Last week in “Stewardship, Tithing, and the Old Testament”, we looked at the two ways in which Israelites were commanded to offer their tithes: in produce or in cash. And we examined the purpose of that tithe, both in recognizing God’s ownership and our stewardship and in aiding in the support of those called to serve God to the exclusion of other employment. This week, we’ll take a closer look at giving in the New Testament and begin to consider the implications that Scripture’s teachings have for the way we use our paychecks.
While many Christians argue that the tithe is a concept exclusive to ancient Israel, the Apostle Paul had plenty to say about the importance of giving – especially to those who performed God’s work. (If you recall, the original purpose of the tithe was to support the Levites who labored in the temple.) Indeed, “Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?” (1 Corinthians 9:7) In 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, the Apostle asks, “Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” (NASB)
Church leaders, apostles, and missionaries often devoted (and continue to devote) countless hours to managing church affairs, mediating conflicts, and counseling, teaching, and supporting the members of local congregations as well as to spreading the Gospel message. These labors are extraordinarily time-consuming, requiring well-developed problem solving and management skills as well as a willingness to be on call 24/7. Such roles are highly demanding and frequently result in a great deal of stress (physically, emotionally, and financially) for both the workers and their families. Those who fill these roles full-time often forgo the higher paying employment that the common market offers to those who possess such skill sets. Full-time service to Christ’s Body, far from being an easy way to earn a living is, instead, an act of sacrificial giving… and this act of giving can only be supported through an act of giving on the part of those who do engage in outside employment.
The tithe supports those who faithfully fill the roles of pastor, teacher, and missionary. It enables them to meet their financial obligations and tend to the physical needs of their families while at the same time shepherding Christ’s flock. And it is for this reason that those of us who seek to be good stewards of the paycheck with which God has entrusted us, must faithfully give.