Giving God’s Way

 

Storehouse Tithing – A 19th Century Gimmick

 

 

Our previous study on tithing has clearly refuted it as a New Testament practice, yet most Christian churches continue a modified version of the Mosaic Law.  What is the modern day origin of this ritual we call “tithing?”  According to Christian History Magazine, Volume VII, Number 3,Issue 19:

 

In 1895 a Wesley Chapel in Cincinnati has financial trouble.  In desperation, it tries "suppers, festivals, lectures. Stereopticon shows, subscriptions, and the whole round of man-made schemes and devices,” according to layman William G. Roberts.  Finally, Roberts and others introduce the concept of "storehouse tithing, "which turns the church around”.  Tithing is revived as a popular practice in U.S. churches.

 

Apparently, because this Wesley Chapel had incurred such a heavy debt load, the leadership of the church felt obligated to use whatever gimmick was necessary for fund raising to cover their debts.  When the last of the gimmicks fails to generate the needed money, a man-made law labeled "storehouse tithing" is used to bring guilt upon the church members who won't voluntarily support the building. 

 

Malachi 3:10 is used to validate this unscriptural practice of tithing in the new covenant, and the method works!  The plate is passed every week, people give a fixed amount (10% + an offering), and the edifice, with its ties to organized religion is regularly financed.  The tradition revived by Wesley Chapel has become justification for other churches and denominations to continue this practice. 

 

Just as it was in 1895 at the Wesley Chapel, most church folks have an aversion to dumping a lot of money into buildings and organizations.  The only way to get the ‘faithful’ in the congregation to give is by dangling Malachi 3:8-10 over their head and using intimidation tactics. 

Here’s how it works:  The pastor, advised by the deacon board that giving has dropped off again, solemnly opens his Bible on Sunday morning, and begins his discourse:

 

“Some of you don’t believe that giving to the church is Biblical.  Giving is down nearly 30% and it seems like people don’t care.  There are those who say that tithing isn’t mentioned in the Bible.  Well, open your Bibles to Malachi, chapter 3, and verse 10, and read along with me, ‘"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?'  In tithes and offerings.  You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal 3:8-10; NKJV)

 

After this scathing rebuke, the pastor tempers his words with a dash of grace and then he calls the ushers to come forward and pass the offering plates.  He pauses briefly before the offering, asking the congregation to bow their heads, and he prays:

 

“Lord, we repent for not giving to You.  It is not the church we are giving to Lord, but it is to You, and You alone.  Father, bring conviction upon our hearts, and help us to give to Your work.  Help those who are holding back to take a leap of faith, and to trust You.  Teach Your people that when they give, then, and only then can You pour out a blessing upon them, and open for them the windows of heaven and pour out for them such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.  We repent for robbing You Lord, amen.”

 

He then beckons the pianist or organ player to play ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘How Great Thou Art’ as the usher pass the offering plates.  After this church service, giving increases dramatically for the next 3-4 weeks, then drops down to the normal level.  The pastor and deacon board know that only about 8% of the people are actually tithing 10% of their income.  One example (below) was printed on the back of a non-denominational church bulletin:

 

THE TITHE

 

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open to you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.        Malachi 3: 10

 

                 IF YOU EARN $10.00…  YOUR TITHE IS $ 1.00

 25.00                                        2.50

 58.00                                        5.80

 79.00                                        7.90

450.75                                     45.08

795.23                                     79.52

                                             1,289.67                             8.97

                                              2,000.00                                    200.00

                                             5,882.40                           588.24

 

THE SIMPLE WAY TO CALCULATE THE AMOUNT OF THE TITHE IS:

MOVE THE DECIMAL POINT OVER AND ROUND THE, LAST DIGIT OFF.

(EXAMPLE- $100.23 = $10.023 = $10.02 TITHE)

 

In the previous study in this series on giving titled, ‘Tithing, New Testament Giving or Old Testament Bondage,’ it was shown without doubt that the practice of tithing (giving 10% of one’s crops, produce, herds and flocks) was an ordinance of the Law given to Moses by God.  It was a provision made to all Israelites who gave to support the Levites (descendents of Aaron) who had no land inheritance, but who were responsible to be priests of God, and ministered at the altar of sacrifice and in the temple.

 

The temple “storehouse” was a special room designated by God in the temple for the Levites to dedicate the choicest 10% of all the food they receive from Israel’s tithe, and the food was to be used to feed the widows, orphans, aliens, and temple workers.

 

The entire Book of Malachi was written as a rebuke to the Levites in the days of the prophet Malachi and was a rebuke from Yahweh.  The Levites had horded all the food tithed to them, and had not tithed their choicest 10% of goods to feed the needy.  Hence, Malachi 3:8-10 cannot be used to justify giving 10% of one’s income to the church in the new covenant.

 

The Wesley Chapel in 1895 started a new gimmick for giving that caught on and spread throughout Christendom, and now is established practiced among many churches.  Just because this idea of ‘storehouse tithing’ has become such an attention grabber, and is unwarranted from the scripture, it by no means abnegates a Christian’s individual responsibility to give of their life, income and other resources.

 

A Church In Debt

 

God’s word has so many things to say regarding money, including its use and abuse by people.  God warns His people that usury and debt are a form of bondage and slavery.  Anyone who has incurred financial liabilities, and has been forced into bankruptcy knows of the guilt, shame and stress that follow.

 

America is in financial ruin today because of out-of-control spending.  People use plastic credit because they have lost touch with concepts such as delayed gratification, hard work and saving, doing without what they don’t absolutely need, and so on.

 

The churches of America are no exception when it comes to unwise spending and debt.  While there are many fiscally responsible churches, a great majority has become servant to the lender.

 

·         Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave.  NAS

 

Unfortunately this nation has become characterized by overspending and misdirected giving.  The media pumps us with a message that says, “Have it your way!”  As new churches form, and the assembly of believers’ increase in number, it has become customary to make the next step building a church edifice.

 

Maybe it begins with the rental of a community hall, or other facility that is relatively inexpensive, and so people don’t mind giving to pay the expense of meeting together where they can share common fellowship, music and praise, and listen to the pastor preach.

 

Soon, the group of believers becomes dissatisfied with sitting in folding chairs, and having inadequate musical instruments, such as a piano or organ, and speaker sound systems, etc.  They feel that they are entitled to more comfortable surroundings, and so the decision is made to vote on the purchase of land, and a building project.

 

The average small to mid-size church today that is built to commercial building code standards, including parking lots, disabled parking and other accommodations, permits, sewer, water, power and other utility hook-up fees and expenses, carpet, upholstered pews, a podium and platform, commercial restroom facilities, and so on costs approximate one million dollars.

 

Rarely can any church afford to pay for all the up-front costs of such a building endeavor, and somewhere along the line of process a mortgage loan is taken to cover the debt.  Aside from these initial building costs, there begins the business of funding the day-to-day operation of the church organization.

 

Church organizations that accept donations from their parishioners usually file a 501C-3 tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization with the Internal Revenue Service.  This way they can avoid many of the usual government taxes, and those who make donations can get an annual deduction from their personal taxes filed each year with the I.R.S.

 

In most states, to be a non-profit organization, it is required that there be a corporate structured form of government within the body, including a president (usually the pastor, or a senior elder), a vice president (usually an associate pastor), a secretary, a treasurer (usually the head of the deacon board), and a quorum (meaning enough people to vote on financial issues; typically an odd number).

 

Hence, the church that becomes a 501C-3 tax-exempt non-profit organization begins to deviate from the scriptures in the way its’ leadership operates and functions and provides for its’ body of believers.  The NT teaches that the church is to be led and shepherded by a group of elders, some of which are teachers of the scripture, and others that govern in the affairs of the mundane, particularly caring for the needy (Acts 20:17-32; 21:18; 1 Timothy 5:17-25; James 5:14-15; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

 

In China and other persecuted countries of the world, the true churches of believers in Jesus have no edifices, no grand cathedrals or buildings to meet in.  They follow the NT blueprint, and meet secretly in one another’s homes.  This format not only conforms to scripture, but provides AN ENVIRONMENT conducive to spiritual growth, and the participation of each individual.

 

In these areas of the globe, they are so poor that finding enough to eat each day is one of the main challenges.  Because they meet in a close atmosphere, they can share from the heart, and the needs of those who are pressing are evident.  Though needy themselves, there are literally hundreds of testimonies of the gracious way they give and share.

 

Have we lost sight of the true purpose of being a body of believers in this country?  Most people that attend church once or twice a week only get to know a few people.  Sadly, many churches that are larger, having more than 100 people, have NO IDEA what the needs of all their members are.

 

There are many churches in America that support foreign missions and even send missionaries to work in other countries.  This is to be applauded, however, it does not make up for or correct the dysfunctional practices and mindset of the organization.  There are still needy people in their midst who will never be helped by the church.

While churches in America send funds to foreign nations and third world countries in need (and this is very necessary), these same churches are blind to the plight of the poor and needy in our own country.  They have little idea of the poverty in the inner-city and urban areas of their own cities.

 

Yes, here in America there are children who have no bed to sleep on, who eat poorly, and not enough.  There are millions of single parents, particular moms, whose children cannot get medical attention, or even something as simple as a haircut.  Many have to choose between groceries or medicine, between a pair of shoes, or toiletries.

 

As the American economy takes a continued slide downhill, churches struggling to pay for their mortgages, their light bills, their pastoral salaries, their roof and parking lot maintenance, and janitorial supplies, and sound systems, and so on, have NO CLUE of the poverty and suffering in their own back yard!

 

Home Is Where The Heart Is

 

What if all the church building doors shut for six months, and Christians had no place to congregate every Sunday morning?  What if, because of new taxation passed by the legislature, most churches simply could not afford to keep up with the rising costs and expenses?  Where would Christians meet?

 

The answer is obvious…in homes!  What would they discover once they had established a pattern of gathering in homes instead of a church building?  Would concepts change?  Would the ushers still be called to pass the offering plates and collect everyone’s tithe of 10%?

 

The answer is quite obvious; a radical transformation would take place.  Homes can only accommodate a certain number of individuals, so there would be no mega-meetings, no big church conferences; it would just consist of those devoted to Jesus and to one another.  Leaders would become apparent, as their God-given abilities would HAVE to be recognized.

 

Those who are strong in the scriptures would teach, but the practice of passively listening as the pastor preaches a sermon would dissolve and disintegrate.  If someone is sitting on a sofa or a chair next to you teaching, they become more approachable.  People would ask questions, make comments, share testimonies, and soon people’s needs would become apparent.

 

When the church first began, on the Day of Pentecost, this is how the church met.  Though there were synagogues to meet in, you don’t find that these buildings are the meeting place for the first converts from Judaism to Jesus.  In Acts 2:2 it was “the whole house” where the first Disciples of Christ were sitting.

 

Some Christians in America object to the line of thinking that promotes returning to the model in scripture of meeting in homes, “That was back then, but things have changed, and we need bigger facilities to accommodate the people.”

