Just Don't Give Them Any Money!

John M. Bland


    2. THE tithe IN JUDAISM
    2. "Ministerial" Support
      2. The "Right To Eat And Drink"
      3. Widows, widows indeed, and "elders" viz Old People



in the words of the radio psychologist Dr. Joy Brown, "People are funny about money when they're funny about nothing else!" The good doctor's comment about "filthy lucre" introduces the subject covered by this thesis quite well.

People do treat money in a special way. Maybe this is the reason Jesus spent prodigious effort trying to wean those that would be his students from material concerns. Those of us familiar with the New Testament have memorized such verses as "... you can't serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24b) and:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust corrupts, and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19).

The above verses demonstrate that Jesus did everything possible to devalue material things. He even went so far as to instruct his followers to loan possessions upon request, making no effort to retrieve them.

Give to everyone that asks you; and of him that takes away your goods ask them not again (Luke 6:30).

Even though Jesus spent considerable teaching effort on this subject, humanity in all eras have found practicing Jesus' precepts on the subject difficult in the extreme. The reader should notice that Jesus taught these precepts to religious people. These listeners would later be referred to as "pious men from every nation under Heaven" (Acts 2:5). His audience didn't include "Gentile sinners" viz, people who cared nothing for God or their fellow man but very religious, God-fearing Jews. By way of emphasizing the religious context of Jesus' teaching, consider the envoy (apostle) Paul's admonition to Timothy concerning this same subject. "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10a). This assertion was made within a Christian context about certain teachers that had just been described as thinking that "... piety is [a means of] financial profit." (1 Timothy 6:5b, emphasis mine).

No one can deny that untold billions of dollars have poured into church coffers historically within a loose definition of Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church is reputed to be the wealthiest private institution on earth. Within the framework of Protestant denominationalism, billions of dollars are raised annually for a variety of activities, subsequently certain tele-evangelists personally oversee the distributions of millions annually.

Compensation for this "ministry" is diverse. Most contract the services of "clergymen". This is done whether admitting to the existence of a Christian clergy or not. In other words, the clergy exists everywhere in PRACTICE1 if not in theology. Corporate churches pay for clergy-type activities based upon the value received within the framework of their own orthodoxy. Almost universally, the "pulpit preacher" -- designated variously as preacher, evangelist, pastor, rector, etc. -- receives the greatest stipend. This is especially true of fundamentalist autonomous churches. His or her fee is normally based upon education, experience and public speaking expertise. Rarely within the confines of Protestant denominationalism will you find a member of the "clergy" receiving compensation based on NEED. For example, a young or inexperienced preacher with a wife and four children will not be able to procure a salary comparable with a single man with the aforementioned experience and skill. The tyro will be forced to work with a small group or as an underling to a more experienced man -- being compensated accordingly. In these instances, the salary may be insufficient to support his family whereas the single, experienced person may be over indemnified as to needs. Since church membership determines available salary resources, it is easy to see that this support system differs little from the business world of capitalist America.

There are some denominations that are built autonomously on the efforts of the "evangelist." This minister receives the "tithe." Rent, utilities and other incidentals to the ministry are paid by "free-will offerings" over and beyond the tithe contribution. This method is uniquely capitalistic and makes the "evangelist" a true commissioned promoter. The larger the group, the greater the remuneration as these are only limited by their efforts and ability. Most of us remember the PTL CLUB. This "club" was built upon the efforts of Jimmy and Tammy Baker and grew into a multi-million dollar annual business supporting an opulent life style. Those familiar with southern California know of "Reverend" Ike. Ike unashamedly preaches to his flock and followers to send him their money. The success of this direct approach is underscored since Ike is considered one of the wealthiest men in the Los Angeles area.

People of all religious stripe who recognize that "... godliness is a means of gain" could well relate to a "revelation" received by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. Smith, who abhorred the toil of farming, conveniently received the following "revelation" while plowing a field in the hot sun. After the "vision," he informed his recalcitrant wife Emma of God's desire that he quit the farm and earn his living by the "gospel" by quoting the Lord.

Thus saith the Lord, magnify thine office, and after thou has sowed thy fields and secured them, go speedily unto the church which is in Colesville, Fayette and Manchester, and they shall support thee; and I will bless them both spiritually and temporally; but if they receive thee not, I will send them a cursing instead of a blessing... And in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength, for this is not thy calling 2 (emphasis mine).

As the reader beholds these bewildering facts he may shake his head in wonder. Are these money gathering activities actually Biblical? Is it true that by giving to the church or to some religious sponsored "club," the Christian is giving to God? Does the "tithe" have any parallel within the confines of the New Testament church (Greek, ekklesia, a called out assembly or community)?3 Is it true that the Christian "laity" is under obligation to support the "clergy?" Does the teaching of Paul to "muzzle not the ox that is treading ..." really have a parallel to the support received by the modern "preacher", "evangelist", "pastor", or "teacher"? Does the injunction of Paul to "lay by in store" on the first day of the week equate to the weekly contributions collected by the churches today? These subjects and more will be dealt with in this short work.


Origin and Nature

In religious circles of all kinds -- even many non-Christian beliefs -- the tithe is prominent. Because of the corporate and business structures of modern day systems called churches -- some method of "revenue enhancement" is a must. In the words of the comedian Gallager when speaking of IRS tax collecting activities, i.e., revenue enhancement, "they want money to go from your 'hance' to their 'hance'". Social and civic clubs have their "dues" and their special fund raising campaigns. Religions have the tithe and the free-will offerings.

I suppose a definition of tithe is in order. The Hebrew word is "ma'aser (a tenth part)"4 Strong's has the Greek as, "APODEKATOO, from apo and dekatoo; to tithe (as a debtor or creditor): -- (give, pay, take)."5 Vine has the Greek as "2. APODEKATOO (apodekatow), denotes to (a) to tithe (apo, from, dekatos, tenth)." 6

The definitive part worthy of emphasis is that the tithe was considered a DEBT. Just as paying "dues" are necessary to maintain membership in the civic or social club, so the paying of tithes was DEMANDED of God's people to maintain good standing in the Old Testament kingdom. It was not a suggestion or simply a good thing to do. Those that failed to tithe were called thieves by God and elicited His disfavor. Thus the denunciation below merits quoting in its entirety as it is universally employed to motivate modern recalcitrant church members to "ante up."

Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me. But you will say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:8-10, emphasis mine).

If you have been a member of a Christian denomination, you have most likely been assaulted with the above text. Having been a paid "preacher" in the past, I have used this text liberally myself. for those that believe in a tithe system -- either in theology or in PRACTICE the language is easy to understand. I think you would agree that most would rather reap the blessing of material prosperity rather than fall under the curse. The question that will be taken up by this thesis is whether this system has any application to the New Testament ekklesia established by Jesus.

That the tithe was the "tenth part" can be seen by scriptures that use the two interchangeably. for example, speaking of the animals that fell under the tithe system, the Israelites were instructed thus:

The entire Tithe of the herd and flock -- every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod -- will be holy to the Lord (Leviticus 27:32; NIV, emphasis mine).

The origin of the tithe is rather obscure, however. It seems to appear out of nowhere in Biblical history and is first occasioned definitively in Genesis 14. Abraham and his armed men had just rescued Lot. On his return, Abraham met a man bearing the title of Melchizedek, who is described propitiously as "... king of Salem ... priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18). This man -- or at least his reputation -- was known to Abraham for the prophet felt obligated to "tithe" him. "... Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything" (Genesis 14:20, NIV).

At least two important precepts can be garnered from this text and the Hebrew writer's commentary later. The first is that tithing was practiced before it was mentioned in the above text. It is incredible to believe that Abram came up with the idea giving up a tenth part of the spoils on the spur of the moment. The text also shows that the practice of tithing was connected with the religious aspects of priesthood. History tells us that priests in every society were supported from the offerings of the laity. This Genesis record reminds us of the ancient nature of the practice.

