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Bringing centuries-long practices and traditions

to the light of the Scripture

Anastasios Kioulachoglou

Unless otherwise noted, Bible quotations are taken from the New
King James Version of the Bible. Copyright, 1982, by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Bible quotations marked KJV are taken from the Holy Bible, King
James Version.

Bible quotations marked ESV are taken from The Holy Bible, English
Standard Version, Copyright 2001 by Crossway bibles, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights

Bible quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New
International Version. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International
Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

To all those that have struggled with the questions addressed in this
book and searched for answers without compromising.

Table of contents

Preface……………………………………………………………………………………….. 6

1. Tithing, Giving and the New Testament: An Introduction …………… 8

2. Tithing: is it for today? ……………………………………………………………. 9
3. New Testament Giving – 2 Corinthians 8 and 9………………………… 19
4. New Testament Giving – 1 Corinthians 16………………………………… 39
5. New Testament Giving – Acts 2 and 4 …………………………………….. 41
6. Supporting church staff salaries – what the Word says and what it
doesn’t ……………………………………………………………………………………. 44
7. New Testament Giving – Supporting missionaries ………………….. 58
8. New Testament Giving – Supporting the widows of the church … 61
9. Were Abraham and Jacob tithers? ………………………………………… 69
10. 2 Corinthians 11:8-9: what was Paul receiving while in Corinth?. 74
11. Conclusion and what to do with the information in this book ….. 78


Many thanks to Andrea and Tammy for proof reading this study. I’m
not a native English speaker and though, by the grace of God, I have
published a lot of material in my magazine in the English language, I’m
also sure there are grammatical errors there. With the help of these two
ladies, these are hopefully fewer in this study. If you still find some,
please bear with me.

I became a Christian in early 1991 in a home fellowship in
Thessalonica, Greece. The fellowship very strongly emphasized the Bible
as the infallible and inerrant Word of God and had an equally good
balanced view on the Holy Spirit. There I heard for the first time that to
be saved it was enough to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and God
raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). There I heard about salvation
by grace, about becoming a child of God, about asking God freely as my
Father and receiving from Him. The law was no longer valid, I learned.
Christ had fulfilled it all. It was such a great time and such a great
fellowship. I was born again and believe me it felt like this! Then on one
of the shelves of the fellowship leader and dear friend Dimitris - who
was spending, with love, all the time needed to answer the dozens of
questions I had - I saw a small book speaking about the “tithe”. I was
wondering what was this. The word “tithe” was unknown to me and I
hadn’t seen it in my reading of the New Testament (now I was soaking
the Word like a sponge, reading and taking in, several chapters per day).
I borrowed the book and I started reading. I was startled to find that it
was full of Old Testament quotations from the law, supporting that the
tithe was still valid and that as a Christian I should give 10% of my
income (barely enough at that time to pay my rent and food) to church
organizations. I felt pretty guilty after reading the book and this was the
first time I felt so in the few months I was a believer. Though we did not
apply tithing in our little fellowship (Dimitris, the leader, despite all the
time that he was spending with us, young believers, he was also a full
time worker plus a student, earning his living with hard work) the
question remained. Here was this organization that appeared to have a
clear understanding of the Word of God and yet they were preaching
about the Old Testament principle of tithing. But, I thought, if tithing
was still valid why was the sacrificing of bulls was not valid too? Were
not both parts of the same law? I put the matter aside but the questions

remained. Since then I changed locations and visited various churches.
What I invariably found is that though these churches were in many
things different, they had at least one thing in common: they were
pointing out the tithing or believed in the law of tithing. The reference to
the tithe was less frequent or not at all (though it was the acceptable
principle) in big or medium size congregations but very frequent, almost
weekly, in small congregations. Apart from that, though our fellowship
in Greece didn’t have a budget, many of these churches had budgets that
were hundreds of thousand dollars strong! Enormous amounts.
However, most of these budgeted amounts were for staff salaries,
building expenses and bills. This also didn’t sit well! Didn’t the New
Testament say to help the poor? Weren’t we supposed to support
missionaries that spread the Word? And yet out of these enormous
budgeted amounts, only a meager portion was for missions and almost
no portion at all for the poor. That was a second hit. Then early in 2008,
I got a question from a reader of my online magazine, the Journal of
Biblical Accuracy (, concerning this very matter, the
matter of tithing. I set out then to see this matter from the perspective of
the Word of God and settle this, years old for me, question. This book
contains the results of this study. It is done to throw light from the Word
of God concerning the validity of tithing and what the New Testament
says about giving. How should we give and what were the first century
churches supporting with their contributions? I’m fully aware that this
book is going to be considered controversial by some. But I also hope
that it is going to be liberating for some others that have struggled with
the same questions as me concerning this matter. It is to them that I
would like to devote this study.


Tithing, giving and the New Testament: An Introduction

Tithing is a hot topic, maybe partly because whatever has to do with

money has the potential of becoming a hot topic. I would like to take the
opportunity to review this topic together with the topic of giving in
general. Is tithing for today? Is tithing valid in the New Testament era,
in the age of grace in which we live, or is it obsolete? What does the New
Testament say about giving? Starting from the first question, by looking
at what is taught today from the pulpit of most of the churches one
could easily conclude that tithing is a principle to be applied today. This
is something so much established in the ecclesiastical order and
thinking that we no longer hear about gifts and givers but about tithe
and tithers.
As much established as this view may seem, there is, in the minds of
many ordinary believers, a discrepancy between what they often hear
from the pulpit and what they see in the New Testament. In the New
Testament there is simply nothing mentioned about tithing, as there is
nothing mentioned about sacrificing bulls or following other similar Old
Testament laws and practices. At least nothing is mentioned in the sense
of keeping and going along with it. What the New Testament speaks
about is givers, free gifts and support of the poor saints through these
voluntary and happily given gifts. But let’s look at these matters in more


Tithing: is it for today?

