New Testament Pattern

Who should a Christian give to?

/// Should a Christian tithe?

There are no ‘professionals’ in God’s Church, only bondservants!

Our considerations in this series couldn’t be complete without seeking to  answer the obvious question of who/what should we give our money to? Looking  into the pages of the New Testament it seems to me that there are three  categories into which our giving falls.

1. The poor, generally

“Therefore when thou doest thine alms…” (Mat 6:2)

“Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation…” (Acts 24:17)

The word ‘alms’ by very definition means to give help to the poor. I think we  all know what qualifies essentially as ‘poor’. We all need food, water, clothing  and shelter whatever our country, culture, religious and political beliefs. I  think that this area of our giving should be ‘without partiality’. In the Old  Testament there was a particular obligation to look out for the stranger  (foreigner). Such would not have necessarily been ‘Jews’ religiously speaking. I  don’t think it matters what ‘persuasion’ someone is of; if they haven’t got the  absolute basics of life then they qualify for our care. Showing such care and  compassion in this way is as good a way as any to ‘preach’ the Gospel too. Who  knows how much eternal good as well as temporal may come from simply giving to  those who have basic human need?

Jesus said, “the poor you will have with you always.” We mustn’t become fixated  on the idea of saving the world from poverty. That will not happen in a complete  way until the Lord returns when He will put all things in their proper order but  we can do something of good in this realm. Also, we do need to be wise about  distinguishing between the genuine poor and the fraudsters! Some of the people  who beg for help are sometimes better off than the people they hope to receive  from. In some cases (often through the Internet) those who are soliciting help  are involved in serious organised crime. (Beware if you receive emails from  unknown persons asking for your assistance in some financial matter – no matter  how plausible the story!). We must try to make our best judgement between the  genuine poor and those who are mere abusers of people’s consciences. But don’t  worry if you think you may have got it wrong – God knows our hearts. “Be ye  therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

2. Christian need, specifically

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto  them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10)

“…distributing to the necessity of saints…” (Romans 12:13)

The Church is a family. As much as the love of God is in us for all our fellow  man there is also something more we have for our families. This is not ungodly  partiality, we are told plainly in the New Testament to especially look out for  our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we become Christians, for many people,  (for various reasons humanly speaking) there is a weakening of natural family  ties and in some cases the Christian is completely disowned by his family. For  this reason there is a compensation factor in God’s heavenly economy here on  earth. “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or  father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the  gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and  brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands…” (Mark 10:29,30).  How can we receive a hundredfold the amount of brothers or sisters we lost? How  do we become owners of so many houses? Simply by being a part of a new family,  one that shares all that it has amongst its own and through the hospitality  which all of the saints of God are called to – a ministry for all. Of course our  Heavenly Father could provide all these things for us individually but what  delight He has in seeing His children care for one another in such a way.

Acts 2:44 and 4:32 speak of believers having all things “in common.” Read these  passages carefully and you will see that it is not talking of ‘communal living’,  as in all living permanently in one big house together, but it is showing us  plainly that we must treat our possessions as the communal belongings of the  household of faith. When you were baptised into His Body, the Church, (by a  spiritual baptism – 1 Cor 12:13) you became married to a million and more people  all at once! Blood may be ‘thicker than water’ but ‘spirit is thicker than  blood!’ – Hallelujah, I love this family of God! We have a family responsibility  to look out for one another in every respect.

3. The work of the Gospel/the local church

“Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because  I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking  wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I  was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which  came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being  burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.” (2 Cor. 11:7-9).

First and foremost it must be stated that there are no ‘professionals’ in God’s  Church, only bondservants. The use of the word ‘wage’ in the above quote does  not literally mean ‘regular salary’ any more than ‘robbed’ can be taken  literally! But what we do see here is that those who are appointed by God (here  we must learn to discern) to minister in such a way that does not always permit  them to be about normal work are worthy of our support. However, we also read  that the apostle Paul renounced this support if ever it was liable to hinder the  gospel: Acts 18:3, 21:34, 1 Thes 2:5-9

In the above quote we see that this support came from churches and the  brethren. I am uncertain as to whether or not the latter (the brethren) is being  used in this case synonymously with the churches or if it denotes individual  Christians who gave as they were led to the apostle? I’d like to think it is the  latter but in either case there is no stated constraint that we must only give  in this way via the local church. This brings us to the next consideration  within the context of giving for the work of the gospel…

Concerning church collections

The opening portion of 1 Corinthians 16 speaks of a church collection. However,  this particular instance would not be a correct foundation for teaching that  every local church must have an ongoing collection. It is clear here that the  subject here is a specific collection for a specific need. It would though seem  quite reasonable to conclude from other Scriptures in the New Testament that  each local church did have some sort of fund. The above quote clearly states  that various churches had been contributing to Paul’s needs, materially  speaking. Also, the fifth chapter of 1 Timothy speaks of two more possible money  needs in a local church: widows who were otherwise not provided for and elders  who were labouring in such a way that meant they did not have so much time to  cater for their own needs. I do not want to commence addressing these issues; I  simply mention them as evidence for churches having some funds. (* See footnote  below line for more on the subject of elders being paid.)