The second important aspect of the tithe can be seen in the commentary by the Hebrew writer viz., the tithe was the priest's "due."

For this "Melchisedek, king of Saleim, high priest of the Highest God," the one who met Abraham when he was returning from the defeat of the kings, and he praised him. To him also Abraham" apportioned "a tenth from all his things." Indeed, his name is primarily translated "King of Right." It is also means, "King of Saleim," that is, King of Peace. He was fatherless, motherless, and without lineage -- having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life -- but similar to God's son he continues as high priest perpetually. Carefully consider how great this one was to whom Abraham the Patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils. Indeed, descendants of Levi who partake in the priesthood have a precept to take a tenth from their brethren the people of Israel although Abraham is their common ancestor (Hebrews 7:1-5, emphasis mine).

In Israel, the tithe was incorporated as God's portion, His "due." It is only their priestly connection with "God things" that the Levites received the tenth part. This warrants emphasis and further development because of the sacerdotal (priestly) systems extant today in all twentieth century churches, whether in theology or in practice.

The Tithe In Judaism

As previously referenced, the tithe was introduced into the Biblical text with Abraham. It is easy to believe that this practice predated Abraham by hundreds of years. Abraham evidently passed on the notion of the tenth part to his descendants since the next Biblical reference comes from Jacob (Israel), Abraham's grandson and the father of the Israelite nation. After receiving a vision and concluding that "... surely God was in this place" (Genesis 28:16), Israel vowed that he would give God a tenth of all if God would only bless him. His exact words are:

... if God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that you give me I will surely give the tenth unto you (Genesis 28:20-22, emphasis mine).

Though we have no further mention of the tithe within the confines of Jacob's life, we can assume that he fostered this concept in his posterity.

After delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery, God was quick to introduce the tithe into the Mosaic law (Torah). The tenth part became a mainstay of the Jewish sacrificial system. When approaching God through the anointed priests the Israelites were required to tithe. Whether the offering was a burnt offering, peace offering, trespass offering, free-will offering, etc., it was accompanied by a tenth part -- usually flour or some other edible substance.

It needs to be reiterated here that these tithe offerings were the LORD's portion. They were given to God by the laity of Israel NOT to the priests. God was very specific about this.

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, Belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. The entire tithe of the herd and flock -- every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod -- will be holy to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30,32 NIV, emphasis mine).

Knowledge that tithes were given to the Lord and not to the priest is very significant. Chiefly, if the giver understood that his tithing was to God and not man, it relieved him of the responsibility of determining the priest's worthiness to share in these "dues".

Many rituals were incorporated to remind the laity that they were not giving to priests but to God. This is the reason priestly portions of the peace offering were "waved" and "heaved." They were thus handled publicly to show the laymen that the priest's portion was first given to God and then received back from God. This demonstrated that God was both the supporter of the priests and the sponsor of the banquet. This was important because among pagan religions, the PEOPLE staged feasts for their gods. Not so with Yahweh. He insisted they understood that He was the source of all good things.

Another way that God reminded the people that tithes came from Him and belonged to Him was by requiring the priest to give a tenth part of the tithe received.

Speak to the Levites and say to them: 'When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD's offering' (Numbers 18:26, NIV, emphasis mine).

Second, it also underscores the reason why the tithe was considered a DEBT. Tithes Originated with God. They were simply the tenth part of the Whole of God's gifts to Israel. Since all wealth came from the Almighty, it was considered a loan to the Israelite. Loans are to be repaid but God only required a tenth (similar to interest only payments) to be requited -- thus the debt. From this perspective we can see that He was being generous by not requiring more than a tenth part. This also explains the scathing denunciation by God in Malachi 3 -- accusing Israel of robbing Him by not paying their debt viz, "... in tithes and offerings." Nobody -- including God -- likes a deadbeat.

Once God received His "due", He had every right to give it to whom he chose. In Israel's case, he chose to give it to the Levites who were representative of the FIRSTBORN of Israel and MEDIATORS. Instead of taking the firstborn children from each tribe individually, God made the tribe of Levi representative of them.

Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord (Numbers 3:45, NIV).

The tithe, then, was given to the tribe of Levi by God Himself. This tenth part of all produce was given to them for two reasons. First and foremost, it was because of their capacity as mediators between God and Israel. The sacrificial ministry was the foundation of the Israelite theocracy. Israel was a God chosen, God delivered, God blessed, and God ruled nation. Since the nation was Theo-centric, rituals of mediation, appeasement and fellowship were paramount. Second, the Levites were to receive no land (with limited exceptions) within the confines of Palestine. The tithe was going to be their portion and gift from God. This precept is explained within the following scriptures:

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. It shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance ... For the tithes 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(Numbers 18:20ff, emphasis mine).

Why this need to detail the who, what, and why of the tithe and priesthood? This is necessitated because of the wide-spread collection of tithes within the framework of modern churches. In order to justify the continued collecting of tithes there must be a proper parallel found in the New Testament ekklesia since the doctrine is of Old Testament origin and definition. But does a proper foundation exist?

Tithes in the New Testament

The almost universal use of the tithe within the confines of modern denominational churches would seem to indicate that the practice is plainly incorporated in the New Testament. nothing could be further from the truth! Every reference to the tithe or the tenth part found in the New Testament is alluding to Old Testament Judaism. The following list records every place that the tithe concept is found so that you can check my work: Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42; Luke 18:12; Hebrews 7:2, 4-6, and 8-9.

The scriptures found in Hebrews are very instructional when it comes to this subject. First, the collection of tithes was God's precept (Hebrews 7:5). Second, the tithe was for the Levites (Hebrews 7:5). Third, and most important for this discussion, tithing was an integral part of an abolished priesthood. This obsolete priesthood was replaced by the Anointed Jesus and an entirely different priestly order -- that of Melchizedek -- replaced it. Follow this with me.

Carefully consider how great this one was to whom Abraham the Patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils. Indeed, descendants of Levi who partake in the priesthood have a precept to take a tenth from their brethren the people of Israel although Abraham is their common ancestor. But the one who derives no lineage from Levi took a tenth from Abraham and he praised the one who had the promises. Now without contradiction, the lesser receives praise from the greater. In this instance indeed, dying people receive tenths from their brethren, but there one received a tenth who lives, as it has been testified. Figuratively speaking, Levi, the one who receives tenths, paid a tenth through Abraham. For he still existed in the loins of his father Abraham when Melchisedek met with him.

Therefore, if completion exists in the Levitical priesthood -- for under it the people received a code -- why the need to raise up another priest according to the order of Melchisedek and not according to Aaron? For changing the priesthood makes it necessary to change the code also... It is common knowledge that our Lord sprang from Judah. Concerning this tribe, Moses said nothing pertaining to priesthood (Hebrews 7:4-12, 14, emphasis mine).

The above quote should be enough to convince us that tithing was part of an Old Testament abolished precept. If its use was to be continued within the framework of the Anointed's priesthood it would have been necessary to establish it, define its boundaries and purpose and designate the recipients. Yet the New Testament is as silent as the grave and for good reason.

Let's examine the Hebrew writer's argument more closely. In verse Hebrews 7:18, he continues his argument.

Laying aside the preceding precept is needed because of its weak and unprofitable nature (emphasis mine).

What precept is being specifically referenced in this verse? It could only be one -- the precept that's mentioned in verse 5 -- the precept that instructs the Levites to collect tithes from their Jewish brethren.