Defining the tithing, as the term is used today, I will just state here
what I, as a normal believer, have perceived is the view in the 20 years
that I have been a Christian. According to this view, tithing is to give 10
% of your income (pre-tax or post-tax – opinions are different) to the
church organization with which you are affiliated (the church fellowship
that you probably attend on Sundays). This money is then used to
support the church budget (rent, bills, staff salaries, missions, etc). By
many, not to tithe is considered a sin. Many times you will hear people
reciting Malachi 3:8-12 that says:

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In
what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are
cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole
nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may
be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of
hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour
out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to
receive it. "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that
he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine
fail to bear fruit for you in the field," says the Lord of hosts;
And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful
land," says the Lord of hosts.”

Many use these verses to say that not bringing the “tithes and
offerings” to the house of God (which they take it to mean the local
church building) is a sin and withholds people from their “blessings”.
The problem of using the above passage, as well as other similar Old

Testament passages, to support the application of tithing is that this
passage and the law that is behind it belong to the Old Testament. The
Old Testament is wonderful and is part of the Holy Scriptures that God
inspired. As Paul says in Romans 15:3-4

“For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "
The reproaches of them that reproached you fell on me." For
whatever things were written before were written for
our learning, that we through the patience and comfort
of the Scriptures might have hope.”

Whatever is written in the Scripture has been written for our learning.
We can learn by reading Deuteronomy. We can learn by reading Malachi
or any other Old Testament book. However, though all was written for
our learning, not all is written for our application. The Old Testament is
addressed to Jews that were living under the law. Jesus Christ had not
yet come. The price for the atonement of our sins had not yet been paid.
The high priest had not yet arrived. As Paul says in Galatians 3:23-26:

“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the

law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we
might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are
no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through
faith in Christ Jesus.”

There was the time before the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord.
This was the time of the law. And there is the time after the sacrifice and
resurrection of the Lord. This is the time that we live in now. There are
vast differences between these two periods, for the simple reason that
what was valid in the first period, the law, is no longer valid in the

second period. And what is valid in the second period - grace and being
children of God through faith in Jesus Christ - was not available in the
first period. Can we learn from what was valid in the first period?
Definitely we can. Does it apply to us? Not necessarily. You can read the
Psalms and the Proverbs and get guidance for your life today. It is God’s
eternal wisdom that crosses time. On the other hand, you can go to law-
specific passages, such as the passages about tithing, or the passages
about the sacrificing of bulls or the celebrations they had in Israel.
Though you can learn from these passages, they are not directly
applicable to us. The same is valid for all that refers to Mosaic Law, for
the simple reason that this law was abolished with Christ’s sacrifice. It is
like reading the law code of laws that are no longer valid. You can learn
from them but they are not to be applied, for they are obsolete. As
Colossians 2:13-14 says:

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision

of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having
forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the
handwriting of requirements that was against us,
which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of
the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

and again Ephesians 2:14-15:

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has
broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished
in His flesh the enmity, the law of commandments
contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new
man from the two, thus making peace,”

Now if the law is abolished, are we going to apply it again? We can
learn from it, but it is no longer a law that is for our application. It is
abolished! And tithing is part of this law too. Tithing is a word that
occurs a lot in such books of the law as Leviticus, Numbers and
Deuteronomy. Here are some references:

Leviticus 27:30-34
“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of
the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. If a man
wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to
it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever
passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. He
shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange
it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one
exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.' These
are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses
for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.”

Notice in the last verse that tithing is part of the commandments, part
of the law that God gave to Moses for the children of Israel on mount
Sinai. This was the law that was abolished by the sacrifice of Christ. And
tithing, being part of this law, was given not for general application but
for the children of Israel, till its cancellation by the sacrifice and
resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here are some more passages
about tithing:

Numbers 18:20-32
“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, the
work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of
Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they
bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the
tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall
be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among
the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the
tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave
offering to the Lord, 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.' Then the Lord spoke to
Moses, saying, "Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them:
'When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I
have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall
offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe.
And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it
were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the
winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord
from all your tithes which you receive from the children of
Israel, and you shall give the Lord's heave offering from it to
Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave
offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the
consecrated part of them.' Therefore you shall say to them:
'When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be
accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor
and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place,
you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in
the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of
it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not
profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.”

The passage of Leviticus we read previously dealt with the
commandment to the children of Israel to tithe. Where were these tithes
supposed to go and for what would they be used ? This is answered by
the above passage of Numbers: As verse 21 told us:

Numbers 18:21
“Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel
as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the
work of the tabernacle of meeting.”

The tithe was to go to the children of Levi, the Levites, that were
making up the priest tribe of Israel, the 1/12 of it. It was to be their
reward for the service of the tabernacle and later of the temple.
Numbers 18:31 says it clearly: “for it is your reward for your service in
the tabernacle of the congregation”. It was to be counted by them as “the
grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress.” In fact
the Levites had to give their own tithe from this. This was given to Aaron
and was to be the Lord’s heave offering. Many take the above passage
and they wrongly try to apply it in the New Testament era, in our age,
saying that we should continue to tithe to pay the salaries of the priests,
pastors and the clergy in general. This view is distorted because in the
New Testament there is simply no clergy and priests. As Peter and John
tell us, speaking to us, the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ:

I Peter 2:5
“you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a
holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to
God through Jesus Christ.”

I Peter 2:9
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy
nation, His own special people”

Revelation 1:5-6
“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own
blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God
and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.

Also as the Lord said speaking to the disciples:

Matthew 23:8-12
“But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher,
the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on
earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the
Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who
humbles himself will be exalted.”

These passages do not refer to some special class of people but to all
believers. All believers are made priests by the Lord Jesus Christ to His
God and Father. Does this mean now that we should not financially
support believers that move for example from town to town establishing
churches and serving the Lord as missionaries ? It does not mean this
and we will see it later in this study. What it means is that support
and gifts in the New Testament are no longer regulated by the
law of the tithe. Instead there are other principles in place for the
New Testament gifts and giving and we will see these as we move on in
this study. This part of the study focuses on what the Bible does NOT

say for us concerning giving –even though people may say it. As we
move on, we will focus on what the Bible does say for us.

Back to tithing; was the above – the tithe for the Levites - the only
tithe? It appears that it was not, as in Deuteronomy 14:22-29 we see
again tithing mentioned but in another context and for what appears to
be another purpose:

Deuteronomy 14:22-29
“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field
produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your
God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the
tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the
firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to
fear the Lord your God always. But if the journey is too long for
you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place
where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far
from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you
shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and
go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall
spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or
sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart
desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you
shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the
Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor
inheritance with you. "At the end of every third year you shall
bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up
within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor
inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and
the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be

satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of
your hand which you do.”

