- SHOULD ONLY LICENSED MINISTERS RECEIVE FINANCIAL SUPPORT?
- SHOULD THOSE MAKING A LIVING FROM THE GOSPEL EXPECT A HIGH, MODERATE OR MODEST STANDARD OF LIVING?
- HOW SHOULD ONE’S ABUNDANCE BE SPENT?
SCRIPTURE IS PROFITABLE
2 Tim. 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
This chapter investigates New Testament writings for clues as to how God intends the church to direct its finances. “Scripture…is profitable for doctrine.” The instructions and precedents of New Testament writings will help the student of the Word allocate his personal contributions in harmony to the will of God. Life should be a preparation for the day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body.” Hopefully this chapter will make that day more profitable.
2 Tim. 2:15: Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The student of the Word must learn to rightly divide Holy Writ. To understand and accurately handle. This learning is a lifetime process. The ability to rightly divide improves as relationship with Christ is enriched. Anyone can divide. But only the Christ-centered, Christ-conscious, Christ-loving student of the Word can rightly divide. Only such a one will be led by the Spirit who leads into all truth.
It must be understood that precedents have not been set into New testament writings to put limitations on God’s work, but rather to be used as guidelines to ensure that work is accomplished. There is no Scriptural precedent for the purchase of computers, but that doesn’t mean computers should not be purchased. Electronics can be used very effectively for the extension of God’s kingdom.
Precedents, however, must be honored. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught…by …our epistle” (2Thes. 2:15). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine.” The key is the phrase “rightly dividing.” The Holy Spirit helps the student divide rightly.
Mat. 9:37, 38: The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.
Laborers must be given provisions to live.
Mat. 10:10: the workman is worthy of his meat.
The laborer has earned his support. It is wrong to hold back this support from him.
1 Cor. 9:14: Even so has the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
“The Lord ordained” this policy. “They which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
1 Cor. 9:4: Have we not power to eat and drink?
They which preach the gospel” get just as hungry and thirsty as those who don’t. Have they “not power to[have the right to be supplied with] eat and drink?”
2 Tim. 2:4: No man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life;
The soldier of God should not have to be weighed down with the concerns of feeding himself and his family.
1 Cor. 9:6: Or I only and Barnabas, have not power to forbear working?
“They which preach the gospel,” seriously and full time, have the right to cease secular employment.
1 Cor. 9:7: Who goes to warfare any time at his charges? Who plants a vineyard, and eats not of the fruit thereof? Or who feeds a flock, and eats not of the milk of the flock?
An evangelist goes to war. An apostle plants a vineyard. A pastor feeds a flock. None should do so at his own expense.
1 Cor. 9:11: If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
It is the Christian’s duty to provide for those who care for him spiritually.
Acts 7:2: It is not reasonable that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
It is not reasonable that they who minister the gospel should have to “leave the Word of God, and serve tables.” Or to be tied to secular employment. The work of God must go on.
1 Tim. 5:17, 18: Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.
For the scripture says, You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. And, the laborer is worthy of his reward.
The System does not teach that elders in the local church should be recompensed for their services. Tradition decrees only the pastor should be financially supported. The above verses teach otherwise.
“They who labor in the word and doctrine” could imply many. They are whosoever. The System hints everyone but the pastor should be engaged in secular employment. Scripture indicates many in the early church were involved in the Lord’s work on a full time basis, and these received support from fellow believers.
It should be noted that no New Testament person was salaried. There is a vast difference between being supported and being salaried. Paul was supported but not salaried. The fact there is no New Testament precedent for a salaried Christian worker will impact only the student of the Word.
Acts 2:44, 45: all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Surely this exercise of selling “possessions and goods” was not merely to feed the poor. There was much money involved. Why would so many have need? Was there an unemployment problem? I think not. Many simply involved themselves in prayer and ministry to such an extent that the flow of income was seriously hindered. This is why so many “had need.”
Acts 4:34, 35: Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
Utilizing the same logic, was the sale of property for the purpose of meeting a need already existing? Had these people been living in poverty previous to conversion? Or was there many “among them that lacked” because they were active ministering the gospel rather than in gainful employment?