 

This kind of rhetoric is perplexing when compared with the scripture.  Thousands upon thousands of people were saved and added to the numbers in the church from the very beginning.  Did they respond by voting for a building committee to erect a new and spacious synagogue?  No!  (Read below)

 

·         Acts 2:46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart…  NAS

 

Initially the new believers continued meeting in the temple, but the Jews drove them out eventually, and they were forbidden in the synagogues.  Did it stunt their growth?  Absolutely not!

 

·         Acts 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.   NAS

 

As the church grew in great numbers, where were the apostles?  Were they planning for the erection of new ‘Christian’ synagogues?  Were the discussing the possibility of building a new temple, and calling, “First Assembly Temple of the Way?  The answer is a resounding, “NO!”

 

The apostles were going from house to house, sharing and teaching the way God intended for them to do.

 

·         Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.  NAS

 

There is a myriad of NT scripture verses that confirm the early churches’ activity was first and foremost in people’s homes.  Before his conversion, Saul (Paul) persecuted the church by going “house to house” looking for believers to arrest (Acts 8:3).  The following are but a handful of examples of how and where the early church met in houses:

 

·         Acts 10:23 And so he invited them in and gave them lodging. NAS

 

·         Acts 16:15 “… come into my house and stay."  NAS

 

·         Acts 16:32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. NAS

 

·         Acts 18:7 And he departed from there and went to the house of a certain man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. NAS

 

·         Acts 20:20 …and teaching you publicly and from house to house.  NAS

 

·         Acts 21:8 …and entering the house of Philip the evangelist.  NAS

 

·         Acts 21:16 …disciple of long standing with whom we were to lodge.  NAS

 

·         Romans 16:5 also greet the church that is in their house.  NAS

 

·         Colossians 4:15-16 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. NAS

 

·         Philemon 2 …and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house.  NAS

 

Western Christians today ASSUME that somehow, back in the days of the early church, they were too primitive or primordial to erect the type of elaborate meetinghouses we call “churches.”  One need look no further than the Greco-Roman temples erected in honor of the Greek deities to see that they had the same, or even greater capability to build an edifice for religious purposes.

 

So why did the early church choose NOT to build temples, or synagogues?  Some say it was due to persecution, and in part this is correct.  However, the only REAL persecution initially was from the Jews.  The Roman government didn’t get involved in mass persecution of Christians until later.

 

The early Christians may have had their own version of our colloquialism, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.”  In other words, what they had meeting in homes met their every need as a body of believers, so why change it?  Meeting in homes eliminates overhead expenses, and provides many avenues for funds to be directed towards helping people instead of organizations.

 

Jewish converts who, prior to conversion were practicing Judaism, knew all too well that big temples and synagogues were nothing more than manmade religion.  Why try to duplicate the same system that took 4000 years to turn rotten?  Denominational creeds, arrogant expressions of elitism and church divisions were not as rampant a problem in the early church because of their connectedness to one another.

 

Some people say fancy building facilities are necessary to meet all the needs of a growing church.  They want a sport’s facility for the youth, meeting rooms for men’s and women’s retreats, and so on.   Do these facilities REALLY meet the needs?  Couldn’t we look more to human interaction and personal relationships apart from building projects?  The answer is,” Yes,” but it will cost us our blessed traditions.

 

God Does Not Dwell In Church Buildings

 

The idea behind studying the NT scriptures is to establish what the spirit of the law in Christ Jesus says about giving.  We have God’s word written, not in tablets of stone, but in our hearts.  WE are to be “living epistles” read and known by all men.  We are to let our light shine before men, in order that they may see our “good works” and glorify our Father in heaven.

 

Is there a basis in the Scripture for supporting large church sanctuaries and other structures financially?  What is the Law, and what is the spirit of the Law, and what is the Law of the spirit?

 

Does the Scripture support the practice of routinely giving one's finances (called a ‘tithe’) to keep the organization of Christianity afloat?

 

Is the church supposed to be in debt to the world with huge mortgages that put financial demands upon individual believers? 

 

Does the Bible teach that we are to take care of a system, or take care of one another?

 

Perhaps the modern day practice of "tithes and offerings" is symptomatic of a problem far worse:  man-made organized religion!

 

Let us briefly examine where the New Testament church met for the assembly of the saints:

 

·         Acts 1:13-15 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.  These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.  And at this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said,  (NAS)

 

Here we observe the first gathering of believers together to seek the Lord, meeting in an "upper room."  The Greek word for "upper room" is "huperoon’ which means "an upper room or upper chamber."  Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says it is the "higher part of the house, i.e. apartment in the third story."  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (I.S.B.E.) says that these upper chambers existed in homes in the time of the New Testament church, and even the Last Supper was held in this chamber (Mark 14:15). 

 

In some cases this was part of the house known as the "upper chamber of cooling."  It was a sort of rooftop room (like an open-air patio), in some cases a third story where people went to escape the heat of the late afternoon and early evening.  The disciples were said to be staying in this upper room, devoted for the purpose of prayer (different than many non -praying churches today!). 

 

The word huperoon is also used in Acts 9:37, 39 as an area of the house where Tabitha's body was placed when she died (before God used Peter to raise her from the dead).

 

·         Acts 20:7-12 And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.  And there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a certain young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor, and was picked up dead.  But Paul went down and fell upon him and after embracing him, he said, "Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.”  And when he had gone back up, and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed.  And they took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.  (NAS)

 

This is a gathering of believers in a third story upper room (Greek: huperoon) of a home in Greece.

 

·         Acts 2:1-2 And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  (NAS)

 

The Greek word for "house" is “oikos” which means "a dwelling or a house." 

 

·         Acts 2:46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.  (NAS)

 

Here the church met both in the temple (before it's destruction in 70 A.D. & before persecution came to the church from the Jews) and in houses (where they shared meals together also).  We see similar meeting places in Acts 5:42, but persecution had begun, and soon Christians would be forbidden by the leaders of the Jews from meeting in the temple. Before the Jews stoned Stephan to death he refuted the idea that God would ever dwell in their temple (Acts 7:46-51) but rather in the hearts of men who believe.

 

·         Acts 7:47-49 "Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?”  KJV

 

God has NEVER wanted to dwell in buildings.  Just because the High Priest saw His glory once each year (if he was mediating for a people who was truly serving Yahweh) doesn’t mean it was the LORD’s idea to slap together stone and mortar and called it “God’s House.”  Stephen’s rebuke to the Jews is a quote from the prophet Isaiah, a passage all too familiar to the Jews:

 

·         Isaiah 66:1-2 Thus says the LORD, "Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.  Where then is a house you could build for Me?  And where is a place that I may rest?  For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD.  “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”  NAS

 

We do not need church buildings, and large sanctuaries, and expensive edifices.  The Lord has always looked for, in order to dwell within, the humble and contrite of spirit, and those who tremble at His word.  The church in America will never tear down their ornate structures voluntarily, because they have too much of their money, time, energy and self invested in the system.  Their church buildings with towering spires and steeples are much like the “high places” of Baal worship amongst ancient Israel.  It will take persecution, not unlike what happened to Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in 66 AD, when the Romans destroyed it all, to bring the western churches to their proverbial knees, so they can follow God on HIS terms.  The last day world government, antichrist to the core, will be the rod of God’s divine chastisement for the Christian churches.

 

Jesus himself spoke of a day when the temple and all its’ beautiful structures would be utterly torn down:

 

·         Matthew 24:1-2 And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.  And He answered and said to them, "Do you not see all these things?  Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down."   NAS

 

Throughout the N.T. we find that people’s homes were the place they met, to share, to break bread, to mutually express their individual gifts.  There are many other examples where the Greek word for homes (oikos) is used in relation to a place to assemble.

 

·         Acts 8:3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.  (NAS)

 

Saul ravaged "house after house" persecuting believers; this shows he knew where the church met.

 

·         Acts 10:22-23 And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you."  And so he invited them in and gave them lodging.  And on the next day he arose and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him.  (NAS)

 

The Gentile church was started in Cornelius' house by a visitation from the apostle Peter. (See Acts 11:12ff)   This is PROOF that both Jew and Gentile practiced meeting in homes.  Cornelius had long time been a God-fearing Roman centurion, and had given liberally to the Jewish synagogues.  Now, upon his conversion to Jesus Christ, he makes his own home a place for others to gather in the blessed Name. 

 

The apostle Paul shared the Gospel with Lydia and her household and he stayed with them in her home; this was customary in the east.  It was considered a vital part of their relationship to share hospitality, including food and lodging with friends and family.  There is so much that is more heartwarming, personal, and intimate in homes, as opposed to the sterility and impersonality of commercial church buildings.  Had Lydia and others throughout Asia Minor not opened their hearts and homes to the apostles, who knows if the outcome of the gospel would be the same!

 

·         Acts 16:14-15 And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.  And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.  (NAS)

 

·         Acts 16:31-34 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household."  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.  And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.  (NAS)

 

The jailer, who prayed for salvation when Paul and Silas were set free from their imprisonment by a mighty earthquake, invited the apostles to his home, where they share the gospel with his entire household.  This event was a catalyst for a new church in the jailer’s home.  This jailer also took in Paul and Silas, bandaged their wounds, fed them, and provided them lodging and safety from those who tried to do them harm.

 

·         Acts 18:7-8 And he departed from there and went to the house of a certain man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.  (NAS)

 

Paul turned from preaching to the Jews and went to the Gentile (i.e.-Titius Justus) in his house, which was next to the synagogue.  Why didn’t they meet in the synagogue after Titus experienced salvation in Jesus?  This passage of scripture speaks VOLUMES for how and where the early church met, and for an example to us today!

 

·         Acts 20:17-20 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.  And when they had come to him, he said to them, "You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house.   (NAS)

 

Paul’s instruction to the elders from the great city of Ephesus includes the reiteration of how he went from “house to house” teaching the new Gentile converts.   Why does he remind these elders from Ephesus about this?  Why did Luke include this account in his writing of the Book of Acts?  It is obvious that God is establishing a systematic teaching of meeting in homes.  Every word of scripture is inspired by Him in the original languages, including the repetitious use of “oikos” (home or house) as the meeting place for the church.

 

·         Acts 21:8 On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him.  NASU

 

·         Romans 16:3-5 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house.  Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.  (NAS)

 

·         1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you.  Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.  (NAS)

 

·         1 Corinthians 1:16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.  (NAS)

 

·         Colossians 4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.  (NAS)

 

·         2 Timothy 1:16 The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains;  (NAS)

 

Paul was ministered to by Onesiphorus' household. ( See 2 Timothy 4:19)

 

·         2 Timothy 4:19-21 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.  Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.  Make every effort to come before winter.  Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.  NAS

 

·         Philemon 1:2 And to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house.  (NAS)

 

Although “oikos" can refer to other types of dwellings, it is abundantly clear that the New Testament church met in one another's houses, not church buildings mortgaged to the bank!

