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Book on Tithing

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Bringing centuries-long practices and traditions

to the light of the Scripture

Anastasios Kioulachoglou


Unless otherwise noted, Bible quotations are taken from the New

King James Version of the Bible. Copyright, 1982, by Thomas Nelson.

Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Bible quotations marked KJV are taken from the Holy Bible, King

James Version.

Bible quotations marked ESV are taken from The Holy Bible, English

Standard Version, Copyright 2001 by Crossway bibles, a publishing

ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights


Bible quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New

International Version. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International

Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.


To all those that have struggled with the questions addressed in this

book and searched for answers without compromising.


Table of contents

Preface……………………………………………………………………………………….. 6

1. Tithing, Giving and the New Testament: An Introduction …………… 8

2. Tithing: is it for today? ……………………………………………………………. 9

3. New Testament Giving – 2 Corinthians 8 and 9………………………… 19

4. New Testament Giving – 1 Corinthians 16………………………………… 39

5. New Testament Giving – Acts 2 and 4 …………………………………….. 41

6. Supporting church staff salaries – what the Word says and what it

doesn’t ……………………………………………………………………………………. 44

7. New Testament Giving – Supporting missionaries ………………….. 58

8. New Testament Giving – Supporting the widows of the church … 61

9. Were Abraham and Jacob tithers? ………………………………………… 69

10. 2 Corinthians 11:8-9: what was Paul receiving while in Corinth?. 74

11. Conclusion and what to do with the information in this book ….. 78



Many thanks to Andrea and Tammy for proof reading this study. I’m

not a native English speaker and though, by the grace of God, I have

published a lot of material in my magazine in the English language, I’m

also sure there are grammatical errors there. With the help of these two

ladies, these are hopefully fewer in this study. If you still find some,

please bear with me.



I became a Christian in early 1991 in a home fellowship in

Thessalonica, Greece. The fellowship very strongly emphasized the Bible

as the infallible and inerrant Word of God and had an equally good

balanced view on the Holy Spirit. There I heard for the first time that to

be saved it was enough to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and God

raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). There I heard about salvation

by grace, about becoming a child of God, about asking God freely as my

Father and receiving from Him. The law was no longer valid, I learned.

Christ had fulfilled it all. It was such a great time and such a great

fellowship. I was born again and believe me it felt like this! Then on one

of the shelves of the fellowship leader and dear friend Dimitris - who

was spending, with love, all the time needed to answer the dozens of

questions I had - I saw a small book speaking about the “tithe”. I was

wondering what was this. The word “tithe” was unknown to me and I

hadn’t seen it in my reading of the New Testament (now I was soaking

the Word like a sponge, reading and taking in, several chapters per day).

I borrowed the book and I started reading. I was startled to find that it

was full of Old Testament quotations from the law, supporting that the

tithe was still valid and that as a Christian I should give 10% of my

income (barely enough at that time to pay my rent and food) to church

organizations. I felt pretty guilty after reading the book and this was the

first time I felt so in the few months I was a believer. Though we did not

apply tithing in our little fellowship (Dimitris, the leader, despite all the

time that he was spending with us, young believers, he was also a full

time worker plus a student, earning his living with hard work) the

question remained. Here was this organization that appeared to have a

clear understanding of the Word of God and yet they were preaching

about the Old Testament principle of tithing. But, I thought, if tithing

was still valid why was the sacrificing of bulls was not valid too? Were

not both parts of the same law? I put the matter aside but the questions


remained. Since then I changed locations and visited various churches.

What I invariably found is that though these churches were in many

things different, they had at least one thing in common: they were

pointing out the tithing or believed in the law of tithing. The reference to

the tithe was less frequent or not at all (though it was the acceptable

principle) in big or medium size congregations but very frequent, almost

weekly, in small congregations. Apart from that, though our fellowship

in Greece didn’t have a budget, many of these churches had budgets that

were hundreds of thousand dollars strong! Enormous amounts.

However, most of these budgeted amounts were for staff salaries,

building expenses and bills. This also didn’t sit well! Didn’t the New

Testament say to help the poor? Weren’t we supposed to support

missionaries that spread the Word? And yet out of these enormous

budgeted amounts, only a meager portion was for missions and almost

no portion at all for the poor. That was a second hit. Then early in 2008,

I got a question from a reader of my online magazine, the Journal of

Biblical Accuracy (, concerning this very matter, the

matter of tithing. I set out then to see this matter from the perspective of

the Word of God and settle this, years old for me, question. This book

contains the results of this study. It is done to throw light from the Word

of God concerning the validity of tithing and what the New Testament

says about giving. How should we give and what were the first century

churches supporting with their contributions? I’m fully aware that this

book is going to be considered controversial by some. But I also hope

that it is going to be liberating for some others that have struggled with

the same questions as me concerning this matter. It is to them that I

would like to devote this study.



Tithing, giving and the New Testament: An Introduction

Tithing is a hot topic, maybe partly because whatever has to do with

money has the potential of becoming a hot topic. I would like to take the

opportunity to review this topic together with the topic of giving in

general. Is tithing for today? Is tithing valid in the New Testament era,

in the age of grace in which we live, or is it obsolete? What does the New

Testament say about giving? Starting from the first question, by looking

at what is taught today from the pulpit of most of the churches one

could easily conclude that tithing is a principle to be applied today. This

is something so much established in the ecclesiastical order and

thinking that we no longer hear about gifts and givers but about tithe

and tithers.

As much established as this view may seem, there is, in the minds of

many ordinary believers, a discrepancy between what they often hear

from the pulpit and what they see in the New Testament. In the New

Testament there is simply nothing mentioned about tithing, as there is

nothing mentioned about sacrificing bulls or following other similar Old

Testament laws and practices. At least nothing is mentioned in the sense

of keeping and going along with it. What the New Testament speaks

about is givers, free gifts and support of the poor saints through these

voluntary and happily given gifts. But let’s look at these matters in more




Tithing: is it for today?

Defining the tithing, as the term is used today, I will just state here

what I, as a normal believer, have perceived is the view in the 20 years

that I have been a Christian. According to this view, tithing is to give 10

% of your income (pre-tax or post-tax – opinions are different) to the

church organization with which you are affiliated (the church fellowship

that you probably attend on Sundays). This money is then used to

support the church budget (rent, bills, staff salaries, missions, etc). By

many, not to tithe is considered a sin. Many times you will hear people

reciting Malachi 3:8-12 that says:

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In

what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are

cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole

nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may

be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of

hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour

out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to

receive it. "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that

he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine

fail to bear fruit for you in the field," says the Lord of hosts;

And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful

land," says the Lord of hosts.”

Many use these verses to say that not bringing the “tithes and

offerings” to the house of God (which they take it to mean the local

church building) is a sin and withholds people from their “blessings”.

The problem of using the above passage, as well as other similar Old


Testament passages, to support the application of tithing is that this

passage and the law that is behind it belong to the Old Testament. The

Old Testament is wonderful and is part of the Holy Scriptures that God

inspired. As Paul says in Romans 15:3-4

“For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "

The reproaches of them that reproached you fell on me." For

whatever things were written before were written for

our learning, that we through the patience and comfort

of the Scriptures might have hope.

Whatever is written in the Scripture has been written for our learning.

We can learn by reading Deuteronomy. We can learn by reading Malachi

or any other Old Testament book. However, though all was written for

our learning, not all is written for our application. The Old Testament is

addressed to Jews that were living under the law. Jesus Christ had not

yet come. The price for the atonement of our sins had not yet been paid.

The high priest had not yet arrived. As Paul says in Galatians 3:23-26:

“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the

law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we

might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are

no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through

faith in Christ Jesus.”

There was the time before the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord.

This was the time of the law. And there is the time after the sacrifice and

resurrection of the Lord. This is the time that we live in now. There are

vast differences between these two periods, for the simple reason that

what was valid in the first period, the law, is no longer valid in the


second period. And what is valid in the second period - grace and being

children of God through faith in Jesus Christ - was not available in the

first period. Can we learn from what was valid in the first period?

Definitely we can. Does it apply to us? Not necessarily. You can read the

Psalms and the Proverbs and get guidance for your life today. It is God’s

eternal wisdom that crosses time. On the other hand, you can go to lawspecific

passages, such as the passages about tithing, or the passages

about the sacrificing of bulls or the celebrations they had in Israel.

Though you can learn from these passages, they are not directly

applicable to us. The same is valid for all that refers to Mosaic Law, for

the simple reason that this law was abolished with Christ’s sacrifice. It is

like reading the law code of laws that are no longer valid. You can learn

from them but they are not to be applied, for they are obsolete. As

Colossians 2:13-14 says:

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision

of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having

forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the

handwriting of requirements that was against us,

which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of

the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

and again Ephesians 2:14-15:

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has

broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished

in His flesh the enmity, the law of commandments

contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new

man from the two, thus making peace,”


Now if the law is abolished, are we going to apply it again? We can

learn from it, but it is no longer a law that is for our application. It is

abolished! And tithing is part of this law too. Tithing is a word that

occurs a lot in such books of the law as Leviticus, Numbers and

Deuteronomy. Here are some references:

Leviticus 27:30-34

“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of

the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. If a man

wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to

it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever

passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. He

shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange

it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one

exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.' These

are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses

for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.”

Notice in the last verse that tithing is part of the commandments, part

of the law that God gave to Moses for the children of Israel on mount

Sinai. This was the law that was abolished by the sacrifice of Christ. And

tithing, being part of this law, was given not for general application but

for the children of Israel, till its cancellation by the sacrifice and

resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here are some more passages

about tithing:

Numbers 18:20-32

“Then the Lord said to Aaron: "You shall have no inheritance in

their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am

your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.

"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. Hereafter the children of

Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they

bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the

tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall

be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among

the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 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.' Then the Lord spoke to

Moses, saying, "Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them:

'When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I

have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall

offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe.

And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it

were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the

winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord

from all your tithes which you receive from the children of

Israel, and you shall give the Lord's heave offering from it to

Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave

offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the

consecrated part of them.' Therefore you shall say to them:

'When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be

accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor

and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place,

you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in

the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of

it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not

profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.”


The passage of Leviticus we read previously dealt with the

commandment to the children of Israel to tithe. Where were these tithes

supposed to go and for what would they be used ? This is answered by

the above passage of Numbers: As verse 21 told us:

Numbers 18:21

“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.”

The tithe was to go to the children of Levi, the Levites, that were

making up the priest tribe of Israel, the 1/12 of it. It was to be their

reward for the service of the tabernacle and later of the temple.