1 Cor. 9:14: Even so has the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
This is not limited to pastors. And it is not limited to the licensed. Some very good and productive men and women are without credentials, some out of choice. Christians can be shallow, giving preference to the man with the papers over the man with the anointing. There are many licensed incompetents who have no love for God. [There are of course many capable ministers who love God with all their hearts.] There are many without a license who are struggling to obey their calling with very little, if any, support from others. This is shameful. “They which preach the gospel” is anyone effectively ministering the Word of God, whether it be with or without man’s credentials.
STANDARD OF LIVING
1 Tim. 6:8: And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
In the early church most of the finances were invested in people. In the present-day church much is directed toward buildings and all the expense buildings entail. Before, many received little. Today, few receive comparatively much.
Paul wrote to Timothy, “And having food and raiment (clothing) let us be content.” Paul’s logic was simple: “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we carry nothing out” (1Tim. 6:7). Today the minister’s salary is often based on the world’s standard. Usually the man is not content with mere “food and raiment.”
Acts 3:6: Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none;
Peter had nothing to give [of monetary value] to the beggar “at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful.” He had no silver. He had no gold. Apparently, Peter was also content with “food and raiment.” He once said to Jesus, “We have forsaken all, and followed you” (Mat. 19:27).
Acts 2:45: And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
The word ‘need’ suggests food and clothing. Surely “possessions and goods” were not sold so people would be given enough money to purchase “possessions and goods.”
1 Cor. 9:14: they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
This is justice. Yet those who “live of the gospel” should be willing to choose a lifestyle similar to that of New Testament saints. They should set an example so others might choose a simpler way of life. This way there could be more funds directed toward the Great Commission. If ministers took less more could be supported.
Choosing a lesser standard of living could be a most difficult decision. North American Christian is presently steeped in a prosperity mentality. Spirituality is measured in dollar bills. Christians are more enthused to lay up treasures on earth than non-Christians. Externals are paramount. Fruit is secondary.
Mat. 3:4: John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
If resources is the measuring stick for spirituality, John was a farce. But Jesus said of this man, “Among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Mat. 11:11).
1 Cor. 4:16: be followers of me.
Paul knew his rights as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul could have lived quite comfortably by simply reminding the many Christians with whom he came in contact of his personal needs and his rights as an apostle. He wrote to the Galatians, “You would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me.” These same would gladly have emptied their purses for Paul. But Paul would often forgo his rights for the sake of the ministry. His purpose was to exemplify Christ and to move the gospel throughout the Gentile world. He set the example of selflessness. He said, “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel: (Acts 20:33). “Neither count I my life dear unto myself” (Acts 20:24).
Paul knew he had the “power to forbear [cease] working,” and yet this tentmaker worked with his own hands. And what he earned he shared. “These hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me” (Acts 20:34). Paul had one purpose, to “finish my course” (Acts 20:24).
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Be followers [imitators] of me.” The System is not the Christian’s standard – Scripture is. And Scripture gives Paul as an example.
The System favors the pastor. This blessing, however, is not from the hand of God. The accepted is not always the sanctioned. The pastor ought not to accept more than his fair share even though tradition encourages otherwise. An analogy might better make the point:
Paul and Barnabas often ministered together. Paul was “the chief speaker” (Acts 14:12). Let us suppose that Paul, as “the chief speaker”, was often blessed with contributions while Barnabas was overlooked. And Paul says to Barnabas, “Sorry, Barnabas, but that’s the way things are. This is God’s way of validating my ministry. Are you sure of your calling? Perhaps you should be looking for a job.”
The pastor is usually “the chief speaker.” While he is on a comfortable salary, the evangelist is often overlooked. And the pastor says to the evangelist, “Sorry, Sam, but that’s the way things are. This is God’s way of validating my ministry. Are you sure of your calling? Perhaps you should be looking for a job.”
Every healthy assembly has at least some with enough fire in their hearts to minister the gospel. Leadership should “observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality” (1Tim. 5:21).
2 Thes. 3:10-12: if any would not work, neither should he eat.
For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
Laziness should not be sponsored. Busybodies damage the ministry. Such should occupy themselves in gainful employment and “eat their own bread.”