 

OTHER VERSES THAT SHOW THE BELIEVERS MEETING IN HOUSES:

 

·         Acts 9:11, 17 And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying … And Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit."  (NAS)

 

·         Acts 12:12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.  (NAS)

 

·         Philippians 4:22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household.  (NAS)

 

A false teacher isn't to be received into the houses (which is where the church was meeting).

 

·         2 John 9-10 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting.  NAS

 

What has meeting together as believers in houses to do with New Testament giving?  It is important to see that the church was birthed and continued to grow and mature primarily through the ministry IN HOMES.  Although their society and culture were different than ours, one thing they had in common with the modern church is that they lived in houses. 

 

These dwelling places provided the ideal location for the church to grow in both numbers and maturity because it fostered an environment that bred interpersonal relationship in which genuine care and love for the brethren was manifested.  In many of the Epistles and the book of Acts, saints are mentioned affectionately by name.  This is a direct result of the close-knit interface they had meeting together as a church in the homes of various people.

 

There are also frequent greetings from churches in one city or region to those in another city or region.  They did not seem to have all of the divisional barriers that have been created by modern day churches with their denominational creeds and elitist attitudes.  When the church at Corinth began to divide themselves “after the manner of men” Paul rebuked them.  How can a church divided hope to manifest the power and nature of God to the world?

 

·         1 Corinthians 1:10-13 But I urge and entreat you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in perfect harmony and full agreement in what you say, and that there be no dissensions or factions or divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your common understanding and in your opinions and judgments.  For it has been made clear to me, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions and wrangling and factions among you.  What I mean is this… that each one of you either says, “I belong to Paul, or I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas (Peter),” or “I belong to Christ.”  AMP

 

After The Great Reformation, the reformers continued to meet in large buildings similar to the Catholic Church, which they had so vigorously opposed in theological areas of doctrine.  Large church buildings require enormous sums of money to build, maintain, and staff.  Monolithic institutions are then created to insure the success of the organization behind the walls of these so-called "churches." 

 

Seminaries and Bible colleges are built, and educators are trained to generate licensed and ordained ministers, who will then pastor within the structure of the religious system.  Salaried ministerial and other staffs are put on the church payroll; janitors and security staff are hired.  Maintenance requires everything from roofers to plumbers and carpet cleaners.

 

One of the greatest ongoing expenses in modern church organizations are the musical instruments (pianos, sound systems, acoustics, etc). The church choir sometimes requires elaborate gospel choir outfits.  Church pews must be padded and the carpet and other interior decorations must all be color coordinated.  The list goes on and on, and it all requires MONEY.

 

Some people say that the complex building facilities are necessary for growing churches, in order that all the needs can be met.  After all, the youth need a sports facility; the men and women’s retreats need meeting rooms.  Various church ministries put demands on the budget, including but not limited to: additional parking lot space, including the required disabled parking slots; overhead slide projectors; audio and television communication equipment, and on and on. 

 

The Christian church is afraid to ask, “Are the REAL needs of the people truly being met in a Scriptural manner?”  Church members routinely throw their 10% (or less) in the offering basket and it makes them feel they have met their financial obligations to God.  But are the widows in the church, and the elderly being taken care of financially?  What about the orphans, or more realistically the kids who live with single parents that can barely make ends meet?  Is EVERY member of the body of believers in this system having their needs met?  Is the church even aware of its member's needs?

 

Giving God’s Way

 

The bottom line behind Scriptural giving is two-fold:

 

First, it is designed to make sure that EVERYONE in the church is being taken care of (excluding free-loaders and sluggards), particularly the needy.

 

Secondly, if the church is able to do so, they should financially support those elders within the church that labor hard in the Word and in teaching, for these men are counted worthy of double-honor.

 

As the old covenant ceased to exist, God abolished the physical requirements of giving spelled out in the ordinance of the Law (i.e. – tithing).  This left His people with no defined Laws pertaining to the offerings they would bring to the priests and Levites, since these too were done away with by Jesus, the only mediator between God and man, and the high priest to God who holds that office perpetually and non-transferable.

 

·         Hebrews 7:11-24 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?  For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.  For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar.  For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.  And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.  For it is witnessed of Him, "Thou art a priest forever  According to the order of Melchizedek."  For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.  And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, 'Thou art a priest forever'"); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.  And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently (permanently non-transferable).  NAS

 

 Perfection could never be accomplished through obedience and application of the Law.  The Law depended on weak human flesh to fulfill its numerous requirements.  Prior to Christ, no one could truly mediate between God and man, because the sacrificial blood of bulls and goats and lamb offerings were unable to cleanse the conscience from sin.  Jesus did not abolish the Law when he came, but he fulfilled it.  He obeyed the Law perfectly by leaning upon the Spirit of his Father God to properly apply the requirements of the Law.  He understood the spirit of the Law because he walked by the law of the Spirit (the law of the spirit is just another way of saying he listened for and obeyed the voice of God).

 

 Jesus did not etch out another set of stone tablets, and spell out the exact amount that his disciples were commanded to give of their material and financial resources.  It is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT THE LAW OF TITHING WAS ABOLISHED BY CHRIST!

 

·         Hebrews 8:13 When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.  NAS

 

The converts in the new covenant needed some pattern to follow, and the apostles had become eye witnesses to the example of giving they observed in Jesus.  In the gospel covenant, God said He would write His laws on the minds and hearts of believers. 

 

·         Acts 2:44-46 And all those who believed were gathered together as a unit and were holding all things in joint participation, and were selling their houses and lands and other possessions and kept on distributing them to all, according as anyone was having a need.  And daily they continued to remain in the temple, in perfect unanimity, breaking bread at home, partaking of food together in gladness & simplicity of heart, praising God and having the good will of the people. (Wuest's Expanded Translation)

 

COMMENTS on Acts 2:44-46: All the believers were as a unit; an important point. They were not maintaining individual autonomy, but working together as a team.  Because of the influx of believers into the church, from the very rich to the very poor, a great need became apparent to all.  Jews from every nation had journeyed for days and even weeks to get to Jerusalem for the Feasts of Passover and Pentecost.  Now, with the advent of the gospel experience by thousands of believing Jews, the need was recognized to hold all things in a joint participation, and then distribute it to each one as they had a need.

 

This required tremendous sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and a close relationship amongst those who were believers.  A casual, Sunday only greeting, as is the practice in Christian churches today would not generate the love and sacrifice these first converts of Christ experienced.  These early saints adhered to Jesus' teaching to the rich young ruler in Luke 18:22, "One thing you still lack; sell ALL that you possess, and distribute it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me."   Many of these believers had developed close relationships with one another, having shared their lives together as eyewitnesses of the ministry of Jesus for 3 1/2 years.

 

These believers were in unanimous agreement in their decision to sacrifice to care for each other.  They had daily fellowship and sharing of meals together, which solidified and maintained their commitment. They had no financial commitments to large institutions, so whatever means they shared went to the people themselves.

 

·         Acts 3:2-9 NOW PETER and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour (three o'clock in the afternoon), when a certain man crippled from his birth was being carried along, who was laid each day at that gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful, so that he might beg for charitable gifts from those who entered the temple.  So when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them to give him a gift.  And Peter directed his gaze intently at him, and so did John, and said, “Look at us!”  And the man paid attention to them, expecting that he was going to get something from them.  But Peter said, “Silver and gold (money) I do not have; but what I do have, that I give to you: in the use of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!”  Then he took hold of the man's right hand with a firm grip and raised him up.  And at once his feet and ankle bones became strong and steady, and leaping forth he stood and began to walk, and he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.  And all the people saw him walking about and praising God.  AMP

 

COMMENTS on Acts 3:2-6: Peter & John were asked for alms, but they were so poor they could offer this poor beggar no financial support.  But what they did have, they shared... the power of God.

 

If a believer is financially broke, then offering Jesus’ love and power is always appropriate, This is a form of giving of ourselves through a spiritual ministry.  God does not want His children going into debt to meet the material needs of fellow saints.  Television ministers, greedy, selfish, and with no regard for the giver, encourage Christians to make a financial “offering” using their credit card.  This is evil; it is wrong; it is making the borrower who gives the offering he or she does not actually possess into a slave of the lender (i.e. – the bank or financial institute that issued their credit card).

 

We do a great disservice to God, and to the body of Christ by thinking money is all God wants from His people.  In fact, the GREATEST gift of all is something that money cannot purchase…LOVE.

 

·         Acts 4:32-37 Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything which he possessed was [exclusively] his own, but everything they had was in common and for the use of all.  And with great strength and ability and power the apostles delivered their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace (loving-kindness and favor and goodwill) rested richly upon them all.  Nor was there a destitute or needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses proceeded to sell them, and one by one they brought (gave back) the amount received from the sales and laid it at the feet of the apostles (special messengers). Then distribution was made according as anyone had need.  Now Joseph, a Levite and native of Cyprus who was surnamed Barnabas by the apostles, which interpreted means Son of Encouragement, sold a field which belonged to him and brought the sum of money and laid it at the feet of the apostles.  AMP

 

COMMENTS ON Acts 4:32-37:  Although the text is similar to Acts 2:44-46, there are some notable differences.  Just like in Acts chapter two, the believers were united in heart. This was, in large part, a response to the demonstration of God's power thru the hands of the apostles (vs.29-31), and the impending persecution these new believers faced. Note however, the "great power" seen thru the apostles hands is mentioned in verse 33, AFTER they'd made a decision that nothing any believer possessed was exclusively his own.

 

·         1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says," Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body."

 

If our body is the temple for God's Spirit, then the financial support for the new covenant temple (the people) should go to the believers, who ARE the church, not to temples or buildings made by men’s hands. The early church understood this truth. They had been bought with the blood of Jesus and so their lives and their material possessions were no longer their own. They were "bondslaves" of God (1 Peter 2:16).

 

Slaves of God have no rights and they do HIS will from the heart (Ephesians6:6). In Luke 12:33-34 Jesus said, ”Sell your possessions and give to charity.... for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (See Luke 12:15-21)

 

The early church had "everything...in common...for the use of all...”  Imagine what it took for each believer to commit to this level of sacrificial giving…do you have this attitude in your heart? Is this the manner in which the modern day church responds to it's needy?  There may be a few exceptions, but by and large, the Christian churches in America and the rest of the "free" world are consumed with personal greed and selfishness. Is it any wonder that the world looks upon the Christian church today with such distain?  They watch with skepticism the greed and pleas for money from the pulpit and the television set.

 

Why did the N.T. churches and individual believers have everything in common?  In order that there would not be any needy or destitute among them!  This sincerity, and the gladness with which they gave to one another, caused them to have great favor amongst the unsaved, and the Lord added numbers to the church day by day (Acts 2:47).

 

Jesus said our fervent love for each other would be proof to the world that we are truly His disciples.