It is this precept that was laid aside by the coronation of Jesus to the order of Melchizedek's priesthood. A new order required a new priesthood and voided the Levite's right to collect tithes since the entire sacrificial system and priesthood was being abolished. A new mediator was enthroned and unlike the "imperfect" Levitical priest, this new mediator sits at the "... right side of the majesty in high places" (Hebrews 1:3c). With the cancellation of the Old Testament priesthood came the annulment of the Old Testament tithe. The Hebrew writer's argument can be summed up as follows:

All of the above simply means that Jesus -- a priest of Melchizedek's order -- fulfilled, satisfied, and replaced the Levitical priesthood. In lieu of this fact, Jesus is now the only one worthy of receiving tithes.

It is pointless for proponents of the tithe to assert that the Jews paid tithes so Christians are to pay them. comparative arguments must be true parallels to be valid. In order to revive the tithe system, it would be necessary to resurrect a comparable priesthood viz, a separate priesthood of believers. It must be remembered that the Levitical priesthood existed in a mediatorial capacity between God and the Israelite laity.

Christian historians will note that an elitist, separate priesthood Did occur. However, this group arose in apostate "Christianity" and not from any teaching of Jesus or his envoys. In direct opposition to Jesus' injunction to "Call no man on earth your father" (Matthew 23) and to accept no titles and positions within his ekklesia (Matthew 20:25-28 and Matthew 23:9) -- a separate "clergy" arose.7

The attitude nurtured by men such as Diotrophes (2 John 9-10) coupled with the age old belief that "... piety is a means of profit" within the confines of the New Testament ekklesia eventually led to the development of a separate priesthood in "Christianity" similar to the Old Testament priesthood! Clothing and rituals similar to Old Testament Judaism such as priestly garments, holy water, incense burning, and altars were adopted. The installation of this priesthood brought with it the sacraments, viz, duties that required the mediation capacity of these priests. It needs to be reiterated and emphasized that this practice was a result of apostasy and cannot be attributed to any teaching found in the New Testament!

As mentioned before, if the Christian rejects this man-made priesthood, he must by necessary inference reject the tithe also. Since the tithe was collected by the priests as their inheritance, the logician must come forth with a New Testament counterpart or give up the practice.

Yet it is plain that there is no authority for the tithe or a separate priesthood in the new Testament ekklesia! Though the roman Catholic church was instrumental in solidifying and defining this "priesthood", Vatican authorities are quick to admit that their system did not exist in "primitive Christianity" (description theirs) but that they had the right to change the rules through what they call "oral tradition." They claim the authority of "apostolic succession" for the evolution from the so-called "primitive church" into the form we observe today. It was in answer to Martin Luther's challenge that their practices contradicted the New Testament that motivated them to verbalize their theology. Hence, their claims that oral tradition has equal authority with the scripture at the Council of Trent.8 If you are skeptical of my historical facts, the following quote by the Catholic apologist Brantl should make you a believer:

Catholic theologians maintain that as a source of truth, tradition is superior to Scripture. Scripture is, after all, incomplete; it not only requires interpretation, but it required tradition in order that it might be recognized and established. Further, Scripture is not a textbook; in a sense, it is a dead word which must be brought to life in the living voice of tradition9 (emphasis mine).

The Catholic system -- as well as many that have followed their lead -- has created a need for mediators other than Jesus. And yet Paul says plainly,

For God is one, and there is one mediator between God and human beings: the human being Anointed Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5, emphasis mine).

You simply cannot have it both ways. If Jesus is the only mediator then that eliminates any other form of mediation. It also means that Jesus is the only one deserving of the tithe!!!

Comparatively speaking, there can be no doubt that Jesus -- the New Testament High Priest -- has a right to receive tithes if he so chooses. However, from whom would Jesus collect the tithes? The High Priest in Israel collected no tithes from other Levites, even those who did not minister directly about the altar. The fact that Jesus is the "High Priest of our confession" (Hebrews 3:1) implies that his students are also priests. In fact, Christians are referred to as "royal priests" (1 Pet. 2:9) and would thus be excluded from paying tithes.

So, from whom would Jesus collect tithes? On whom would this DEBT descend? There exists no laity from which to collect tithes in the ekklesia of Jesus. All are "clergy".

Thus the Old Testament model of priesthood and tithes offers no help within the confines of the New Testament ekklesia. Unless the proponents of the tithe would suggest collecting tithes from unbelievers, they can find no solace in the scriptures for their practice. Some religions do feel that outsiders are fair game but even these aim their tithing efforts principally at their members.

Stating the argument another way, even if it could be argued that the "royal priesthood" should also pay tithes, who would collect them? If Christians are all priests, to whom should they pay tithes? To themselves? If not, why not? The reality is that modern church corporations with their professional company of "elders", "preachers", "pastors", "ministers", "evangelists" and "fill in the blank" have usurped the priesthood of all believers. These corporations -- with their network of real estate and other business activities -- are completely foreign to New Testament teaching and practice. They are in no way justifiable within the framework of Biblical Christianity. This ecclesiastical system simply did not exist for more than two hundred years after Jesus built his ekklesia.

It is no wonder, then, that "corporate Churchianity" has adopted a system of taxation unknown to New Testament times and teaching. The tithe system of the Old Testament offers the apostate "Christian" corporation an authoritative background in which to preach the dire consequences of "robbing God"! It is just another example of twisting the scriptures for the benefit of "revenue enhancement."

There is no command or example for the saints to tithe, Period!!! This is my confident assertion. I welcome the challenge from anyone that can point to a valid parallel between the Old Testament tithe and the ekklesia of God.

At this point many readers might be saying to themselves, so what? So what if the term "tithe" is really not valid? You can call it what you want but aren't Christians still commanded to give? Eliminating the tithe would not eliminate the free-will offering, would it?

Eliminating the tithe would not eliminate the free-will offering to be sure. However, as the reader must know, there is a vast difference between doing something voluntarily and being under debt to accomplish it. If there is no tithe today, then there is no command to "give." It is as simple as that.

If free-will offerings are a matter of command or obligation, then how can they be defined as free-will? This is a valid question. Remember, the tithe was always a matter of debt as has been proven. However, even those denominations that reject the tithe as an Old Testament precept still collect free-will offerings as though they were tithes, i.e., debts. This is the rub.

The denomination that I was recently attached offers a good example of this attitude. In one particular "body" meeting, the "laity"10 was informed that they were all under obligation to pay off an existing mortgage. This obligation (so the argument went) was binding on all those within the confines of the corporate church umbrella even though many were not present when the debt was incurred. Furthermore -- opined the speaker -- many in the congregation were not "giving as they had been prospered." These people, he continued, were obviously dilatory in completing their obligation to the corporation (my word not his). Because of this "incorporate behavior," it was announced that a certain brother would be contacting those who had not been carrying their load. I can personally attest to the diligence of this "enforcer" since I was one of those interviewed.

This whole scenario brings to the surface actual church Practices. It glaringly demonstrates that the "clergy" believes that free-will offerings (this group believes the tithe was for the Old Testament only) are really not "free-will" at all. It also underscores the corporate structure of this church; a structure that was completely nonexistent in the first and second century ekklesia.

It also points out the common practice of monitoring the individual's contribution.11 I've often heard a fellow "evangelist" and friend comment that "this member" or "that member" was a "good giver." Of course, under the corporate system, "intolerable" members that are "good givers" are universally "tolerated."

This is the indisputable reality of current church practice. Within corporate churchianity, the clergy believes they have every right to know what a person gives. The following admonition of Jesus concerning free-will offerings goes unheeded.

Take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them ... let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing (Matthew 6:13, KJV, emphasis mine).

We know that Jesus is referring to free-will offerings, i.e., "deeds of righteousness" (AV) because the tithe was never referred to as such. The monitoring of a member's "free-will" gifts in opposition to Jesus' teaching further illustrates that these contributions are indeed treated as tithes or debts -- something that is obligatory on those that would be considered a member of the corporation.

