Tithe

Tithe

Scripture: Psalms 116:12, Romans 12:1, Matthew 23:23
What does God want us to render to Him? Our eternal welfare depends upon our faithfulness in our obligations to God. Now what are those obligations? I want to suggest four specific obligations that we must render to God as His children.
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Today I’m going to deal with a subject that will explain how to pay the preacher without using your own money. Surely a lot of you ought to be interested in this. During the past few weeks we have been studying some of the internal spiritual characteristics of the true church. Today I want us to consider a very important aspect of the church which relates to organization and finance. Even such a sacred body as the church must be based on sound principles of administration or it will surely be in difficulty. God never intended that His work should suffer because of poor methods of finance. For that reason He laid down a blueprint in the Bible by which the gospel ministry can be supported in all of its various phases and activities. After all, the preacher must live and eat just like other people. Jesus said, “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” Luke 10:7.

Right here I would like to explain something about the ministry which sets it apart from every other class of occupation or vocation. It’s not just an ordinary profession such as a doctor or a lawyer may follow. The work of the gospel preacher is the call of God and those who answer that call are constrained by deep spiritual promptings. The true spirit of ministry is not, in any degree, based on material or commercial motives. Those who preach the living Word of God are not to do it just because it provides a livelihood. They are not preaching for money but for souls. The offer of higher wages should not carry the least influence in the carrying out of their spiritual duties.

My friends, there is something wrong with a system which makes money a factor in the calling of a man to be a preacher. How often we have seen the arrangement whereby the pastor of one church is approached by delegates of another church with an offer of a better salary if he will come over and preach for them. After due consideration, that pastor will mount his pulpit to tell his congregation that God has called him over to that church, but instead of the call of God, in reality, it was the call of higher wages that made him change churches. Thus the work of God is brought into reproach and the sacred ministry is belittled.

That brings us to another question. How is the gospel minister to be paid after all? I heard of one preacher who closed all the doors of the church and refused to preach until the offering goal of a certain sum was reached. Other churches have resorted to religious fairs, lotteries, bingo, etc., to meet their pastoral financial obligations. Is this the plan of God? Is this the way He has ordained for the churches to meet the deficit in their budgets? I protest against that kind of program to raise money to pay the preacher. Something is desperately wrong with a church which has to bring the world into its operating plan.

If Christ should walk into some of these temples and cathedrals of our day, He would be just as indignant as He was in days of old. He would say once more, “Take these things hence. You have made my house of prayer a den of thieves.” What a tragedy it is that many young people have learned to be expert in gambling inside the walls of their own church. What a sad commentary on the state of modern religious leaders who encourage such demonstrations. Is this what God expects from the people who were called by His name?

What does God want us to render to Him, friends? In Psalm 116:12 I read this provoking question. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” Notice that our eternal welfare depends upon our faithfulness in our obligations to God. Now what are those obligations? I want to suggest four specific obligations that we must render to God as His children. First, we should give ourselves to Him-our bodies.

Notice this text in Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Now, God made us and breathed life into our bodies. He keeps our hearts beating and the blood flowing through our complicated body system. We can’t treat our bodies as we please because we actually belong to Him and He claims these bodies as the dwelling place for His Holy Spirit. Read 1 Corinthians 6:19 to confirm that.

Now we come to the second claim that God lays upon us. God requires that we give him one-seventh of our time. The Sabbath Day with its twenty-four blessed hours belongs to God in a special sense. If we take that time and use it for ourselves, we are actually stealing something that doesn’t even belong to us. We are breaking the eighth commandment by taking time that God claims as His. He gives it to us only to use as He directs us.

The third Christian obligation is presented in Leviticus 27:30. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.” Now here the Lord requires a tithe of all we possess be returned to Him. What is tithe anyway? Read verse 32, “And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” This means that one-tenth of all our increase belongs to God. We may not have thought of it before, my friends, but ten percent of our income is holy for the Lord.

