In the modern age of technology and with the emergence of mass media and telecommunication mediums, many of God’s people have been lulled into a dangerous sleep as show business has begun to take the place of God’s business. Many Christians conduct themselves in ways that are consistent with the television personalities of our day. They dress, talk, act, and have come to believe like their favorite television personalities. And the worse part is, they come to believe all the hype that is peddled by television preachers and radio ministries and give themselves into the poor house while all the while believing that inn doing so they are embracing God’s principals for prosperity and blessing. How does giving really work? Are these television preachers teaching and preaching the truth about giving, as God would have it done? My answer is one emphatic no.
The Scriptures specifically and clearly articulate the means whereby an individual is able to secure God’s blessing and economic favor. The only Biblical means of establishing one’s financial blessings lay within the consistent, Biblical discipline of tithing. Tithing is the practice of presenting the first tenth, or ten percent, of one’s earnings to the keeper of their temple, spiritual leader, or God-appointed shepherd. God designed tithing specifically as a means whereby God’s people would support the ministry; those men called into full time ministerial service. When you consider that during Old Testament times, only men of Levite decent were able to serve in such positions, you realize the logic in requiring every Hebrew to present one-tenth of his living to their priest, prophet, rabbi, or other spiritual leader/authority. There were twelve tribes and only one of those twelve was permitted to serve in the ministerial capacity. So the other eleven tribes would support the twelfth tribe (and don’t forget, many of the Levites had families for whom they too were responsible) in this way. (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:25-32; Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Hebrews 7:4-5) In the New Testament, this principal is carried over in the apostolic writings. (I Corinthians 9:14; Matthew 10:7-15; Luke 9:1-6; I Timothy 5:17-18) The New Testament writers made it clear that those who preached the Gospel were to be supported in their work by those whom they served in the Lord. The Lord Himself going on to say that if any city were not supportive or receptive to a given man’s message or ministry, he was to shake the dust off his clothes and move on to the next city. Thus we see that, according to the Lord, the true test of any communities’ receptiveness to the Gospel itself or an individual’s ministry lie within that community’s willingness to support that preacher in his work.
The tithe is said to belong to the Lord. It is His from the start, and our compliance with or failure to honor this law of God, presenting His portion in support of His ministry to the local spiritual elder responsible for our well-being and nurturing was seen as a direct act of obedience or disobedience. And very specific blessing is promised to those who honor their commitment in tithing, as well as very specific curses for those who fail to obey God’s mandate and in so doing are found guilty of the crime of “robbing God.”
“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Notice how that the Lord Himself rebukes Israel through the prophet Malachi for their failure to give His servants that portion of their living which He has deemed His own. He also mentions the fact that they have robbed Him in regard to offerings, which are separately from the tithe specifically meant to support the temple; it’s facilities, and related infrastructure. Offerings come in two forms: 1) Mandatory offerings. These offerings were actually made in the form of purchased animals or agricultural products, which were to be used for the purpose of sacrifice. 2) Free-will offerings. (Leviticus 23:37-38; Numbers 29:39) Free will offerings were entirely at the discretion of the giver. Giving out of their abundance, the people would give as they were moved by God within their hearts to give for various specific causes, like the building of the temple at Jerusalem.
The tithe was never meant to support the church. In fact, tithing was specifically designed by the Lord as a means of providing for His called, obedient, and anointed spiritual leadership. If a man is faithful in declaring the Word of the Lord and overseeing the many diverse aspects of the ministry, he is to be supported, according to God Himself, by the first tenth of his flock’s substance. A shepherd lives by the bounty of his flock. But he should not destroy the sheep in an effort to live a lofty lifestyle, but rather he should work to produce a healthy, vibrant, productive flock that naturally produces sufficient resources for his support.
Today we view tithing strictly in terms of cash; however, in Biblical times tithing would have included animals, produce, and even certain specialized services. (II Chronicles 31:5-6) Whereas in our modern world we do not have so tightly knit and self-supporting a community or society, we now simply give our tithe in monetary terms alone. Notice how that in Genesis 14:17-24, Abraham is said to have paid tithes on all his prosperity to the priest Melchizedek, a man whom David would speak of as both a predecessor to and later as a type or figure for the New Testament Christ. (Psalm 110:4)
Many fear that this rule could easily lead to abuse. And this, I must admit, is very true. If a church should grow to such a place where the average tithing income were exorbitantly more than any pastor or church faculty would require for living, would it not be possible that a minister would be made wealthy beyond reason? The answer, of course, is yes. But a man in business could just as easily grow his business to such a place where he would be very wealthy. Several of the Old-Testament prophets are in fact recorded as having been very wealthy, no doubt because of the tithe they received from those who constituted their following. The man of God, unlike his secular business-world counterpart, is responsible before the Lord for setting an example before God’s people. Some shepherds do abuse, or fleece, the flock of God. From these types of men we should walk away and not lend our support. (I Timothy 6:3-11; II Timothy 3:1-7)
I Tim. 4:12
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation (conduct), in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.”
