By Tim Sullivan


How is a work of God to be financed? The answer to this important question is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In the ninth chapter, Paul responded to certain accusations being aimed at him, accusations about the validity and propriety of his ministry.

1 Corinthians 9:1-2
1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

The work at Corinth alone was irrefutable proof of the validity of Paul’s ministry. Paul was the one sent by God to deliver the message.

vv 3-6:
Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink?
5 Have we not power to lead about sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

Now, if Paul had been guilty of gluttony, of alcoholism or lasciviousness; if he had been greedy of gain, he would certainly have deserved the censure of the people, let alone of God! But Paul was beyond reproach in all these matters. He was blameless. Neither did Paul and Barnabas invent work in order to avoid getting a “real” job. They were called to labor in the fields of the Lord. Would God do less for his workers than the farmer for the oxen of the field?

vv 7-11:
Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

Unfortunately, the believers in Corinth were too carnal to receive this message. Paul didn’t hide this fact from them either. His judgment of them was in truth.

1 Corinthians 3:1:
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

Paul knew that as far as these Corinthians were concerned, this message was falling on deaf ears. He determined he would not take one penny from them, lest they make further accusation against him.

1 Corinthians 9:12:
If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

Nevertheless, Paul continued to instruct them in the true way of the Lord.

vv 13-14:
Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

In two verses, Paul bridged the Old Testament with the New. Just as the Levites of old lived of the things of the Temple, “even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” It could not be more simple.

It was the collective duty of all Israel to serve God. Not only the Levites, but the entire nation of Israel was to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests.

Exodus 19:5-6:
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

The Levites had the specific duty of serving the Temple. Their sustenance came from the tithes of their brethren, the other tribes of Israel. Everyone shared in the work and the reward.

I find it amusing when certain organizations come out with their grandiose statements against tithing. “That’s Old Testament law! There is no Temple today!” Six months later, they have to start promoting some sort of “club membership” just to keep the electricity on. Of course they have to invent some way to finance their little club! God is not going to bless an organization that teaches people to forsake him!

Malachi 3:13-15:
Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD.
14 Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?

By the way, is there any truth to this idea that there is no Temple today? The Temple in the Old Testament was the picture of the Church today!

Ephesians 2:21-22:
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Those who teach that there is no profit to keep the ordinances of God will answer to him for their stout words. Such teachers are not only responsibly for teaching God’s people to rob Him, they also rob the people of the rewards, both temporal and eternal, of tithing.

The temporal reward of tithing is the curse that is broken and the blessing that is bestowed.

Malachi 3:8-9:
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

Because of Adam’s disobedience to God, the earth was cursed. God said, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake” (Gen. 3:17). The only way this curse is broken is by obedience to God. When you tithe, God himself rebukes the destroyer.

vv 10-11:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith 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, saith the LORD of hosts.

The immediate benefit of tithing is wonderful. But this is only a piece of the whole picture. Tithing reaps eternal rewards that far outweigh the temporal benefits. By your tithe, you share fully in the reward for the work you supported.

1 Samuel 30:24b:
... as his part (his reward) is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.

Matthew 10:41:
He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.

When Saul went before Samuel the prophet, he did not want to meet him empty-handed.

1 Samuel 9:7:
Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man?... there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we?

The Biblical picture of gifts given to a man of God represent the eternal crowns we will one day place upon the head of our King at his throne.

Revelation 4:10-11:
The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

We are rewarded on high for our labor in the Lord. This includes the work we support. That is the reason a minister of God promotes tithing – for the profit of the people of God and not for his own profit. Paul said it would be better for him to die than for any to think that he had written these things for his own benefit.

1 Corinthians 9:15:
But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

We all know this truth has been sorely misused, even as tithes have been misused. Paul warned of those who “serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:18). The truth, however, is above controversy. Imagine the shame of standing before the Lord with nothing to offer him but your sheepish grin. When we appear before the Lord, we do not want to be empty-handed.

1 John 2:28:
And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

As a minister of God, an adopted son of Levi, I am commanded to take tithes. It goes without saying that my ministry is only as good as my obedience to God.

Hebrews 7:5:
And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:

God has promised to supply all our need.

Philippians 4:19:
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

He does not, however, promise to supply everything we think we need.

James 4:3:
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

If my needs are not being supplied, then it is only because my needs are not of God. God bears no obligation to finance my endeavors. He will, however, finance the work he commissions. God will not withhold his hand of blessing from those who are doing his work. One way or another, their need will be supplied.

Can you see the freedom in this? Everything hinges upon obedience to God! So long as I minister the Word according to truth (which includes teaching the truth regarding the tithe) God will supply what I need to do his work.

The work of God is not held ransom by unbelief or selfishness. No one can tie God’s hands behind his back. At the same time, all the money in the world will not keep a rebellious ship from sinking.

Acts 5:38-39:
And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

With God as my witness, I do not teach about tithing because I want to raise money. I teach because it is the truth. It is my duty to preach the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:16-17:
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

It is my reward to preach the Gospel without charge.

v 18:
What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

The mandate from God is clear.

Matthew 10:8b:
... Freely ye have received, freely give.

When God’s people work together for the furtherance of the Gospel according to the precepts of His Word, everyone benefits. The curse is broken and the blessing is bestowed. The work of the ministry is financed honestly and without coercion. The Gospel of Christ is preached without charge and everyone shares in the reward. The work of God prospers.

Honestly, what price can be assigned to truth?

Proverbs 23:23:
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

If I am going to bother running this race at all, I am going to run that I may obtain. I want to obtain incorruptible crowns, so that when I see Jesus face to face, I can place them upon his head, a gift to honor my King.

1 Corinthians 9:23-25:
And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
24 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
25 Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

The way of God is always far superior to the ways of men. Let us walk in subjection to his will, serving him acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

Hebrews 12:28b:
... Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:



From the May 2000 issue of The Vine & Branches