(Let us not forget to pray for the persecuted church, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ)!
3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
Tithing versus giving
Old Testament tithing requirements cannot be indiscriminately applied to the Church Age, a different thing altogether
Tithing is a highly misunderstood, misapplied, and abused practice in the body of Christ (has been for years). The one-tenth idea used by the church for so long does not apply to current believers. The passage below isn’t a model for the church to follow. As described in the Old Testament, tithing existed for a particular time and people (Israel). All the passages in the Old Testament regarding this practice speak to them and those of that period alone.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
Ostentatious giving ought to be avoided
Additionally, nowhere does Scripture mandate passing a plate around a congregation to collect money. If a church wants to receive donations, there are far less conspicuous ways to do so than passing a dish around or having people come up in front of the congregation to give. Collection boxes located in a known discreet and secluded corner isn’t a bad idea. In this day of technology, an even better alternative is to give online where no one else can see the act done. Or we can just give to individuals and others one on one in private. The idea is to attract as little attention to ourselves and our donations as possible. As Jesus commanded to the people of His day, so we should echo His statements to our brothers and sisters—
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Giving must come from the heart
Giving within the church is a personal matter that must come from a pure and right heart. I believe that as a believer grows spiritually, the Holy Spirit will naturally soften their attitudes and grant them discernment of when and when not to give (and to whom). One could say giving is a work of the Holy Spirit, which means that the believer in question must follow His leading. If they do, then helping someone out who genuinely needs it will be no problem for them. God is love, and since He dwells within us, we will naturally want to share His love with others (especially with those in greatest need). Therefore, we must give as we feel led, heeding our Lord’s still small voice.
Unfortunately, giving has turned into something it shouldn’t be. But giving to others who genuinely need it is highly encouraged. In many circumstances, it is our Christian duty! But there is no rule on how much and how often we should engage in this generous activity. Giving is an area of application based on what we feel the Lord would want us to do. If there is a need God wants us to fill, then He will lead us to give aid.
However, it makes far more sense to send our donations to (as two examples) pastor teachers teaching the Word and those who are in desperate need like no one else in the body (persecuted believers and all others with less time, resources, and opportunities to study and grow in the Word). However, it is good to give to all those who genuinely need it, especially our brothers and sisters closest to us who share a great love and zeal for the Lord. We can help out anyone, but we shouldn’t give if we really don’t want to unless it is an emergency situation. We must never give under compulsion or from feelings of pressure. However, it could be asked if donating to lukewarm organizations or churches that use their financial assets for less important things that do little or not enough to contribute to helping people come to the truth and grow in it is the best way to help out.
When giving of our abundance is more duty than optional
With that said, we will provide examples where giving (both money and possessions) is not an option but a duty due to some emergency, circumstance, or catastrophic event, etc. Below is a non-comprehensive list of just some of many passages in the Bible that command us to aid others.
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
1 John 3:17-19
17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.
Luke 10:25-37: The Good Samaritan
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
There are other passages too; this list of examples was not comprehensive
The above will complete our (far from comprehensive) list of passages where giving or helping out another believer is a Christian duty. True believers will naturally want to help others who genuinely do need help!
Discernment in giving
Christian giving (whether to believers or unbelievers) should never be pressured or done under compulsion. Instead, the desire to help out should come naturally, especially when dealing with emergencies involving our fellow brothers and sisters (and unbelievers). And believers should never take advantage of the generosity of other members of Christ’s body!
A brother or sister should never give out of fear, guilt, or compulsion but out of their heart’s true desires and purposes. For if they give grudgingly, they will receive no reward at the Bema. Giving by itself is not enough but must be done with pure motives.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
What about giving to unbelievers?
With the above said, what about giving to unbelievers? Many believers have encountered many homeless people on the streets and others asking for money only to see their cash wasted on alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes, leading many of our brothers and sisters to quit giving to such individuals altogether. I advise giver discretion when dealing with these situations, but that doesn’t mean we cannot help unbelievers financially. These moments give us opportunities to share the gospel! The same principle of helping others when they CLEARLY need it (without a shadow of a doubt) applies equally to unbelievers as it does believers. Although family members in Christ are and should be our first priority, our love toward God extends not only toward them but even to those who are not a part of the household of faith. As we grow in our faith, our love begins with our own brethren, translating and developing even larger into love for all men, as the passage below illustrates beautifully.
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
However, believers must exercise caution when giving to those outside the church, especially people begging on the streets. There will be times when we can’t know whether someone is lying or telling the truth (“will they use my money as they said they would?”). There is nothing wrong with giving or not giving in situations like that. “What if they do need help and use what we give them for their legitimate needs?” “But what if they don’t need help and waste our money on drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes?” “What if they are lazy and aren’t trying to find a job?” “But what if they are?” These kinds of questions will no doubt race through a person’s mind when faced with situations like these.