Every year the Israelites were to take “the tithe of your grain and your
new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks”
and go to the place that God would define and there: “you shall eat there
before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your
household”. If they were far away they were allowed to sell the various
items, get money and “you shall spend that money for whatever your
heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever
your heart desires”. This appears to be a festive tithe. People would take
this tithe and use it to eat and drink before the Lord in the place he
would define. Notice that this tithe is used by the people themselves.
This is different from what we read in Leviticus and Numbers earlier,
where the tithe was going to the Levites. It is therefore a different tithe.
In fact, every third year this tithe was to be used differently: at the end
of that year this tithe was to be collected “and the Levite, because he has
no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless
and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be
satisfied”. Furthermore every seven years the land was to have a
Sabbath in which nothing was sown or reaped by the owner of the land
(Leviticus 25:1-5) but all people were entitled to eat whatever the earth
was bringing up on its own (Leviticus 25:6-7) as well as from the big
surplus of the sixth year that God had promised to give (Leviticus 25:20-


Let’s summarize what we have learned up to now. As we have seen,

tithing was part of the Old Testament law, part of the ordinances that

God gave to the children of Israel through Moses. As it appears to me,
there were two tithes. The first tithe was going to the Levites while the
second was used by the people themselves in rejoicing before the Lord
or in the third year it was collected for the poor and (again) for the
Levites. Tithing is part of the law and as such it belongs to the same
category as animal sacrifices and the many and various regulations this
law dictated. We further saw that the New Testament makes it
emphatically clear that the law with its ordinances was abolished by the
sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this we are not sacrificing
animals today. If somebody asks why we don’t do this, we correctly say
“because this is part of the Mosaic law and this law is no longer valid.
Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, abolished in His
flesh the enmity, the law of commandments contained in
ordinances. We are no longer under the law”. The same reason that
we use for not sacrificing animals is also true for tithing. Tithing was,
along with animal sacrificing as well as other ordinances, part of the
Mosaic law. Whatever is valid to the one is also valid to the other. The
Mosaic law became obsolete about 2000 years ago, with Christ’s
sacrifice. Together with it, animal sacrifices, tithing and the other
ordinances of the law became obsolete too! We can learn from them,
but they are not meant to be for our direct application. Is therefore
tithing biblical? Yes it is. It is biblical as it is in the Bible. However, is
tithing relevant and valid for the Christian ? Here the answer is no!
What is for our direct application concerning giving is what we see
written in the New Testament. And what we see there is not tithing and
tithers but cheerful giving from the heart, according to the ability of
each one. Let’s now turn to this.


New Testament giving – 2 Corinthians 8 and 9

As said previously, tithing is a term almost unknown in the New

Testament. I need to clarify here that when I’m speaking of New
Testament I mean the New Covenant, the covenant that was instituted
with the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything before it, was part
of the Old Covenant and was addressed to Jews. Everything after it, is
part of the New Covenant and is addressed to Christians, to people that
believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and God raised Him from the dead
(Romans 10:9). The Old Testament, the Old Covenant, has indeed a lot
to say about tithing (this word is used 36 times there), but not the New.
In contrast, the New Testament says a lot about giving. To see what the
Word of God says for us - who live under the New Covenant, under this
present administration of grace –we will start from 2 Corinthians 8-9.
These are two chapters that deal directly with this topic and contain a
wealth of information. There are more places in the New Testament that
speak about this topic (and we will look at them later), but nowhere else
is there so much information written about it as in these two chapters.
We will explore this information as follows: we will be reading blocks of
Scripture from these two chapters and then we will be exploring to see
what they are telling us about giving.

2 Corinthians 8:1-4: What did they give, how and for what purpose ?

Starting our study from 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 we read:

“Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God

bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of

affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty
abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that
according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they
were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we
would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering
to the saints.”

This passage speaks about the believers, the people that made the
churches of Macedonia. Paul describes here how they gave and though
there is more to be found in this passage I have noted the following:

1. What they gave was a GIFT. The Greek word that is translated as
“gift” here is in fact the word “charis” that means “grace” and it is
translated as such in most of the other English translations. In other
words, a more accurate translation here would be: “that we would
receive the grace and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints”.
What was ministered to the saints in the age of grace is not called
“tithe” but “grace”. The giving of the tithe (tithing) belongs to the age
of the law. In the age of grace what you have is no longer tithing but
“grace giving”.

2. “They were freely willing”. It is again worthy to go to the Greek text

here. There, the word used is the word “authairetos”. As the Vine’s
dictionary says about this word:

“authairetos is from autos, self, and haireomai, to choose, self-

chosen, voluntary, of one’s own accord, occurs in 2 Cor 8:3 and
17, of the churches of Macedonia as to their gifts for the poor saints
and of Titus in his willingness to go and exhort the church in Corinth
concerning this matter”. (Vine’s expository dictionary of New

Testament words, Mac Donald Publishing company, p.25. Emphasis is

The believers in Macedonia were NOT forced to give. What they gave
was given voluntary. Again there is a huge difference to tithing. The tithe
was mandatory in the Old Testament. However, what we have here is
not mandatory. What we have here is not tithing but something
completely different. It is voluntary contributions to the saints, given
out of free will and of the people’s own accord. In contrast to this, today
many times we will hear people preaching about the tithe and that the
people OWE it to God and the church and if they don’t give it they cheat
Him. In this way, people are forced, out of guilt, to do whatever the
speaker says. This obviously has nothing to do with the free willing,
voluntary contributions that Paul is speaking about here.

3. “ministering to the saints”. Now what was this gift for? It was for
ministering to the saints. Paul tells us more about this “ministering”
in Romans 15:25-26:

“But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For

it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a
certain contribution for the poor among the saints who
are in Jerusalem.”