We can’t keep it for ourselves without actually breaking that eighth commandment again and stealing what is not ours. If a man earns $200 a month, $20 is not really his own. Of course only the profit or increase is subject to the tithe. In other words a businessman might realize an increase of $500 a month but $200 would be needed to pay the salaries of his helpers and other overhead expense. In such a case, he would only have to pay $30 tithe on the $300 profit for that month.

Somebody is bound to object that tithing belongs to the Mosaic Law, the Old Testament, and doesn’t apply to us in the New Testament. But the fact is that this plan of tithing antedates the time of Moses by hundreds of years. Abraham paid tithe at the Lord’s own direction long before the days of Moses. Jacob also tithed on all that he had. It was an obligation before the Jewish race and also before the ceremonial law had even come into existence.

But now let’s read what Jesus had to say about tithing. After all He’s the great guide and example for all of us in spiritual things. In Matthew 23:23: “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone.” Now please notice that Jesus told these people that they ought to tithe. That word “ought” denotes obligation and immediately creates a moral basis for the doctrine. It is moral because it involves stealing from God, as we are going to be reading in a few minutes right out of the Scriptures.

Let’s ask this question before we go further. What is the tithe money to be used for in the Lord’s work? Please turn to 1 Corinthians 9:13: “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?” Here Paul is referring to the priesthood of the Old Testament and how they received a livelihood for their work of ministry at the ancient altar. But now read the very next verse, verse 14. “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” This test clearly teaches that the gospel minister is to be supported exactly the same way as the priests of the Old Testament.

We now turn to the Scriptures to find out what God’s plan was for the support of the ministry, both in the Old Testament and in the New. In Numbers 18:21 I read: “And behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” The tribe of Levi was not given any inheritance as the other Israelites were. They had no herds, no business ventures. All the other tribes paid tithe and that one-tenth was used to pay the priests, the Levites.

All right, friends, “even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” so Paul said. The tithe is not to be used for an education fund, a church expense, or a poor fund. It is ordained of God only to pay the ministry.

God never intended for preachers to dabble in real estate, car sales, or some side business. A man called of God should give his whole time to the Word of God. His livelihood, in other words, should be supplied by the Divine plan of the tithing system. Listen, friends, this system eliminates one of the greatest temptations facing the modern minister of the gospel. Some preachers are actually afraid to preach the plain truth for fear of cutting off their own salary.

When a pastor is paid directly by the local congregation and had to depend solely upon the liberality of one church group, he is in anxious dilemma. If he rebukes sin as it should be rebuked, he may offend the very ones who may stop giving offerings and thus his own salary will be jeopardized. Now, listen, I know that no true pastor would preach smooth things just for worldly gain. But, nevertheless, many are actually afraid to preach plainly under the conditions I’ve just described. God’s plan eliminates that temptation to soften the truth. A local congregation shouldn’t be paying the man who preaches to them directly and this would eliminate that great danger.

Some people complain that they can’t pay the tithe because there’s nothing left after all the bills are paid. But, friends, are we doing the right thing by waiting until everything else is paid for before we give God the tithe? In Proverbs 3:9 we read, “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase.” In other words, pay the tithe first. Even the ministers pay one-tenth of their salary although they are paid from the tithe fund themselves. After all, everything belongs to God, doesn’t it? All the silver and gold and the cattle on a thousand hills. We are simply stewards of these things. He has let us use those things. We pay the rent on a house in order to acknowledge that the house is not really ours. We just use it. In the same way, we give the tenth back to God to acknowledge that all our possessions are just given to us to use, they really belong to God, the great Creator and owner of all things.

Finally we come to that very important text in Malachi 3:8-12: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee” In tithes and offerings. Ye cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, an prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground.”

There it is, friends, people robbing God! Last year the FBI records revealed that there were 420,000 cases of robbery in the United States but more than 3 million cases of burglary. But this is only a fraction of the true picture. How many million church members have been guilty of the worse type-of stealing and from God at that. Probably there are more thieves in the church on this basis than outside the church. In fact, there’s no question about it. God says if we take the tithe, we are stealing from Him.

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