If ever one wants to see just how real a man of God’s experience with the Lord genuinely is, let him look carefully at the example he sets in regard to these afore mentioned areas. The love or pursuit of money ought never to be a godly leader’s motivation or driving force. The man of God, though potentially wealthy because of the prosperity of his people, should set the example of moderation in all things, charity and generosity.
I Timothy 3:1-3
“This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.”
Some of the most wonderful men of God I have had the joy of knowing have been successful in their ministries and prosperous as a result. They have also been very giving and compassionate men who have reached out to help needy individuals in ways that I never could, seeing as they had far greater resources at their disposal. And I assure you; they put those resources to the best use, all the while avoiding the trappings of opulent or ostentatious living. Conversely I have also seen those men who in public put forth their best foot, but in private exhibited every symptom of being greedy, covetous, and money-hungry. I have preached in churches, at the invitation of a minister from that church, only to be later hit up for a “kick back” on the love offering I received while preaching there. Their logic, “Well, if I hadn’t invited you, you wouldn’t have received the offering. So, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This mentality is far more pervasive than one might imagine and I believe it is a stench in the nostrils of God. I would not want to be that preacher when standing before the Master’s great white throne, if he indeed makes it to that place of promise.
The Bible admonishes us to… “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust (desires) of the flesh, and the lust (desires) of the eyes, and the pride of life (pursuit of status and recognition), is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust (desires) thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
I John 2:15-17
To embrace the same tactics employed by secular society in an attempt to benefit financially is to love the world. We do not do something after any given model except that we love and embrace that model. So then, what do we know for certain regarding God’s provision and promise for our financial well-being and prosperity? We know that God has promised those who faithfully support His workers in their work for the Lord by way of tithing, blessing and prosperity. The notion of “sowing a seed” into any given ministry is extra-Biblical and untrue. Your only specific promise for blessing comes in the form of tithing in support of your personal, local ministry.
Offerings are of a completely different nature and come with a very different promise of blessing. Whereas God assures us of security and sustenance if we will honor Him by giving our tithe, giving provides no specific promises or time frames.
Luke 6:38 “Give and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
Giving is done according to one’s abundance and according to one’s faith. Many give out of shear desperation, hoping that the Lord will suddenly come through in some miraculous fashion and provide for their need. In many instances the will of God might better be that they use the limited resources they have at their immediate disposal to seek out a means whereby their need might be met on an ongoing basis. In other words, rather than sending your $20 to Benny Hinn or TBN, you might be better served to put that money in your gas tank and start seeking out employment. How many parents just hand over cash when their kids put themselves in a jam? Not many. Our heavenly Father also wants to encourage us to become responsible individuals with godly character. To do this, He cannot simply act as a genie every time we have a wish or urgent need. If He did, we would swiftly learn to rely upon Him and never upon ourselves. Now when those times come that we are entirely unable to make our way, the Lord will most surely step in and provide in miraculous fashion.
II Corinthians 9:6-7
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
The only guaranteed way to receive from the Lord is to ask. Not to give. One does not give, and in so doing obligate the Lord to give back. We give, Paul said, according to that which we have purposed in our own hearts. Not of necessity! Not out of need! But we have it to give and we chose to put it into the work of God rather than a dinner out or a night at the movies. Faith is exercised in asking, according to...
James 4:3 “Ye lust (desire), and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
The only obligation we have as saints before the Lord is to honor Him consistently and faithfully with our tithe, thus supporting His spiritual leadership so they may be free to do that which God has called them to do. All of the gas we burn getting to church each week and the cost of burning the light so we can read God’s Word at night are offerings. Giving above and beyond our required tithe and incidental offerings is strictly voluntary and should be done in faith, not out of desperation or fear, and with cheerfulness of heart.