And yet Jesus warned those who give "alms" to do it privately for good reason. The constant tendency of humanity is to receive the praises of men. None of us are immune.


The Purpose Exposed

In the New Testament ekklesia, the purpose of giving is taught very plainly. It is only because of the misapplication of scriptures to support the clergy that this true aim gets sparse attention if any. Paul explains this point succinctly in 2 Corinthians 8:12-15.

For if the zeal first exists, the gift is well received according to what a person has and not according to what he has not. It is not received so that others will be at rest while you are pressed but rather it flows from the concept of equality. At the present season, your abundance should make up for what they lack, so that on other occasions their abundance would supply your lack -- so that there would be equality. just as it was written, 'The one who had gathered much did not have too much and the one who had gathered little did not have too little' (emphasis mine).

In a few short verses, Paul sums up the spirit of New Testament giving. It is for the purpose that the family of God may share EQUALLY in material wealth. You see reader, there was no clergy class to support. There was no corporation to run and maintain. There were only Christians that were eager to help other Christians that were in need.

The amazing thing is that 2 Corinthians 8 is used to motivate modern Christians to support the corporation. "Giving to the church", quote they, "is giving to the Lord."

What is this mysterious "church" that the Christian is urged to maintain? Well, it comes in many guises and varieties but they all have one thing in common. The church equals the clergy and "clergy things" -- including church buildings and other corporate paraphernalia. 95% of collected funds are used to maintain the clergy (including building maintenance and supplies) in the denomination I was affiliated. This ratio is the RULE and not the exception. Yet the laity is constantly told that this money is used to advance the kingdom! The kingdom of whom? Before you think that I am being too cynical lets press on.

To begin with, the offering referenced by Paul in the above text was a special contribution; designated for a special purpose. It was an "alms-type" free-will offering. It was being collected for the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem. This is easily determined by comparing this text with Acts 24:17, Romans 15:26, and 1 Corinthians 16:1-3. In the introductory verses, Paul is motivating these brethren to follow through with their previous personal commitment to help the Jerusalem needy (2 Corinthians 8:10). He was prodding them by describing the charitable character of the Macedonian Christians who had donated to the same cause.

Paul had first introduced in writing this special collection by reminding the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:1ff to put this money aside on the first day of the week so it would not be necessary for those that were to bear the gift to Jerusalem to gather it when they passed through Corinth. Even with this obvious knowledge, the modern clergyman has made much mileage by lifting these verses from their context and intent and using them as motivation for their own corporate "revenue enhancement" (remember Gallager's "from your 'hance' to their 'hance'").

Notice Paul's actual statement.

Now concerning that collection for the holy ones: as I arranged it for the assemblies in Galatia, I am doing for you. On the first day of the week, each of you should put by itself what he has treasured up -- whatever he might be prospered -- so collections will not be necessary when I come. When I happen by, I will send persons who meet your approval with letters of introduction to bear your gift to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3, emphasis mine).

It requires little attention to context to understand that this is a special contribution! This is not a command by Paul to give every first day of the week in perpetuity in support of the local corporation and clergy. As a matter of fact, there is no command or example anywhere of the New Testament ekklesia demonstrating a regular weekly collection even though this is the universal practice in corporate Churchianity today.

Yet the modern clergy "bald-facedly" quote the special collection under discussion to justify "passing the plate." It should also be noted that the modern "plate passing" activity is not "for the holy ones" noted in the above quote, but for the "holy clergy", the corporation and all the trappings that accompany it. It is a case of "money-grubbing" at worst and ignorance at best.

The instruction of Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 also establishes that this was a free-will donation. The Corinthians were under no Edict to make this effort. After telling them plainly in 2 Corinthians 8:8, that he was NOT speaking "by command" (KJV), Paul goes on to softly cajole these brethren by saying, "For if the zeal first exists ..." (8:12, emphasis mine). Paul did urge them to fulfill their previous commitment by reminding them that Jesus had made himself poor on their behalf, even appealing to their human greed by saying that they would be recompensed according to how they shared (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Today, these same scriptures are used to place Christians under obligation or DEBT -- even those who acknowledge that tithing is an Old Testament precept. Twentieth century clergymen -- like the Mormon prophet Smith -- say or imply that if there is no "zeal" or "eagerness" then we are going to "hell in a hand basket." Am I right or have you forgotten?

It is the common practice -- after pointing out the fact that the Macedonians gave out of their poverty -- to combine 1 Corinthians 16:1's "first day of the week", together with 2 Corinthians 9:7's "... as he has purposed in his heart, so let him give", while throwing in Malachi 3:8's "... will a man rob God?" for the coup de grace. The use of the tithe or "tenth part" offers both tithe proponents and non-proponents alike with a minimum amount of 10%. A very handy "revenue enhancement" device, the tithe, wouldn't you agree?

One of the favorite verses used by an ex-colleague of mine is Matthew 5:20.

For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

He would apply it thus. The Jews gave ten percent. Unless our giving exceeds their giving we won't go to heaven. Of course, he never omitted the use of the above mentioned "combination" either. He was very effective in raising the corporate weekly contributions so who could be too critical of his Biblical "exegesis"?

In addition to the fear of "hell"12 engendered among the laity, the real tragedy caused by the misuse and misapplication of "giving" scriptures is that equality is not approached in the average church. You can enter any denomination in America and find the full range of economic castes as you find in the world of unbelievers, to say nothing of the poor non members. Thus the true purpose of New Testament giving viz, to promote equality among saints goes unheeded. Unfortunately, the corporate churches are a reflection of the society at large; a microcosm of the "haves" and "have nots" instead of a reflection of Jesus' ekklesia.

Paul's teaching concerning equality was consistent with the attitude of the ekklesia from its inception. Several other comments to this commonality of believers are mentioned. The first converts to Jesus' ekklesia were described as "... liquidating their possessions and goods and dividing to any who had need." (Acts 2:45). This liberality was an outgrowth of their commitment to the principle of equality. This is further explained in Acts 4:32.

The multitude that trusted were united in heart and lives. No one claimed his possessions as his own. On the contrary, all things were common to them. (emphasis mine).

The distribution that transpired was empowered by people who recognized the true principles of New Testament giving. They did not treat their possessions as their own but made them available to those that lacked. Isn't this what Paul repeated in 2 Corinthians 8:12ff, i.e., that the Corinthians'

... abundance should make up for what they lack, so that also in other times their abundance would supply your lack -- so that there would be equality. just as it was written, 'The one who had gathered much did not have too much and the one who had gathered little did not have too little.'

If not, why not? This mind-set had been put into action at Jerusalem. It was easy for those who held to the principles of equality to put them into practice. Luke describes further what ensued.

The multitude that trusted were united in heart and lives. No one claimed his possessions as his own. On the contrary, all things were common to them. And with great power the envoys gave testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Great favor rested on them all. There were no poor among them because many landowners and homeowners were liquidating their property -- placing the proceeds at the envoys' feet. These assets were divided to each as the need arose (Acts 4:32-35, emphasis mine).

There were no poor among them because they believed and practiced the concept of equality that was later spelled out by Paul in 2 Corinthians. Just imagine what would happen today if instead of Christians supporting the corporation and the clergy they actually practiced the equality principle. Just think of the impact on the community!

Paul expresses this same purpose to the Ephesian brethren by instructing all able bodied people to work with their hands. Why Paul? "... that he may have something to share with those who need" (Ephesians 4:28b). Modern practice substitutes the clergy for "those in need." Therefore, in practice, we have thousands of able bodied clergymen nursing at the corporate teat instead of working with their own hands and sharing with those in need.

In describing gifts received by God through the Anointed Jesus, Paul echoes the precept of using possessions by stating succinctly,

Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Romans 12:13).