We don’t have to help out in situations like those. But we are allowed to give aid (even if we are unsure whether they will really use what we give them for the need they said they have) if we desire because the decision belongs to every individual believer. If we provide and they waste the money, at least we can say we had pure motives. If we don’t give because of suspicion, then we can still say our motives were pure. Giving into scams only encourages more scams and more begging from those who aren’t in need and shouldn’t be asking for money. Then again, it is not always easy to tell. Either way, in conclusion, as long as our motives are pure, the Lord isn’t angry with us whichever option we choose. To give, or not to give? That is the question, and only the believer can make that decision for themself.
American Christianity and the persecuted Church
Introducing the topic
As anyone who has read a good bit of this ministry will know, we live in the lukewarm era of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), where most believers across the world are indifferent toward God’s Word. The fact that denominations still exist is a clear sign that the church has learned little since the closing era of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13). But if there is any place in the world today that is more lukewarm, it is not hard to imagine that it is the United States.
You may wonder, what does this have to do with giving? Many believers in other countries are persecuted, tortured, and killed for their faith every day. Many lack the means, freedom, and ability to receive good solid Bible teaching, let alone read a Bible for themselves. The persecutions were fierce during the communist eras of the Cold War, and even today, continue at an alarming rate. Many of our spiritual family members overseas worldwide in different countries and on other continents desperately need help from their brothers and sisters in free countries. The West often denies much of the suffering and persecution that goes on in these places. Although this has improved over the years (thanks to many brave men and women of God), it is doubtful that there is nearly as much of a response as there could be.
Not all people persecuted in this world are true believers per se. There are undoubtedly many who claim to be Christians often persecuted for their religious tendencies but are not necessarily part of the body of Christ. However, only our Lord knows who belongs to Him, and He alone will separate the wheat from the weeds at the end of the age (Matthew 13:24-30).
Many strong men and women of faith in different countries who have endured much suffering at the hands of communists and other anti-Christian organizations have written good books on the subject of Christian persecution. A few well-known examples that come to mind are Richard Wurmbrand, Haralan Popov, and Andrew van der Bijl. Yet when they first came to America, their testimony and pleas for help got a mixed response, much of which was negative.
Quotes from Richard Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ
In the epilogue of his book “Tortured for Christ,” Richard Wurmbrand’s experiences coming to America are described:
“Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was not the first Christian leader to escape the cruel treatment of Romania’s Communist government; others had preceded him. Yet much of the Western world remained ignorant of the sufferings endured by those of the underground church.” (Page 161)
“Within his first year in the United States, Pastor Wurmbrand was detained twice for “disrupting” pro-Communist rallies. He was called to testify before the Senate, stripping to the waist to reveal the scars of eighteen embedded wounds from the frequent tortures. Some Christian leaders called him a lunatic - one who had lost his mind in the confines of a solitary prison cell. To others he became the “Iron Curtain Paul” or the “Voice of the Underground Church.” A reporter with the Philadelphia Herald said of Wurmbrand, “He stood in the midst of lions, but they could not devour him.” (Page 161-162)
And it doesn’t end there, as the epilogue in the book goes on to describe. Much persecution continues up to this present day:
“In Vietnam, Laos, and China, Christians are beaten, killed, or imprisoned. Their churches are destroyed and their Bibles burned. Millions have perished in Sudan where radical Islamic forces have crucified thousands of Christian men or drowned them in the Nile River. Others have been imprisoned then executed by hanging. Sudanese women were raped while their children were ripped from their homes to be sold as concubines or slaves to Muslims in the North. And to this tragedy the Sudanese Christians stated, “Even though our homes are burned and our churches destroyed, we are persuaded now more than ever to preach Christ to people.”(Page 164)
Finally, Pastor Wurmbrand says the following (chapter seven, page 151):
The Message I bring from the Underground Church is:
“Don’t abandon us!”
“Don’t forget us!”
“Don’t write us off!”
“Give us the tools we need! We will pay the price for using them!”
This is the message I have been charged to deliver to the free church.
I speak for the Underground Church, the silenced Church, the “dumb” Church, which has no voice to speak.
Hear the cries of your brothers and sisters in captive nations! They do not ask for escape, safety, or an easy life. They ask only for the tools to counteract the poisoning of their youth – the next generation – with atheism. They ask for Bibles to use in spreading the Word of God. How can they spread the Word of God if they do not have it? (Page 159-160)
The Church ought to unite, but a lack of focus on the truth hamstrings that goal, since our unity comes from the truth
In his book, Pastor Wurmbrand commented that the Church needs to unite and put away differences. Well, it is true; the Church DOES need to unite. But that cannot happen as it should as long denominations exist (the Bible does not justify them… or church membership) – as long as the Church remains lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-22) – as long as the truth is not the priority. Until the Church wakes up, and thankfully it will during the tribulation (only after one-third of believers have fallen away from the faith to take the mark of the beast, Revelation 12:4; Matthew 24:10-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:3), the Church will not and cannot unite as our Lord would have it.