This was Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem. There he was imprisoned. As

he says about the purpose of this trip in Acts 24.17: “Now after many
years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation”. As we see from
the above, the ministering to the saints, the grace that the believers in
Macedonia and Achaia (Corinth) contributed freely, the voluntary
contributions, were contributions “for the poor among the saints who
were in Jerusalem”. The money was going to the poor brothers and

sisters. These poor church members were the target of the giving.
Ministering to the poor saints gets a lot of attention in the Scriptures.
James, John and Peter told Paul:

Galatians 2:10
“and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars,
perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and
Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the
Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only they would that we
should remember the poor, the very thing which I also
was eager to do.”

James, Peter and John told one thing to Paul: “remember the poor”!
And Paul carried this out. People today give their tithe to the church
where they go on Sundays, much of it goes to administration expenses
with a small portion (if any) left for the poor. In the New Testament
church though, it was the other way around: people were not giving
involuntary – out of guilt – but voluntary and though there are also
other purposes for giving (as we will see later), giving for the poor saints
was probably the most important one.

2 Corinthians 8:5-8: Exhortation to give: How Paul did it?

2 Corinthians 8:5-8
“And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to
the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus,
that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in
you as well. But as you abound in everything––in faith, in
speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us––
see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by

commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your
love by the diligence of others.”

Paul exhorts the believers to give abundantly. “See that you abound to
this grace”, he tells them. But notice how gentle he is. See what he says
in the next sentence: “I speak not by commandment”. You will not find
anywhere in the New Testament the coercion and the language that you
will find in some of the today’s churches when it comes to giving or
“tithing”. You will not find Christ, Paul, Peter, John or any other
coercing people, reciting Malachi and other Old Testament passages, to
give their “tithes” or else they will be kind of cursed (that’s what is
implied by some of the modern sermons on tithing). Paul knows nothing
of this. He gently exhorts the Corinthians to abound in this grace
making clear that he does not speak by commandment. He does not
command them to do so but he exhorts them to do so. He didn’t have a
budget to meet for the poor saints. He didn’t get a number down from
the headquarters and now was going around pressuring or enticing
people in order to meet it. What he was doing was to state the truth. As
he said: “the sincerity of your love is tested by the diligence of others”.
Not empty words but real support.

2 Corinthians 8:10-14: Giving out of desire in accordance to what one


2 Corinthians 8:10-11
“a year ago (you) started not only to do this work but also to
desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your
readiness in desiring it may be matched by your
completing it”

This passage deals with desires about giving and realization of these
desires. The first part of the passage shows how important it is not only
to give but also TO DESIRE IT. It is desire plus realization of this desire
that God wants from His people. None of these two alone works. God
does not want you to desire to give but to never act upon it! Always to
say: “how great would it be to give this gift for the ministering of those
saints” but never to realize it, though you have the means. This is
hypocrisy. And vice versa, He does not want you to give without
heartfully desiring it, as of commandment, out of coercion by somebody.
Keep this in mind always. In giving both the desire and acting upon this
desire are important! The motivation for giving is the desire in your
heart. And as Philippians 2:13 tells us:

“For it is God who works in you to both will and to do of His

good pleasure”.

God is at work in us to will, to desire, to want and then to do what is

of His goods pleasure. Again, as we observe, the way that God works is
through putting a desire in our heart. This is His prime motivator.
Coercion and guilt are wrong and invalid motivators. We will see more
on this later.
Continuing in 2 Corinthians :

2 Corinthians 8:10-15
“your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your
completing it out of what you have. For if there is first a
willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has,
and not according to what he does not have. For I do
not mean that others should be eased and you
burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your
abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also

may supply your lack––that there may be equality. As it is
written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he
who gathered little had no lack."

There are so many truths in this passage that ought to be preached

much, much more than Old Testament tithing. Paul speaking to
Corinthians about giving tells them that they should give “out of what
they have”! Now if tithing was valid in the New Testament – which it
isn’t – I would expect Paul to make a blanket statement: “you give 10%
of your income. Period.” Is he saying anything like this ? You may have
heard it preached (explicitly or implicitly) from a pulpit but you will not
hear it from the Word of God! And guess whose words count at the
end ?! “Out of what you have” means “according to what you have” and
so that there are no misunderstandings, Paul makes it clear: “not
according to what you don’t have”! Today some churches press
(gently or otherwise) their members to give their tithe (i.e. 10 % of their
income) to the church funds. Apart from the fact that such a call is
wrong there are also no qualifications added to it. The poor family that
can barely makes ends meet is expected to take 10% of their pay and
give it to the church. They are told that God is going to bless them much
more if they do so. The thing is that the New Covenant does not know
such giving. According to the Word, whatever is given should be out of
what one has. You cannot take from the needs of your family to cover
the needs of another family, let alone the needs of the church
organization (bills, staff salaries etc.). This is what the Word of God
says. You don’t have it, you can’t give it! As Paul told Timothy:

I Timothy 5:7-8
“And these things command, that they may be blameless. But if
anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for

those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse
than an unbeliever.”

First you are expected to provide for your own household and your
own people i.e. those that are dependant on you. Whoever does not do
this, says the Word of God, is worse than an unbeliever. After these
needs are covered you can then think of needs that are outside your own
household. It is out of what you have, after the needs of your family have
been met. As Paul also makes clear in the above passage of 2

“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you

burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your
abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may
supply your lack––that there may be equality”

Paul had no intention to help the poor in Jerusalem by making the

Corinthians poor! He had no thought at all of burdening the one to ease
the other! They would help, out of their abundance. It was this
abundance that would supply the lack of the poor saints in Jerusalem at
this time, so that the abundance of these, now poor, saints could supply
the Corinthians’ lack in another time.

Moving on, we have mentioned it before that the gift itself is not
enough. There has to be a desire for it. It cannot be as by command! And
here Paul repeats it again: “For if the readiness is there, it is
accepted according to what one has” Readiness, a willing heart, is
a prerequisite for a gift. If (first) this readiness is there, then (second) it
is accepted according to what one has and not according to what he does
not have.”

To summarize: for a gift to be acceptable, a willing heart is a
prerequisite. There must be a readiness, a willingness, a desire to give.
And out of this desire one should give. He should give not according to
what he does not have, but according to what he has. The equality is not
done by giving out of your lack, but by giving out of your abundance, out
of your surplus, to cover somebody else’s lack. Your surplus will be
reduced and may be eliminated but his lack will be reduced and it may
be eliminated too! That’s New Testament giving.