It needs to be interjected here the paradox of modern practices in giving. Even though the tithe was considered a debt and commandment, i.e. a loan to be repaid, it required no real stewardship. It is relatively easy to count out a tenth part, give it to God, and forget how it was used. The "tither" was not required to consider the worthiness of the cause for which he was tithing. The priests that received payment may have been good or evil. God provided for them through the tithe in both cases.

On the other hand, the "alms-type" free-will offering required thought and sensitivity as to needs. The donator first decided whether to give or not to give. The giver had to decide whether the purpose was worthy of his charity. After the gift was donated there was still some obligation to see that it was used for the purpose intended. The instances of ekklesia giving already quoted yield credence to this view. When Paul told the Corinthian brethren to "lay by in store" on the first day, he was sure to provide methods of carrying this gift to Jerusalem that would assure the Corinthian contributors that their gift was going for the purposes enjoined. He wrote,

Now when I happen by, I will send those persons of whom you approve with letters to bear your gift to Jerusalem (emphasis mine).

In 2 Corinthians, Paul expands on this theme.

Now God be thanked for placing in Titus' heart the same diligence on your behalf .... Now we sent with him the brother whose praise in the good message rings out through all of the assemblies. In addition, he was hand-picked by the assembly to accompany us with this free gift. Together we are serving in our eagerness for the LORD's glory. We are making sure that no one can blame us in the matter of this gift and our service [in delivering it.] For we are mindful to appear honorable in all circumstances, not only in God's eyes but also in the sight of men. Also, we have sent our brother to escort them. He has proven his diligence in many things before. He is even more diligent because of the great love he has for you (2 Corinthians 8:16-21, emphasis mine).

These verses were quoted at length because it demonstrates Paul's concern that the Corinthian ekklesia be assured that their gift was not only appreciated but that it would be taken by trustworthy men to Jerusalem for the purpose that it was intended.

To show that a man's property was his to do with as he saw fit, the incident of Ananias and Saphira should suffice. In the midst of a massive case of generosity, this husband and wife decided to get in on the bandwagon. However, they evidently wanted their contribution to be a source of accolades for themselves rather than for God's glory. Peter comments pointedly about this in Acts 5:3--4.

Hananiah, why has the Enemy filled your heart that you would deceive the holy spirit by retaining part of the proceeds from the sale? Didn't you own it before the sale? Didn't all the proceeds from the sale remain at your disposal? Why have you devised this scheme in your heart? You have lied to God and not to mankind! (emphasis mine).

As before stated, a paradox exists in modern practice. Not only does the twentieth century "preacher" constantly harp about "robbing God", he teaches that it is not the responsibility of the contributor to worry himself with the details of distribution. That once he has "given to god" his blessing is assured. "You don't have to like the preacher" goes the line. "You don't have to agree with the way the money is spent." As you have already noted, this attitude is completely different than Paul's as he assured the Corinthian ekklesia that their contribution was being handled honorably.

The truth is that it IS the responsibility of the "alms-giver" to know how his gift is being used. It is his obligation to KNOW. This is true because it is his right to decide to give or not to give. Each individual priest is a steward of the Lord's bounty and it falls upon him or her alone to decide 1) whether to give at all; 2) whether the purpose of the gift meets his approval; and 3) whether the gift was distributed according to the purpose intended. This is what "free-will" is all about, isn't it????

For example, a Christian would certainly be within his rights in refusing to donate to activities that were immoral. He might be required to decide whether to give to a needy person knowing that the person is spending donations to feed a drug or alcohol habit. But this decision making power is not acknowledged when it comes to corporate giving!!!

The opposite occurs in corporate giving. Not only are contributions collected as debts and obligations by the clergy, it is the clergy that decides how the funds are to be disbursed. As mentioned before, this is a tithe system plain and simple whether called so or not. And yet it falls upon the ekklesia of God to know what they are supporting by their free-will offerings. It was only after the rise of an apostate priesthood and clergy that the individual priest's rights to give or not to give were abrogated.

Reader, the "long and short" of New Testament giving has been exposed. It was to supply the legitimate needs of those in need. There is no teaching, instruction, or even a hint of the concept of "giving to the church." This practice was instigated by apostates and not by Jesus.

Since the corporate church rules today, you will find both extremes of wealth and poverty among Christian family members. it is normal practice for corporate church "officials" -- the supported clergy -- to live economically far above the poorer members. This "class" enjoys all the perks of their fraternity. in addition to the standard benefits of housing, salary, paid vacations, etc., they also attend various seminars and travel to exotic places to "check out the work." All these expenses are paid by the laity.

Even if the existence of this ministerial class is Biblically authorized, their life style could not be supported by the principles of equality and examples that are found in the sacred text. It is my belief that the existence of this class in the twentieth century, i.e., "preacher", "evangelist", "pastors" and "teachers" cannot be supported by the close examination of the scriptures.13

"Ministerial" Support

Support of Envoys
At this point the reader may be asking, "Doesn't the Bible teach that Christians are to support various 'ministers'"? In light of common experience and what has already been said in this thesis, this is certainly a valid question. Let's take a look at all the scriptures in the New Testament that would seem to indicate the authority to pay men to "minister" to us in the twentieth century.

Whereas the Mormon "prophet" Joseph Smith received a new "revelation" to prove his right to be church supported (see the quote on page 4), modern clergymen quote an "old revelation" to justify their living. Let's examine the "authority" cited to warrant paying the "preachers" among us.

Anytime a challenge to clergy support is proffered, the following text is used as the vanguard by proponents of the practice.

What person ever serves as a soldier at his own expense? What person plants a vineyard and doesn't partake of its fruit? Or what person tends sheep and doesn't drink their milk? Am I using a human argument? Doesn't the Torah teach the same thing? For it was written in the Torah, 'Do not muzzle an ox that is threshing grain.' Is God primarily concerned with oxen? Or is this saying for our benefit? This was certainly written on our behalf, 'It is necessary for those who plow to plow in hope and for those who thresh to apply such hope.' If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your fleshly things? (1 Corinthians 9:8-11, emphasis mine)

Are you familiar with these verses? A cursory look at them would seem to indicate that "paying the preacher" is a Biblical precept since there can be no doubt that material support is in view.

The question is, what "preacher" is Paul referring to here? If we look closely at this whole text we will be able to ascertain that apostolic support is under discussion. Paul is referring to his right to receive material goods from them. Verse 11 proves this to be true. Paul writes, "If we have sown spiritual things for you ..." It is a clear allusion to his right as an apostle (envoy) to be supported as he revealed the mystery of the gospel.

If we back up to the first few verses of the chapter the context is identified. "Am I not an apostle?", Paul asks. "Don't we have the right to eat and drink?" Paul continues by saying that he has as much right to be married and forego working as any of the other apostles, even mentioning Peter by name in verse 5. It is from this context that Paul quotes the Old Testament concerning the ox and applies it to his apostolic authority to derive a living from the apostolic ministry. He even goes so far as to emphasize that he had chosen not to exercise this apostolic right (verse 15). His teaching on this subject did not end with the Corinthians. Paul explained his view on receiving support to the Ephesians. He specifically addresses those older people that are leading the Ephesian ekklesia as he says the following:

I have not strongly desired anyone's silver, gold or clothing. You yourselves know that my own hands supplied both my needs and those who were with me. I have emphasized these things so that you will understand that it is necessary to work like this in order to be able to GIVE to those who are weak and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' (Acts 20:33-35, emphasis mine).

Now reader, this was written by a man that none of us can dispute had the right to receive his living solely from heralding the good news. Yet he not only worked to support himself but also many of his entourage. He did it as an example, reiterating the purpose of New Testament giving by stating

... it is necessary to work like this in order to be able to GIVE to those who are weak...