 

·         John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  NAS

 

Until this time the common people had only seen the religious hypocrisy and the greed of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Now they were witnessing faith with works following. (James 2:12-20) 

 

The text in Acts 4:32-37says "...as many as were owners of lands or houses proceeded to sell and one-by-one they brought the amount received from the sales and laid it at the feet of the apostles. The apostles then distributed the proceeds to anyone they discerned that had a need (other than lazy men who didn't work (Read 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12).

 

How much different this practice is from the weekly tithing ritual practiced in churches today. This N.T. believer’s generosity is a role model for us in the days ahead when we see our brethren in need. They laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles to do the distribution because they were not only trustworthy, but the power of God demonstrated thru them confirmed the leadership and apostleship to the church (see 2 Corinthians 12:12).  The landowners had made a covenant amongst themselves; they committed to have everything in common, and so, one-by-one, they brought their proceeds to the apostles to fulfill their vows. 

 

It is interesting to note in Acts 4:36-37 that a Levite is seen selling a field he owned and giving the proceeds to the church by the hands of the apostles. Under the terms of the O.T. Law, the Levites were not allowed to have a land inheritance.  By the time of Christ they had strayed so far from keeping the Law, such a practice was commonplace, especially amongst wealthy Jewish leaders, such as the affluence of the Great Sanhedrin.

 

This Levite, Joseph, having been born of the Spirit and recognizing the priesthood of Jesus Christ, was now willing to submit to a new covenant and a better one. He recognized the authority had been given by God to the apostles to lead the people and minister at the true altar of Yahweh.  In the new covenant the priestly altar is in the hearts of men.  The Levite, whose name was "Joseph"(which means "may God add sons") had his name changed to "Barnabas" which means "Son of Encouragement."  This name change reveals a truth… that God would add sons to His church thru the ministry of encouragement.

 

This ministry of encouragement was manifest when Barnabas (formerly Joseph the Levite) was willing to share what he owned with those in need.  As mentioned earlier, the apostles distributed the sum of the money that was collected from the sale of people’s property.

 

Why did the people lay the donated money at the feet of the apostles?  The context doesn't tell us why, but one possibility is there were more than one apostle was present during the assembling together.  Initially, the early church leadership was viewed as a collective group of men, particularly those apostles that had been with the Messiah. This is a noteworthy observation because Matthias was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot BECAUSE he had been with Jesus from the first day he was baptized by John, until the day he was taken up out of their sight.  According to the tradition and requirement of the Law, it was extremely important to have eyewitnesses of all that Jesus did and spoke (Acts 1:21-26).  God Himself had confirmed His authority in them through signs and wonders, even though they were just like any other believer. Later we will see that the apostles had the people appoint other men for the task of distributing funds so that they could attend to the word of God and prayer.

 

Acts 5:1-11

5:1 BUT A certain man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property,

2 And with his wife's knowledge and connivance he kept back and wrongfully appropriated some of the proceeds, bringing only a part and putting it at the feet of the apostles.

3 But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart that you should lie to and attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit, and should [in violation of your promise] withdraw secretly and appropriate to your own use part of the price from the sale of the land?

4 As long as it remained unsold, was it not still your own? And [even] after it was sold, was not [the money] at your disposal and under your control? Why then, is it that you have proposed and purposed in your heart to do this thing? [How could you have the heart to do such a deed?] You have not [simply] lied to men [playing false and showing yourself utterly deceitful] but to God.

5 Upon hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great dread and terror took possession of all who heard of it.

6 And the young men arose and wrapped up [the body] and carried it out and buried it.

7 Now after an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not having learned of what had happened.

8 And Peter said to her, Tell me, did you sell the land for so much? Yes, she said, for so much.

9 Then Peter said to her, How could you two have agreed and conspired together to try to deceive the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out [also].

10 And instantly she fell down at his feet and died; and the young men entering found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

11 And the whole church and all others who heard of these things were appalled [great awe and strange terror and dread seized them].  AMP

 

Some valuable lessons are learned from this text in Acts 5:1-11; this passage emphasizes the importance of a commitment to Jesus and his church.  Similar to what was happening among landowners in the church in the text of Acts chapter four (they had all things "in common"), Ananias and his wife agreed to sell an acquisition (i.e.-an estate) of land, and donates all the profit from it to God

 

This estate must have been property worth a considerable sum, because the Greek word "kteema" for " piece of property " is used only twice in the N.T., and the other two places it is used are the references to what the “rich young ruler” owned.  The rich young ruler, who gloated in his obedience to the commands in the Law, went away grief stricken when Jesus told him to sell “all you have and give the money to the poor.”   Thee Greek word "kteema" is used in Mark 10:22 and again in Matthew19:22 where the rich young ruler left Jesus, as the Amplified Bible says

 

·         Mark 10:22 At that saying the man's countenance fell and was gloomy, and he went away grieved and sorrowing, for he was holding great possessions (kteema).  AMP

 

Like the rich young ruler, God was requiring Ananias and Sapphira to sacrifice their great wealth for the benefit of their brethren who were poor; but this caused them much grief and distress of soul. They had not truly paid the price in their hearts, and decided to keep back a portion of the profit obtained from selling their estate.

 

The text in Acts 5:2 says, “And with his wife's knowledge and connivance he kept back and wrongfully appropriated some of the proceeds, bringing only a part and putting it at the feet of the apostles.”  Ananias gave to be seen of men; he was not one heart with his brethren in his giving.  Perhaps he had impulsively made a public dedication to give all of the proceeds from the sale of his estate, not fully realizing how much the land was worth.  Ananias is not unlike some zealous Christians, who raise their hands rashly when a plea is made to help someone in distress, but later regret making the vow, and then try to hold back a portion, thinking it will do no harm to give less than originally committed.

 

Ananias and Sapphira wanted the approval of man, rather than the approval of God. (Read John 12:43)  Jesus taught to give with discretion, not to be recognized by others:

 

·         Matthew 6:1-4 “Take care not to do your good deeds publicly or before men, in order to be seen by them; otherwise you will have no reward [reserved for and awaiting you] with and from your Father Who is in heaven.  Thus, whenever you give to the poor, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites in the synagogues and in the streets like to do, that they may be recognized and honored and praised by men. Truly I tell you, they have their reward in full already.  But when you give to charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  So that your deeds of charity may be in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you openly.”  AMP

 

 Ananias and Sapphira had conspired to give only a portion of what was committed to the Jesus (i.e. – the holy spirit), and even what they reluctantly gave was for the recognition of man. Great power was flowing through the hands of the apostles; the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom were given to Peter to expose their sin. Peter, the apostle who had once been rebuked by the Lord Jesus for being used of the devil (Matthew16: 23 & Mark 8:33), perceived that Ananias’ motives and greed had allowed Satan to fill his heart (Acts 5:3).

 

In the text of Acts 5:1-11, God judged His people in righteousness, for, "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7) God wants the N.T. church to know that He will not be mocked, but that " ... He will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus."  (Romans 2:16)

 

It is the responsibility of those in leadership to hear the voice of God.  The scripture teaches leaders not to let men deceive them, or God’s church with empty words.  They are responsible to expose greed and lying in the church (Read Ephesians 5:5-15). This exactly what Peter did in his rebuke to Ananias, and God struck Ananias dead to confirm His word thru the apostle. Later, the secret counsel of the Lord GOD came to Peter again, and as a prophet of God, he spoke forth the judgment of death to Ananias’ wife Sapphira.

 

Another principle taught in Acts 5:1-11 about Ananias & Sapphira is this:  What they owned was still their own as long as it remained unsold.   In other words, had this married couple not committed the sale price of their entire property for the common good of the church, it was still considered their own.  However, during this time of great poverty in the church, God was requiring a commitment from ALL OF HIS PEOPLE to share.

 

If Ananias and Sapphira truly wanted to be one heart and mind with their brethren, how could they greedily withhold their abundance?  They sensed the depth of commitment in this early church because they had observed how, "…those who believed were of one heart and soul; and NOT ONE OF THEM claimed that anything which he possessed was exclusively his own, but EVERYTHING THEY HAD was in common, for the use of all."(Acts 4:32)

 

Ananias made a cheap commitment to Jesus without willingness to obey. Philippians 2:2-4 says we are to be, ”Being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  NAS."

 

It is quite obvious that Ananias & Sapphira were not following the instructions given in Philippians.  They were stuck between a rock and a hard spot; if they made no commitment, they would not be one heart with God's people. Yet, having made a vow, they refused to honor that vow because they had not weighed the costs of that promise.

 

·         Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 When you vow a vow or make a pledge to God, do not put off paying it; for God has no pleasure in fools (those who witlessly mock Him).  Pay what you vow. [Ps 50:14; 66:13,14; 76:11.]  It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. [Prov 20:25; Acts 5:4.]  AMP

 

Another principle in N.T. found in Acts 5:1-11 is that whatever you commit to God's purposes is a commitment to GOD, not man. Peter told Ananias, "You have not (simply) lied to men playing false and showing yourself utterly deceitful, BUT TO GOD." (Concordant Literal)  Peter later told Sapphira, "Why is it that YOU AGREED to try the spirit of God."

 

We try the Lord's wrath when we ignore the needs of God's people and tend only to our own selfish desires. Again, as Paul wrote in Philippians2: 4, "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. "

 

1 Peter 2:17 says,"love the brotherhood, fear God.”  God's swift judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira was to demonstrate His severity:

 

·         Romans 11:22 Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's gracious kindness to you--provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away).   AMP

 

The Lord’s judgment produced great fear upon the church and all those who heard of it.  When the church returns to giving GOD'S WAY, unselfishly taking care of one another instead of feeding an organization or a building, the awesome presence of God will cleanse us, and divine judgment will revisit the church of Jesus Christ.  Consider the effect that His judgment had upon the church:

 

·         Acts 5:11, 13 And the whole church and all others who heard of these things were appalled [great awe and strange terror and dread seized them]… And none of those who were not of their number dared to join and associate with them, but the people held them in high regard and praised and made much of them.   AMP

 

Can you imagine this happening in today's modern church?  This is the type of purity Jesus wants to restore amongst His people.  When the world sees this kind of divine judgment happening within the churches, it will keep out those who are deceivers and evil workers because their deeds will become made manifest.  This is what happened when Peter spoke God’s wrath upon Ananias and Sapphira, and none of those who were not of their number dared to join and associate with them (Acts 5:13).

 

·         1 Peter 4:15-17 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or any sort of criminal, or as a mischief-maker (a meddler) in the affairs of others [infringing on their rights].  But if [one is ill-treated and suffers] as a Christian [which he is contemptuously called], let him not be ashamed, but give glory to God that he is [deemed worthy to suffer] in this name.  For the time [has arrived] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God?   AMP

 

Lastly, in Acts 5 we see that God allows what we give to Him to be under our control.  This doesn't mean we are without consequence if we disobey the Lord, but it is still a free-will choice to give.  What Ananias gave was not given out of a heart of love, but out of greed and religious pride.  A person can give everything they own to the poor, but if there is no love behind it, it means nothing to God.