2 Corinthians 8:16-21: Transparency in the administration of the gift

Continuing in 2 Corinthians 8:

“But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you
into the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted the exhortation,
but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord. And
we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel
throughout all the churches, and not only that, but who was
also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which
is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to
show your ready mind, avoiding this: that anyone should
blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us
– providing honorable things, not only in the sight of
the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”

I want to focus on the part of the above passage that I have

emphasized. Paul was not only collecting contributions for the poor
saints but he also cared that nobody should blame him and his team “in
this lavish gift which was administered by them”. What could they
blame them for? That they used the gift inappropriately. That they used

it for themselves. That they said one thing but did another. To avoid any
of these, Paul had with him a brother that was chosen by the churches to
travel with them with this gift. If you are administering the gifts of
God’s people, do what Paul did: take measures so that nobody can
blame you in the administration of these gifts. Be transparent! As
transparent as possible! Give frequent updates of what you did with the
gift. What was received, where was it spent, what is left ? Get witnesses
trusted by the people. Nothing should be hidden. We must be open and
transparent with gifts. Paul took care providing honorable things not
only in the sight of God but also in the sight of men. So must we too.

2. Corinthians 9:1-5: the gift as a blessing and not as covetousness

Moving now to the 9th chapter we read:

2 Corinthians 9:1-5
“Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous
for me to write to you; for I know your willingness, about which
I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year
ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. Yet I have sent
the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this
respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; lest if some
Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to
mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting.
Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to
you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand,
which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a
matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.”

The words “generous gift” and “generosity” in the last sentence is the
Greek word “eulogia” that means “blessing”. Also, what is translated as
“grudging obligation” in the NKJV is the Greek word “pleonexia” that
means “covetousness” and is translated as such in the KJV. Darby has a
better translation of this last verse:

“I thought it necessary therefore to beg the brethren that they

would come to you, and complete beforehand your fore-
announced blessing, that this may be ready thus as blessing, and
not as covetousness.”

Paul calls the gift blessing. It is not a tithe, it is not a mandatory

giving either. It is a blessing! This is how we should also think of our
gifts to the poor saints: as blessings! Paul was excited that the
Corinthians wanted so much to give, but he was not pressing them
about it. The gift was to “be ready as a blessing and not as covetousness
[Greek: pleonexia]”. Here is what a commentator says on this (Barnes:
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible):

“The word used here (pleonexia) means usually covetousness,

greediness of gain, which leads a person to defraud others. The idea
here is, that Paul would have them give this as an act of
bounty, or liberality on their part, and not as an act of
covetousness on his part, not as extorted by him from them”
(emphasis added)

Paul wanted the gift of the Corinthians to be a blessing and not

something that was taken from them, out of covetousness. It is a pity
that there are people today that do what Paul would not do: use
manipulation and enticement to extort gifts from the people. People
today often don’t care about the means as long as their aim is obtained.

It should not be like this. This is in no way what God wants. What He
wants is that your gift is a blessing, an act of liberality, something that
you desire and you can give and is in no way something that is taken
from you through guilt, enticement or any other of the techniques that
are many times used today. Back to Paul, he would not be greedy
concerning the gift. He wanted the Corinthians to give but he was very
careful, very gentle. He was careful in chapter 8 and is careful here too.
As Barnes correctly states, he wanted the gift to be an act of bounty, of
liberality, on their part and not an act of greed from his part. How
liberating is the Word of God and how much distortion exists today in
the way many demand money.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7: The law of sowing and reaping and (again) how
to give

2 Corinthians 9:6-7
“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let
each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of
necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

If we have heard something, and this many times, from 2 Corinthians

9 it is verse 6 (“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he
who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”). Paul does not use
verse 6 to manipulate believers into giving. He already spoke for almost
one and a half chapters on how to give, before he arrives at this verse.
What Paul does in verse 6 is to state the simple truth: if you sow
sparingly you will reap sparingly and if you sow bountifully you will also
reap bountifully. According to what you sow you will also reap. There

will be a return for your gift and this return is in accordance to how
much you give. HOWEVER the giving has to be voluntary, from the
heart. No gift is welcomed if it is given grudgingly, with sorrow, without
being happy with it, or if it is given out of compulsion or of necessity.
“Of necessity” means because you have to. You don’t want to give but
you are somehow forced to give. And this is what happens many times
with tithing. Preachers come up, start reciting Malachi and Old
Testament passages on the tithe and end up saying or implying that if
you don’t give the tithe to the church you are kind of cursed by God and
you cheat Him. Then you go ahead and write a check in response to this.
In reality you didn’t give voluntary but you gave because you don’t want
to cheat God and be under a curse – as the preacher told you. You would
prefer to feed the poor, buy some sacks of rice for those poor kids in
Dominican Republic and support that evangelist that spreads the gospel
in India. But now you were forced by the preacher to give it for
something else that you didn’t really want to give to. Thus you gave out
of guilt, out of condemnation. Now if this is not giving with sadness and
out of necessity I wonder what this is. Dear brother you do not have to
succumb to such calls! What you were told is simply not the voice of the
Word of God but the voice of tradition and religion that distorts the
Word of God. You must not give because somebody forces you to give
but because you really want to give from the heart. If you give out of
guilt, if you have sorrow about it, the gift will not be welcomed by God.
Also, to those that use condemnation and guilt as techniques to force
God’s people to give for their purposes, I would like to point out: Paul
said that he didn’t want the gifts to be like taken from them.
God does not really want such gifts, because people didn’t give them
voluntary but they were in fact taken from them, stolen if you want! Not
by force of power but by the force of words!