Numbers 18:31 says it clearly: “for it is your reward for your service in

the tabernacle of the congregation”. It was to be counted by them as “the

grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress.” In fact

the Levites had to give their own tithe from this. This was given to Aaron

and was to be the Lord’s heave offering. Many take the above passage

and they wrongly try to apply it in the New Testament era, in our age,

saying that we should continue to tithe to pay the salaries of the priests,

pastors and the clergy in general. This view is distorted because in the

New Testament there is simply no clergy and priests. As Peter and John

tell us, speaking to us, the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ:

I Peter 2:5

“you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a

holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to

God through Jesus Christ.”


I Peter 2:9

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy

nation, His own special people”

Revelation 1:5-6

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own

blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God

and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.


Also as the Lord said speaking to the disciples:

Matthew 23:8-12

“But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher,

the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on

earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the

Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who

humbles himself will be exalted.”

These passages do not refer to some special class of people but to all

believers. All believers are made priests by the Lord Jesus Christ to His

God and Father. Does this mean now that we should not financially

support believers that move for example from town to town establishing

churches and serving the Lord as missionaries ? It does not mean this

and we will see it later in this study. What it means is that support

and gifts in the New Testament are no longer regulated by the

law of the tithe. Instead there are other principles in place for the

New Testament gifts and giving and we will see these as we move on in

this study. This part of the study focuses on what the Bible does NOT


say for us concerning giving –even though people may say it. As we

move on, we will focus on what the Bible does say for us.

Back to tithing; was the above – the tithe for the Levites - the only

tithe? It appears that it was not, as in Deuteronomy 14:22-29 we see

again tithing mentioned but in another context and for what appears to

be another purpose:

Deuteronomy 14:22-29

“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field

produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your

God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the

tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the

firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to

fear the Lord your God always. But if the journey is too long for

you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place

where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far

from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you

shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and

go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall

spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or

sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart

desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you

shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the

Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor

inheritance with you. "At the end of every third year you shall

bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up

within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor

inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and

the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be


satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of

your hand which you do.”

Every year the Israelites were to take “the tithe of your grain and your

new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks”

and go to the place that God would define and there: “you shall eat there

before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your

household”. If they were far away they were allowed to sell the various

items, get money and “you shall spend that money for whatever your

heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever

your heart desires”. This appears to be a festive tithe. People would take

this tithe and use it to eat and drink before the Lord in the place he

would define. Notice that this tithe is used by the people themselves.

This is different from what we read in Leviticus and Numbers earlier,

where the tithe was going to the Levites. It is therefore a different tithe.

In fact, every third year this tithe was to be used differently: at the end

of that year this tithe was to be collected “and the Levite, because he has

no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless

and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be

satisfied”. Furthermore every seven years the land was to have a

Sabbath in which nothing was sown or reaped by the owner of the land

(Leviticus 25:1-5) but all people were entitled to eat whatever the earth

was bringing up on its own (Leviticus 25:6-7) as well as from the big

surplus of the sixth year that God had promised to give (Leviticus 25:20-



Let’s summarize what we have learned up to now. As we have seen,

tithing was part of the Old Testament law, part of the ordinances that


God gave to the children of Israel through Moses. As it appears to me,

there were two tithes. The first tithe was going to the Levites while the

second was used by the people themselves in rejoicing before the Lord

or in the third year it was collected for the poor and (again) for the

Levites. Tithing is part of the law and as such it belongs to the same

category as animal sacrifices and the many and various regulations this

law dictated. We further saw that the New Testament makes it

emphatically clear that the law with its ordinances was abolished by the

sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this we are not sacrificing

animals today. If somebody asks why we don’t do this, we correctly say

“because this is part of the Mosaic law and this law is no longer valid.

Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, abolished in His

flesh the enmity, the law of commandments contained in

ordinances. We are no longer under the law”. The same reason that

we use for not sacrificing animals is also true for tithing. Tithing was,

along with animal sacrificing as well as other ordinances, part of the

Mosaic law. Whatever is valid to the one is also valid to the other. The

Mosaic law became obsolete about 2000 years ago, with Christ’s

sacrifice. Together with it, animal sacrifices, tithing and the other

ordinances of the law became obsolete too! We can learn from them,

but they are not meant to be for our direct application. Is therefore

tithing biblical? Yes it is. It is biblical as it is in the Bible. However, is

tithing relevant and valid for the Christian ? Here the answer is no!

What is for our direct application concerning giving is what we see

written in the New Testament. And what we see there is not tithing and

tithers but cheerful giving from the heart, according to the ability of

each one. Let’s now turn to this.



New Testament giving – 2 Corinthians 8 and 9

As said previously, tithing is a term almost unknown in the New

Testament. I need to clarify here that when I’m speaking of New

Testament I mean the New Covenant, the covenant that was instituted

with the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything before it, was part

of the Old Covenant and was addressed to Jews. Everything after it, is

part of the New Covenant and is addressed to Christians, to people that

believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and God raised Him from the dead

(Romans 10:9). The Old Testament, the Old Covenant, has indeed a lot

to say about tithing (this word is used 36 times there), but not the New.

In contrast, the New Testament says a lot about giving. To see what the

Word of God says for us - who live under the New Covenant, under this

present administration of grace –we will start from 2 Corinthians 8-9.

These are two chapters that deal directly with this topic and contain a

wealth of information. There are more places in the New Testament that

speak about this topic (and we will look at them later), but nowhere else

is there so much information written about it as in these two chapters.

We will explore this information as follows: we will be reading blocks of

Scripture from these two chapters and then we will be exploring to see

what they are telling us about giving.

2 Corinthians 8:1-4: What did they give, how and for what purpose ?

Starting our study from 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 we read:

“Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God

bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of


affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty

abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that

according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they

were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we

would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering

to the saints.”

This passage speaks about the believers, the people that made the

churches of Macedonia. Paul describes here how they gave and though

there is more to be found in this passage I have noted the following:

1. What they gave was a GIFT. The Greek word that is translated as

“gift” here is in fact the word “charis” that means “grace” and it is

translated as such in most of the other English translations. In other

words, a more accurate translation here would be: “that we would

receive the grace and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints”.

What was ministered to the saints in the age of grace is not called

“tithe” but “grace”. The giving of the tithe (tithing) belongs to the age

of the law. In the age of grace what you have is no longer tithing but

“grace giving”.

2. “They were freely willing”. It is again worthy to go to the Greek text

here. There, the word used is the word “authairetos”. As the Vine’s

dictionary says about this word:

“authairetos is from autos, self, and haireomai, to choose, selfchosen,

voluntary, of one’s own accord, occurs in 2 Cor 8:3 and

17, of the churches of Macedonia as to their gifts for the poor saints

and of Titus in his willingness to go and exhort the church in Corinth

concerning this matter”. (Vine’s expository dictionary of New


Testament words, Mac Donald Publishing company, p.25. Emphasis is


The believers in Macedonia were NOT forced to give. What they gave

was given voluntary. Again there is a huge difference to tithing. The tithe

was mandatory in the Old Testament. However, what we have here is

not mandatory. What we have here is not tithing but something

completely different. It is voluntary contributions to the saints, given

out of free will and of the people’s own accord. In contrast to this, today

many times we will hear people preaching about the tithe and that the

people OWE it to God and the church and if they don’t give it they cheat

Him. In this way, people are forced, out of guilt, to do whatever the

speaker says. This obviously has nothing to do with the free willing,

voluntary contributions that Paul is speaking about here.

3. “ministering to the saints”. Now what was this gift for? It was for

ministering to the saints. Paul tells us more about this “ministering”

in Romans 15:25-26:

“But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For

it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a

certain contribution for the poor among the saints who

are in Jerusalem.”

This was Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem. There he was imprisoned. As

he says about the purpose of this trip in Acts 24.17: “Now after many

years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation”. As we see from

the above, the ministering to the saints, the grace that the believers in

Macedonia and Achaia (Corinth) contributed freely, the voluntary

contributions, were contributions “for the poor among the saints who

were in Jerusalem”. The money was going to the poor brothers and


sisters. These poor church members were the target of the giving.

Ministering to the poor saints gets a lot of attention in the Scriptures.

James, John and Peter told Paul:

Galatians 2:10

“and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars,

perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and

Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the

Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only they would that we

should remember the poor, the very thing which I also

was eager to do.”

James, Peter and John told one thing to Paul: “remember the poor”!

And Paul carried this out. People today give their tithe to the church

where they go on Sundays, much of it goes to administration expenses

with a small portion (if any) left for the poor. In the New Testament

church though, it was the other way around: people were not giving

involuntary – out of guilt – but voluntary and though there are also

other purposes for giving (as we will see later), giving for the poor saints

was probably the most important one.

2 Corinthians 8:5-8: Exhortation to give: How Paul did it?

2 Corinthians 8:5-8

“And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to

the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus,

that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in

you as well. But as you abound in everything––in faith, in

speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us––

see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by


commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your

love by the diligence of others.

Paul exhorts the believers to give abundantly. “See that you abound to

this grace”, he tells them. But notice how gentle he is. See what he says

in the next sentence: “I speak not by commandment”. You will not find

anywhere in the New Testament the coercion and the language that you

will find in some of the today’s churches when it comes to giving or

“tithing”. You will not find Christ, Paul, Peter, John or any other

coercing people, reciting Malachi and other Old Testament passages, to

give their “tithes” or else they will be kind of cursed (that’s what is

implied by some of the modern sermons on tithing). Paul knows nothing

of this. He gently exhorts the Corinthians to abound in this grace

making clear that he does not speak by commandment. He does not

command them to do so but he exhorts them to do so. He didn’t have a

budget to meet for the poor saints. He didn’t get a number down from

the headquarters and now was going around pressuring or enticing

people in order to meet it. What he was doing was to state the truth. As

he said: “the sincerity of your love is tested by the diligence of others”.

Not empty words but real support.

2 Corinthians 8:10-14: Giving out of desire in accordance to what one


2 Corinthians 8:10-11

“a year ago (you) started not only to do this work but also to

desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your

readiness in desiring it may be matched by your

completing it”


This passage deals with desires about giving and realization of these

desires. The first part of the passage shows how important it is not only

to give but also TO DESIRE IT. It is desire plus realization of this desire

that God wants from His people. None of these two alone works. God

does not want you to desire to give but to never act upon it! Always to

say: “how great would it be to give this gift for the ministering of those

saints” but never to realize it, though you have the means. This is

hypocrisy. And vice versa, He does not want you to give without

heartfully desiring it, as of commandment, out of coercion by somebody.