 

·         1 Corinthians13:3 Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God's love in me), I gain nothing.  AMP

 

Many Christians only look out for their own interests. They spend their entire paycheck on only themselves. They are greedy and insecure and abuse the freedom they have been given in Christ.  Like Ananias, these Christians are stingy.  They purpose in their hearts to be stingy and self-indulgent.  They show themselves utterly deceitful before God and man in withholding what belongs rightfully to God’s kingdom.

 

·         Luke 12:15 And He said to them, “Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness (the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more); for a man's life does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance or that which is over and above his needs.”   AMP

 

Instead of following after GOD'S HEART selfish disciples follow the desires and feelings of their own deceitful heart.

 

·         Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? [Matt 13:15-17; Mark 7:21-23; Eph 4:20-24.]  I the Lord search the mind; I try the heart, even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.   AMP

 

·         Mark 7:20-23 He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.'  For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"   (From New International Version)

 

·         1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs.   AMP

 

·         Acts 6:1-5 Now about this time, when the number of the disciples was greatly increasing, complaint was made by the Hellenists (the Greek-speaking Jews) against the [native] Hebrews because their widows were being overlooked and neglected in the daily ministration (distribution of relief).  So the Twelve [apostles] convened the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not seemly or desirable or right that we should have to give up or neglect preaching the Word of God in order to attend to serving at tables and superintending the distribution of food.  Therefore select out from among yourselves, brethren, seven men of good and attested character and repute, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may assign to look after this business and duty.  But we will continue to devote ourselves steadfastly to prayer and the ministry of the Word.”  And the suggestion pleased the whole assembly, and they selected Stephen, a man full of faith (a strong and welcome belief that Jesus is the Messiah) and full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte (convert) from Antioch.  AMP

 

Several principles can be gathered from this brief portion of Scripture:

 

As the church increased in number, the needs of the poor were neglected.  This neglect may have been due, in part, to some ethnic prejudices amongst various sects of believers, as Hellenists (the Greek-speaking Jews) against the [native] Hebrews. This neglect was not really intentional, but resulted from a lack of those able and willing to distribute food and other necessities among the needy. 

 

The task of distributing food and waiting on tables daily had become to large a task for the apostles. The apostles suggested that the assembly of believers choose reputable men from amongst themselves for this mundane task. They specified the men chosen for this task must be of good character, in order that they do nothing from a spirit of partiality.

 

·         1 Timothy 5:21-22 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the chosen angels that you guard and keep [these rules] without personal prejudice or favor, doing nothing from partiality.  Do not be in a hurry in the laying on of hands [giving the sanction of the church too hastily in reinstating expelled offenders or in ordination in questionable cases], nor share or participate in another man's sins; keep yourself pure.  AMP

 

·         James 2:9 But if you show servile regard (prejudice, favoritism) for people, you commit sin and are rebuked and convicted by the Law as violators and offenders.   AMP

 

The church accepted the apostles suggestion, chose seven men, and then the apostles assigned them to their business and duties.  In today's churches, the "tithing" structure goes to support the organization.  Some churches have feeding programs for homeless street people, but very few have taken on the responsibility of assigning spiritual men to direct the distribution of food to the poor among the assembly of believers.

 

Instead, modern churches create more "programs" to “facilitate needs.”  Loosely translated, this means that churches dump money into programs that are most popular and in greatest demand, and ignore the poor and suffering.  The congregation itself has little or no part in the decision making process and determining who will be appointed to distribute funds for caring for the needy.

 

This task has been reserved for the senior pastor and or his board of elders. The apostles had the common sense to realize they were personally unqualified to choose, from among the indigent people, whom the best candidates for the job were.  Instead of getting burned out like so many "one-man-pastor-shows" do, the apostles delegated the task by saying to the church, " Therefore select out from among yourselves, brethren, seven men of good and attested character and repute, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may assign to look after this business and duty.”

 

Increased numbers meant increased needs, so people were chosen to meet the needs of the people.   There was a DAILY MINISTRATION, and a DAILY DISTRIBUTION OF FOOD.  Because there was a daily contact with the widows and the needy, the church could complain to the leadership when they saw any needs neglected.

 

The leadership responded to the "complaint" when they "Convened the multitude of the disciples."  In other words, they got the entire church involved.  The apostles recognized they were gifted in the church to minister the Word and they made this known to the whole assembly. It is important that the assembly recognize where each man's gifts can best be utilized. The suggestion (not the demand) to choose other men to care for the poor “pleased the whole assembly."

 

Nevertheless, until the church was established, the apostles were, themselves, willing to act as ones who "served" at the tables.

 

 

Widows and Orphans

Principles of NT Giving

 

There was also a daily ministration to the needs of widows in the church assembly.  Such a ministry in today's modern churches is nearly extant.  There are other places in the scripture that it speaks of ministry to the widows; but not just any widow was taken care of, only those who qualified as truly being without support, and whose devotion to God was obvious to all. For example:

 

1 Timothy 5:3-16

3 Always treat with great consideration and give aid to those who are truly widowed (solitary and without support).

4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, see to it that these are first made to understand that it is their religious duty to defray their natural obligation to those at home, and make return to their parents or grandparents for all their care by contributing to their maintenance, for this is acceptable in the sight of God.

5 Now a woman who is a real widow and is left entirely alone and desolate has fixed her hope on God and perseveres in supplications and prayers night and day,

6 Whereas she who lives in pleasure and self-gratification giving herself up to luxury and self-indulgence is dead even while she still lives.

7 Charge the people thus, so that they may be without reproach and blameless.

8 If anyone fails to provide for his relatives, and especially for those of his own family, he has disowned the faith by failing to accompany it with fruits and is worse than an unbeliever who performs his obligation in these matters.

9 Let no one be put on the roll of widows who are to receive church support who is under sixty years of age or who has been the wife of more than one man;

10 And she must have a reputation for good deeds, as one who has brought up children, who has practiced hospitality to strangers of the brotherhood, washed the feet of the saints, helped to relieve the distressed, and devoted herself diligently to doing good in every way.

11 But refuse to enroll on this list the younger widows, for when they become restive and their natural desires grow strong, they withdraw themselves against Christ and wish to marry again.

12 And so they incur condemnation for having set aside and slighted their previous pledge.

13 Moreover, as they go about from house to house, they learn to be idlers, and not only idlers, but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say and talking of things they should not mention.

14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, guide the household, and not give opponents of the faith occasion for slander or reproach.

15 For already some widows have turned aside after Satan.

16 If any believing woman or believing man has relatives or persons in the household who are widows, let him relieve them; let the church not be burdened with them, so that it may be free to assist those who are truly widows (those who are all alone and are dependent).

AMP

 

There are true widows, older women above 60 years old without any dependents to support them.  Furthermore, these widows must live a life devoted to prayer, and must have a reputation as those who have spent their lives devoted to hospitality, good deeds and servitude.

 

In the custom of the Orient, if a widow has had more than one husband, from whom she would have inherited sustaining benefit, the church shall not care her for.  It is the responsibility of Christian families to support the widows in their clan; this relieves the church of the burden of responsibility. In that culture, if a man would not support widows in his own family, he was considered worse than an unbeliever, and has denied the faith.

 

The church, primarily because of their youthful desires and sensuality, should not assist younger women financially. To provide completely for a younger woman would create in her the tendency to become a busybody and a gossip.

 

In the early days of the church, the overseers prepared a list of widows who qualified for assistance.  The overseers of this ministry reviewed such a list to decide whom to provide assistance.  This was done in order that the burden of care for the widows didn’t overwhelm the church, and to insure that the church’s hospitality is not being taken advantage of.  The care for the widows was motivation for the apostle James inspired passage:

 

·         James 1:27 External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.  AMP

 

Our faith in Jesus Christ can be seen outwardly by how we care for the needs of our own.  God adds orphans to the list of needy that should receive care from the church. No specific examples of care for orphans are mentioned in the N.T., but Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18)

 

The word "orphan" in the Greek is “orphanos" and means "bereaved" or "parentless"; its meaning therefore can refer to a child without parents, but in a much broader sense, to anyone in the body of Christ who is bereaved or hurting.  The reason Jesus makes provision for the needy in the church who would be "orphanos" is because He knew there would be a separation, a division, between family members fore gospel's sake.

 

Jesus said in Matthew10: 34-37, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to part asunder a man from his father, and a daughter from her mother, and a newly married wife from her mother-in-law--and a man's foes will be they of his own household. [Micah 7:6.]  He who loves [and takes more pleasure in] father or mother more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves [and takes more pleasure in] son or daughter more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me.”   AMP

 

The gospel of Jesus Christ brought division between believers and their Jewish and Gentile families. Jesus knew this would happen, so in these cases, He makes a provision for their physical needs of those in the church that are "bereaved" (spiritual orphanos) and left in a desolate, wanton position.

 

We have a spiritual family of God to care for.  If your family is saved, the N.T. teaches  they should care for one another's physical needs (if possible). This relieves other believers of this burden, and enables the church to care for those believers who have been abandoned by their family for the gospel's sake. Jesus said, "For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew12: 50)

 

Jesus promised that anyone "..who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but he shall receive a hundred times as much now in this present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, ALONG WITH PERSECUTIONS; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first, will be last; and the last, first."(Mark 10:29-31)

 

 Many churches misinterpret this verse to mean that if they follow Christ, He will make them rich. Quite to the contrary, because they would also have to have hundreds of mothers, brothers, houses, farms etc.  Instead, Jesus says God will take care of your needs through His spiritual family.  If you have to abandon your natural family and your material possessions for Christ, or for the ministry of the gospel, God will meet all of your essential needs.

 

Later, we will see how it is the responsibility of the church to care not only for the "orphanos", but also for those in the eldership who labor hard in the Word and teaching.  Since there are many hundreds of believers upon this earth at any given time, we are all called to be a part of one another.

 

Unfortunately, most churches in America and other "free" countries have segregated into denominations and church organizations (who call themselves non- denominational) refusing to acknowledge their responsibility to the body of Christ outside of the four walls of their organization.  Ushers in ritual custom gather the “tithes” and “offerings” every Sunday.  This generates enough income to maintain the building and it's organizational structure (i.e.-salaries, programs, maintenance, etc.).

 

Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  In the context of Matthew chapter 25, Jesus deals with clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the prisoner, and caring for the stranger (Read Matthew 25:31-46).  There is a definite responsibility each believer has to care for the practical needs of Christ's brethren. This display of care will separate the true believers (sheep) from those who will go away into eternal punishment as goats (see Matthew 25:45-46).