These verses should not be applied against a true minister of the Word, one who ministers out of obedience. Some hide behind these verses [and others similar], wrongly dividing the Word to their own advantage. It helps them keep their money in their pocket and justify their hoarding.
The minister of the Word has a right. The Word declares it: “They which preach the Gospel should live of the gospel.”
SAINTS SHARING WITH SAINTS
Rom. 12:10,13: Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another;
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
It is God’s deep desire that His own love His own. That they be quick to share. That they be hospitable one to another.
Acts 20:35: you ought to support the weak,
The human tendency is to disdain the weak. To criticize. To exclude. The Christlike attitude is “to support the weak.” To edify. To embrace.
James 2:15, 16: If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?
“ I will pray about your need,” says one Christian to another. The world is equally loving, “I wish you luck.” Jesus must be grieved at this superficial love his children use to sugarcoat each other.
The tithe mentality has helped breed this shallow love that costs nothing. The tenth is an alternative to God’s Word. As the Jews were [supposedly] free from caring for their parents if they gave the money that it would cost to do so to God (Mat. chapter 15), so the Christian [supposedly] is no longer required to share his assets with fellow believers if he drops his tenth into Sunday’s collection plate. Tradition has been given eminence over the Word. Jesus asks such a person, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?”
Ephesians 4:32: be kind one to another,
Kindness costs. Sometimes it costs time. Sometimes it costs concern. Sometimes it costs dollars.
It is so easy not to notice another’s need. Christians should be searching for the brother in want. He is there, he simply has to be found. This takes a real love for the brethren and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said (Mat. 10:32), “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” Ministering to the servant is ministering to the Master. “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me” (Mat. 25:40).
Acts 20:34: you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
Paul shared what he had with those who were with him. Instead of imitating the wholesome attitude of sharing, Christians often pamper themselves in self-indulgence. “What I have is the fruit on my labor. It is mine. It is for me and my family. I earned it. I deserve to keep it.”
Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens,
At least two should carry one’s burden. The load is so much lighter that way. A heavy load can break one’s resolve. Burdens can steal the Word from the believer’s heart, replacing it with discouragement.
“Bear one another’s burdens.” By so doing, Christians help each other accomplish God’s purpose in their lives. It seems there is always enough; it is a matter of distribution. Selfishness gums up distribution, leaving some laden with unnecessary burdens.
James 2:20: But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
There is a perverse and heartless ‘faith’ message that has assaulted the body of Christ. It is a “faith without works”, a faith without generosity. This faith prods the believer to sow and to confess his way into wealth. The emphasis is on self and not others. The Word teaches equality, sharing, generosity. This callous faith message teaches, “every man for himself.”
Indeed prosperity is a fruit of faith. Poverty that is a product of unbelief has no integrity. The Word insists on faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebr. 11:6).
But the Word equally emphasizes generosity. Yes, finances should come forth but they should also flow past. The Christian calling is that of a river, not a dam. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth.” Paul said, “These hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.”
The world is divided into the rich and poor. Shamefully, the local assembly is likewise divided. The wealthy associate with the wealthy, the poor with the poor. Such can be expected of the world, but such division should not be found among the saints.
When Jesus “saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Jesus “was moved with compassion.” The student of the Word should be motivated by compassion and not by opportunities to reap a reward. The student of the Word should ‘see’ [perceive, feel the anguish of] “the multitudes.” The student of the Word should reap to sow, not sow to reap.
Luke 3:11: He that has two coats, let him impart to him that has none; and he that has meat, let him do likewise.
John the Baptist preached these words, so opposite from some faith-prosperity messages that say, “He that has two coats, keep them both for yourself so you may be an example to those of less faith, and your abundance may be a witness to the goodness of God. And he that has meat, let him do likewise.”
I want to make it clear to the student of the Word I am not opposing faith, prosperity, confession, sowing-and-reaping, or any other Biblical principle. I do protest, however, the lack of compassion, emphasis of self, bad motives, and hoarding running parallel to these teachings. It is true that works without faith is an impossibility, but it is likewise true that “faith without [good] works is dead [worthless].” The abundance of one is to meet the needs of others.
2 Cor. 8:12-15: if there first be a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man has, and not according to that he has not.