Keep this in mind always. In giving both the desire and acting upon this

desire are important! The motivation for giving is the desire in your

heart. And as Philippians 2:13 tells us:

“For it is God who works in you to both will and to do of His

good pleasure”.

God is at work in us to will, to desire, to want and then to do what is

of His goods pleasure. Again, as we observe, the way that God works is

through putting a desire in our heart. This is His prime motivator.

Coercion and guilt are wrong and invalid motivators. We will see more

on this later.

Continuing in 2 Corinthians :

2 Corinthians 8:10-15

“your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your

completing it out of what you have. For if there is first a

willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has,

and not according to what he does not have. For I do

not mean that others should be eased and you

burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your

abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also


may supply your lack––that there may be equality. As it is

written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he

who gathered little had no lack."

There are so many truths in this passage that ought to be preached

much, much more than Old Testament tithing. Paul speaking to

Corinthians about giving tells them that they should give “out of what

they have”! Now if tithing was valid in the New Testament – which it

isn’t – I would expect Paul to make a blanket statement: “you give 10%

of your income. Period.” Is he saying anything like this ? You may have

heard it preached (explicitly or implicitly) from a pulpit but you will not

hear it from the Word of God! And guess whose words count at the

end ?! “Out of what you have” means “according to what you have” and

so that there are no misunderstandings, Paul makes it clear: “not

according to what you don’t have”! Today some churches press

(gently or otherwise) their members to give their tithe (i.e. 10 % of their

income) to the church funds. Apart from the fact that such a call is

wrong there are also no qualifications added to it. The poor family that

can barely makes ends meet is expected to take 10% of their pay and

give it to the church. They are told that God is going to bless them much

more if they do so. The thing is that the New Covenant does not know

such giving. According to the Word, whatever is given should be out of

what one has. You cannot take from the needs of your family to cover

the needs of another family, let alone the needs of the church

organization (bills, staff salaries etc.). This is what the Word of God

says. You don’t have it, you can’t give it! As Paul told Timothy:

I Timothy 5:7-8

“And these things command, that they may be blameless. But if

anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for


those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse

than an unbeliever.”

First you are expected to provide for your own household and your

own people i.e. those that are dependant on you. Whoever does not do

this, says the Word of God, is worse than an unbeliever. After these

needs are covered you can then think of needs that are outside your own

household. It is out of what you have, after the needs of your family have

been met. As Paul also makes clear in the above passage of 2


“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you

burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your

abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may

supply your lack––that there may be equality”

Paul had no intention to help the poor in Jerusalem by making the

Corinthians poor! He had no thought at all of burdening the one to ease

the other! They would help, out of their abundance. It was this

abundance that would supply the lack of the poor saints in Jerusalem at

this time, so that the abundance of these, now poor, saints could supply

the Corinthians’ lack in another time.

Moving on, we have mentioned it before that the gift itself is not

enough. There has to be a desire for it. It cannot be as by command! And

here Paul repeats it again: “For if the readiness is there, it is

accepted according to what one has” Readiness, a willing heart, is

a prerequisite for a gift. If (first) this readiness is there, then (second) it

is accepted according to what one has and not according to what he does

not have.”


To summarize: for a gift to be acceptable, a willing heart is a

prerequisite. There must be a readiness, a willingness, a desire to give.

And out of this desire one should give. He should give not according to

what he does not have, but according to what he has. The equality is not

done by giving out of your lack, but by giving out of your abundance, out

of your surplus, to cover somebody else’s lack. Your surplus will be

reduced and may be eliminated but his lack will be reduced and it may

be eliminated too! That’s New Testament giving.

2 Corinthians 8:16-21: Transparency in the administration of the gift

Continuing in 2 Corinthians 8:

“But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you

into the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted the exhortation,

but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord. And

we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel

throughout all the churches, and not only that, but who was

also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which

is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to

show your ready mind, avoiding this: that anyone should

blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us

– providing honorable things, not only in the sight of

the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

I want to focus on the part of the above passage that I have

emphasized. Paul was not only collecting contributions for the poor

saints but he also cared that nobody should blame him and his team “in

this lavish gift which was administered by them”. What could they

blame them for? That they used the gift inappropriately. That they used


it for themselves. That they said one thing but did another. To avoid any

of these, Paul had with him a brother that was chosen by the churches to

travel with them with this gift. If you are administering the gifts of

God’s people, do what Paul did: take measures so that nobody can

blame you in the administration of these gifts. Be transparent! As

transparent as possible! Give frequent updates of what you did with the

gift. What was received, where was it spent, what is left ? Get witnesses

trusted by the people. Nothing should be hidden. We must be open and

transparent with gifts. Paul took care providing honorable things not

only in the sight of God but also in the sight of men. So must we too.

2. Corinthians 9:1-5: the gift as a blessing and not as covetousness

Moving now to the 9th chapter we read:

2 Corinthians 9:1-5

“Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous

for me to write to you; for I know your willingness, about which

I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year

ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. Yet I have sent

the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this

respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; lest if some

Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to

mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting.

Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to

you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand,

which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a

matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.”


The words “generous gift” and “generosity” in the last sentence is the

Greek word “eulogia” that means “blessing”. Also, what is translated as

“grudging obligation” in the NKJV is the Greek word “pleonexia” that

means “covetousness” and is translated as such in the KJV. Darby has a

better translation of this last verse:

“I thought it necessary therefore to beg the brethren that they

would come to you, and complete beforehand your foreannounced

blessing, that this may be ready thus as blessing, and

not as covetousness.”

Paul calls the gift blessing. It is not a tithe, it is not a mandatory

giving either. It is a blessing! This is how we should also think of our

gifts to the poor saints: as blessings! Paul was excited that the

Corinthians wanted so much to give, but he was not pressing them

about it. The gift was to “be ready as a blessing and not as covetousness

[Greek: pleonexia]”. Here is what a commentator says on this (Barnes:

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible):

“The word used here (pleonexia) means usually covetousness,

greediness of gain, which leads a person to defraud others. The idea

here is, that Paul would have them give this as an act of

bounty, or liberality on their part, and not as an act of

covetousness on his part, not as extorted by him from them

(emphasis added)

Paul wanted the gift of the Corinthians to be a blessing and not

something that was taken from them, out of covetousness. It is a pity

that there are people today that do what Paul would not do: use

manipulation and enticement to extort gifts from the people. People

today often don’t care about the means as long as their aim is obtained.


It should not be like this. This is in no way what God wants. What He

wants is that your gift is a blessing, an act of liberality, something that

you desire and you can give and is in no way something that is taken

from you through guilt, enticement or any other of the techniques that

are many times used today. Back to Paul, he would not be greedy

concerning the gift. He wanted the Corinthians to give but he was very

careful, very gentle. He was careful in chapter 8 and is careful here too.

As Barnes correctly states, he wanted the gift to be an act of bounty, of

liberality, on their part and not an act of greed from his part. How

liberating is the Word of God and how much distortion exists today in

the way many demand money.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7: The law of sowing and reaping and (again) how

to give

2 Corinthians 9:6-7

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,

and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let

each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of

necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

If we have heard something, and this many times, from 2 Corinthians

9 it is verse 6 (“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he

who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”). Paul does not use

verse 6 to manipulate believers into giving. He already spoke for almost

one and a half chapters on how to give, before he arrives at this verse.

What Paul does in verse 6 is to state the simple truth: if you sow

sparingly you will reap sparingly and if you sow bountifully you will also

reap bountifully. According to what you sow you will also reap. There


will be a return for your gift and this return is in accordance to how

much you give. HOWEVER the giving has to be voluntary, from the

heart. No gift is welcomed if it is given grudgingly, with sorrow, without

being happy with it, or if it is given out of compulsion or of necessity.

“Of necessity” means because you have to. You don’t want to give but

you are somehow forced to give. And this is what happens many times

with tithing. Preachers come up, start reciting Malachi and Old

Testament passages on the tithe and end up saying or implying that if

you don’t give the tithe to the church you are kind of cursed by God and

you cheat Him. Then you go ahead and write a check in response to this.

In reality you didn’t give voluntary but you gave because you don’t want

to cheat God and be under a curse – as the preacher told you. You would

prefer to feed the poor, buy some sacks of rice for those poor kids in

Dominican Republic and support that evangelist that spreads the gospel

in India. But now you were forced by the preacher to give it for

something else that you didn’t really want to give to. Thus you gave out

of guilt, out of condemnation. Now if this is not giving with sadness and

out of necessity I wonder what this is. Dear brother you do not have to

succumb to such calls! What you were told is simply not the voice of the

Word of God but the voice of tradition and religion that distorts the

Word of God. You must not give because somebody forces you to give

but because you really want to give from the heart. If you give out of

guilt, if you have sorrow about it, the gift will not be welcomed by God.

Also, to those that use condemnation and guilt as techniques to force

God’s people to give for their purposes, I would like to point out: Paul

said that he didn’t want the gifts to be like taken from them.

God does not really want such gifts, because people didn’t give them

voluntary but they were in fact taken from them, stolen if you want! Not

by force of power but by the force of words!

Having said the above, let’s go and have a look at 1 John 3:16-18:


“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And

we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But

whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in

need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the

love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in

word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

God’s Word says not to give grudgingly or out of necessity, because

somebody tells you to give. Instead we must give out of the heart and be

generous in it. God loves the one that gives gladly. He does not welcome

the gift that is given with sadness. On equal ground it is a sin to have any

love of money. As Paul said “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I

Timothy 6:10). He also said that the genuineness of our love is tested by

how much we care for the others. And what John describes here is a real

situation: you have two brothers. One has this world’s goods. He has

extra empty beds at home. He has plenty of money in the bank. He has

plenty of food in the cellar. Now this man meets a brother that is in

need. A need that the first one can satisfy. What should the first brother

do? Should he pray for his bother in need? Yes he should do this too, but

he should not stay there! He should give to him and help him. He should

not shut his heart up as John says and just mutter a prayer or say a “God

bless you brother” and walk away. The test of caring for others proves

the sincerity of our love and whether the love of God is in us or not. And

this is really a very serious matter.

Now, going back to the tithing system, there is the other distortion

created by it: people are forced to give their tithe to a local church basket

and then when they see a brother in need, they think “I have already

given my tithe to the church”. Thus we give out of necessity to purposes

that give little help to the poor (most of what is given to a local church

basket does not really end up helping the poor – this is sad but it is real


and a look at a church budget is enough to verify it) and then when the

poor come up we do not want or we cannot help them. This is a real, sad

and usual situation.

