In this blog’s series on Christian giving, I attempted to present the biblical truth that riches have a negative, not positive, effect on the Church.

In the last post, I offered evidence that the teaching that many church leaders offer about tithing is misleading and confusing, because they teach that the tithe is associated with the blessings and cursings of the Mosaic covenant, which is no longer in force. In addition, surprisingly, if it were in force, the Old Testament tithe was to be used to supply food so one could eat with his family, widows, orphans, the sojourner, and the landless, which included the Levite, who was not allowed to own property. (See https://jlthomson.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/i-have-been-misled-about-christian-giving-and-it-is-my-fault-as-well-part-seven-or-the-church-should-teach-the-truth-about-tithing/) Perhaps, after reading these articles, you may have asked, “If the Bible says that riches are actually harmful to the Church, and tithing is not required, how should I give? Where should my offerings go?” Or perhaps you said, “Wait a minute, Jim. The Bible tells us to support our pastors. And tithing was done before Moses, when Abram tithed to Melchizedek.” Let’s begin with the last statement about the tithe to Melchizedek. Good point, but we must determine if this passage in Genesis 14 is descriptive or prescriptive. In other words, did the Holy Spirit inspire the author to write this account so believers would practice tithing? Tithing is not taught in the New Testament, and no Spirit-inspired author makes use of Abram’s obeisance to Melchizedek in order to instruct believers about giving. However, if Christians use Genesis 14 as a guideline for their generosity, there should be no objection, should there? Please note, though, that Abram didn’t tithe to a church, obviously, since it didn’t exist. He also didn’t tithe to an organization. He tithed to a man, who is a type of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it seems proper that if a Christian uses Genesis 14 as a biblical justification to tithe to the Lord, he or she should feel free to give in this way to Him. From my point of view, it’s a good place to start, albeit not a legalistic place to start. It should be pointed out, however, that it is only a starting place, and one should not feel satisfied or self-righteous because he or she has followed some minimum standard of giving because of the descriptive example in Genesis 14. Now, let’s look at the statement about supporting pastors. Yes, you are correct. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:17–18, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’”1 And in Galatians 6:6, he wrote, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” Therefore, we should experience no biblical heartburn if a believer, giving heed to these verses, helped support his elder/shepherd/teacher financially. However, this is not what the average church-goer does when he puts his offering in the plate. He is giving to an organization, which spends that money on any number of things, only one of which is to pay the salary of a teacher or elder. In addition, Paul makes it clear that he refused this privilege and worked with his own hands so he wouldn’t be a burden to the church. Following Paul’s example, I advocate that pastors enter into bi-vocational ministry, which I believe would be a huge benefit to the Church. However, that is a discussion for another time. So, this question remains. “Where, then, should my offerings go, according to the Bible?” We’ll look at biblical answers to that question next time.

1All scripture passages are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.