The following passage from the Bible caught my attention this weekend. You see, a few years ago, a friend named Bill told me that I didn’t need to tithe on a certain amount of money I received. Up until that time, I was a tither so having someone tell me that I didn’t need to caused me a problem. The question I was left with was this: If tithing is a command from God that still applies to Christians, who on this earth has the authority to tell me that I don’t need to do it? Well, not Bill, that’s for sure. No-one has the authority to negate God’s commands.
That begs the question then as to whether tithing IS a command from God for us today. If you’ve read my other posts on the topic, you know that I do not accept this to be so. Tithing has nothing to do with money and even if it did, does not apply to Believers today.
So on to the verse. If tithing is related to money, and If non-Levitical ministers are entitled to receive it, and If tithing is a command that applies to members of a church—then those to whom Paul ministered were under an obligation to provide for his financial needs through their tithes. Paul would not be in a position to negate that obligation—only to accept this tribute graciously and do his work. However, we find that Paul not only worked as a tent maker to make his own way, but he also willingly chose to go without financial support. He chose to minister for free rather than to be a burden on his congregation.
If tithing is obligatory and if it applies to money, how could Paul let the Corinthian church off the hook? I contend that (1) the tithe didn’t apply to money, (2) Paul wasn’t a Levite and would not have been entitled to it anyway, and (3) that the tithe law does not apply to those who are under Grace. Paul knew this and while he was entitled to pay for his work as any of us is, “pay” and “tithe” are two different concepts.
Paul references the Law here to give the concept, not to claim rights to the tithe. But even as the tithe applies to food provisions, Paul is clear here about that point as well.
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]? 6Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
Imagine, if you can, a preacher today choosing to minister not for what he will earn on earth, but rather for what he will earn in eternity!