Returning to 2 Corinthians 9:6, people very frequently use it to tell

others that if you give a lot God will return the gift to you multiple times.

In fact, in addition to 2 Corinthians 9:6, they again use Malachi for this:

Malachi 3:10-12

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food

in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of hosts, "If

I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for

you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive

it. "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will

not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to

bear fruit for you in the field," Says the Lord of hosts; And all

nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,"

Says the Lord of hosts”

So people give in order that God gives them back the gift multiple

times. Some preachers and ministers wrongfully use the above passages

enticing their audience to give with the promise of many financial

blessings. Thus people give. But why? What is their motive? None of the

motives of 2 Corinthians or the remaining word of God. It is not a act of

generosity out of the heart but rather either an act of guilt (they give so

that they do not … cheat God, as the preacher told them) or an act of

greed (they give so that they get back much more). God is presented in

this way as a money machine, as a bank. Give your tithe and you will get

it back multiple times. Having money as a motive is wrong! Though God

does return bountifully to those that give bountifully it would be out of

order and character for Paul to use 2 Corinthians 9:6 to entice the

Corinthians to give under promises of big and more harvests! What I


believe Paul wanted to do was to state the facts. There is indeed a

harvest to the givers. There is indeed a reward. I don’t know what it is,

but why should it necessarily be a financial harvest or only a financial

harvest or a harvest that refers only to the present earthly life ? The

main thing is that there is a harvest! And the one that sows sparingly

harvests sparingly and the one that sows abundantly also harvests

abundantly. This is a fact! The Word does not speak of financial

harvests, it speaks of harvests and there can be many different kinds of

them, including financial ones. Do you want to call them “blessings”,

here and in heaven? Call them blessings. I like more the word harvest!

You want to harvest a lot? Sow also a lot!

2 Corinthians 9:8-15: “All sufficiency in all things”, guaranteed by God

2 Corinthians 9:8-9

“And 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. As it is written: "He has

dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness

endures forever."

God through Paul leaves no shadow of doubt: nobody is going to be

made needy by giving liberally. As he makes clear, God assures they will

have all sufficiency in all things and this always! They will have an

abundance for every good work! God Himself guarantees this! Then

Paul quotes Psalms 122:9: “"He has dispersed abroad, he has given to

the poor; his righteousness endures forever”. Now this passage does not

refer to God. It does not say: “God has dispersed abroad, God has given

to the poor; God’s righteousness endures forever”. Instead this Psalm


refers to the man that fears the Lord. Let’s read it in its entirety because

it contains more promises:

Psalms 112:1-10

“Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,

Who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants

will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be

blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his

righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises

light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and

righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide

his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken; The

righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be

afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his

desire upon his enemies. He has dispersed abroad, he has

given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever;

His horn will be exalted with honor. The wicked will see it and be

grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of

the wicked shall perish.”

We have extensively written in another study about the fear of the

Lord. The man that fears the Lord will be blessed! And one of the things

that the man that fears the Lord does, is to give to the poor. He is liberal

in his giving. He has dispersed abroad. He is not stingy but generous,

because God is his abundance. And as 2 Corinthians told us, God

Himself guarantees that when you give liberally to the poor you are not

going to run out of seed. As Paul says:


2 Corinthians 9:9-15

“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for

food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase

the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in

everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through

us to God. For the administration of this service not only

supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through

many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this

ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession

to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them

and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you

because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God

for His indescribable gift!”

God who supplies the seed to the sower and the bread for food will

supply and multiply the seed we have sown so that we can sow even

more. And Paul explains that this gift, the gift to the poor, will abound in

many thanksgivings to God. In the Corinthians instance the recipients

would glorify God for the liberal sharing, the generosity, of their

Corinthian brothers and sister.

Conclusion from our study of 2 Corinthians 8-9

Let’s summarize now what we learned from this study of 2

Corinthians 8-9. As we said, these are two chapters that contain more

information about giving than any other part of Scripture written to the

church of God. Here are the main points that stand out:

i) What 2 Corinthians 8-9 speaks about is gifts, grace gifts. It does

not speak about tithes and tithers but about gifts and givers.


ii) The purpose of the gift was to support the poor saints in

Jerusalem. Supporting the poor saints is not the only purpose to

which gifts can go. We will see more purposes. However, giving to

the poor is one of the most important ones. I believe, based on the

Scripture, supporting the poor saints should have very high

priority in people’s giving and congregational giving.

iii) People were to give freely and not to be forced to give.

iv) On the same matter: desire was a prerequisite to give. It was the

prime motivator. There is no place in 2 Corinthians for gifts given

out of guilt, or because “it is mandatory”.

v) The people were to give according to what they had and not

according to what they didn’t have. There was no fixed percentage

of how much somebody should give. All was a combination of a)

desire and b) ability i.e. “according to what they had”. Now

speaking about desire, a real Christian that has the love of God in

him does have a desire to help his poor brothers. John makes it

clear that if somebody sees a brother in need and he has the

means to help him, yet he chooses to “shut up his heart from him,

how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:16-18)

vi) Along the same line, Paul wanted the gift to be an act of

generosity from the Corinthians’ side not an act of covetousness

or greed from his side, where he would somehow extort the gift

from them through guilt or any other manipulative way. In

contrast to many today, Paul would not use guilt to take the gift.

The gift is not the only thing that is important. It is equally

important how the gift is taken. Using guilt to motivate people to

give is wrong. The only valid motivator I see is the desire from the

heart to give.

vii) Then we saw that the gift should not be given grudgingly or out of

necessity. Instead it should be given joyfully. Again we see the

same as in vi) above. The gift itself is not enough. It is equally


important how the gift is given and what is the motivator that

made somebody to give.

viii) Whoever sows sparingly will also harvest sparingly and whoever

sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. If you want a law, this

is a law, a principle that will never be violated. Giving is like

sowing seed. You sow much, you harvest much. It does not

necessarily mean a financial harvest or only a financial harvest. It

means harvest, and this harvest can be various things, including

financial “harvests”. Paul does not state this to entice people so

that they give out of greed. There is nothing good in greed and

this can never be a good motivator for anything. He says this to

state a fact, and the law of sowing and reaping is a fact.

ix) God Himself gives assurance that you will in no way get poor by

giving liberally. God guarantees this Himself. As the Word says:

“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.” ALL grace, ALL sufficiency in ALL things,

ALWAYS, so that you may have abundance in EVERY good works.

It cannot be made clearer. There is a guarantor behind this

promise and this is GOD Himself.

x) Finally, Paul was taking measures not to allow any chance for

somebody to blame him about the administration of this gift. He

was fully transparent concerning this gift and its use.



New Testament giving – 1 Corinthians 16

Though 2 Corinthians 8-9 is the longest exposition concerning New

Testament giving, there are in the Scriptures that are addressed to the

body of Christ, more passages about this important topic. One of them is

in 1 Corinthians 16:1-5. There we read:

“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given

orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the

first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside,

storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I

come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters

I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I

go also, they will go with me.”

This passage is very similar in character with 2 Corinthians 8-9. Again

the collection is for the (poor) saints in Jerusalem. They are the same

recipients as in 2 Corinthians. It appears that the Jerusalem saints were

in great need and the Corinthians, the Macedonians and maybe also the

Galatians were contributing to help their needs. The new in this passage

is the reference to storing for the poor on the first day of the week. The

Greek text translated here as “the first day of the week”, is “on one of the

Sabbaths”. It is used in some occasions in the New Testament but it is

not clear to me what it exactly means. Regardless of this, what Paul says

here to the Corinthians is that each one should make a kind of a fund for

the poor, storing there on a regular basis (“on one of the Sabbaths”) as

he may prosper. Notice the rule here: the rule is not the tithe. It is not

“store up your tithes”. It is “store up as you may prosper”. Both poor and

rich were supposed to store up, each one as he may prosper i.e. in


accordance to their resources. 2 Corinthians takes this further adding

the desire, the cheerful, non-grudging giver plus the other elements we

saw there. The reason that Paul mentions for the necessity of the

regularity of these contributions is, as he says, “that there be no

collections when I come”. This is the reason behind doing the

contributions on a regular basis. Would these contributions continue

forever, even after Paul came? No, not at least for this purpose. The

contributions were for a specific purpose (“to help the poor saints in

Jerusalem”) and were done on a regular basis (“on the first day of the

week”) so that they would not be done at haste when Paul would come.

After Paul had come they would not continue, at least not for this

purpose. But the principle is there, and the principle is that as

Christians we should help our poor brothers. This would not be an

erratic giving – though this could happen too – but could also be a

giving on a more regular basis, based on the needs. We could be tipped

to it from a church planter (like Paul here) or we could also be brought

there directly by the Lord (“the rich and the poor meet together; the

Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2).



New Testament giving – Acts 2 and 4

The first few chapters in Acts are very well known for the sharing they

demonstrate among the believers. Here are some parts:

Acts 2:42-45

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and

fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe

came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being

done through the apostles. And all who believed were

together and had all things in common. And they were

selling their possessions and belongings and

distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (ESV)

And Acts 4:32-35

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart

and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to

him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with

great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the

resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them

all. There was not a needy person among them, for as

many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and

brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the

apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had


We have dealt extensively with these references of Acts in our study

on material possessions. Here are some points from that study:


i) What happened in Acts 2 and 4 was voluntary, not mandatory.

People didn’t have to sell their possessions nor is this a

prerequisite to be a Christian. They did it by their own free will.

Proof? What Peter said to Ananias, the man that sold a possession

and brought part of the proceeds to the apostles presenting it like

it was the full price (i.e. he lied). As Peter told him: “While it

remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in

your own control?” If Ananias had kept his property and hadn’t

sold it, it would NOT have been a sin. Ananias’ sin was not that he

owned land but that he brought part of the price to the apostles,

presenting it as the whole price. It was lawful to have land and it

was lawful to keep the full proceedings from its sale. What was

not right however was to present these proceedings to God and

the church as the full price of the land, when he only offered part

of it. This was a lie to God and this was what Peter condemned.

From this we can deduct that it is not a sin to own material

possessions nor that in the 1st century church everybody had to

sell his possessions after he became a Christian.

ii) What happened in Acts 2 and 4 was unique and was not the

general practice of the New Testament church. In fact we do not

find this practice anywhere outside Jerusalem. What we just saw

from 1 Corinthians is that everyone was to put aside on a regular

basis what he might prosper so that when Paul would come, it

would be put together and taken to the poor saints in Jerusalem.

iii) Though it is not a sin to have material possessions there must be a

right attitude towards them. And this attitude is to actively

consider everything as belonging to the Lord and not to you, His

steward. It is to actively seek the will of the Lord about everything

including your possessions. It is to be ready to sell everything, if

you are called to do so. We are of course not speaking here about

a desire to be rich, a desire to get more and more possessions.