The KJV's translation and others that have followed suit clouds the water for some. The English word "covet" is substituted for "strong desire" which is clearly incorrect. The confusion is caused because most Christians think of "covetousness" as sin. Therefore, most think that Paul was saying that he was not interested in stealing their possessions.

This is a very important point if we are going to understand what Paul was actually saying in this context. There is another word that means "covet" in the "sin sense". It is pleonexia (pleonexia). It means literally the desire to have more and is always used in the evil sense. For example, in Col. 3:5, Paul groups it with other obvious moral defects:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence (epithumian), and covetousness (pleonexia), which is idolatry (KJV).

This verse is very instructive in the context of our discussion. Both words that are sometimes translated "covet" are found in this verse and I have put them both in parenthesis. The first is epithumia (epiqumia) which is the word found in our Acts 20:33 under discussion. The KJV has it as "concupiscence" which is a fancy word for "desire" but you will notice that it is modified by "evil" in both the Greek and the English.

epiqumia, on the other hand, means literally "strong desire" but can be used in both the evil sense as well as the good: only the context determines whether it is positive or negative. This is the word translated "lust" in James 1:14, i.e., "... drawn away by his own lust and enticed (KJV)." Jesus also uses this word twice concerning his "strong desire" to eat the last Passover with his disciples in Luke 22:15, i.e., "With fervent desire (epiqumia) I have desired (epequmhsa)..." (NKJV). The use of epiqumia in this text is obviously in a positive sense.

If we look closely, then, at what Paul is actually saying in Acts 20:33 it becomes plain that he is not saying that he had not "strongly desired" to steal their things but rather he possessed no "strong desire" to receive material support for sharing the good news with them. Notice again the statement.

I have not strongly desired (epiqumia) anyone's silver, gold or clothing.

Do you really believe that Paul -- the man described as a Pharisee, Hebrew of Hebrews and blameless as far as the law is concerned (Phil. 3) -- was saying that he didn't want to steal their gold, silver, or clothes? Come on now! Remember he concludes this admonition by saying,

You yourselves know that my own hands (as opposed to the Ephesians' hands) supplied both my needs and those who were with me.

As a matter of fact, the reader should be aware that this admonition and example of Paul was his common theme as he shared the good news from city to city. As cited in both Corinthians and Acts, he expressly tells both groups his view concerning self-support and self-labor -- enabling him to herald Jesus without cost to the listener.

Paul again broached this same subject in his letter to the Thesalonians. Speaking about the quality of his "ministry" Paul writes:

But as we were tested by God to be entrusted with the good message, so we speak -- not to please people but God who tests our hearts. We never came to you with a message of flattery or with masked greed. The Divine One is our witness! We did not seek glory from people -- neither from you or others. Since we are envoys of the Anointed One, we have the right to be burdensome but were actually as infants in your midst. Since we longed for you (you have become beloved to us), it pleased us to pass God's good message on to you as a nursing mother cherishes her children. Brothers, you remember our labor and hardship. We worked day and night to spare you any burden as we heralded God's message to you. Both you and God are witnesses of how godly, just, and blameless we lived among you trusting ones (1 Thes. 2:5-10, emphasis mine).

Paul, in these verses, again emphasizes

  1. as envoys they had the right to be supported; and
  2. that they labored personally to spare them any burden of their support.

It is amazing that the clergy glides over these contextual admonishments when teaching from this letter. They are quick to point out that Paul treated Thessalonian believers gently as a nursing mother, as a brother and as a father, but omit the real context of what was actually taught viz, even as an apostle (envoy) of the Anointed Jesus, he still did not take support from those with whom he shared the good news.

In his second letter to the Thesalonians, Paul makes it clear that his refusal to accept a living from the ekklesia was also to serve as an example to believers of "lesser rank". Alluding to what he had taught in his previous letter he writes:

Brothers, we charge you in the name of our Lord, Anointed Jesus: withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks without order and not according to the tradition that was handed down by us. You yourselves know how it is necessary to imitate us. We were not disorderly among you nor did we eat anyone's food as charity. On the contrary, we toiled wearily night and day so as not to burden any of you. Not because we have no authority, but to serve you as a model to imitate. Also, when we were with you, we told you that if someone is unwilling to work, he should not eat either. For we hear of some walking among you without order: neither working but are busy bodies. We charge and advise such people in the Lord Anointed Jesus to eat with quietness their own food after working. Now you, brothers, make it your occupation to do good (2 Thes. 3:6-13, emphasis mine).

What "traditions" were these Thessalonian believers being called on to imitate? The tradition of self support in sharing things of Jesus is being taught. These verses are commonly used to show the necessity of "church discipline" in a general sense without regard to the specific charges. The subjects of the above references were to those that were unwilling to work for their support.

Since the apostle again refers to his apostolic ministry as the example to imitate, it seems to me that the guilty parties mentioned here could have been assuming a place of teacher in some capacity and burdening the brethren by accepting support. At any rate, the model that Paul left for the ekklesia to imitate was the "working model" and specifically applies it to "clergy-type" activities. When you find certain exhortations repeated in Biblical teaching several times, you can assume that they are important!

Those of us that are interested in Biblical Christianity need to open our eyes. Not only was there no such entity as corporate Christianity in the first century -- even Paul -- the one "who labored more abundantly than them all" (1 Corinthians 15:10), left us a true example to follow. Paul never took monies from those to whom he was heralding. he did receive help from time to time from the ekklesia in Philipi and maybe others. He even alluded to this necessity as "robbing other churches" (2 Corinthians 11:8).

The Greek word translated "rob" means to plunder or spoil. It was almost like Paul was embarrassed not to be totally self-sufficient -- all of the time. Whatever the quantity received from others, it was not adequate to forego his working. Even so, this was his apostolic right! Are there apostles living today? If so, then they have the right to comparable support.

The "Right To Eat And Drink"
It is also important to know what the "right to eat and drink" consisted of? Did it consist of the "perks" observable in twentieth century corporate ecclesiastical churches? Jesus defined it for us so we don't have to guess.

Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: ... And into whatsoever house you enter, first say, peace be to this house ... And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire (Luke 4-7, emphasis mine).

It is obvious that it was the bare necessities that Jesus had in view. It didn't include houses, lands, "silver and gold" and all the amenities of the modern clergyman? Am I right about it? And it was the bare necessities that Paul instructs Timothy to accept while he did the work of an evangelist.

Now piety with self-sufficiency is a great profit. For we have brought nothing into creation; neither can we carry anything out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8, emphasis mine).

Paul is teaching Timothy about "ministry". There were people among them that believed just the opposite -- that "godliness is a way of Gain" (verse 3-5, KJV). But Timothy, who had been instructed by Paul to carry on his work like a good, "suffering" soldier, was told to avoid this "mammon trap" and be content with the essentials, i.e., "food and clothing."

Shelter was not even included! After all, clothing is a poor man's shelter. Remember, this instruction concerning contentment is addressed to the "preacher" Timothy. It was he that was specifically enjoined to be satisfied with "food and clothing". Timothy, on the other hand, was to instruct the rich among them to share their wealth.

Charge those who are presently wealthy not to be snobbish nor trust in their uncertain wealth but in a God who richly offers us all things for our enjoyment. Charge them to do good, to be wealthy in good deeds, to be ready to give and willing to share (1 Timothy 6:18-19, emphasis mine).

Reader, is this concept of "bare necessities" being demonstrated by the clergy at large? Can we really argue that this is a parallel to Paul's right to "eat and drink"?

Even granting the argument that there is a parallel between the apostolic right and the modern clergy (which I whole-heartedly challenge), isn't it amazing how this "right to eat and drink" has multiplied into the right to "live high on the hog"? I've heard proponents argue that if it's okay to give a "preacher" $1000.00 a month it is allowable to give them $1,000,000.00. You know how it goes -- "whatever the market will bear" -- right? After all, this is America.