 

 

O.T.  REFERENCES ON MEETING THE NEEDS OF WIDOWS AND ORPHANS

 

·         Exodus 22:22-24 You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child.  If you afflict them in any way and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath shall burn; I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall be widows and your children fatherless.  AMP

 

·         Deuteronomy 10:17-18 " For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.  He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”  NASU

 

·         Job 31:16-28 "If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary, if I have kept my bread to myself, not sharing it with the fatherless- but from my youth I reared him as would a father, and from my birth I guided the widow- if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing, or a needy man without a garment, and his heart did not bless me for warming him with the fleece from my sheep, if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, knowing that I had influence in court, then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint. For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.  If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, 'You are my security,' if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained, if I have regarded the sun in its radiance or the moon moving in splendor, so that my heart was secretly enticed and my hand offered them a kiss of homage, then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.”  (From New International Version)

 

·         Jeremiah 5:28-31 “’For wicked men are found among My people, They watch like fowlers lying in wait; they set a trap, they catch men.  Like a cage full of birds, so their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich.  They are fat, they are sleek, they also excel in deeds of wickedness; they do not plead the cause, the cause of the orphan, that they may prosper; and they do not defend the rights of the poor.  Shall I not punish these people?  declares the LORD,' On a nation such as this Shall I not avenge Myself?'  An appalling and horrible thing Has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?  NAS

 

Although these verses don't deal with N.T. giving practices, they do help in showing us the attitude that we are to maintain towards those in need within the church. There are many more references on caring for the needy that could be listed. One only needs to consult a concordance of the Bible to find these listings and review them.

 

·         Deuteronomy 24:17 You shall not pervert the justice due the stranger or the sojourner or the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge. AMP

 

·         Deuteronomy 24:20-21 When you beat your olive tree, do not go over the boughs again; the leavings shall be for the stranger and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.  When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.   AMP

 

·         Deuteronomy 27:19 Cursed is he who perverts the justice due to the sojourner or the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. All the people shall say, Amen.  AMP

 

·         Job 29:12-16 “Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper.  The blessing of the one ready to perish came upon me, and I made the widow's heart sing for joy.  I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.  I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame.  I was a father to the needy, and I investigated the case, which I did not know.   NAS

 

·         Psalms 10:14, 17-18 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless…You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. (from New International Version)

 

·         Isaiah 1:17, 23-25 Learn to do right! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, and correct the oppressor. Defend the fatherless; plead for the widow… Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them.  Therefore the Lord, the LORD Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares, "Ah, I will get relief from my foes and avenge myself on my enemies.  I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities.  (From New International Version)

 

·         Isaiah 10:1-3 Woe to those who enact evil statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of My people of their rights, so that widows may be their spoil and that they may plunder the orphans.  Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar?  To whom will you flee for help?  And where will you leave your wealth?  NASU

 

·         Jeremiah 22:3 Thus says the Lord: Execute justice and righteousness, and deliver out of the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong; do no violence to the stranger or temporary resident, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.   AMP

 

·         Zechariah 7:9-12 Thus has the Lord of hosts spoken: Execute true judgment and show mercy and kindness and tender compassion, every man to his brother; and oppress not the widow or the fatherless, the temporary resident or the poor, and let none of you devise or imagine or think evil against his brother in your heart.  But they refused to listen and turned a rebellious and stubborn shoulder and made heavy and dull their ears that they might not hear.  Yes, they made their hearts as an adamant stone or diamond point, lest they should hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets.  Therefore there came great wrath from the Lord of hosts. AMP

 

More Principles Of Giving

 

Next in the scriptures we will see the interaction between different assemblies of believers and how they cared for one another's needs. Many more principles in caring for the needy are illustrated throughout the New Testament..

 

·         Acts 11:25-30 [Barnabas] went on to Tarsus to hunt for Saul.  And when he had found him, he brought him back to Antioch.  For a whole year they assembled together with and were guests of the church and instructed a large number of people; and in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.  And during these days prophets (inspired teachers and interpreters of the divine will and purpose) came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.  And one of them named Agabus stood up and prophesied through the [Holy] Spirit that a great and severe famine would come upon the whole world. And this did occur during the reign of Claudius.  So the disciples resolved to send relief, each according to his individual ability in proportion as he had prospered, to the brethren who lived in Judea.  And so they did, sending [their contributions] to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.  AMP

 

Up until now our examples from Scripture have focused on the internal ministry of the local assemblies to their individual members. Now we see a precedent for one assembly giving financial assistance to their brethren in another region because of the severity of the famine in the land. Let us draw some more principles from N.T. giving from this portion of Scripture:

 

First, notice that Barnabas and Saul were "guests of the church" for a whole year.  This hospitality, in and of itself, required a tremendous sacrifice from the church.  It would mean housing and feeding these apostles in the homes of individual believers. Their clothing would have to be washed, and normal activity disrupted to accommodate these two apostle-elders.  In this early church, lodging was a common sacrifice made by the people for the sake of the leadership.

 

Paul wrote in Philemon 22, "And at the same time also prepare me a lodging..."  And again, he gave instruction regarding the needs of elders who labor in the word and teaching in Galatians 6:6, 10 (Read 6:6-10), “Let him who receives instruction in the Word of God share all good things with his teacher contributing to his support... So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good morally to all people not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage.  Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith those who belong to God's family with you, the believers.”  AMP

 

The context in Galatians teaches those who receive the benefit of the teaching ministry should " share all good things with his teacher contributing to his support."  It also says to do this sharing " as occasion and opportunity open up to us."

 

Do you share your finances, your home and hospitality with those anointed teachers God has sent to you?  In addition to this, the Scripture says to, "...do good to ALL MEN."  It is the responsibility of each believer to support those in leadership who teach, and at the same time  to be willing to give to all men.

 

·         1 Timothy.5:17-18 Let the elders who perform the duties of their office well be considered doubly worthy of honor [and of adequate financial support], especially those who labor faithfully in preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain, and again, the laborer is worthy of his hire.’ [Deut 25:4; Luke 10:7.]  (Amplified)

 

Again we see the church is responsible to provide adequate financial support to those elders who fulfill their office well by diligent teaching and preaching of the word.  Today's modern churches often provide a lavish salary for one-man pastors who are unworthy of such support, while the true elders who labor in the Word and pour themselves out for souls are hardly noticed.

 

·         3 John 5-8 Beloved, it is a fine and faithful work that you are doing when you give any service to the Christian brethren, and especially when they are strangers.  They have testified before the church of your love and friendship.  You will do well to forward them on their journey and you will please do so in a way worthy of God's service.  For these traveling missionaries have gone out for the Name's sake (for His sake) and are accepting nothing from the Gentiles (the heathen, the non-Israelites).  So we ourselves ought to support such people to welcome and provide for them, in order that we may be fellow workers in the Truth (the whole Gospel) and cooperate with its teachers.

 

Since they receive no support from the unsaved, it is the church’s responsibility to support its teachers and evangelists.  Sadly, most true workers get financial support from the Christian church, let alone help with maintaining their homes, cars, and other ways of helping them. 

 

·         Philippians 4:14-18 But it was right and commendable and noble of you to contribute for my needs and to share my difficulties with me.  And you Philippians yourselves well know that in the early days of the Gospel ministry, when I left Macedonia, no church (assembly) entered into partnership with me and opened up a debit and credit account in giving and receiving except you only.  For even in Thessalonica you sent me contributions for my needs, not only once but a second time.  Not that I seek or am eager for your gift, but I do seek and am eager for the fruit which, increases to your credit the harvest of blessing that is accumulating to your account.  But I have your full payment and more; I have everything I need and am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent me.  They are the fragrant odor of an offering and sacrifice which God welcomes and in which He delights.  (Amplified)

 

 It seems that in the past 2000+ years the Christian church still has not learned its lesson from Paul's letter to the Philippians.  Unlike other assemblies, in the early days of Paul's ministry, the Philippian church entered into "partnership" with Paul by doing what was" right" by sending him contributions on two separate occasions.

 

These contributions were obviously very generous because Paul commented, " I have everything I need and am amply supplied."  Today, true men of God who are sent forth by the Holy Spirit receive little, and most often, no support from the churches. Paul got two contributions just while he was in Thessalonica, let alone his other travels.

 

Once the church realizes its responsibility the larger church assemblies should open up a debit and credit account for its apostles and elders that labor hard in the scriptures.  By so doing, they free up these men of God from mundane jobs and the church becomes partners in the Gospel with them-resulting in a harvest of souls, and much benefit to all the believers.  While it may sound extreme, this is how the early church took care of its’ teachers and apostles.  True teachers men will NOT take advantage of such liberality, and unlike the greedy buggers you have seen behind the pulpit or the television set, they ask little for their expenses.  In fact, a man with a shepherd’s heart will give away much more than he receives, trusting God will increase his income to meet the needs of others.

 

Let us summarize some points we have covered thus far:

 

·         N.T. believers, at every opportunity, should share what they have with their elders

 

·         N.T. believers should make traveling apostles, elders, evangelists and prophets guests in their homes, showing them hospitality, and meeting their every need.

 

·         N.T. believers who are taught the Word should share with those who teach them

 

·         The church should provide adequate financial support for hard laboring elders and evangelists should also receive the support of the churches

 

·         The churches should see to it that everything an apostle needs is amply supplied

 

·         The church, for use by the apostle in his ministry, should set up a debit and credit account

 

·         It is the right, commendable and noble responsibility of N.T. believers to support its elders

 

The second observation made from the passage in Acts 11:25-30 is during times of distress N.T. disciples, “resolved to send relief, each according to his individual ability in proportion as he had prospered, to the brethren who lived in Judea.”   This is consistent other N.T. teachings that discuss sharing with brethren in need.

 

·         James 2:14-17 What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no good works to show for it?  Can such faith save his soul?  If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, and one of you says to him, “Good-bye!  Keep yourself warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?  So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).  (Amplified)

 

Your faith as a N.T. believer is dead and inoperative if you don't meet the physical needs of your brothers and sisters in Jesus…it’s just that simple.  Many Christians shy away from anything that teaches “works” as a part of their faith.  This is understandable, especially in the case of those that come out of dead, lifeless, and legalistic churches, where their “works” are nothing more than adherence to the rules and regulations of their particular church or denomination.

 

We must not throw out the baby with the bath water; faith without works in useless and inoperative.  Our faith is something that must work by love; love for others, love for God.  It isn’t a matter of doing to attain status with God, but doing to meet needs because you care.  The secret is love.  People live in self-condemnation and guilt for two reasons: One, they are not obeying God, and their conscience bothers them…OR…two, they are not walking daily in the confidence ONLY GOD CAN GIVE when we are obedient to Him, and His commandment to love one another.

 

·         1 John 3:16-23 By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the essential love: that He laid down His own life for us; and we ought to lay our lives down for those who are our brothers in Him.  But if anyone has this world's goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother and  fellow believer in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God live and remain in him?  Little children, let us not love merely in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity).  By this we shall come to know (perceive, recognize, and understand) that we are of the Truth, and can reassure (quiet, conciliate, and pacify) our hearts in His presence, whenever our hearts in tormenting self-accusation make us feel guilty and condemn us.  For we are in God's hands.  For He is above and greater than our consciences (our hearts), and He knows (perceives and understands) everything nothing is hidden from Him.  And, beloved, if our consciences (our hearts) do not accuse us if they do not make us feel guilty and condemn us, we have confidence (complete assurance and boldness) before God, and we receive from Him whatever we ask, because we watchfully obey His orders observe His suggestions and injunctions, follow His plan for us and habitually practice what is pleasing to Him.  And this is His order (His command, His injunction): that we should believe in (put our faith and trust in and adhere to and rely on) the name of His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and that we should love one another, just as He has commanded us.  (Amplified)

 

This verses in 1 John 3:16-23 teach to progressively knowing God's love, we must care for the physical needs of our brothers and sisters who are without daily essentials. The love of God will no longer remain in us if we close our heart of compassion off to these needs.  God is love, and His love must be actively expressed.