Such a desire has one name in the Word of God and this is greed,

love of money, the root of all evil (I Timothy 6:10). Such a desire

has no place in the life of a genuine Christian.



Supporting church staff salaries – what the Word says and

what it doesn’t

This is another very interesting question when it comes to giving. By

staff here I mean people like pastors, assistant pastors, youth pastors i.e.

“professionals” who somehow are supposed to carry the main ministry

work of the local church. This question becomes even more interesting

because staff salaries probably make up the biggest portion of the

expenses a modern church has. Before we move further, we have to

note that the church hierarchy we see today in the contemporary

churches, is not something we will find in the Bible. According to this

hierarchy we have the senior pastor who is – implicitly or explicitly -

something like the head/boss of the church. Under him you have other

similar professionals that do the work of youth pastor, assistant pastor

etc. and they are usually full time employees of the church, working

under the senior pastor. The senior pastor himself may be under the

authority of a “bishop”, who is kind of in charge of the clergy in a region.

Then you have the elders. These are usually not “professionals” i.e. they

are people with “normal” full time jobs and participate in the church

administration. Finally you have all other believers, that together with

the elders are the so called “laity”. Though not every church follows such

explicit distinctions, these exist, even though implicitly, in the vast

majority of the churches. Going to the New Testament now, we will see

that there are no such structures there. There you do not see pastors,

assistant pastors, bishops and elders as separate categories of people. In

the New Testament, what you see in the local church leadership is

elders. These are also called shepherds and bishops. In the New

Testament, elders, shepherds (pastors), bishops are all terms used for


the same people. The function of these people is to shepherd, to pastor,

the local church, overseeing the flock (the Greek word for “bishop”

means overseer) as they are elder brothers i.e. elders in the faith, mature

believers. There are plenty of Scriptures that make this clear and I will

soon have another study dealing with this matter exclusively, but here is

a passage that encompasses everything: In Acts 20:17 Paul, on his way

to Jerusalem, passed from Ephesus, where he “called the elders (plural)

of the church”. Notice that there was one church, the church in Ephesus,

and many elders. Notice also that Paul called for the elders. The text

does not say that he called for the elders and the senior pastor and the

assistant pastors and the bishop. It is just elders! All the same, without

any special title attached to any of them. There was no person called

“senior pastor” or “assistant pastor” etc. They were all elders. And they

were many! Let’s see now what he told them:

Acts 20:28

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among

which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd

the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

In this verse you have everything. The people invited in this meeting

were the elders of the church in Ephesus. Now what was the role of

these brothers? Their role was to be OVERSEERS. The word translated

“overseers” in this verse is the Greek word “episkopos”. It is this very

word that in I Timothy 3:2 the KJV and NKJV have translated as

“bishop”, saying: “A bishop [episkopos] then must be blameless, the

husband of one wife, vigilant, sober…”. It is again translated as such in

Titus 1:7 “For a bishop (episkopos) must be blameless as the steward of

God”. Other translations have, in the above occasions, translated

“episkopos” as “overseer”. The elders of the church in Ephesus - and for

this, the elders of every New Testament church - were “episkopoi”,


which means overseers. In the other way around: the “episkopoi”

mentioned in the Bible are the elders of the local church. As Vine in his

dictionary says:

“the term “elder” indicates the mature spiritual experience and

understanding of those so described; the term “bishop”, or “overseer”

indicates the character of the work undertaken” (Vine’s dictionary pp.


Bishops and elders are the same thing in the Bible. It may be that in

today’s world these are presented as two different classes of people but

such a distinction does not come from the Bible.

But Acts 20:28 tells us more: notice that the elders were appointed to

shepherd the church of God or to be shepherds as the NIV has it. The

word “shepherd” that appears in this passage is the Greek word:

poimaino that means: “to act as a shepherd” (Vine’s dictionary, p. 427),

in other words “to shepherd”. It is exactly the noun form of this verb in

its plural, the noun “poimen”, that is used in Ephesians 4:11 and is

translated as “pastors”. The word “poimen” is used 17 times in the New

Testament and in all but one it is translated as “shepherd”. That is in all

cases, except Ephesians 4:11 where it is translated as “pastors”. This

translation here has caused a lot of confusion. People speak about pastor

so and so and they mean somebody that went to a theological college

and became a minister, a “pastor”. And then they go to the Bible to

Ephesians 4:11 and they say “here it is.. the Word of God speaks about

pastors”. The Word however speaks about “shepherds”. And a shepherd

is not necessarily somebody that has graduated from a theological

college and “pastors” a church. A shepherd is somebody that feeds a

flock. Not only does he feed it but he also guides it, going in front of it.

Furthermore he takes care of the broken ones. We can find all of the

functions of a shepherd from the Word of God, but as I said I wouldn’t


want to go much further in this study as the purpose of it is different.

There will be another study coming out dealing with these matters.

What we need however to keep in mind here, is the following: nowhere

the Word of God makes the distinctions we have today in most of the

churches. It knows nothing about pastors, bishops, assistant pastors and

elders as separate categories of people. All that it knows about is elders

who shepherd the flock of God, the local church, being overseers of it.

These elders were not people with theological degrees. They were

ordinary people from the congregation. They were believers that had

matured and were ready to shepherd and oversee younger believers

with final aim to build them up in Christ. There is no indication in the

Scripture that these people had to leave their normal secular jobs. There

is also no indication in the Scripture of elders getting a normal monthly

or otherwise regular salary from the local church for what they were

doing. In fact, there was no New Testament church in which the

elders that shepherded, oversaw, the flock were full time

employees of the church, getting a regular salary from the

church. Do we have a proof for this? Yes we do. Just read on.

On church staff salaries: the example of Paul

Paul and his team were apostolic workers, going from town to town

preaching the gospel and planting churches. They never stayed in one

particular place permanently. They were more or less always on the

move, preaching the gospel. For these people, and we will also see this

later, the Lord commanded:


1 Corinthians 9:14

“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the

gospel should live from the gospel.”

This is not a reference for elders, permanent residents of a local

church. It is not used for them in 1 Corinthians 9. The reference here is

to apostles, to apostolic workers that were going from town to town,

preaching the gospel and planting churches. In other words, they were

what we today call missionaries. These apostolic workers were entitled

to live fully from the gospel. Paul was one of them, Barnabas was

another. As Paul says in verses 3-6 of the same chapter:

“My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right

to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing

wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and

Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to

refrain from working?

To rephrase the last question so that it fits in the way the first two

questions are phrased: “Don’t Barnabas and I have the right to stop

working ?” The question implies that the apostles did not in general

have a secular occupation. But Paul and Barnabas did. Paul and

Barnabas, with “the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28) on

Paul, were still working. The Lord had given them the special right to

not have a secular occupation but live from the gospel. But they did not

use this right. Here is what Paul says:

1 Corinthians 9:14-18

“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the

gospel should live from the gospel. But I have used none of

these things, nor have I written these things that it


should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die

than that anyone should make my boasting void. For if I preach

the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon

me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this

willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been

entrusted with a stewardship. What is my reward then? That

when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of

Christ free of charge, that I may not abuse my

authority in the gospel.

Paul had the right to live from the gospel. Nevertheless, he did not

make use of this right, though, as we will see, he indeed occasionally

received unsolicited voluntary contributions from the believers. At the

same time he was working. As Acts 18:1-3 tells us:

“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to

Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in

Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla

(because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from

Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the

same trade, he stayed with them AND WORKED; for by

occupation they were tentmakers.

The gospel did not and should not have a price tag assigned to it. It

must be free of charge and Paul made sure that it was so. But there is

also another reason that he did this. And this is shown in 2

Thessalonians 3:9-12 :

“But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus

Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks

disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received


from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to

follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we

eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with

labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a

burden to any of you, not because we do not have



were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not

work, neither shall he eat.”

Paul and his team had authority to “eat anyone’s bread free of

charge”. They had authority to it as apostolic workers, not as elders of a

local church. But they never used it. Instead they labored, day and night

as he says. Why? So that they make themselves an EXAMPLE for the

brothers to follow. “Example” is the key word here. And what is the

example: that they should work and if anyone will not work, neither

shall he eat. Now what does this mean for the churches that Paul

founded, the New Testament churches ? If Paul and his co-workers

were working wherever they went, and they were doing this to

be a model, an example to the other believers, do you think

that there was any elder in this church that was not working

but had a salary from the church? I don’t think so. In addition,

though apostolic workers - church planters - have the right to skip

making their living through a secular occupation, elders don’t have this


But the references of the Word of God to Paul’s example don’t stop

here. I Thessalonians 2:9 tells us.

“For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for

laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden

to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.


They were laboring day and night so that they are not a burden to any

of the believers. Ministry was not an occupation for them; something to

earn their living from. Doing the will of God was their life but they

wouldn’t earn their living from this. To earn their living they would

labor, as anybody else, giving an EXAMPLE to everybody else.

Acts 20:33-35 is another characteristic passage. It is part of the same

speech we saw Paul giving to the elders (shepherds, overseers) of the

church in Ephesus. See what he tells them:

“I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you

yourselves know that these hands have provided for

my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have

shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you

must support the weak. And remember the words of the

Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to


Again Paul presents himself as an example to them. You know, he

tells them, that in my necessities my hands provided. This is a clear

reference to the fact that when he was in Ephesus, he was working to

support himself and the others. But there is more to it. See what he says:

“I have shown you in every way, BY LABORING LIKE THIS, THAT

YOU MUST SUPPORT THE WEAK.” Paul is speaking to the elders

(shepherds, overseers) of the church in Ephesus. He speaks to the

leadership of the local church. And what is he telling them? He is telling

them “look at how I walked among you. I worked hard to support my

needs. DO THE SAME”. So that “by laboring like this you must support

the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is

more blessed to give than to receive”. The local church leadership was to

follow Paul’s example, laboring hard to support their needs. They were


not to be the recipients of salaries from the congregation. Paul, the

example, was not a recipient of such a salary! How could they? They

would rather be help and support to the weak. They would rather be

givers than takers.