What kind of logic is this? Even if I would admit the authority of the modern clergy to exist at all -- for a "minister" of any kind to live economically above any member of the family of God makes a mockery of Christianity and brings reproach on the legitimate claims of Jesus.

This was a central point of contention with reformer Alexander Campbell in his debate with the agnostic Owen. Pointing to the prominence of kingcraft and priestcraft and other anti-scriptural practices, he makes this sound argument.

Skepticism and infidelity are certainly on the increase in this and other countries. Not, indeed, because of the mildness of our laws, but because of the lives of our professors (Christians), and a very general inattention to the evidences of our religion. The sectarian spirit, the rage of rivalry in the various denominations, together with many absurd tenets and opinions propagated, afford more relevant reasons for the prevalence of skepticism than most of our professors are able to offer for their faith.

Kingcraft and priestcraft, always german cousins at least, have so disfigured, or as they suppose, ornamented Christianity, so completely disguised it, that many having no taste nor inclination for examining the inspired books, have hastily and peremptorily decided that all religion is the offspring of fraud or fiction. The ignorance of the multitude, and the knavery of the few, are the most puissant auxiliaries of those daring and rash spirits who undertake to make it appear that the religious institutions of this country are founded on kingcraft or priestcraft.... we are assured that the progress of skepticism is neither owing to the weakness nor the paucity of the evidences of Christianity; but to a profession of it unauthorized by, and incompatible with, the Christian Scriptures" (emphasis mine).14

Whether a person agrees with Campbell or not, he must agree -- that Jesus, his envoys and all that shared in their ministry such as Barnabas and Timothy -- never lived in a life-style comparable to the modern clergyman. There must be something wrong!! And yet these modern clergymen are the same people who lecture the laity on the need to walk in Jesus' steps. Puh - lease!

There is no comparison between the apostolic duties of preaching (literally heralding) and prophesying and the "pastoring" and "pulpit preaching" of today. There is not even a glimmer of resemblance. These first century evangelists and prophets were ordained by God Himself to reveal the secret of the Anointed One (let the modern clergyman explain HIS ordaining). They carried the authority of their ambassadorship -- miraculous attestation by God's holy breath. Paul made this point about his own apostleship.

Indeed, the signs of an envoy (apostle) were performed among you with all endurance: signs and wonders and powers (2 Corinthians 12:12, emphasis mine).

In this capacity, the apostles had the right to receive support as they carried out their commission. They were appointed directly by God to reveal and pen the scriptures for us to read. With the fulfillment of their mission to herald the good news to the world -- their right to "eat and drink" was dissolved. If not, why not?

There is no admonition, teaching, instruction, or even a hint in the scriptures for clergymen to be hired by the saints in order for them to explain what is written. If there are no prophets today, then who is qualified to explain to us what the scripture means? No wonder there are more than 400 different denominations in America today. Reader, it takes educated help to believe the tenets and doctrines taught by every religious system ON EARTH.

What "layman" would have come up with the Catholic Priesthood, sacraments, and rituals by reading the New Testament? Who would have postulated the idea of apostolic command, approved apostolic example, and necessary inference without the help of "scholars"? To pay men to give their opinion about the text is ridiculous when you actually stop and think about it. It says more about the lazy minded "laity" than anything else. The unexcelled Bible scholar and nineteenth century American restoration leader Alexander Campbell said it best.

To employ men to preach the gospel in a Christian congregation is a satire upon that congregation which employs them ...That any man is to be paid for preaching, i.e., for making sermons and pronouncing them; or that any man is to be hired for a stipulated sum to preach and pray, and expound scripture, by the day, month, or year, I believe to be a relic of popery.15

Widows, widows indeed, and "elders" viz Old People
As before mentioned, the purpose of giving in the New Covenant is so that legitimate needs can be met. There are other specific individuals mentioned that the Christian is urged to help within the framework of their fellowship.

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul instructs Timothy to make sure that several groups of individuals were treated "equally." After instructing Timothy in personal relationships, Paul gets to the meat of the matter. "Honor those widows who really are widows" (verse 3).

It is interesting that Paul uses the word "honor" when referring to this principle. He doesn't command others to share their wealth with them. Instead, by using the word "honor", he parallels the teaching of Jesus as he commented on the Old Testament precept to "honor your father and mother" (Mark 7:10-13). As Jesus had posited, honoring one's parents could not be accomplished by disregarding their physical needs, so Paul demonstrates the same precept within the idea of "honor" in this context. Also, by using "honor", it demonstrates the necessity of forethought and consideration for those other than oneself.

The Greek word here translated "honor" is "TIME (timh), primarily a valuing, objectively, a price ... a price paid or received."16 It is obvious from the context that material support is in view. It makes sense that both Jesus and Paul would use "honor" when speaking of material gifts. People pay attention to and nourish the things that they value. Jesus had spent a great deal of effort urging his students to value people and not "mammon." It has always been a human tendency to love things and use people. The entire purpose of "honoring" is just the opposite -- to love people and use things.

The widow under discussion was to be thus "honored." She is described as "desolate" (verse 5, KJV). Later in this text, widows over the age of sixty are to be put on a list. There is a wide range of opinion as to what this actually means but most would agree that material support is included.

Directly from this context flows the oft misused injunction to give "double honor" to the "elders." The King James translation renders it thus:

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17)

The same Old Testament scripture is added that Paul referred to about his apostolic right to "eat and drink" -- "... muzzle not the ox ..." The New International Version clouds the issue even more by rendering the verse,

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

A close literal translation of the text would approach something along the line of:

Regard the older people who are outstanding examples as worthy of a double honorarium, especially those who are working in discoursing and teaching (emphasis mine).

The reasons the author believes that the latter translation is best are many. The word translated "elder" in this verse is the Greek word presbuteroi which is the plural. Only the context determines whether this includes both men and women. It is obvious from what has been discussed previously in this chapter that both old men and women are in view.

Old men are mentioned in verse 1, and the KJV renders it "elder." The Greek is the same word presbutero, though singular. Old women are mentioned in verse 2, and the KJV translates it "elderly women." The word translated "women" is presbuteras, the plural feminine. Again, as mentioned previously, older women past the age of sixty are discussed in verses 9-10. Younger women are discussed in verses 11-15. Verse 16 again mentions relieving the needs of widows that are really in need.

Directly from this context of "honoring" those widows that are needy, especially those that are over the age of sixty, having been described positively as demonstrators of hospitality, washing the saints feet, etc., flows Paul's coaxing,

Regard the older people (presbuteroi, plural) who are outstanding examples as worthy of a double honorarium, especially those who are working in discoursing and teaching (verse 17, emphasis mine).

The problem occurs within the ecclesiastical bias of the translators. The King James translators were Church of England men who were well acquainted with church "officials." Not only did they consider "elders" church officers but believed that women had no place in the ruling order of the Church of England. Within their bias, they reinforced these two doctrinal points by their mistranslating of 1 Timothy 5:17.

First, they translated the Greek word proistemi, "rule." This word literally means to stand in front of. Vine defines it in the following way.

PROISTEMI, literally, to stand before, hence to lead, attend to, indicating care and diligence.17

It is translated "maintain" in Titus 1:3, as "maintain (proistemi) good works". The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, writing of the usage in 1 Thes. 5:12, says,

"The emphasis is not on their rank or authority but on their efforts for the eternal salvation of believers."18

The Dictionary of NT Theology opines,

The present writer believes that there were as yet no institutionalized or precisely differentiated offices in the church known to Paul.19

As previously considered, it could be easily translated "outstanding example." The same word is also used in reference to Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2. However, the KJV renders the word "helper" since Phoebe is a woman.

