Tuesday, December 4, 2007
How the early church was financed
It should come as no surprise that the early congregations of Christianity were financed the same way the early Israelite society was financed—through a free-will offering, which according to Moses, was more than ample to provide that which was needed.
"Men and women, as many as were willing hearted, brought bracelets, and earrings, rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold ...the children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord ... They brought yet unto him (Moses) free offerings every morning ... the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much." (Exodus 35:22, 29; 36:3,7)
When our Father’s people give according to His heart and do the work He has called us to do in His way, those offerings of the heart will be sufficient and more than sufficient. The keys are the willing heart and the proper work!
Church historians make it very clear, the early Christian congregations were not financed by tithing of any kind. Apparently tithing promoters do not read very much early Christian history. The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that "The Christian Church depended at first on voluntary gifts from its members." Hasting’s Dictionary of the Apostolic Church says, "It is admitted universally that the payment of tithes or the tenths of possessions, for sacred purposes did not find a place within the Christian Church during the age covered by the apostles and their immediate successors." The Americana declares: "It (tithing) was not practiced in the early Christian Church." Even the Catholic Church, notorious for its many finance raising schemes, says in the New Catholic Encyclopedia: "The early Church had no tithing system ... it was not that no need of supporting the Church existed or was recognized, but rather that other means appeared to suffice."
The recently published Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary tells us that in "the New Testament, the words ‘tithe’ and ‘tithing’ appear only eight times (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; Luke 18:12; Hebrews 7:5-6, 8-9). All of these passages refer to Old Testament usage and to current Jewish practice. Nowhere does the New Testament expressly command Christians to tithe."
It is ironic that the Roman Catholic Church, which brought many Old Testament traditions and rituals back into the church in modified forms, at first did not partake in usury, that is, in interest on money. They felt usury was un-Biblical because of passages such as Exodus 22:25; Lev. 25:35-37; Deut. 23:19-20; Nehe. 5:7,10; Ps. 15:5. To finance their building programs and wars, the popes and kings assigned Jews in their court to do that kind of "dirty work." That was perhaps one of the leading contributors to the Jewish people becoming prominent in banking, that is, through being the Christian’s money lenders.
Isn’t it interesting that those who quote the Old Testament to support tithing for Christians mysteriously avoid scriptures dealing with charging interest as being unlawful? These same tithe promoters usually have plenty of money stashed into all kinds of interest bearing bonds, savings accounts, etc. As a matter of fact, every time a bullet or bomb is dropped to kill someone, thousands of churches across America make a profit. How so, you might ask? Churches and denominational headquarters have billions of dollars which are invested in hundreds of different profit-making or interest-bearing ventures. Most churches invest in conservative mutual funds with portfolios composed of Blue Chip companies such as defense contractors. Some of these same conservative companies are even controlled by religious organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church. When these defense contractors, like McDonnell Douglas, sell their war machines to our government, the stockholders, thousands of which are churches, make a profit. War machines are made to kill people. The church invests in many companies that make all kinds of products that kill or are harmful to humanity. One would be shocked to find out how much Christian organizations earn from the world’s military industrial complex. (For more information on this subject write for the audiotape The Church is a Rich Prostitute.)
It was not until after Constantine (fourth century A.D.) made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire that the free-will offering was replaced with various forceful means of raising money. Constantine began a huge building program, constructing churches and renovating pagan temples for use in what would become Roman Catholicism. Prior to this time, believers did not need ornate buildings. After all, they knew that they were the true temple of God, not some buildings constructed in the very same form as the pagan temples only with some Biblical themes added to them. A study of the things Constantine and his mother did to pervert Christianity would be a very worthwhile study.
So, back to New Covenant financing. Matthew through Revelations is really full of Scriptures that deal with proper giving. There are really too many to put into such a small publication. But a few will suffice.
Throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New, the God of Christianity makes it clear that He is really not interested in our "offerings of sacrifice."
"Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God! I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are continually before Me. I will not take a bull from your house, nor goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." (Psalm 50:7-15)
"For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise." (Psalm 51:16,17) "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure." (Hebrews 10:5,6; Psalm 40:6-8)
Our Father makes it abundantly clear that we have nothing that does not even now belong to Him already. Offering 10 per cent of His goods or 90 per cent of His goods or all of it, means nothing to Him. He knows it all belongs to Him. We are the ones who seem to have the problem of forgetting that. What He is really after is our sincere thankfulness, our gratefulness for what He has given us!
Every person knows in their heart that God does not need stained glass windows, steeples, plush carpet, gaudy looking crosses, and a host of others things "tithes" are used to purchase. He would probably prefer a bull to a steeple. At least He made the bull, he didn’t make nor authorize church leaders to make much of the "stuff" those tithes are spent on.
Let me ask you, "How did Jesus send out the disciples? Did He give them a Cadillac or an American Express Card in the name of the ministry like many modern American evangelists do today? No, He sent them out with nothing and they were provided for with all they needed as they went.
"Go your way; behold I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor script, nor shoes ... and in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give; for the labourer is worthy of his hire ..." (Luke 10:3,4,7)