 

·         Galatians 2:10 They only [made one stipulation], that we were to remember the poor, which very thing I was also eager to do. (Amplified) 

 

As Peter, James and John sent Paul and Barnabas to preach to the Gentiles, their only stipulation was that they remember the poor.  N.T. believers must be "eager" to attend to the needs of the poor, especially when being sent out into the ministry of Gospel.  How shall the unsaved care what we know, until they know that we care?

 

·         Romans 15:25-29 For the present, however, I am going to Jerusalem to bring aid (relief) for the saints (God's people there).  For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make some contribution for the poor among the saints of Jerusalem.  They were pleased to do it; and surely they are in debt to them, for if these Gentiles have come to share in their [the Jerusalem Jews'] spiritual blessings, then they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.  When therefore I have completed this mission and have delivered to them [at Jerusalem] what has been raised, I shall go on by way of you to Spain.  And I know that when I do come to you, I shall come in the abundant blessing of the Gospel of Christ.  AMP

 

These Gentile converts were showing their depth of appreciation to the saints in Jerusalem by meeting their material needs.  We should maintain the same care for all peoples, and be willing to cross over ethnic boundaries and express our gratitude to other assemblies in need.

 

Our attitude must not be begrudging, be we must be "pleased" to make a material contribution to the poor among the saints.  Jesus said in Luke 14:12-14, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, lest perhaps they also invite you in return, and so you are paid back.  But when you give a banquet or a reception, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind.  Then you will be blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied), because they have no way of repaying you, and you will be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (upright).  AMP.

 

Taking care of the poor is a blessing, both in this life, and in the life to come.

 

·         Luke 10:30-37 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.  They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'  Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"  The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."  Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."    (from New International Version)

 

In this story of the Samaritan this man was willing to violate ethnic barriers to help a man in need.  The Levite and the priest, supposed men of the Law, were unwilling to even approach the man in need.  In verse 36 Jesus asked, "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor?"  The lawyer answered Jesus saying, "The one who had mercy on him."  Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

 

God is requiring those under the New Covenant to show mercy thru their deeds of unselfish kindness towards others.  The third principle in N.T. giving is perhaps the one most unknown today.  Many sincere Christians who want to give to God, and meet the needs of others ask, "Just HOW MUCH do I give under the New Covenant?"

 

This is certainly a valid question, but is hard to determine until one has broken the cycle of "tithing" to an organized religion or church institution.  If you are willing to be led by the spirit of God in your giving, and to be accountable to the Scriptures, you will have no shortage of needs to meet or questions on how much to give.

 

Some of the quotes from the text of Acts 11:25-30 give us more ideas on how to give:

 

·         Acts11:29 So the disciples resolved to send relief, each according to his individual ability in proportion as he had prospered.

 

This verse is not dealing with the church during the time when they had all things "in common."  Instead, it really deals with those needs that can be observed by a believer and then met with his or her financial ability.  God seems to allow quite a bit of latitude, for each one gave " each according to his individual ability in proportion as he had prospered.”

 

A believer may say today, "Well, I have not prospered in this life much, so I've very little to give." In this case, it might be good for this person to re-read the story of the widows mite in Mark 12:42-44 and Luke 21:1-4.  The principle here is not how much, but where is your heart at toward God and man?

 

Jesus said of the widow, "...but she, out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on." (Luke 21:4)   A Christian that has been financially blessed with a good paying job or wealth is instructed to give generously, just as the poor widow gave of all she had.

 

1 Timothy 6:17-19 As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Charge them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share with others, in this way laying up for themselves the riches that endure forever as a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed.   AMP

 

Being rich is usually a curse (see 1 Timothy 6:7-11) because the deceitfulness of riches, and the worry and anxiety about it oftentimes chokes out the word of God, and destroys the spiritual life of the one who possesses it.  (See Mark 4:19; James 5:1-6; Revelation 3:17-18;Matthew 19:21-24)

 

In today's credit and debit crazy society, many believers have racked up debts that consume their income.  In spite of this, they selfishly continue to put themselves deeper and deeper in debt.  Romans 13:8 covers the Lord’s view of getting in debt needlessly, ”Keep out of debt and owe no man anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor who practices loving others has fulfilled the Law relating to one's fellowmen, meeting all its requirements.”

 

These careless Christians have become slaves to their own unruly habits, and can therefore render little or no support to those in need.  In spite of their financial woes, they can still offer THEMSELVES as a LIVING SACRIFICE (Romans 12:1) by regularly performing good deeds amongst the saints.

 

·         1 Corinthians 16:1-3 Now concerning money contributed for the relief of the saints (God's people): you are to do the same as I directed the churches of Galatia to do.  On the first day of each week, let each one of you personally put aside something and save it up as he has prospered in proportion to what he is given, so that no collections will need to be taken after I come.  And when I arrive, I will send on those whom you approve and authorize with credentials to carry your gift of charity to Jerusalem.  AMP

 

Again, this was a special collection for the churches at Jerusalem (see verse 3 in the Amplified Bible). Paul instructs the Corinthian church to follow a pattern established at Galatia of laying aside in store (probably food) on one Sabbath what would normally be profit. Two principles are seen here:

 

1) God expects us to be willing to sacrifice our "extras" when our brothers are in need.

 

2) Setting aside something to give on a routine basis is obviously more consistent, and therefore more effective in helping the needy within the church.

 

 2 Corinthians 8:1-10:1

8:1 WE WANT to tell you further, brethren, about the grace (the favor and spiritual blessing) of God which has been evident in the churches of Macedonia [arousing in them the desire to give alms];

2 For in the midst of an ordeal of severe tribulation, their abundance of joy and their depth of poverty [together] have overflowed in wealth of lavish generosity on their part.

3 For, as I can bear witness, [they gave] according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability; and [they did it] voluntarily,

4 Begging us most insistently for the favor and the fellowship of contributing in this ministration for [the relief and support of] the saints [in Jerusalem].

5 Nor [was this gift of theirs merely the contribution] that we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us [as His agents] by the will of God [entirely disregarding their personal interests, they gave as much as they possibly could, having put themselves at our disposal to be directed by the will of God]--

6 So much so that we have urged Titus that as he began it, he should also complete this beneficent and gracious contribution among you [the church at Corinth].

7 Now as you abound and excel and are at the front in everything--in faith, in expressing yourselves, in knowledge, in all zeal, and in your love for us--[see to it that you come to the front now and] abound and excel in this gracious work [of almsgiving] also.

8 I give this not as an order [to dictate to you], but to prove, by [pointing out] the zeal of others, the sincerity of your [own] love also.

9 For you are becoming progressively acquainted with and recognizing more strongly and clearly the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (His kindness, His gracious generosity, His undeserved favor and spiritual blessing), [in] that though He was [so very] rich, yet for your sakes He became [so very] poor, in order that by His poverty you might become enriched (abundantly supplied).

10[It is then] my counsel and my opinion in this matter that I give [you when I say]: It is profitable and fitting for you [now to complete the enterprise] which more than a year ago you not only began, but were the first to wish to do anything [about contributions for the relief of the saints at Jerusalem].

11 So now finish doing it, that your [enthusiastic] readiness in desiring it may be equaled by your completion of it according to your ability and means.

12 For if the [eager] readiness to give is there, then it is acceptable and welcomed in proportion to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

13 For it is not [intended] that other people be eased and relieved [of their responsibility] and you be burdened and suffer [unfairly],

14 But to have equality [share and share alike], your surplus over necessity at the present time going to meet their want and to equalize the difference created by it, so that [at some other time] their surplus in turn may be given to supply your want. Thus there may be equality,

15 As it is written, He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little did not lack. [Ex 16:18.]

16 But thanks be to God Who planted the same earnest zeal and care for you in the heart of Titus.

17 For he not only welcomed and responded to our appeal, but was himself so keen in his enthusiasm and interest in you that he is going to you of his own accord.

18 But we are sending along with him that brother [Luke?] whose praise in the Gospel ministry [is spread] throughout all the churches;

19 And more than that, he has been appointed by the churches to travel as our companion in regard to this bountiful contribution which we are administering for the glory of the Lord Himself and [to show] our eager readiness [as Christians to help one another].

20[For] we are on our guard, intending that no one should find anything for which to blame us in regard to our administration of this large contribution.

21 For we take thought beforehand and aim to be honest and absolutely above suspicion, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men.

22 Moreover, along with them we are sending our brother, whom we have often put to the test and have found him zealous (devoted and earnest) in many matters, but who is now more [eagerly] earnest than ever because of [his] absolute confidence in you.

23 As for Titus, he is my colleague and shares my work in your service; and as for the [other two] brethren, they are the [special] messengers of the churches, a credit and glory to Christ (the Messiah).

24 Show to these men, therefore, in the sight of the churches, the reality and plain truth of your love (your affection, goodwill, and benevolence) and what [good reasons] I had for boasting about and being proud of you.

 

2 Corinthians 9

 

9:1 NOW ABOUT the offering that is [to be made] for the saints (God's people in Jerusalem), it is quite superfluous that I should write you;

2 For I am well acquainted with your willingness (your readiness and your eagerness to promote it) and I have proudly told about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia (most of Greece) has been prepared since last year for this contribution; and [consequently] your enthusiasm has stimulated the majority of them.

3 Still, I am sending the brethren [on to you], lest our pride in you should be made an empty boast in this particular case, and so that you may be all ready, as I told them you would be;

4 Lest, if [any] Macedonians should come with me and find you unprepared [for this generosity], we, to say nothing of yourselves, be humiliated for our being so confident.

5 That is why I thought it necessary to urge these brethren to go to you before I do and make arrangements in advance for this bountiful, promised gift of yours, so that it may be ready, not as an extortion [wrung out of you] but as a generous and willing gift.

6[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.

7 Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, "prompt to do it") giver [whose heart is in his giving]. [Prov 22:9.]

8 And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

9 As it is written, He [the benevolent person] scatters abroad; He gives to the poor; His deeds of justice and goodness and kindness and benevolence will go on and endure forever! [Ps 112:9.]

10 And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness [which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness, and charity]. [Isa 55:10; Hos 10:12.]

11 Thus you will be enriched in all things and in every way, so that you can be generous, and [your generosity as it is] administered by us will bring forth thanksgiving to God.