Commenting on Paul and his example here is what some well known

commentators and scholars say1:

F.F. Bruce - (The New International Commentary on the New

Testament: Acts [Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1986] p.418)

“Returning once more to the example which he had set them, he

reminds them finally that those who take care of the people of God must

do so without thought of material reward. As Samuel called all Israel to

witness when he was about to lay down his office as judge (1 Samuel

12:3), so Paul calls the Ephesian elders to witness that all the time he

spent with them he coveted nothing that was not his; on the contrary, he

did not even avail himself of his right to be maintained by those whose

spiritual welfare he cared, but earned his living--and that of his

colleagues--by his own labors: "these hands," he said (inevitably with

the attendant gesticulation), "ministered unto my necessities, and to

them that were with me" (v.34). Let those to whom he was speaking

likewise labor and thus support not only themselves but others as well--

the sick in particular.”

Simon Kistemaker (professor of New Testament at Reformed

Theological Seminary) - (New Testament Commentary: Acts [Grand

Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990] pp. 737,740)

1 Quotations were taken from: Darryl M. Erkel: “Should pastors be salaried?” (1997)


“In his [Paul] letters he discloses that he worked night and day with his

own hands to support himself, so that no one would ever be able to

accuse him of depending on the hearers of the Gospel for his material

needs (compare 1 Samuel 12:3). He refused to be a burden to anyone in

the churches he established. By performing manual labor, he provided

for his financial needs. Paul received gifts from the believers in Philippi,

as he himself reveals (Philippians 2:25; 4:16-18), yet he declares that he

did not solicit those gifts... The Ephesian elders had observed Paul's

ministry and physical work during his three-year stay. They were able to

testify that he had never exploited anyone (2 Corinthians 7:2), but had

always set an example of diligence and self-sufficiency, in the good sense

of the word. He was a model to the believers and taught the rule: "If you

will not work, you shall not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10)... It appears that

Paul generated sufficient income to support not only himself but even

his companions... In every respect, says Paul to the elders of Ephesus, I

taught you to work hard and with your earnings to help the weak... He

exhorts them to follow his example and to labor hard.”

Roland Allen, author of the classic work, Missionary Methods: St.

Paul's or Ours? (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1962),

“When I wrote this book I had not observed that in addressing the elders

of Ephesus, St. Paul definitely directs them to follow his example and to

support themselves (Acts 20:34-35). The right to support is always

referred to wandering evangelists and prophets, not to settled local

clergy (see Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:1-14) with the

doubtful exceptions of Galatians 6:6 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18, and even if

those passages do refer to money gifts, they certainly do not

contemplate fixed salaries which were an abomination in the eyes of the

early Christians (p.50).”


Carl B. Hoch, Jr., professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Baptist

Seminary (All Things New [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995]


“In New Testament days, leaders were normally not paid. That is,

money was given more as a gift than as an income or a salary. Leaders

like Paul could receive money, but Paul chose not to receive any from

the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9:8-12). He wanted to serve without

depending on any church for financial support. Churches had a

responsibility to "reward the ox" (1 Timothy 5:17) and to share with

those who taught (Galatians 6:6). But money was never to be the driving

force of ministry (1 Peter 5:2). Unfortunately, churches today will not

call a man until they feel they can support him, and some men will not

seriously consider a call if the financial package is "inadequate" (All

Things New [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995] p.240).”

Watchman Nee - The Normal Christian Church Life (Anaheim, CA:

Living Stream Ministry, 1980)

“It is not necessary that elders resign their ordinary professions and

devote themselves exclusively to their duties in connection with the

church. They are simply local men, following their usual pursuits and at

the same time bearing special responsibilities in the church. Should

local affairs increase, they may devote themselves entirely to spiritual

work, but the characteristic of an elder is not that he is a "full-time

Christian worker." It is merely that, as a local brother, he bears

responsibility in the local church (pp. 62-63).”


To me it is beyond any shadow of a doubt that there was no New

Testament church with salaried staff. What a contrast to today! Today I

have yet to meet a church without paid personnel. Salaries take up a

whopping 50 to 60 % of the church budget with an addition roundabout

20 - 30 % going to building expenses. Another item the New Testament

church didn’t have. Sadly to say, yet true, almost 80-90 % of a modern

church budget is for items the first century Christians didn’t know

about. This is definitely sad.

Supporting the elders: what does the Bible say ?

Now, having said the above doesn’t the Bible provide anything about

those that spend their time teaching and shepherding others? The

answers is yes it does! Though there were no salaried employees in the

local churches, there is however a clear indication in the Scriptures that

the elders, the shepherds of the local congregation, were to be recipients

of honor by the people. As I Timothy 5:17 tells us:

“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor,

especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the

Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out

the grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

Notice again that the passage does not speak about one elder or one

shepherd or pastor. It speaks about elders, many of them. The burden of

shepherding the local church was never to be the job of one individual

only but of many different mature brothers. This is the New Testament

collective leadership under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ vs. the

one-man leadership that is in most of the cases the model today and


essentially throughout the past many centuries. Returning to verse 17,

the reference to honor means respecting, valuing, honoring the elders,

especially those that labor in Word and doctrine. This could also include

free will offerings to them.

That the double honor includes - though not only – support via

voluntary gifts is also obvious from the reference to the ox in the above

passage, as well as from the following passage of Galatians 6:6, where

we read:

“Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with

him who teaches.”

Those that are taught are to share in all good things with the one that

is teaching them and one of the functions of a mature brother is to teach

(I Timothy 3:2). Again, it is not a salary, but it is a sharing, a voluntary

support. Seeing from the elders side this is not a job for living. They are

to do this not for money or due to money. They are to do it anyway,

without any money. As Peter says speaking to elders:

I Peter 5:1-2

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder ….. Be

shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as

overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing,

as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to


Again notice that elders, shepherds and overseers (or “bishops”) are

all terms used interchangeably. As we see, the elders were to be

shepherds of God’s flock, overseeing it. Notice also that shepherding the

local church is not a “job”. It is not something that you do when you get

a salary and something you don’t do without one. Shepherding the local


church is a gift, a ministry and it has to be seen as such. Now, it is

difficult to be seen like this when the task of shepherding is resting on

the shoulders of only one brother, whom people call the “pastor”. But it

was never supposed to be like this. This burden was to be resting on the

shoulders of many brothers, the mature ones in Christ. They were to

share it. And, to return back to our subject, they were to be recipients of

honor from the congregation, including voluntary gifts from them.

These however were gifts, they were given voluntary and they were not

solicited. The elders were not to base their living on them. They had to

earn their living on their own as everybody else. They had no salaries

from the church. They had to follow the example of their father in the

faith, Paul, who, with so many responsibilities on him, was going to the

market place to work his trade and support himself and the others with

him. This is in so much contrast to today where ministry is so often

considered to be an occupation that somebody would not do without

being paid for it.



New Testament giving – supporting missionaries

We already touched this area. As we saw previously, 1 Corinthians

9:14 tells us:

“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the

gospel should live from the gospel.”

As we said in the last chapter, this passage does not refer to elders but

to preachers of the gospel, to people like Paul, Timothy and Barnabas, to

apostolic teams that were going from town to town preaching the gospel,

to further the kingdom of God. These were iterant workers, people that

today we would probably call missionaries. They were not planting just

one church and then stayed there to…. “pastor” it but they were moving

from town to town establishing new churches. These people were

entitled and are entitled to live from the gospel, though Paul and his

team did not use this right. Nevertheless, Paul did receive voluntary gifts

from people, though he never requested such gifts in his letters. The

letter to Philippians shows us a case where a church sent him support.

Let’s see the related record starting from Philippians 4:10-13 :

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for

me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you

lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I

know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.

Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be

full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer


need. I can do all things through Christ who

strengthens me.

Paul’s ministry was not based on a salary from a church. His trust was

not a salary. He didn’t have one. He was completely dependant on the

Lord. He had learned to be content in whatever state he was. How?

Through Christ who strengthened him. Christ was his foundation, the

source of his contentment. Notice that he learned this. He was not

born with this. He had to learn it. May we learn this too. Notice

also that he says: “Not that I speak in regard of need”. He did not have a

list of needs that he was circulating around. After speaking to the

people, he would not pass a cup around to collect an offering. He would

instead go to the market place and exercise his trade. By this way, he

was setting an example for everybody to follow. But when a church sent

him support, it was received with thankfulness:

Philippians 4:14-18

“Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.

Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the

gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church

shared with me concerning giving and receiving but

you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once

and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I

seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all

and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the

things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable

sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

The Philippians supported Paul. Supporting apostolic workers,

missionaries that go from town to town and preach the gospel is one

more area of viable giving. However these workers should not base their


trust on such gifts or on the regularity of them but on the Lord. They

and every Christian should, as Paul, be content in whatever state we are.

Notice also what Paul is saying: “no church shared with me concerning

giving and receiving but you only”. Paul was not getting support from

any church, at least “in the beginning of the gospel”, which again shows

that his personal support was not a matter that he spoke about to the

churches. Furthermore, he also said: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek

the fruit that abounds to your account.” There was a fruit associated to

the gift. The gift would produce a fruit and this fruit would be credited

in heaven to the Philippians’ account. As Paul’s work continues bearing

fruit, I guess the Philippians’ harvest in heaven is very big by now and is

getting bigger.



New Testament giving – Supporting the widows of the


Another area where support in the New Testament was directed was

to true widows. Widows in the Bible are those women that lost their

husbands though death. Now some of you may be surprised that we

have to clarify this at all. I do it because I read somewhere that this word

supposingly also includes those women that are separated or divorced

from their husbands. Though these women do need brotherly support

from the believers, they cannot be classified as widows. “Widow” in the

Bible - and as a Greek word in general – is the woman that lost her

husband through death.

Having made this clear, it is shown throughout the Bible that widows

have a special place in God’s heart. Here are some passages from the Old


Exodus 20:22

You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict

them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear

their cry;”

Deuteronomy 10:17-18

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the

great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor

takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless

and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food

and clothing.


Deuteronomy 14:17-21

“You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless,

nor take a widow's garment as a pledge …. "When you reap

your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you

shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the

fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may

bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat

your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall

be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When

you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it

afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless,

and the widow.

As we also saw previously tithes also had widows as recipients:

Deuteronomy 26:12-13

“When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your

increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it

to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that

they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say

before the Lord your God: 'I have removed the holy tithe

from my house, and also have given them to the Levite,

the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according

to all Your commandments which You have

commanded me; I have not transgressed Your

commandments, nor have I forgotten them.”

Deuteronomy 27:19

'Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the

stranger, the fatherless, and widow.' "And all the people

shall say, 'Amen!'”


Psalms 146:9

“The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the

fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns

upside down.”

Proverbs 15:25

“The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, But He will

establish the boundary of the widow.

Isaiah 1:17

“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend

the fatherless, Plead for the widow.