A church fund therefore implies that the believers gave into it (no New  Testament church ever went on a money raising campaign!). I cannot imagine that  such monies were gathered by means of passing a collection bowl/plate/whatever.  To collect money in this way would to my mind contravene the simple principles  that we looked at in the second part of this article. People may feel compelled  to give if they are handed some receptacle in the midst of a meeting. I have  little doubt, I am sad to say, that that is exactly the plan in many places that  people call ‘churches’ the world over! God’s people do not need to ask, beg or  compel. A discretely placed receptacle for those who want to find it would allow  anyone who wants to give in accordance with the principles of willingness and  discretion.

In respect of answering the question, “how should the local churches use their  funds?” we have essentially summed this up already: It should be used for the  support of those who are called of God for His work in such a manner that  detracts from their normal ability to provide for all of their own needs and for  essential social need within (e.g. widows without any other provision). No doubt  we could include alms giving generally too. There are doubtless many  permutations of things that fit roughly into these three categories.

Finally, a thought about what a New Testament church did not consume its money  on. I would guess that the vast majority of what is paid into the coffers of  most churches these days is used to pay for a ‘church building’ (be it owned or  hired) and a salaried ‘minister’ (or more than one even). From long, honest and  close study of the pages of the New Testament I am utterly convinced that  neither such scenario existed during the 60 years of the Church covered by the  Inspired Book we call The New Testament. Churches always met in their homes and  never hired ministers. There is no hint anywhere that the established apostolic  practices and methods of operating as churches were to be changed. I’m afraid if  we step outside of these divinely given examples in one area then we will be  immediately en-route to having to change God’s standards elsewhere too in order  to accommodate our unbiblical practices. (* See footnote below again for link to  ‘His Church’- a study of the New Testament pattern for the Church.)

Conclusions to all three parts of this series


Abraham gave a tithe as a willing, spontaneous gesture from his heart. Jacob  ‘bargained’ with God in a more calculating way. Tithing, in the proper sense of  the word (giving 10% of all increase), later became a ‘legal’ requirement under  the Old Testament. It was not carried forward as a condition of the New.


Christians, by virtue of the indwelling Spirit of God, will want to give. It is  an anticipated response to the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts. We  are never told in the New Testament how much to give. We are told that our  giving should be done: willingly, cheerfully, secretly, generously, unselfishly  and unconditionally.


We should give to: the poor generally, to the needs of our fellow Christians  specifically and the work of the Gospel. The latter being such persons who are  the genuine ministers of Christ who live worthy lives of faith. The concept of  the salaried ‘church professional’ is unbiblical. We should give to the local  church’s collection, which can also be used in support of all three categories  above.

A final thought

This series has been looking at the broad principles involved in Christian  giving. I have on a few occasions touched very briefly on the subject from the  perspective of those who may be the recipients of such gifts. In summary of this  I would like to offer the following food for thought. No Christian or church or  so-called Christian organisation should ever ask anyone for money to support  their ministry. The genuine works of God never require us to beg, borrow or  solicit the financial help of men. Paul may have (?) made known that others had  need (the poor in Jerusalem) and may have (?) made request on their behalf (such  could be thought from reading between the lines of various New Testament  passages?) but he did not appeal to anyone for his own needs and he only  collected for the poor in Jerusalem from other Christians not the unconverted.

Giving to the work of God is our privilege, we can be partakers of a meaningful  ministry in this way but we must never think that God needs the money! The Lord  owns “the cattle upon a thousand hills.” If the work is from Him (and all else  is eternally worthless) He will somehow, through someone or something provide  for the needs.

“God’s work, done in God’s way, never lacks God’s supply.”

* I have argued in the study ‘His Church’ that elders were not ‘waged’ by the local church but rather some were, if need required, supported in some measure. If you want to read this part of ‘His Church’ go to the end of section Authority in the local church and scroll down to subheading ‘Are elders paid for what they do?’ The subject of ‘professional ministers’ / ‘trained pastors’ etc. is addressed throughout this study.

Should a Christian Tithe?

Should a Christian tithe?