There can be a debate about whether or not the tithe is still required. Separately, one can ask, “If we pay a tithe, do we have to pay it to the church?” There are arguments on both sides. We could have these debates, and if done based on scripture, they could be significant discussions. If done based on our emotions or the tradition of men, they have significantly less value.
Perhaps the more significant question is not “Am I required to tithe to those serving God?”, but rather “Is it pleasing to God?” We can also explore the perspective of one who would be accepting such donations.
I am going to start by focusing on scripture from Paul in 2 Corinthians 11.
7Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? 8I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; 9and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so.
I do not claim this is authoritative for every situation, but rather very interesting to note. Paul accepted money when it was offered, but did not require it or pressure people to give to him just because he was preaching the gospel to them. Those that gave to Paul arguably were not giving to the “church” as we think of it today. That would have been tithing to the Levites at this time. If they had only tithed to the Levites, Paul would not have received financial support. Neither would any of Jesus’ disciples or Jesus Himself in His earthly ministry.
It is probably worth highlighting at this time that Jesus accepted donations from supporters. We know from the biblical record of the money found in the mouth of a fish and the miracles of the loaves and fishes that Jesus could have simply made His own money. He set an example by accepting support from others. That said, I have not found any scripture where He passed around a collection plate during His teaching and asked for money either. He did not appear to make it a focus of His ministry to ask for donations.
1Soon afterward, Jesus began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, 2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.
If we look back to the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible), we can see how the LORD provided for the Levites. He did not give directly to them an inheritance as He did for other tribes. He instructed others to provide for them.
Cities for the Levites
1Now the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, 2“Command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession cities to live in; and you shall give to the Levites pasture lands around the cities. 3“The cities shall be theirs to live in; and their pasture lands shall be for their cattle and for their herds and for all their beasts.
4“The pasture lands of the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits around. 5“You shall also measure outside the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits, with the city in the center. This shall become theirs as pasture lands for the cities.
I believe God is pleased when His people choose to support those He calls into full-time ministry. Some of us will serve Him in business roles (e.g. Daniel, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, many of the people were farmers, etc.). However, some will be missionaries and pastors and Biblical teachers and these may need the support of the community of believers as a means for God to provide for them.
I would encourage these individuals to also consider the example of Paul and work in such a way as not to be a burden to others. They can provide sometimes for their own needs or be modest in what they spend. One receiving donations from hard-working people should not be flying in private jets unless they earned that money in another way aside from donations.
Keep in mind that Moses turned away donations that were made when they were in excess of what was required. It was not his goal to get personal wealth from donations from the people.
3They received from Moses every [g]contribution which the sons of Israel had brought to perform [h]the work [i]in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him [j]voluntary offerings every morning. 4And all the [k]skillful people who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from [l]the work which they were performing, 5and they said to [m]Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the [n] construction work which the LORD commanded us to [o]perform.” 6So Moses issued a command, and circulated a [p]proclamation throughout the camp, saying, “No man or woman is to perform work any longer for the [q]contributions of the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing any more. 7For the [r]material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it.
Do not let your own selfishness or greed stop you from making provision for those whom He calls to His service. Give joyfully. Give generously. However, I also encourage you to give wisely. Do not assume your job is to simply write a big check to the local church. That is not a very active way to steward what He has provided you. Remember, it all belongs to Him… He has just entrusted some of His things to us to manage and enjoy.
Remember that all you have belongs to God. Manage your money in God’s way and use it for His glory rather than your own. Visit GrowGodsMoney.org .