Having said the above, let’s go and have a look at 1 John 3:16-18:

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And
we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 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? My little children, let us not love in
word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

God’s Word says not to give grudgingly or out of necessity, because

somebody tells you to give. Instead we must give out of the heart and be
generous in it. God loves the one that gives gladly. He does not welcome
the gift that is given with sadness. On equal ground it is a sin to have any
love of money. As Paul said “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I
Timothy 6:10). He also said that the genuineness of our love is tested by
how much we care for the others. And what John describes here is a real
situation: you have two brothers. One has this world’s goods. He has
extra empty beds at home. He has plenty of money in the bank. He has
plenty of food in the cellar. Now this man meets a brother that is in
need. A need that the first one can satisfy. What should the first brother
do? Should he pray for his bother in need? Yes he should do this too, but
he should not stay there! He should give to him and help him. He should
not shut his heart up as John says and just mutter a prayer or say a “God
bless you brother” and walk away. The test of caring for others proves
the sincerity of our love and whether the love of God is in us or not. And
this is really a very serious matter.
Now, going back to the tithing system, there is the other distortion
created by it: people are forced to give their tithe to a local church basket
and then when they see a brother in need, they think “I have already
given my tithe to the church”. Thus we give out of necessity to purposes
that give little help to the poor (most of what is given to a local church
basket does not really end up helping the poor – this is sad but it is real

and a look at a church budget is enough to verify it) and then when the
poor come up we do not want or we cannot help them. This is a real, sad
and usual situation.
Returning to 2 Corinthians 9:6, people very frequently use it to tell
others that if you give a lot God will return the gift to you multiple times.
In fact, in addition to 2 Corinthians 9:6, they again use Malachi for this:

Malachi 3:10-12
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food
in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of hosts, "If
I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for
you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive
it. "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will
not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to
bear fruit for you in the field," Says the Lord of hosts; And all
nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,"
Says the Lord of hosts”

So people give in order that God gives them back the gift multiple
times. Some preachers and ministers wrongfully use the above passages
enticing their audience to give with the promise of many financial
blessings. Thus people give. But why? What is their motive? None of the
motives of 2 Corinthians or the remaining word of God. It is not a act of
generosity out of the heart but rather either an act of guilt (they give so
that they do not … cheat God, as the preacher told them) or an act of
greed (they give so that they get back much more). God is presented in
this way as a money machine, as a bank. Give your tithe and you will get
it back multiple times. Having money as a motive is wrong! Though God
does return bountifully to those that give bountifully it would be out of
order and character for Paul to use 2 Corinthians 9:6 to entice the
Corinthians to give under promises of big and more harvests! What I

believe Paul wanted to do was to state the facts. There is indeed a
harvest to the givers. There is indeed a reward. I don’t know what it is,
but why should it necessarily be a financial harvest or only a financial
harvest or a harvest that refers only to the present earthly life ? The
main thing is that there is a harvest! And the one that sows sparingly
harvests sparingly and the one that sows abundantly also harvests
abundantly. This is a fact! The Word does not speak of financial
harvests, it speaks of harvests and there can be many different kinds of
them, including financial ones. Do you want to call them “blessings”,
here and in heaven? Call them blessings. I like more the word harvest!
You want to harvest a lot? Sow also a lot!

2 Corinthians 9:8-15: “All sufficiency in all things”, guaranteed by God

2 Corinthians 9:8-9
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you,
always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an
abundance for every good work. As it is written: "He has
dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness
endures forever."

God through Paul leaves no shadow of doubt: nobody is going to be

made needy by giving liberally. As he makes clear, God assures they will
have all sufficiency in all things and this always! They will have an
abundance for every good work! God Himself guarantees this! Then
Paul quotes Psalms 122:9: “"He has dispersed abroad, he has given to
the poor; his righteousness endures forever”. Now this passage does not
refer to God. It does not say: “God has dispersed abroad, God has given
to the poor; God’s righteousness endures forever”. Instead this Psalm

refers to the man that fears the Lord. Let’s read it in its entirety because
it contains more promises:

Psalms 112:1-10
“Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
Who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants
will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be
blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his
righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises
light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and
righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide
his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken; The
righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be
afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his
desire upon his enemies. He has dispersed abroad, he has
given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever;
His horn will be exalted with honor. The wicked will see it and be
grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of
the wicked shall perish.”

We have extensively written in another study about the fear of the

Lord. The man that fears the Lord will be blessed! And one of the things
that the man that fears the Lord does, is to give to the poor. He is liberal
in his giving. He has dispersed abroad. He is not stingy but generous,
because God is his abundance. And as 2 Corinthians told us, God
Himself guarantees that when you give liberally to the poor you are not
going to run out of seed. As Paul says:

2 Corinthians 9:9-15
“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for
food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase
the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in
everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through
us to God. For the administration of this service not only
supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through
many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this
ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession
to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them
and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you
because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God
for His indescribable gift!”

God who supplies the seed to the sower and the bread for food will
supply and multiply the seed we have sown so that we can sow even
more. And Paul explains that this gift, the gift to the poor, will abound in
many thanksgivings to God. In the Corinthians instance the recipients
would glorify God for the liberal sharing, the generosity, of their
Corinthian brothers and sister.

Conclusion from our study of 2 Corinthians 8-9

Let’s summarize now what we learned from this study of 2

Corinthians 8-9. As we said, these are two chapters that contain more
information about giving than any other part of Scripture written to the
church of God. Here are the main points that stand out:

i) What 2 Corinthians 8-9 speaks about is gifts, grace gifts. It does

not speak about tithes and tithers but about gifts and givers.

ii) The purpose of the gift was to support the poor saints in
Jerusalem. Supporting the poor saints is not the only purpose to
which gifts can go. We will see more purposes. However, giving to
the poor is one of the most important ones. I believe, based on the
Scripture, supporting the poor saints should have very high
priority in people’s giving and congregational giving.
iii) People were to give freely and not to be forced to give.
iv) On the same matter: desire was a prerequisite to give. It was the
prime motivator. There is no place in 2 Corinthians for gifts given
out of guilt, or because “it is mandatory”.
v) The people were to give according to what they had and not
according to what they didn’t have. There was no fixed percentage
of how much somebody should give. All was a combination of a)
desire and b) ability i.e. “according to what they had”. Now
speaking about desire, a real Christian that has the love of God in
him does have a desire to help his poor brothers. John makes it
clear that if somebody sees a brother in need and he has the
means to help him, yet he chooses to “shut up his heart from him,
how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:16-18)
vi) Along the same line, Paul wanted the gift to be an act of
generosity from the Corinthians’ side not an act of covetousness
or greed from his side, where he would somehow extort the gift
from them through guilt or any other manipulative way. In
contrast to many today, Paul would not use guilt to take the gift.
The gift is not the only thing that is important. It is equally
important how the gift is taken. Using guilt to motivate people to
give is wrong. The only valid motivator I see is the desire from the
heart to give.
vii) Then we saw that the gift should not be given grudgingly or out of
necessity. Instead it should be given joyfully. Again we see the
same as in vi) above. The gift itself is not enough. It is equally