12 For the service that the ministering of this fund renders does not only fully supply what is lacking to the saints (God's people), but it also overflows in many [cries of] thanksgiving to God.

13 Because at [your] standing of the test of this ministry, they will glorify God for your loyalty and obedience to the Gospel of Christ which you confess, as well as for your generous-hearted liberality to them and to all [the other needy ones].

14 And they yearn for you while they pray for you, because of the surpassing measure of God's grace (His favor and mercy and spiritual blessing which is shown forth) in you.

15 Now thanks be to God for His Gift, [precious] beyond telling [His indescribable, inexpressible, free Gift]!  AMP

 

Having now read our texts, we will select certain verses from it to correlate with the question from a N.T. believer, "How much should I give?"

 

·         2 Corinthians 8: 2 For in the midst of an ordeal of severe tribulation, their abundance of joy and their depth of poverty [together] have overflowed in wealth of lavish generosity on their part.

 

Apparently these poor believers scraped together a very generous gift.  They were like the widow who gave her mite-it was all she had to live on, but she gave it to God anyway, trusting that He would feed her.(see Matt.6:24-33)

 

·         2 Corinthians 8: 3 For, as I can bear witness, [they gave] according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability; and [they did it] voluntarily,

 

You may say to yourself, “Well I'm comfortable with the idea of giving according to my ability, but God commands us as N.T. believers to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Therefore when your brothers have a need, the Holy Spirit may require you to give beyond your ability like the widow who gave all that she had left to live on, she gave anyway. This is the heart of Jesus’ obedient servant.  

 

The N.T. believer must do this type of giving voluntarily, not out of compulsion, false obligation, or to gain the approval of pastor and church.  Ask yourself, 'When was the last time I gave everything that was in my purse or wallet to bless another in need?

 

·         2 Corinthians 8: 5 Nor [was this gift of theirs merely the contribution] that we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us [as His agents] by the will of God [entirely disregarding their personal interests, they gave as much as they possibly could, having put themselves at our disposal to be directed by the will of God]--

 

Not only did these believers give as much as they possibly could, but they also allowed their giving to be at the disposal of men of God who could help them be directed by the will of God.

 

·         2 Corinthians 8:6-7 So much so that we have urged Titus that as he began it, he should also complete this beneficent and gracious contribution among you the church at Corinth.  Now as you abound and excel and are at the front in everything--in faith, in expressing yourselves, in knowledge, in all zeal, and in your love for us--see to it that you come to the front now and abound and excel in this gracious work of almsgiving also.

 

The reason this contribution was so much, and so gracious, is because it was a work of GRACE (divine influence upon the heart and mind).  Just as God had extended His grace to them, the N.T. believers extended the same grace to one another.  (See 2 Peter1:2, 4-10) They had been forgiven much, so this caused them to love much.(see Luke 7:47)

 

·         2 Corinthians 8:10-15 It is then my counsel and my opinion in this matter that I give you when I say: It is profitable and fitting for you now to complete the enterprise which more than a year ago you not only began, but were the first to wish to do anything about contributions for the relief of the saints at Jerusalem.  So now finish doing it, that your enthusiastic readiness in desiring it may be equaled by your completion of it according to your ability and means.  For if the eager readiness to give is there, then it is acceptable and welcomed in proportion to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.  For it is not intended that other people be eased and relieved of their responsibility and you be burdened and suffer unfairly, but to have equality [share and share alike], your surplus over necessity at the present time going to meet their want and to equalize the difference created by it, so that at some other time their surplus in turn may be given to supply your want.  Thus there may be equality, as it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little did not lack.’    [Ex 16:18.] AMP

 

The project of caring for their brethren in need lasted a long time, at least one year.  We need long-term commitments to our brethren in desperate need, because their want won't disappear after a one-time contribution in cases like these.  Better to give a little consistently, than a large lump sum once.

 

The N.T. believers must give in enthusiastic readiness; this a the heart attitude God wants. If we give out of eagerness, it is acceptable BECAUSE it shows others we gave to them out of what we did have, not from what would hurt us. That way they don't feel guilty, or like they're robbing us of what we need, because our cheerful countenance shows them we're giving out of our surplus.

 

The Corinthians were "the first to do anything" when they heard of the need of their brethren.  Are you the first to respond to the needs of others with support?  If not, consider the words of the Lord Jesus, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." (Matthew 5:7)

 

Paul's command for the Corinthian church to " finish doing it " shows that when a Christian makes a pledge or vow, he or she must follow through with that commitment. This will become increasingly important in the difficult days ahead because lives could depend upon whether or not we keep our word.  We are stewards of the things God has given us, and we become overcomers together through the very word of our testimony.  (see Revelation 12:11 with 1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

 

In regard to assisting other brethren, God says, "there must be equality.”  In other words, just because one or more believers give generously, it is not intended that other people be relieved of their responsibility to give.  The Scripture states, "And if one member suffers, ALL THE MEMBERS SUFFER WITH IT... "(1 Corinthians12:26)

 

We are to "share and share alike" in our giving of relief and financial support for the saints. In the context of this verse, it means that if we have been given financial help in our time of need, at some other time we are to return that gracious gift out of our surplus. To maintain the willingness to do this, the attitude we must continually have is, "However you want people to treat you so treat them..." (Matthew 7:12)

 

We must also learn to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves in (Philippians 4:12).

 

·         1 Timothy 6:6-10 But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.   NAS

 

The love of money has ruined many so-called Christians, and destroyed their walk with God.  It is insidious evil, because it is self-serving.

 

·         2 Corinthians 8:19-20 And more than that, he has been appointed by the churches to travel as our companion in regard to this bountiful contribution which we are administering for the glory of the Lord Himself and to show our eager readiness as Christians to help one another.  For we are on our guard, intending that no one should find anything for which to blame us in regard to our administration of this large contribution.  AMP

 

The main point here is financial accountability on the part of those (apostles) administering the large contribution given by the church to the saints in Jerusalem. Notice (verses 16,18) Titus and another reputable elder (perhaps Luke), noted men of reputation in the churches, were sent for as companions of the other apostles and elders who would administer the large contribution. This way no one could "BLAME" them in their administration, either by way of showing partiality in the distributing, nor in the coveting of any of the gifts given.

 

Overseers (i.e.-elders) must be "above reproach, temperate, prudent, respectable, uncontentious, free from the love of money, must have a good reputation, be men of dignity and not double-tongued or fond of sordid gain, and must have served well." (See 1 Timothy 3:2,3,7,8,10,13)  These, and other such qualifications were necessary for properly distributing what was given for the care of the believers.

 

The main-point here is that several men should be accountable for financial matters and these men must be properly qualified for the administration.  This fact is born out in 2 Corinthians 8:21-22:

 

·         2 Corinthians 8:21-22 For we take thought beforehand and aim to be honest and absolutely above suspicion, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men.  Moreover, along with them we are sending our brother, whom we have often put to the test and have found him zealous (devoted and earnest) in many matters, but who is now more eagerly earnest than ever because of his absolute confidence in you.  AMP

 

What we see here is that the zeal of churches who give eagerly stimulates others to want to help with the same degree of willingness.  Hebrews 10:24 says, "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds."  You can best stimulate these good deeds through your EXAMPLE of eagerness to give to the needs of others.

 

·         2 Corinthians 9:5-7, 11-12 That is why I thought it necessary to urge these brethren to go to you before I do and make arrangements in advance for this bountiful, promised gift of yours, so that it may be ready, not as an extortion [wrung out of you] but as a generous and willing gift.  Remember this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.  Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, "prompt to do it") giver [whose heart is in his giving].…Thus you will be enriched in all things and in every way, so that you can be generous, and your generosity as it is administered by us will bring forth thanksgiving to God.  For the service that the ministering of this fund renders does not only fully supply what is lacking to the saints (God's people), but it also overflows in many cries of thanksgiving to God.

 

In this rich portion of Scripture several more principle on giving are to be found some true nuggets on giving.  First, it is helpful to understand that arrangements to collect offerings for the needy should be made in "advance."   The Corinthian church made these arrangements " so that it may be ready."  They wanted to know for sure there was no delay in getting the needed supplies to their brethren.   After all, God said, "But let all things be done properly and in AN ORDERLY MANNER." (1 Corinthians 14:40)

 

God does not want his leadership in the church to extort giving from the people. Too often in today's organized Christianity we see the big "pump" for money.  It seems that so many pastors and ministers are trying to wring the money out of you.  This is clearly a violation of New Covenant giving principles.

 

·         1 Peter 5:1-3 I warn and counsel the elders among you (the pastors and spiritual guides of the church) as a fellow elder and as an eyewitness called to testify of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a sharer in the glory (the honor and splendor) that is to be revealed (disclosed, unfolded): Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is your responsibility, not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits belonging to the office, but eagerly and cheerfully; not domineering as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation).  AMP

 

When we give from our hearts,  it should not be done grudgingly, nor reluctantly, nor sorrowfully, nor under any compulsion (feeling like we have to give).  If we have these attitudes, we will give SPARINGLY and with regret.

 

Our motive for giving should always be that blessing may come upon someone else, not us.  So many believers give to 'get back' material blessings from God.  Jesus told us that even after giving our all we are still just "unprofitable servants".(Luke 17:10)  The Lord loves cheerful, joyous, and prompt to do it givers whose hearts are in their giving.

 

As we learned from previous texts, the N.T. believer gives according to what he has purposed in his heart.  The New Covenant allows a man to give "as he made up his own mind.”  The N.T. merely tells him to do so generously, promptly and cheerfully.

 

This concludes the section on examples from the N.T. on giving.  Many valuable lessons have been gleaned from the Book of Acts and other texts related.  The following are a few basic lessons on N.T. giving learned so far:

 

1. The purpose for N.T. giving is primarily to take care of the people in the churches who are needy and destitute. This can include a regular ministry to those in the assembly (e.g.-widows, orphans etc.), or a collection for other churches.

 

2. Support should be given, either through hospitality, or a debit and credit account for those elders and apostles laboring faithfully in the Word and the Gospel.

 

3. A Christian should be ready to do good to all men, including the unsaved.  We are to remember the poor, but especially those of the household of faith.

 

4. No set amount is required in the N.T.  In times of extreme duress, the church had all things "in common"; other than this, when collections were taken, each man made up his own mind as he purposed in his heart.  God only required that the giving be generous, according as a man had been prospered and according to what he had.  His giving was to be done cheerfully, not grudgingly.

 

5. Faithful men, of good reputation, were appointed within the church to administer what the people, for the assistance of the needy, donated.

 

 

SELAH…Pause and reflect

 

 


 

 

Links to the Entire "Tithing” Series:

Tithing Series Part 1: New Testament Practice of Old Testament Bondage?

Tithing Series Part 2: Giving God’s Way

Tithing Series Part 3: Supplemental Scriptures on New Testament Giving

Tithing Series Part 4: Abraham’s Tithe Prefigures Giving from the Heart

Tithing Series Part 5: Q & A Series – Does Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek justify church tithing?

 

 


 

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