Jeremiah 7:6-7

“if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the

widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk

after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in

this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and


Jeremiah 22:3

“Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the

fatherless, or the widow”

Zechariah 7:9-10

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Execute true justice, Show mercy

and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the

widow or the fatherless, The stranger or the poor. Let

none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.'”


I believe these many passages of Scripture make clear how much the

widows, together with the orphans and the stranger are in the heart of

the Lord. This is carried on in the New Testament too. We read in Acts

6:1 that a complaint “arose against the Hebrews by the Hellenists,

because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” By

distribution is meant the distribution that was done to everybody, out of

the common fund the church had established and according to their

needs. Nobody was to be neglected, but the widows even more so, as

they were people for whom special care was needed.

The New Testament treats extensively the matter of widows and the

support to them in I Timothy 5. There we read:

I Timothy 5:3

“Honor widows who are really widows.”

The honor as we explained earlier about honoring elders includes also

material support. Not all widows are to have this honor though. The

mere fact that a woman is a widow does not obviously make her a real

widow to whom honor is to be given. What is the distinction? Paul

makes it clear:

I Timothy 5:5-6

“Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God

and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But

she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.”

There is the widow that trusts in God, whose hope is God and

expectantly prays to Him, continually, “night and day”. But there is also

the widow that her life style is worldly. The phrase “lives in pleasure” is

the Greek word “spatalao”. “Spatalao” means “to live riotously” (Vine’s


dictionary, p. 871). The noun form of the verb (“spatali”) means

“excessive riotousness, vain, excessive spending of wealth” (Mega

Lexicon of the Greek Language, p. 6621). Such widows, widows that

have a world-centered vain life style, widows that live riotously, are not

real widows. It is not to these widows that honor is due.

Having made this clear from the outset, Paul makes also clear that the

children or the grandchildren of the real widows are the first that have

responsibility for them. Here is what he says:

I Timothy 5:4, 7-8

“But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first

learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this

is good and acceptable before God. … And these things

command, that they may be blameless. But if anyone does not

provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he

has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

There is a clear responsibility of the children for their parents,

including grandparents. As the Word says, the children are “ to repay

their parents”. And as Vine mentions in his dictionary about this word:

“The word “repay” is the Greek word “amoive” that means

“recompense (akin to ameibomai, to repay, not found in the New

Testament), is used with the verb apodidomi, to render, in I Tim. 5:4.

This use is illustrated in the papyri by way of making a return,

conferring a benefaction in return for something” (Vine’s dictionary p.


There is an obligation of children and grandchildren towards their

parents. This is the obligation to “honor their parents” which includes

caring for them and their welfare. In the case of widows, their children


and grandchildren should take care of them and their needs. Caring for

your own and your household is a priority and in fact an obligation each

one of us has. I think we touched on this previously: this kind of “giving”

has pre-eminence over any other kind of giving. Other kinds of giving

are voluntary contributions. This one is not. This one is an obligation.

There is no option here. This shows how much importance God gives to

it. If you are a believer you have to “render re-compensation” to your

parents (and grandparents), meaning taking care of them and their

needs. And so that no doubt is left verse 8 says: “But if anyone does not

provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has

denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This is really serious.

Moving further on the matter of widows, the Word of God tells us

more about the participation of the church concerning the care of the


I Timothy 5:9-16

“Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the

number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well

reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she

has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has

relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good

work. But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun

to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having

condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And

besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to

house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying

things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger

widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no

opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some

have already turned aside after Satan. If any believing man or


woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the

church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really


There is a “number” (Greek: katalaigo = enroll) in which some

widows were to be included and some others were not. What is this

“number”, this enrolment ? Though Paul does not mention it explicitly,

it appears to be something familiar to Timothy and I believe it was the

number of the widows to be supported by the church. Not all widows

were to be in this number but only the old ones, 60 years old and above,

and under certain additional conditions. For the younger widows, Paul,

and God through His Word, desires that they get married again and bear

children. The last verse of the above passage sums it up: if anyone has

widows in his family, he should relieve them and not let the church be

burdened with their support. However the church would indeed support

the older widows that were real widows according to the conditions

given in the previous verses and if there was nobody else from their

family able or willing to give them the necessary support.


I have left last the examination of two passages that people sometimes

use to support tithing and the receiving of salaries by the clergy. This is

the subject of the next 2 short chapters.



Were Abraham and Jacob tithers ?

In contrast to what we have seen in the first chapters of this study,

and to support the application of tithing, many say that tithing is in fact

not part of the law because it was applied - they say – before the law, by

Abraham and Jacob. Thus, in this view, it is a principle that transcends

time and Bible administrations and applies equally to before, during and

after the Mosaic law. Before we go to the passages they use, let’s see how

Jesus Christ saw and classified tithing. Matthew 23:23 tells us:

Matthew 23:23

“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.”

The Lord is speaking to the Pharisees. These people were paying their

tithes but they had forgotten the weightier matters of the law. They

were hypocrites! The phrase “weightier matters of the law” makes a

comparison between lighter “matters of the law” and weightier

“matters of the law”. Tithing was a lighter matter of the law. Justice

and mercy and faith were weightier matters of the law than tithing. This

is not a comparison between general matters but “matters of the

law” and tithing was classified by the Lord as a “matter of the law”. And

such a matter it is.

Let’s now move to the records of Abraham and Jacob, starting from

the former. We find the related passage in Hebrews 7. Paul is explaining

there Jesus as our High Priest. The last verse of Hebrews 6 tells us:

Hebrews 6:20


“where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having

become High Priest forever according to the order of


Then chapter 7 carries on speaking more about Melchizedek and how

he was a prototype of Christ as High Priest. It is in this context we read

about Abraham:

Hebrews 7: 1-6

“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most

High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings

and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of

everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness";

then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." Without

father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days

or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.

Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave

him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the

descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from

the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers

are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace

his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham

and blessed him who had the promises.” (NIV)

Some people use this passage to say that tithing is a principle that

transcends times and administrations and thus it is valid today too. This

is because – they say – Abraham was a tither and this was before the

law. So also we, without the law, should be tithing too. But I don’t think

that this is what the passage is telling us. The main focus of the passage

is on Melchizedek and how Jesus Christ is the High Priest according to

the order of Melchizedek. To show how great the order of Melchizedek


is, it refers to Genesis where Abraham, returning from the slaughter of

the kings, gave him a tenth of the spoils that he got. But this has nothing

to do with the tithe as we know it, and here is why2:

1. What Abraham gave was completely voluntary. Nobody told him that

he had to give a tenth of the spoils. He did it absolutely voluntary. In

contrast tithing is mandatory, something that you have to do, regardless

of whether you really desire it or not.

2. Furthermore, tithing is something that you do regularly. Not just

once. Did Abraham do something like this ? His life is well documented

in the Bible with 14 chapters of Genesis devoted almost completely to

him. Yet this is the only time in his life in which we see him giving a

tenth. In other words, what is described in Hebrews and Genesis was a

one time event and not something that was repeated regularly, week

after week or month after month.

3. The fact that what Abraham did was something extraordinary rather

than something regular is also obvious by the fact that he gave

Melchizedek 10% of the spoils that he got. This was not his normal

income or belongings, but spoils. Something unexpected, a windfall

gain. Today, such gains are for example: lottery winnings, or an

unexpected inheritance. His giving was like getting an unexpected

inheritance and then giving 10%. Again this is not what people mean by


To summarize, what we see Abraham giving was a one time voluntary

gift of 10% of a windfall gain he received.

His giving was:

2 See also: Frank Viola and George Barna: “Pagan Christianity”, Tyndale House

publishers, p. 174


i) voluntary, not obligatory.

ii) a one time thing, not something done regularly.

iii) Finally it was out of a windfall gain he received, not out of his

regular income.

Was his giving 10% ? Yes it was. Was his giving a tithe in the meaning

it is taught today (regular and obligatory giving of 10% of your income) ?

From what we saw, this was obviously not the case.

Was Jacob a tither?

Moving now to Jacob, the passage that is used to support that tithing

is a principle that is applicable today is in Genesis 28. Just to give the

background: Isaac sent away Jacob to go to Haran, the place where

Laban the brother of Rebecca was living. On his way there, he stopped

somewhere to sleep and he saw in a dream the Lord promising him to be

with him, to give him the land on which he was sleeping, to multiply him

abundantly and to bless all the peoples on earth through him and his

offspring (Genesis 28:10-15). This was not an ordinary dream! Imagine

how you would be after something like this. As a reaction to this Jacob

did the following:

Genesis 28:20-22

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and

will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me

food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my

father's house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I


have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you

give me I will give you a tenth."” (NIV)

The key phrase here is “made a vow”. What is described here is not

something that Jacob did obligatory nor something that he was doing

regularly. In contrast, it is a vow, something that was done voluntary

with an “if” in front of it. “If you do this Lord, I vow to give you the tenth

of what you will give me”. Again this has nothing to do with modern day,

regular and obligatory tithing.



On 2 Corinthians 11:8-9: What was Paul receiving while in


2 Corinthians 11:8-9 is a passage frequently misunderstood, with

many using it to support that Paul was receiving a salary from a church

while in Corinth. It would be fine for Paul, an apostolic worker, to “live

from the gospel”. He was entitled to this. However as we saw previously

he chose not to do so, giving an example to the other believers. Before

we go to 2 Corinthians 11:8-9, let’s first go to Philippians where we read

about the support these believers sent to Paul. This is necessary so that

we get the background needed to understand 2 Corinthians 11:8-9 :

Philippians 4:14-18

“Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my

distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning

of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no

church shared with me concerning giving and

receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you

sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I

seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from

Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling

aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

Many consider that the support of the Philippians to Paul was only

during the time that he was in Thessalonica. However this is not what

the passage is telling us. As it says the Philippians supported Paul “in

the beginning of the gospel, when he departed from Macedonia”.

Thessalonica was part of Macedonia. Also see that the passage says that


even in Thessalonica you sent me..”. In other words what he is saying

is: “you sent me support in the beginning of the gospel, after I departed

from Macedonia …. in fact you even sent me support when I was still in

Macedonia, in Thessalonica”. Now, where did Paul go after he departed

from Macedonia? Acts 17 and 18 tell us that he went to Athens, where he

stayed only briefly, and from there he went 50 miles southwest to

Corinth. There he stayed one year and a half preaching the Word of God

and establishing the local church. I believe it is there where he received

the support of the Philippians. Acts 18:5 tell us:

“When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul

[now in Corinth] was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the

Jews that Jesus is the Christ.”

