How Is the Work of the Church Supported?

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How Is the Work of the Church Supported?

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Jesus Christ assigned His Church the work of proclaiming the gospel to the world and of making disciples and caring for those God calls (Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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; Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
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). This is a massive undertaking. Yet, at any one time, God calls only a “little flock” of people into the Church to accomplish this immense task (Luke 12:32 Luke 12:32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
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).

Jesus instructed His disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 Matthew 10:8Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give.
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). God’s whole way of life is a way of giving and serving. So it comes as no surprise that Jesus told His disciples to share the gospel without charge. Today God’s truth continues to go out free of charge to those who request it. Let’s look at the biblical example for financing the work of preaching and publishing the good news.

The Bible introduces God’s financial support system through the example of the patriarch Abraham. But, before we examine Abraham’s example, we need to consider the significance of God’s role as the Creator of heaven and earth. He created everything, including all the physical resources He allows us to use during our lifetimes. He tells us that everything still belongs to Him (Psalms 24:1 Psalms 24:1The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
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; Haggai 2:8 Haggai 2:8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, said the LORD of hosts.
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). Therefore He reserves the right to tell us how to use what He has created.

God revealed His way of life to Abraham. He says of him, “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Genesis 26:5 Genesis 26:5Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
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). Abraham also knew that all physical blessings are a gift from God. As “the father of all those who believe” (Romans 4:11 Romans 4:11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed to them also:
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), Abraham set us the example of tithing—giving one tenth of the blessings He received from God to God’s priest (Genesis 14:17-20 Genesis 14:17-20 17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20 And blessed be the most high God, which has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
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; Hebrews 7:1-4 Hebrews 7:1-4 1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like to the Son of God; stays a priest continually. 4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
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)—as part of his partnership with God.

Abraham passed this practice on to his descendants. His grandson Jacob vowed, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God … and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You ” (Genesis 28:20-22 Genesis 28:20-22 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that you shall give me I will surely give the tenth to you.
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, emphasis added throughout).

When some of Abraham’s descendants became the nation of ancient Israel, after their deliverance from Egyptian bondage God gave His tithe to the tribe of Levi as payment for the Levites’ services to Him. “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting … For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance’ ” (Numbers 18:21-24 Numbers 18:21-24 21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. 22 Neither must the children of Israel from now on come near the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. 24 But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said to them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
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).

This support provided the means for Israel to worship God and be taught according to His will. The book of Hebrews describes a change in administration because the New Testament Church—the spiritual temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 3:16Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
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; Ephesians 2:19-22 Ephesians 2:19-22 19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together grows to an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
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)—replaced the physical temple in importance. The responsibility for teaching God’s truth now falls on the New Testament Church. In the first century the followers of the gospel message gave monetary and other aid to Jesus, to His disciples and, later, to other laborers in the Church to support them in doing the work Christ had given His Church to do. Examples of such giving, and principles relating to it, are found in New Testament passages such as Luke 8:3 Luke 8:3And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered to him of their substance.
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; Luke 10:7-8 Luke 10:7-8 7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. 8 And into whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:
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; 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 7 Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that you might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. 9 And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brothers which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so will I keep myself.
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; and Philippians 4:14-18 Philippians 4:14-18 14 Notwithstanding you have well done, that you did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now you Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.
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.

Did Jesus uphold the biblical practice of tithing? He did indeed! Notice His comments to the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
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).

The Pharisees were careful to accurately tithe even the smallest of spices, but they often neglected other “weightier” principles of the law. Jesus told them they should have done both. Neither tithing nor such weightier matters as “justice and mercy and faith” should be neglected.

Jesus and His apostles taught that a giving attitude should be a major part of the Christian way of life. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38 Luke 6:38Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete with it shall be measured to you again.
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Neglecting to tithe is compared to robbery—robbing God (Malachi 3:8-12 Malachi 3:8-12 8 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, said the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11 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, said the LORD of hosts. 12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for you shall be a delightsome land, said the LORD of hosts.
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). We can rest assured that He has promised to supply the needs of those who sincerely seek first His Kingdom and become willing and enthusiastic partners with Him in the work of preaching the gospel (Matthew 6:31-34 Matthew 6:31-34 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
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; 2 Corinthians 9:8 2 Corinthians 9:8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
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).

Christ has commissioned His Church to carry on the work He started. God’s tithe funds that effort. As Christians, we are called to be coworkers with Christ.

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9 1 Corinthians 3:9For we are laborers together with God: you are God’s husbandry, you are God’s building.
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). “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 1:5-8 3 John 1:5-8 5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do to the brothers, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of your charity before the church: whom if you bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, you shall do well: 7 Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow helpers to the truth.
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).

What an awesome gift and responsibility, to be a fellow worker, a coworker with God in preaching the gospel around the world! (To better understand the scriptural instruction about tithing, request your free copy of What Does the Bible Teach About Tithing? )