The truth matters, and it is the truth which unites. We, the Church must join in the truth first! Change must occur from within before more effective transformation can happen outwardly.
The free and wealthy countries in this world should be leading the way in seriously teaching the Bible correctly WITHOUT all the extensive false doctrines, teachings, rituals, false priorities and legalism. But since that isn’t happening, we have so many different denominations, false doctrines, traditions, and belief systems. We are to study the Scriptures as approved workers, rightly interpreting the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Disagreements will always exist. However, we aren’t discussing a few minor disputes here and there – we are referring to many major disagreements on critical areas of biblical teaching, teachings that, if gotten wrong, can and will threaten the faith of millions of believers. The Church is far too inconsistent, having one foot in and one foot out. That is a sign of a church that doesn’t treasure the truth as much as it should despite having more time, freedom, and resources to study, search, live, and teach it.
Encouraging people to give is not necessarily the same as pressuring them to give
As we have already noted in this paper, we should never pressure others to give. No person should ever feel forced to donate and should never do so under compulsion. If they feel pressured to do so, the right thing would be NOT to give. Giving with impure motives will not result in a reward, but only a “piece” of wood hay and stubble thrown into the fire at the judgment seat (1 Corinthians 3:10-16). However, there is a difference between pressuring someone to give versus encouraging them to do so. This latter option was one that the apostle Paul took quite often (2 Corinthians 8:1-15) and one that the free church should echo among themselves.
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
With the above said, let us consider the passage below as encouragement and motivation. Giving brings with it many great rewards! Both sides benefit from this act in which we, as members of God’s family, are privileged to participate.
15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
There are many emergencies for so many persecuted believers in this world. We must help these suffering brothers and sisters of ours! We should give as we feel led to give, heeding the Spirit’s prodding. If we properly align our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit, and if we genuinely desire to help others out, then we will do so.
Below are links to two well-known and trusted ministry websites where you can give to persecuted and needy believers worldwide. See the links for more details.
This next link is from Curtis Omo’s Bible Academy, a serious and in-depth teaching ministry committed to the spiritual growth of children and adults.
- Bibleacademyonline – Verse-by-Verse Bible Studies from the Original Languages by Pastor and Teacher Curtis M. Omo
I do not myself solicit nor accept donations. If you are looking for good causes, however, please do consider instead the things linked above.
House churches, and how congregations choose to spend their money
On the idea of house churches generally
In addition to wasted and guilt-driven giving, fancy buildings need to be reconsidered by the body of Christ. There is nothing wrong with meeting in a designated facility, but many church buildings throughout America and other countries are unnecessary. Some churches do require buildings due to the large volume of people that attend. But many smaller congregations would do just fine without.
The problem is that so much money for fixing up the building and other renovation projects could be given to persecuted believers worldwide or so many other good causes. Think of all the ministries that money could benefit! The Church is a people, not a building, after all. Imagine how much money so many believers would save if many of them just met up in a large house! The believers of Paul’s day all met up in house churches.
So, far from there being anything wrong with this practice, it should in fact be the preferred first option for any smaller to medium congregation if they can do this. There is nothing in Scripture that suggests buildings are mandatory. A house church is more practical and advantageous in almost every way, save a few minor things here or there. And yes, even in a house church, qualified teachers and deacons can still be present. But the location does not matter, just as long as there is enough room for everyone to gather comfortably. As with many “additions” over the years, church buildings became another human addition. Unless one is really needed, why bother?
Examples of house churches are found in Philemon 1-3, 1 Corinthians 16:19-20, Colossians 4:15, and Acts 20:18-21.
Priorities in giving
The principle is simple – a building equals more time, money, distraction, and priority. The issues then extend into other areas of church life, such as giving (tithing as it is known today). As we have already taken the time to explain, the New Testament nowhere commands this practice. Much of the money put in the offering plate goes toward far less important things such as building projects, activities, music, etc. But what about the persecuted church? What about those amidst the free church that do need help? Why not give to an organization that is actually making a difference in the body of Christ?
Additionally, why not give to teaching ministries that actually teach the Word of God seriously? Why, as a church, do we continue to waste our time and money on things we don’t need and on ministries that continue to squander and misuse what we give? The Lord wants us to give, but He wants us to give to those who need it. That is how things worked during the early church, and that is how it should work now.