It's undeniable the main motivation of many religious charlatans out there seems to be personal profit. This tends to put people off supporting worthy religious causes. Yet the work of the Church of God does have monetary needs. And the need for that definitely did not end with the conclusion of the apostolic era.
Jesus Christ instructed His apostles and in principle all of His followers who would come afterwards, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15, New International Version). And He further commissioned them, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20, emphasis added throughout).
So the Church of God today still has an ongoing mission to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world and help those who respond become Christ's disciples. This is a big job, and God has instituted the method of financing it, with many participating. That method is tithing, the setting aside of a tenth of our income to Him.
Ongoing need for preaching the gospel
Jesus did not begin His Church in the first century only to see it perish in the second or thereafter. Christ knew that in the main His apostles would be martyred, but He also knew that their teaching would continue down through the centuries. In prayer the night before His death, Jesus said, "I do not pray for these alone [His disciples at that time], but also for those who will believe in Me through their word" (John 17:20).
Just before being martyred, the apostle Peter promised in his last letter, "Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease" (2 Peter 1:15). The apostolic teachings and writings have been preserved for us down through the ages in the pages of the New Testament.
God the Father sent His Son into the world with a message of hope and eternal salvation. Christ gave the commission to share that message directly to His specially chosen 12 apostles. They preached the gospel of the Kingdom, established Church congregations and ordained elders and deacons who would continue to spread the good news and serve God's people. There would always be an ongoing need for teachers and pastors to proclaim the good news of God's coming Kingdom and spiritually guide and care for those who come into the fellowship of the Church.
Although few in numbers, the Church that Jesus built is very much alive today, actively preaching and publishing the true gospel (to learn more, read our free Bible study aid The Church Jesus Built). God continues to add members to the present Church as He calls them to salvation (see John 6:44, John 6:65; Acts 2:39, Acts 2:47), whether through preaching on television, on the Internet, in printed publications or in person.
Shining God's light and reaping His harvest
Satan the devil has filled this world with darkness of every conceivable kind. He is "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4). The apostle Paul labeled our time "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). The devil has influenced today's mass media to promote evil or sin—the contravening of God's laws— throughout the world.
As a whole our present generation has virtually lost touch with God and, as a tragic consequence, gone badly awry. In ancient times our Creator personally lamented the apostasy of the nation of Judah, exclaiming, "My people have forgotten Me days without number" (Jeremiah 2:32). How true today!
Yet Christ told His disciples: "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14, Matthew 5:16). God's Church today must be visible. It also must take God's precious gospel message to the nations. The apostle Paul wrote, "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16). The same holds true today.
After the apostles had been chosen and personally taught by Christ, He began to focus their attention on God's spiritual harvest of people to be saved: "Behold I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest. And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life" (John 4:35-36).
However, the apostles were not to do this alone. Educated and qualified elders would be urgently required to help reap this spiritual harvest in the midst of a hostile world. Jesus plainly instructed: "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest [God the Father] to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38).
"The work to which I have called them"
In the ancient Syrian city of Antioch (Turkish Antakya today) there were a number of prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1). God instructed them through His Spirit:
"As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul [later Paul] for the work to which I have called them.' Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away" (Acts 13:2-3).
With God's full blessing, Paul and Barnabas then began to spread the gospel to various cities on their travels (Acts 13:6, Acts 13:14, Acts 13:51; Acts 14:6-7, etc.). In fact the first-century apostles and evangelists (preachers of the gospel) took the good news to the known civilized world.
This evangelistic mission was sometimes called "the work" (Acts 13:2; Acts 15:38). Today we still refer to it this way or as God's work.
The work God entrusted to Christ's disciples in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago must go on—and it still must be financed today. What is God's method for this?
The law of tithing
Is the financial law God revealed long before in the Old Testament no longer applicable today, as many contend? Did Jesus cancel tithing—the giving of a tenth of one's income over to God?
Must those involved in preaching the gospel, teaching those whom God calls and pastoring congregations of God's people, rely solely on individually determined freewill offerings, as important and helpful as they are? The widow's mite, a powerful example of giving such an offering (Luke 21:1-4), should humble us all, and God and His elders remain very grateful for it and for all freewill offerings.
Yet our Creator Himself revealed tithing as part of His pre-Mosaic teaching to the ancient patriarchs (Genesis 14:18-20; Genesis 28:20-22).
This financial practice continued when the divine laws were codified for ancient Israel (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:24, Numbers 18:26). And clearly tithing remained in full force and effect at the end of the Old Testament period (2 Chronicles 31:11-12; Nehemiah 10:38; Malachi 3:8-10).
God had instructed Moses to write these statutes and laws down in the opening books of the Bible. King David summed it up: "He made known His ways to Moses" (Psalm 103:7). And the last chapter in the last book of the Old Testament as arranged in most Bibles tells us, "Remember the law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb [Mt. Sinai] for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments" (Malachi 4:4).
Tithing in the New Testament
Sadly, most people who identify themselves as Christians assume that Jesus Christ abandoned or nullified many Old Testament teachings. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus Himself clearly stated: "Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill [or fill to the full]. For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle [the smallest marks in Hebrew writing] will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of these least commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19).
Jesus also stated, "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17).
Although Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day for neglecting the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, faith and love—He still directly supported tithing (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42). Christ also told the Pharisees to "render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). The tithe belongs to our Creator. It is not ours.
But of course you cannot travel to heaven through space and give your tithes directly to God. He has always had His representatives on this earth to receive them. First it was Melchizedek, to whom Abraham paid tithes. (This priest-king was actually the preexistent Christ, as explained in our Bible study aid Who Is God?) Then it was the Levitical priesthood. And now in this age tithing is again to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-17)—that is, to the High Priest Jesus Christ through His earthly representatives in the Church of God.
The apostle Paul clearly taught the application of the tithing system today. In 1 Corinthians 9:13, he refers directly to the tithing system: "Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?" (NIV). The next verse continues, "In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel" (NIV). Paul shows that the same tithing system continues for God's work today and that it was commanded by Jesus Christ.
The carrying out of God's work today
In carrying out the commission Jesus gave to proclaim the gospel and care for His people, the United Church of God publishes and freely distributes this magazine The Good News, the Bible Study Course, more than 30 booklets, and many reprint articles. The television program Beyond Today proclaims the gospel on many stations in America, Australia and Canada. We also maintain websites on the Internet, provide elders who teach and care for various Church congregations throughout the world and maintain summer camps for our youth. Some of our elders answer biblical questions from our readers.
All of these activities cost a lot of money. Church members, coworkers and donors meet these expenses as God enables them. We cannot carry out this work without their help, and we deeply appreciate their tithes and donations. They are fellow-workers helping to proclaim Christ's gospel.
Of course, we could do a lot more if we had a substantial increase in funds. We regularly ask God to lay it on the hearts of our readers to contribute depending on their personal circumstances. Ultimately this is a work of faith, as we believe collectively with Paul that "God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8).
God does bless people who give generously (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), and He does not neglect the tithe payer (Malachi 3:8-10). Blessings may not immediately appear, but in due time they will come if we continue to obey God. Over the years many have shared their grateful testimony with us in this regard.
A word of qualification: We do not expect people to give what they don't have. Some may have to survive on small pensions. Tithing is for people who earn money. Freewill offerings may come from anyone, but necessary personal and family obligations must not be neglected.
Above all, the heartfelt prayers of those who cannot contribute financially—and of those who can—are deeply appreciated. "The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results" (James 5:16, New Living Translation).
At the end of the day, Jesus said that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). That great principle of God helps keep the Church alive and functioning today!