important how the gift is given and what is the motivator that
made somebody to give.
viii) Whoever sows sparingly will also harvest sparingly and whoever
sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. If you want a law, this
is a law, a principle that will never be violated. Giving is like
sowing seed. You sow much, you harvest much. It does not
necessarily mean a financial harvest or only a financial harvest. It
means harvest, and this harvest can be various things, including
financial “harvests”. Paul does not state this to entice people so
that they give out of greed. There is nothing good in greed and
this can never be a good motivator for anything. He says this to
state a fact, and the law of sowing and reaping is a fact.
ix) God Himself gives assurance that you will in no way get poor by
giving liberally. God guarantees this Himself. As the Word says:
“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you,
always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance
for every good work.” ALL grace, ALL sufficiency in ALL things,
ALWAYS, so that you may have abundance in EVERY good works.
It cannot be made clearer. There is a guarantor behind this
promise and this is GOD Himself.
x) Finally, Paul was taking measures not to allow any chance for
somebody to blame him about the administration of this gift. He
was fully transparent concerning this gift and its use.


New Testament giving – 1 Corinthians 16

Though 2 Corinthians 8-9 is the longest exposition concerning New

Testament giving, there are in the Scriptures that are addressed to the
body of Christ, more passages about this important topic. One of them is
in 1 Corinthians 16:1-5. There we read:

“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given

orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the
first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside,
storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I
come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters
I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I
go also, they will go with me.”

This passage is very similar in character with 2 Corinthians 8-9. Again

the collection is for the (poor) saints in Jerusalem. They are the same
recipients as in 2 Corinthians. It appears that the Jerusalem saints were
in great need and the Corinthians, the Macedonians and maybe also the
Galatians were contributing to help their needs. The new in this passage
is the reference to storing for the poor on the first day of the week. The
Greek text translated here as “the first day of the week”, is “on one of the
Sabbaths”. It is used in some occasions in the New Testament but it is
not clear to me what it exactly means. Regardless of this, what Paul says
here to the Corinthians is that each one should make a kind of a fund for
the poor, storing there on a regular basis (“on one of the Sabbaths”) as
he may prosper. Notice the rule here: the rule is not the tithe. It is not
“store up your tithes”. It is “store up as you may prosper”. Both poor and
rich were supposed to store up, each one as he may prosper i.e. in

accordance to their resources. 2 Corinthians takes this further adding
the desire, the cheerful, non-grudging giver plus the other elements we
saw there. The reason that Paul mentions for the necessity of the
regularity of these contributions is, as he says, “that there be no
collections when I come”. This is the reason behind doing the
contributions on a regular basis. Would these contributions continue
forever, even after Paul came? No, not at least for this purpose. The
contributions were for a specific purpose (“to help the poor saints in
Jerusalem”) and were done on a regular basis (“on the first day of the
week”) so that they would not be done at haste when Paul would come.
After Paul had come they would not continue, at least not for this
purpose. But the principle is there, and the principle is that as
Christians we should help our poor brothers. This would not be an
erratic giving – though this could happen too – but could also be a
giving on a more regular basis, based on the needs. We could be tipped
to it from a church planter (like Paul here) or we could also be brought
there directly by the Lord (“the rich and the poor meet together; the
Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2).


New Testament giving – Acts 2 and 4

The first few chapters in Acts are very well known for the sharing they
demonstrate among the believers. Here are some parts:

Acts 2:42-45
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe
came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being
done through the apostles. And all who believed were
together and had all things in common. And they were
selling their possessions and belongings and
distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (ESV)

And Acts 4:32-35

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart
and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to
him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with
great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the
resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them
all. There was not a needy person among them, for as
many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and
brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the
apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had

We have dealt extensively with these references of Acts in our study

on material possessions. Here are some points from that study:

i) What happened in Acts 2 and 4 was voluntary, not mandatory.
People didn’t have to sell their possessions nor is this a
prerequisite to be a Christian. They did it by their own free will.
Proof? What Peter said to Ananias, the man that sold a possession
and brought part of the proceeds to the apostles presenting it like
it was the full price (i.e. he lied). As Peter told him: “While it
remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in
your own control?” If Ananias had kept his property and hadn’t
sold it, it would NOT have been a sin. Ananias’ sin was not that he
owned land but that he brought part of the price to the apostles,
presenting it as the whole price. It was lawful to have land and it
was lawful to keep the full proceedings from its sale. What was
not right however was to present these proceedings to God and
the church as the full price of the land, when he only offered part
of it. This was a lie to God and this was what Peter condemned.
From this we can deduct that it is not a sin to own material
possessions nor that in the 1st century church everybody had to
sell his possessions after he became a Christian.
ii) What happened in Acts 2 and 4 was unique and was not the
general practice of the New Testament church. In fact we do not
find this practice anywhere outside Jerusalem. What we just saw
from 1 Corinthians is that everyone was to put aside on a regular
basis what he might prosper so that when Paul would come, it
would be put together and taken to the poor saints in Jerusalem.
iii) Though it is not a sin to have material possessions there must be a
right attitude towards them. And this attitude is to actively
consider everything as belonging to the Lord and not to you, His
steward. It is to actively seek the will of the Lord about everything
including your possessions. It is to be ready to sell everything, if
you are called to do so. We are of course not speaking here about
a desire to be rich, a desire to get more and more possessions.

Such a desire has one name in the Word of God and this is greed,
love of money, the root of all evil (I Timothy 6:10). Such a desire
has no place in the life of a genuine Christian.


