into a higher social or financial category than the other brethren).  The "double gifts" were to
help them serve the people better, not to make the teachers of the gospel better off in an economic way.  Those
"honors," however, were reckoned by Paul as
gifts, not tithe.

Again, let us look at the establishment of the church, after our Lord Jesus rose victoriously from the dead.  Acts 2:41-47
shows us the glorious state of the early church: "...And all that believed were together, and had all things common and
sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need" (verse 44).  This would have
been an excellent opportunity to mention tithes and offerings.

Acts 4:32-37 says that the people were of one heart and soul.  Some were possessors of land and houses who sold
their possessions.  Joses, who was named Barnabas by the apostles, sold his land; afterward he laid the money at the
feet of the apostles.  In this occurrence there is no mention whatsoever of a ten percent.

Does our Lord Jesus or His Father require the gross or the net of our paycheck, and are we to round it off ten percent
to the nearest dollar or to the nearest cents?  To their shame before the Head of the church, it's sad that some leaders
go so far as even requiring the check stubs from their congregation to see who's paying this so-called tithe to their

But listen, saints of the Most High God, consider these facts of truth concerning the so-called tithing system in the
church today.  Barnabas was a native of Cyprus and a member of the tribe of Levi, who perhaps served in the temple,
which suggests that he knew all about the law of tithing for it was to be given exclusively to the Levite according to the
Law of Moses (Numbers 18:20-24).  Nevertheless Barnabas was a crucial early link between Jews and Christians.  My
point is simply that if the apostles of Christ our Lord taught this tithing system to Barnabas, who sought out the apostle
Paul and traveled at least a year with Paul, why is there no mention of the tithe in any way?  Again the gospel must be
supported by the saints.  So where did this new covenant tithe come from?  
These are indeed the commands and
traditions of men

We all know that Paul was an apostle appointed directly from the Lord.  "He is a chosen vessel unto Me," spoke the
Lord of Paul (Acts 9:15).  It was three years before Paul even spoke to any of the other apostles.  (Just a thought - do
you suppose the Lord revealed the tithing system for the church to the apostle Paul and that Paul forgot about it when
he met with the other apostles?   I think not, for the apostle Paul had perfect recall, although some things he just didn't
know, such as his experience in the third heaven, referred to in II Corinthians 12:1-3).  After leaving Arabia he returned
to Damascus and spent fifteen days with Peter.  During this time, he saw no other apostle other than James.

    In his letter in first Corinthians Paul claimed to live from the gospel (9:14).  He referred to the law of Moses in
    verse 9.  "Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn."  He could have at least
    mentioned tithing.  After all, it was the law according to Malachi 4:4.  He could have simply said, "After you have
    taken your tithes and offering, remember me."  Instead, he claimed divine right of support from the gospel,
    although he did not exercise this right.  I quote from his letter to the church of Galatia: "Let him that is taught in
    the Word communicate unto him that teaches in all good things" (Galatians 6:6).

    As you may be aware, there are some who attempt to justify tithes in the church by using that which He has not
    said to the church.  Incorporating such misguided "principles" into the covenant  of grace is a fallacy:  I'm certainly
    not saying we should not support the church or its ministers.  God forbid!  But there is no sense of robbing God
    or the hint of a curse in these verses: Luke 6:38, Acts 20:35, I Corinthians 16:1,2 or II Corinthians 9:6-9.  Again,
    no child of God is cursed if he or she does not tithe; at least it's not binding under the covenant that was signed
    in the blood of the lamb.

    (End of letter)

Our Lord mentioned that tithing was of the law in Matthew 23:23.  In fact, this was the only time our Lord Jesus
mentioned the tithe besides Luke 11:42, when confronted with it by the Pharisees, and His parable of the Pharisee and
the publican.  Since it was their law that they were boasting about observing, He rebuked them, and told them the right
way to obey their law.  For this reason, some teach that Jesus is proclaiming for His church to also abide therein, which
is a blind, baseless and senseless interpretation, as much as if Jesus' telling the leper He healed to show himself to the
priests as Moses commanded was intended as an example for His body of believers to do (Matthew 8:4; Mark 1:44;
Luke 5:14).


DID THE APOSTLE PAUL TEACH TITHING TO THE CHURCH?, by Jonathan Kithcart, Copyright 2001, WinePress