For I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened:
But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance also may be a supply for their want: that there be an equality:
As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over, and he that had gathered little had no lack.
These verses are rarely quoted. They are a trespass against present-day mentality. Sam and Mary Christian do not want to hear about equality while making plans for their third trip to the Bermudas. It would be foolishness for Pastor Peter Practical to speak of equality; most in the congregation have incomes less than his own. Brian Broker is perpetually fueled by prosperity teaching tapes and has little tolerance for such a concept. I.M. Rich’s idea of being a good steward is limited to securing the highest possible return on his investments. Mrs. Rich takes pleasure in wrapping her wealth around her fingers and hanging it from her ears and around her neck as this is her way of testifying the goodness of God.
“Your abundance may be a supply for their want.” This is the Christian way. To share. To be generous. To give until it hurts. Christians are soldiers at war. What soldier would not share his bread with his companions?
Most spend their abundance on themselves. They accumulate things. Expensive things. Things that don’t matter. Things that must be oiled and repaired and stored.
Rom. 12:10, 13: Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another;
Distributing to the necessity of the saints; given to hospitality.
The world should see Christians loving Christians. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” (Jn. 13:35). The church ought not operate under the same principles as the world. The world says, “Me first.” The church should say, “Your needs before mine.”
Galatians 5:13: by love serve one another.
Jesus set the example when “he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” He said, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (Jn. 13:14,15).
Galatians 6:10: As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
Nothing less is acceptable to Jesus.
1 John 3:16-18, 4:7-11:
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But whoso has this world’s goods, and sees his brother has need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;
And every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.
He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Oh student of the Word, “If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
Gal. 2:9, 10: And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
The early apostles did not overlook the poor. The “pillars” of the faith did not want Paul and Barnabas preaching the love of Christ without demonstrating the love of Christ. This Paul “was [already] forward [zealous] to do.” The poor were in their hearts because the poor were in their Master’s heart. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” was evident in their lives. Through them the “light of the world” penetrated the darkness of the world. Their concern for the poor brought credibility to their gospel.
John 12:8: the poor always you have with you:
The poor are always here. They always have been. They accompany the wealthy from generation to generation. They are each an opportunity to “lend unto the Lord,” for Proverbs 19:17 declares, “He that has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord.”
Some of the poor are poor because of unfavorable circumstances. Some because of laziness. Some have been crushed by tragedies and have lost all incentive. Others have drank or gambled their way into brokenness. The wealthy have a tendency to play judge, cautious to give only to the poor found blameless.
It is better to be poor and to give little than to be rich and give little. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Job declared to God, “Did I not weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the poor? If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless has not eaten thereof; if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; then let my arm fall from my shoulder blade, and my arm be broken from the bone.”
Psalm 41:1-3: Blessed is he that considers the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.
The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; And he shall be blessed unto the earth: and you will not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: you will make all his bed in his sickness.
“He that has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord; and that which he has given will he pay him again” (Prov. 19:17). How will God repay? The above verses are promises revealing some ways God repays those who give to the poor. Such a person will be delivered when he himself is “in time of trouble.” “The Lord will preserve [protect] him.” The Lord will keep him alive. The Lord will keep such a one from falling into the hands of his enemies. If he should take sick the Lord will raise him up.
A wise man builds his house upon the Rock of God’s sayings. A wise man “considers the poor.”
1 Tim. 5:16: If any man or woman that believes has widows, let him relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
The Christian is to care for widows of their own families and household. If a widow has no such person to care for her, and if she is in need, the responsibility falls upon the local church to meet those needs.
It is said over 90% of all licensed ministers serve less than 10% of the world’s population. Some nations have been combed many times with the gospel of Christ while others have been barely touched. There are men and women willing to go, but The System is not sympathetic. The apostle Paul “strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named.” If he were alive today he would be preaching to that part of the world never having heard the name Jesus. More Christians should be likewise minded and direct the bulk of their contributions to the 90% who are ministered by the 10%.
The Christian’s mandate is to give, to share what he has with those who have less. Everyone is responsible for the Great Commission. Financing the laborer going forth is financing the Great Commission. Rewards will be forthcoming.
How much should one give? How much should one keep? That is the subject of the next chapter.