We know that the text of 1 Timothy 5:17 under discussion has supporting the needy in view. If we try to imagine a time when there were no church buildings, church "officials" (even the apostles held no church office) and corporate structures, then we are not forced to eliminate women in the word "elders". In the New Testament ekklesia, there were both men and women that had the gift of prophesy and both men and women taught the word.

Remember, it was Aquilla and priscilla that taught Apollos the word more perfectly (Acts 18). It was Phoebe that was called a "deacon" (Greek diakonos, KJV "servant") of the ekklesia in Cenchrea (Romans 16:1ff), and the same word translated "rule" in 1 Timothy 5:17 by the KJV and "direct the affairs of the church" by the NIV is used to describe Phoebe even though is was rendered "help" by the KJV and "great help" by the NIV.

Philip had four daughters that prophesied (Acts 21:9). Many other women of note are mentioned within the ekklesia of Jesus. One particular woman, Junia, is referred to by Paul as an outstanding apostle (Romans 16:7).

Excluding translator ecclesiastical bias, there is nothing in the original language that would exclude women from the presbuteroi in this verse. Only our paradigm and inconsistent translations keeps this fact hidden from view. In this text, we have elderly people that are in NEED. This is the context of "honor" in the whole chapter.

These Old people were not indolent but were busy serving in the word and teaching. This was the reason their efforts were worth literally, a "double honorarium." Besides being in need and obviously past the age of effective labor and self-support, these were also participating in the prophetic ministry (see Ephesians 4:8ff) -- thus their right to "eat and drink." Would the reader really suggest that the "double honorarium" urged by Paul to support these old people is a parallel to twentieth century clergy support?

One last thing should be said about this concept of "honor." The current practices of the modern corporate church say volumes about who they really honor. The needy of most receive the scraps, if anything, while the clergy live in opulence by comparison. Besides honoring the clergy with their ears day after day, week in and week out, year after year, and lecture after lecture -- the entire congregation is encouraged to turn out and welcome the coming of a new "preacher." Men are recruited to help them unload their furniture. Housewarming parties and special fellowship parties are thrown for them, etceteras.

Not so with other "lay" members. Reader, I have lived on both sides of this equation so I know what I am talking about. When I moved the last time to work as a "lay" person within the corporate church -- no one showed up to help me unload my furniture -- not even my friends among the clergy. This was in direct contrast to the arrival of my friend and "clergyman" who had preceded me. It was also in direct contrast to my own experience as the "pulpit preacher" in other towns of my sojourning. This is just a tiny example of misplaced "honor."

An even greater injustice is often perpetuated by the hired clergyman himself. Since his living is received from the corporate laity, he often finds himself giving greater "honor" to the wealthy "good givers" of his flock. So we see -- by all practical experience -- just how destructive the actual system is to God's concept of equality.

The practice of clergy-support found in corporate Churchianity today also places a great burden upon the clergyman. He is continually compromised in words and deeds as he has to worry about his "living." It is a sword that cuts both ways. The laity -- though burdened with supplying the living of the clergy -- hold the purse strings of clergy support. Many a clergyman has found himself dangling precariously as threats are made to "cut the cord" binding him to his flock because of some slight -- real or perceived.

Seeing the results of this apostasy today, is it any wonder at all that Paul refused to be helped by those to whom he was sharing while instructing the evangelist Timothy that:

... piety with self-sufficiency is a great profit. For we have brought nothing into creation; neither can we carry anything out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8, emphasis mine). CONCLUSION As the reader has noticed by now, the twentieth century practice of collecting monies in their various forms is completely foreign to New Testament Biblical teaching and habit. One of the things this author would like to emphasize in this conclusion is that all Christians are priests. They all fall into the category of "clergy." Every priest is responsible to be a good steward of the Lord's resources. It is anti-Biblical to allow others to usurp your responsibilities by teaching that "giving to the church is giving to God."

Reader, is the money that you offer in God's name advancing Jesus' principle of equality? Are you familiar with those in your particular fellowship that have greater needs than the corporation and its officials (even if you believe this corporate system has a right to exist)? do you really believe that the apostle's right to "eat and drink" has any parallel to the practices you see in existence today?

But does it really matter? Many will say no. They will say, "that was then and this is now." Alexander Campbell was also considered an extremist by the agnostic biographer Fawn Brodie. She wrote:

Campbell, at the other extreme, tried to reconstruct the primitive Christian church, with all its naive realism, oversimplified ethics, and antiquated theology (emphasis mine).20

Unbelievers and moderns have always seen the teachings of Jesus as simplistic and naive -- teachings that needed to be altered by modern situations. Thus we can all see the result. "Christianity" stands in disarray and ill repute by multitudes. Many believe that the only thing religions are really interested in is their money and no wonder; they are not far off the mark!

The fact is -- it only matters if you are interested in Biblical Christianity. It only matters if doing things the way Jesus intended is important to you. Remember, corporate Christianity exists by the will of the "laity." Without their monitory support it couldn't last. Don't you think that it is high time to "muzzle that ox" -- thus forcing all those who believe that "... piety is a means of profit" into the market place to find a "real" job?


1I'm sure the reader is well aware that many of us are guilty of practicing things that we disavow theologically; thus my use of "in practice" in this thesis.

2Book of Commandments, Chapter XXV, verse 14.

3The author will use the anglicized form of the Greek "ekklesia" when referring to theNew Testament believers and "church" when referring to corporate ecclesiastical "Churchianity."

4Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Pg. 1064 & Pg. 70 of the Hebrew Dictionary.

5ibid., Page 1064 & Page 14 of the Greek Dictionary.
6Vine, W.E., Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. IV, Sec. Z, 1966, page 139.
7For an in depth study on the subject of New Testament "authority" refer to the author's thesis entitled Men Who Would Be "Kings"
8Foreword to the Confraternity Edition of the Holy Bible, 1966, pages viii-xvi, copied from the second Vatican council's dogmatic constitution on divine revelation.
9Brantl, George, editor, Catholicism, George Braziller Publishing, 1962, page 164.
10This sect denies that a clergy-laity system exists among them and denies they are a denomination but have the characteristics of both in practice.
11This monitoring is made possible because of the corporate structure. The contributors must write checks in order to deduct this contribution from their income tax. Since the IRS requires receipts as proof, checks are written to the corporate entity in order to qualify. This makes their giving simple to monitor and copious records are generally kept by corporate leaders. Thus, because of tax reasons, the laity disregard the teaching of Jesus by airing the amount of their "alms."
12The reader may be interested in the author's detailed study concerning the Bible's concept of hell by requesting the thesis entitled "Hell? No!!" This thesis will be made available in HTML format as soon as it is practical.
13I refer the reader to chapter IX of my thesis Men who Would be "Kings" for a detailed look at the related terms "preacher", "evangelist", "pastor", and "teacher" and their uses in the New Testament dispensation.
14Campbell-Owen Debate, McQuiddy Printing Company, Nashville, 1957, page 6.
15Alexander Campbell, 1830, cited in EXAMINER, Sept. 1993.
16op. cit. Vine, Vol. II. E-Li, Page 230.
17ibid, p.307
18Reicke, TDNT, Vol VI, pp. 700-3.
19Coenen, New International Dictionary of NT Theology, Vol I, pp. 192-201.
20Brodie, Fawn M., No Man Knows My History, 1957, page 91.

This paper © 1996 John M. Bland

Reader, your comments and criticisms are welcomed. I can be reached at:

John M. Bland
5118 NW 24th Place
Gainesville, FL 32606
(904) 371-0029
E-Mail address:

Other theses will be supplied on demand:




MEN WHO WOULD BE "KINGS" (available online)

THERE IS ONE GOD (available online)

Muzzle That Ox/