The Philippians helped Paul “in the beginning of the gospel, when he

departed from Macedonia”. Where was he when he got their help? I

believe in Corinth, and he got their help through Silas and Timothy the

brothers that “had come from Macedonia”. So Paul was supported partly

by the Philippians church in Corinth. He was also working, at least part

time. The fact that he was working there is clear from Acts 18:1-3 :

Acts 18:1-3

“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to

Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in

Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla

(because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from

Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the

same trade, he stayed with them AND WORKED; for by

occupation they were tentmakers.


Paul was working in Corinth. He also received support from the

church in Philippi. From the record of Philippians it is clear that this

was not an involuntary support extorted from Paul, but a voluntary

given gift. Having clarified this, let’s now turn to 2 Corinthians 11:8-9

where Paul is saying:

“I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in

order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I

did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from

Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain

from burdening you in any way.” (ESV)

I have used the ESV translation here, for it is much closer to the

meaning of the original text. The translation of KJV/NKJV is rather

misleading, reading as follows: “I robbed other churches, taking wages

from them to minister to you.”. Many people use this translation to

support that Paul was receiving a salary from other churches. If

somebody was to read this as the KJV/NKJV has it and without paying

attention to the context and the other references, he may conclude that

indeed Paul was receiving salaries from other churches. But once the

context and the other references are taking into consideration, it

becomes apparent that such conclusions are without foundation. Paul

was not receiving “wages”, salaries from other churches. He received

support. This support was voluntary given for we never see him

soliciting it. How did he get this support? “From the brothers who came

from Macedonia”. From which churches? We have seen already one: the

Philippians who “sent him support in the beginning of the gospel, after

he departed from Macedonia” and went to Corinth. Other Macedonian

churches may have supported him too, though it is not mentioned

explicitly in the Scriptures. Did he rob these churches? Of course not.

But he uses this phrase as a figure of speech, to make a point, because


Corinth was a very wealthy city. As Strabo, a Greek historian and

geographer that lived in the first century, informs us:

"Corinth is called 'wealthy' because of its commerce, since it is situated

on the Isthmus and is master of two harbors, of which the one leads

straight to Asia, and the other to Italy; and it makes easy the exchange

of merchandise from both countries that are so far distant from each

other" (Geography, 8.6.20).”

According to ancient sources, Corinth at the time of Paul was more

wealthy and prosperous as never before. Its population was 300.000

free men plus 450.000 slaves, a city of huge size by ancient (and even

modern) standards. Paul in saying that he robbed other churches he

uses a figure of speech to say that he was supported by other poorer

churches in his ministry to these wealthy Corinthian Christians. It is in

a figure of speech “robbing”. Not literal but figuratively.

To sum up:

Paul was not receiving a salary from a church. He was working, at least

part time, while in Corinth and was also partly supported with free will,

unsolicited, gifts from the brothers from Macedonia. He did not rob any

church literally but he uses this term figuratively to point out that he

was receiving support from poorer churches to preach the gospel to a

rather wealthy community of people.



Conclusion and what to do with the information in this book

Now from all the above let’s make a not so long conclusion.

From our study it has become clear that there is no tithe in our times,

in the New Testament era. The tithe, together with the other ordinances

and handwritings of the law, has become obsolete, through the death

and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. What is valid in the New

Testament is free will offerings which were given for the following


i) to support the poor saints. This is the most common form of

offering and the one about which the New Testament speaks


ii) free will gifts to missionaries and apostles i.e. sent ones (that’s

what the word “apostles” mean) that went around, from town

to town, spreading the Word of God.

iii) free will, voluntary gifts (not salaries) to elders i.e. to the more

mature in the faith (“elder”) brothers that were acting as

shepherds, overseeing the flock of God in the local church.

iv) support of widows that trust in God and in addition are old in

age, commendable for their works and have nobody else from

their family to take care of them.

The gifts were free will gifts “as one may prosper” i.e. in accordance to

what he had. They were to be given as “one purposes in his heart, not

grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Though I believe every part of the Scripture is equally important I do

believe that there are parts that are emphasized more than others


because of the space that is given to them. If I’m speaking to you and 90

% of what I’m saying is about A and 10% is about B, I obviously put

more emphasis on A than on B. And on the matter of giving, 90 % is

about giving to the poor saints (including widows) while there are 2

verses about giving to elders, another few verses about giving to church

planters (missionaries, apostles, sent ones). All are important but the

scriptural weight is, in my opinion, in supporting the poor saints.

Comparison to today? In a typical, 21st century, western church about

40-60 % of the expenditures relate to staff salaries with another 20-30%

going to building expenses and bills. They didn’t have such items in the

1st century church! Why do we need to have them? Why can’t we go back

to the New Testament church model, establish collective leaderships of

believers each of whom has his own occupation to earn his income? Why

don’t we meet at homes as they were meeting instead of having to sit in

an auditorium to hear a 40 minute sermon every Sunday … which costs

a pastor to give it and a building to house it ? If this is how they were

doing it in the New Testament why can’t we not do it like them? Why

do we take what would normally go to the poor saints and to

missions to further the kingdom of God and give it to

maintain structures and traditions that are foreign to the

Word of God? Think about it and ask the tough questions.

What to do with what you learned in this book

Having said the above, I need to make it clear: With these questions I

want to challenge you, but I’m not propagating that you should leave

your church organization. Leaving a church is not a solution. It is just a

reaction and in fact an immature one. The church for me is something

much more than structures and tithes: it is people, brothers and sisters


in Christ. For me, they – and not a building made of stone, a system, or

a name - are the church. Writing this study was two things for me: first

it was enlightening and refreshing. Discovering the truths of God’s Word

is always refreshing and liberating. At the same time, writing this study

was painful because I knew I was writing something that is going to be

controversial. The reason I wrote this book was because we have to be

informed to what the Word of God says. We can’t close our eyes and say

forget about it. It is the truth and as for me personally, I have decided

with the help of the Holy Spirit to follow this truth. I have to show you

what I see that the Word of God says. That’s my job and I have tried to

do it to the best of my abilities. At the same time I pursue to have, with

my brothers and sisters in Christ, a great degree of tolerance on

theological matters. I suggest the same to you. I will not tolerate it if

somebody claims to be a brother in Christ and says that he does not

believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is raised from the dead.

These are fundamental matters of our faith. Nobody can be a believer

without believing in them. He is just not saved. I have to point out the

truth to this person in love and I will do it right away. But with those

that believe the fundamental truths that make somebody a Christian

(i.e. the Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, and God

raised Him from the dead), I will not start a fight about tithing or the

system of today’s churches. Nor of course am I going to leave my

brothers and sisters that is the church, the body of Christ, because they

are not informed about the tithing or they don’t agree with me. The

system does not change like this. The system does not change with

reactions but with actions. It changes I believe when each one of us

starts seeking the truth of the Word. When he is thirsty to learn what

God says about a matter. When he is not satisfied with what a church

official or even I may tell him but searches the Scriptures on his own to

see if it so, as the Bereans did. Then after he learns it, he is eager to

apply it in love. You learned from this book that the Word of God gives


much importance in helping poor and troubled saints. Go ahead and do

it! You learned from this book that in the Bible elders, bishops and

shepherds were not people that graduated from theological schools and

started a career as employees of a church. They were people with jobs

and families like me and you. They were plain, ordinary, people, like the

illiterate fishermen the Lord called to follow Him. They were also people

mature in Christ that took upon themselves to shepherd, oversee the

younger believers. Are you a mature Christian? If yes step up, inside or

outside the system, and do the work of a mature believer. If God wanted

to continue the Levite system with some individuals doing the ministry

while the remaining of us would pay the tithes to maintain it, He would

have done it so. But He hasn’t. Instead Christ made all of us priests and

kings. We are all the royal priesthood with our God-ordained function.

Fighting against the one-man-does-it-all system, saying how wrong it is

and at the same time overlooking the fact that we are bothers and sisters

in Christ, is I believe just an immature reaction. The action is to step up,

find and be what God made you to be in the body of Christ. Do your part

and function to the best of your gifts and abilities. You have to know and

be informed based on the Word of God about what is right and what is

wrong. This is what I have tried to do in this book concerning tithing

and giving. This is needed, yet you should not use it as a sword.

You should do what the Word of God says for you to do,

without condemning or separating yourself from those

brothers that don’t do it.

Now if you are a pastor, I also need to make clear that I have nothing

against you. Don’t feel threatened brother. Feeling threatened is again a

reaction not an action. I don’t believe that any church should fire any

pastor because it is not biblical to pay pastoral salaries. This is not the

way to go. What I believe should be done is that everybody should

recognize that pastors are brothers, just brothers. They are not bosses,

they are not the head of the body (as I heard somebody saying in a


church meeting). Christ is the head of the body, Christ is the boss, and

everybody else is a member of this body. Pastors should encourage the

other members of the body to grow, to rise, transferring tasks and

activities from themselves to the more mature of the believers. For

example (and it is only an example): bad or good the focal point of a

church service is the sermon. Ask the congregation to step up as

brothers and give sermons in addition to you, rotating. Not just one or

two or when you are out of town. But regularly, in the same portion as

you do. Why not? It should not be difficult for a brother to leave the

pulpit and isn’t this exactly what church is: brothers and sisters in Christ

coming together? I have seen pastors that are not gifted with the gift of

teaching. This is not bad. Why should it be? A pastor is just another

member of the body. “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all

teachers?” says the Word (1 Corinthians 12:29). The answer is obviously

no. These people may not have a teaching gift but they have other

wonderful gifts. Yet they will be preaching week after week, because,

according to the system, the sermon is a task of the pastor. This is sad,

but I only mention it as an example. It is not the main point. The main

point is that pastors should help the congregation to grow and the more

mature ones should take over some of the pastor’s tasks so that the

burden is equally distributed to the mature brothers. The pastor will

then be functioning in his true dimension as another member of the

body and not in today’s distorted dimension, as, implicitly or explicitly,

“head of the body”. He will then also be free to earn his living by

working as everybody else and the congregation should help him in this

by finding if possible a job for him. There is no ground for divisions and

fights. These are coming only because of reactions to the truth of the

Word not because of actions. As the Word says: “Only by pride cometh

contention” (Proverbs 13:10 - KJV). If we as believers want to follow

God’s way, this way has one name: it is called the way of love and

humility and we can do it. We can do what the first century Christians


did. It may sound crazy, risky and new. It is definitely easier to stay as

we are. But why should we do this? Why should we willingly deviate

from what we know that the Word of God says? I really see no reason to

do this. Do you?


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