"Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." (I Corinthians 9:13, 14)
To tithe or not to tithe, that is the question. Whether from fear that tithing may detract from the teaching of grace, or from honest doubts as to the actual teaching of the New Testament, or from simple covetousness either on the part of those too stingy to pay or on the part of those too greedy to get the tithe, there is some controversy among Baptists as to whether tithing is a New Testament duty.
Tithe Is just another word for tenth, and we have record of three times that Jesus personally used the Greek word meaning literally "to tenth off," if we can think of "tenth" as a verb. It is translated "tithe," "give tithes," and "pay tithe," as follows:
"But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Luke 11:42.)
"I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." (Luke 18: 12.)
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these might ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:23.)
"THESE OUGHT YE"
A careless reader could jump to the false conclusion that Jesus disapproved of tithing, because He declared the greater importance of other things. But attention to text and context will make it clear that far from finding fault with tithing as such, Jesus put His approval upon it.
The parable in Luke 18:9-14 was spoken "unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." The thing wrong with this Pharisee was not his tithing:, but his self-righteousness.
On the other two occasions recorded when Jesus referred to tithing, He pointed to more important things ("judgment and the love of God" in Luke 11:42; "judgment, mercy, and faith" in Matthew 23:23) and declared:
"These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." In reminding them of the "weightier matters," He was careful to add that even so they should not leave undone the paying of tithes.
TITHES IN TYPE
Seven times in the seventh chapter of Hebrews we read of tithing in connection with Abraham and Melchisedec as types of the believer and Christ. Once we have the same verb as Jesus used, twice a shorter form of the same verb, and four times the noun of the same root, meaning tithe or tenth.
Now, certainly it is not safe to try to establish a doctrine from a type - especially if we have no authority but our own imagination to establish the type. But when we have a doctrine already established by the plain declarations of God's word, and when that same word plainly declares that certain Old Testament figures are divinely appointed types, it would certainly be foolish for. us to ignore the instruction thus given.
It is therefore no mere supposition, but a practical, moral, and logical certainty that as Abraham (including Levi who received tithes) paid tithes to Melchisedec, so New Testament believers (including preachers) ought to give or pay tithes to "Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedee." (Hebrews 6:20.)
ORDAINED OF GOD
But our text (I Corinthians 9:13, 14) leaves nothing to mere reason or logic. "Do ye not know?" Surely God's people instructed in His church cannot be ignorant of God's Old Testament law of tithes and offerings for the support of the ministry of the temple! And here is God's answer to lawless misers who deny their New Testament obligations:
"EVEN SO hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."
The word translated "even so" (KJ) means "thus" or "in this way." In plain words, our Lord ordained that preachers of His gospel should be supported in the same way as the Old Testament ministry - by tithes and offerings.
Now, if all this is not plain enough for any Christian to understand, I can add little more than Paul's words to disorderly jabberers and feminine speakers or their promoters at Corinth:
"If any man (or woman: literally 'anyone') be ignorant, let him be ignorant." (I Corinthians 14:38.)
Really the New Testament teaching on tithing is not difficult for an unprejudiced mind to understand. There are two main reasons for the distaste that many Christians have for the doctrine of tithing, and both of them are "covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5.)
Most guilty are the "ravening wolves" (Matthew 7:15) occupying many pulpits and generally controlling denominational programs. Covetous of money, position, and power, they have so overemphasized their carnal desires and so prostituted their position to the service of mammon as to cause a natural revulsion among' honest sheep and shepherds.
But we must not allow Satan's perversions of doctrine to frighten us into the opposite heresy of denying what the Bible really teaches. Paul was careful not to abuse his authority in the gospel (I Corinthians 9:18), but he was just as careful to set forth the duty of God's people to support His ministry.
Satan's ministers, however, do not have a monopoly on covetousness. Baby Christians have found out that the gift of God is eternal life, but too many, have not yet learned much of what it should mean to us that we were bought with a price. Lake tiny toddlers claiming for their own everything in sight and screaming and kicking against all restraint, they suppose that it is their privilege to take everything they can get and give nothing except for their own pleasure. They meed to grow up and face up to their responsibilities as God's children in the light of God's word.
We have more important duties than tithing, but even tithing ought not to be left undone.
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist newspaper, October, 14, 1977. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More Rosco Brong Sermons
Baptist History Homepage