All these media preachers who try to claim that you are somehow obligated to support their work is absurd. Some areas are saturated with a vast number of Christian programs. If folks in these areas were to even try and support each and every one of the ministries they may watch, they’d go bankrupt. Of this there is no need, dear child of God. Pay your tithe, support your pastor or spiritual leadership, and give according to your heart’s own dictates when you are able. In times of trouble, call upon the Lord. Remember to invite Him into your need as that is the only sure way to see that He gets involved in your dilemma. Giving to get is selfish at best, and God is not in the business of rearing selfish, dependent children. Paying your tithe requires discipline and faith. Nothing can exercise these two muscles better than the faithful practice of tithing.
God has given a very specific outline for the manner in which the work of God, at every level, is to be supported and funded. Tithing supports our own local minister in his work, and our free-will offerings support the church building, operating expenses, and supplies. If the pastor feels the need to bring in additional support staff, those that are ministerial in function (Assistant Pastors, Youth Pastors, Music Ministers, etc) ought to receive a salary from the tithe, as they are ministerial in function. Those individuals who are supportive in function, like secretaries, custodial, and maintenance should be salaried from the offerings collected. Visiting ministers are supported through one time free-will offerings taken at the time of their visit and ministry.
Television and mass media ministries fall then into an entirely different category. According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 10 and verses thirteen through fifteen… “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
So we see here that if the message is to go forth, by radio or television waves or by missionary, the messenger is to have a supportive home base, which sends him forth to preach the Gospel. To come into an individuals home, uninvited, by reason of radio or television and then have the nerve to suggest that this individual hearing your message is somehow now obligated to support your having done so is erroneous! Every great local church having a radio or television ministry does so without having to even suggest that the listener or viewer send in an offering as the local church is fully funding and supporting that minister’s media efforts to broadcast the Gospel. This is the way in which the Lord desires things be done.
Those who utilize gimmicks and games to generate offerings are an offense to the Lord and an embarrassment to His people. If God’s people would stop supporting these individuals and would return to a Biblical pattern of giving, many charlatans would be reduced to ruin and the credibility of the church would be reestablished in truth. Much like the reputation of the Roman Catholic institution, much of Christendom today is viewed as nothing more than a money making machine with motivations absolutely no different than those of men and women in the business world. Many cults, like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have been successful in recruiting new members strictly on their seemingly obvious claims that all of Christendom is corrupt and greedy. It would appear to be obviously so to any individual whose only exposure to the Christian church is what they see in the media, on television, or hear on the radio. If we as a church would return to Biblical giving, we could shut down these false prophets and preachers of lies by taking the teeth out of their most potent and seemingly obvious argument, which they use to discredit and disgrace Christendom as a whole.
For centuries the Roman organization has used all kinds of questionable tactics to generate funds, from the selling of indulgences to the church’s charging for everything from funerals to masses and prayers said for the dead. Today we see that the Gospel has been reduced to a business, whereby many are tidily profiting, but few in contrast are genuinely benefiting. The only individuals who can benefit from all the wonderful books, magazines, records, tapes, and CD’s being put out by various ministers and singing artists are those who can afford to purchase those materials. Men like Bill Gaither have made millions by marketing Gospel music to the hilt, all the while ignoring the fact that while music is a great blessing, it is nowhere in New Testament Christianity referred to as a ministry deserving of payment for services rendered. The five-fold New Testament ministry provides nowhere for musicians or singers. (I Corinthians 12:27-28; Ephesians 2:20; 4:11-13) This whole abuse of the Christian message, in print, word, or song is in direct contrast to the teachings of Jesus
Christ, who clearly said, “And as ye go, preach saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: FREELY YE HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to save only when it is preached in truth. No individual is to market this saving message for personal profit or for the benefit of his or her ministry. No individual is to ever be left behind, unable to partake of the blessings to be received, simply because they haven’t the financial resources to purchase a book, pamphlet, recording, etc. We must return to true Biblical giving. The church must once again become that spiritual powerhouse of a mystic, universal body of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; that it was originally designed to be. God’s people must refuse to allow the Gospel to be merchandised and themselves to be made merchandise of. (John 2:13-16; II Peter 2:1-3)
Unlike the Christian celebrities and big name ministries of our day, God’s true prophets and faithful ministers have been ostracized and even stoned. Even the apostle Paul was not generally liked, thus he continually had to defend his position as an apostle in his writings to the various churches. I may not be widely appreciated for what I am now writing, but I know it is the truth, and I know we must return to these precepts.