Supporting church staff salaries – what the Word says and

what it doesn’t

This is another very interesting question when it comes to giving. By

staff here I mean people like pastors, assistant pastors, youth pastors i.e.
“professionals” who somehow are supposed to carry the main ministry
work of the local church. This question becomes even more interesting
because staff salaries probably make up the biggest portion of the
expenses a modern church has. Before we move further, we have to
note that the church hierarchy we see today in the contemporary
churches, is not something we will find in the Bible. According to this
hierarchy we have the senior pastor who is – implicitly or explicitly -
something like the head/boss of the church. Under him you have other
similar professionals that do the work of youth pastor, assistant pastor
etc. and they are usually full time employees of the church, working
under the senior pastor. The senior pastor himself may be under the
authority of a “bishop”, who is kind of in charge of the clergy in a region.
Then you have the elders. These are usually not “professionals” i.e. they
are people with “normal” full time jobs and participate in the church
administration. Finally you have all other believers, that together with
the elders are the so called “laity”. Though not every church follows such
explicit distinctions, these exist, even though implicitly, in the vast
majority of the churches. Going to the New Testament now, we will see
that there are no such structures there. There you do not see pastors,
assistant pastors, bishops and elders as separate categories of people. In
the New Testament, what you see in the local church leadership is
elders. These are also called shepherds and bishops. In the New
Testament, elders, shepherds (pastors), bishops are all terms used for

the same people. The function of these people is to shepherd, to pastor,
the local church, overseeing the flock (the Greek word for “bishop”
means overseer) as they are elder brothers i.e. elders in the faith, mature
believers. There are plenty of Scriptures that make this clear and I will
soon have another study dealing with this matter exclusively, but here is
a passage that encompasses everything: In Acts 20:17 Paul, on his way
to Jerusalem, passed from Ephesus, where he “called the elders (plural)
of the church”. Notice that there was one church, the church in Ephesus,
and many elders. Notice also that Paul called for the elders. The text
does not say that he called for the elders and the senior pastor and the
assistant pastors and the bishop. It is just elders! All the same, without
any special title attached to any of them. There was no person called
“senior pastor” or “assistant pastor” etc. They were all elders. And they
were many! Let’s see now what he told them:

Acts 20:28
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among
which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd
the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

In this verse you have everything. The people invited in this meeting
were the elders of the church in Ephesus. Now what was the role of
these brothers? Their role was to be OVERSEERS. The word translated
“overseers” in this verse is the Greek word “episkopos”. It is this very
word that in I Timothy 3:2 the KJV and NKJV have translated as
“bishop”, saying: “A bishop [episkopos] then must be blameless, the
husband of one wife, vigilant, sober…”. It is again translated as such in
Titus 1:7 “For a bishop (episkopos) must be blameless as the steward of
God”. Other translations have, in the above occasions, translated
“episkopos” as “overseer”. The elders of the church in Ephesus - and for
this, the elders of every New Testament church - were “episkopoi”,

which means overseers. In the other way around: the “episkopoi”
mentioned in the Bible are the elders of the local church. As Vine in his
dictionary says:

“the term “elder” indicates the mature spiritual experience and

understanding of those so described; the term “bishop”, or “overseer”
indicates the character of the work undertaken” (Vine’s dictionary pp.

Bishops and elders are the same thing in the Bible. It may be that in
today’s world these are presented as two different classes of people but
such a distinction does not come from the Bible.
But Acts 20:28 tells us more: notice that the elders were appointed to
shepherd the church of God or to be shepherds as the NIV has it. The
word “shepherd” that appears in this passage is the Greek word:
poimaino that means: “to act as a shepherd” (Vine’s dictionary, p. 427),
in other words “to shepherd”. It is exactly the noun form of this verb in
its plural, the noun “poimen”, that is used in Ephesians 4:11 and is
translated as “pastors”. The word “poimen” is used 17 times in the New
Testament and in all but one it is translated as “shepherd”. That is in all
cases, except Ephesians 4:11 where it is translated as “pastors”. This
translation here has caused a lot of confusion. People speak about pastor
so and so and they mean somebody that went to a theological college
and became a minister, a “pastor”. And then they go to the Bible to
Ephesians 4:11 and they say “here it is.. the Word of God speaks about
pastors”. The Word however speaks about “shepherds”. And a shepherd
is not necessarily somebody that has graduated from a theological
college and “pastors” a church. A shepherd is somebody that feeds a
flock. Not only does he feed it but he also guides it, going in front of it.
Furthermore he takes care of the broken ones. We can find all of the
functions of a shepherd from the Word of God, but as I said I wouldn’t

want to go much further in this study as the purpose of it is different.
There will be another study coming out dealing with these matters.
What we need however to keep in mind here, is the following: nowhere
the Word of God makes the distinctions we have today in most of the
churches. It knows nothing about pastors, bishops, assistant pastors and
elders as separate categories of people. All that it knows about is elders
who shepherd the flock of God, the local church, being overseers of it.
These elders were not people with theological degrees. They were
ordinary people from the congregation. They were believers that had
matured and were ready to shepherd and oversee younger believers
with final aim to build them up in Christ. There is no indication in the
Scripture that these people had to leave their normal secular jobs. There
is also no indication in the Scripture of elders getting a normal monthly
or otherwise regular salary from the local church for what they were
doing. In fact, there was no New Testament church in which the
elders that shepherded, oversaw, the flock were full time
employees of the church, getting a regular salary from the
church. Do we have a proof for this? Yes we do. Just read on.

On church staff salaries: the example of Paul

Paul and his team were apostolic workers, going from town to town
preaching the gospel and planting churches. They never stayed in one
particular place permanently. They were more or less always on the
move, preaching the gospel. For these people, and we will also see this
later, the Lord commanded:

1 Corinthians 9:14
“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the
gospel should live from the gospel.”

This is not a reference for elders, permanent residents of a local

church. It is not used for them in 1 Corinthians 9. The reference here is
to apostles, to apostolic workers that were going from town to town,
preaching the gospel and planting churches. In other words, they were
what we today call missionaries. These apostolic workers were entitled
to live fully from the gospel. Paul was one of them, Barnabas was
another. As Paul says in verses 3-6 of the same chapter:

“My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right

to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing
wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and
Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to
refrain from working?”

To rephrase the last question so that it fits in the way the first two
questions are phrased: “Don’t Barnabas and I have the right to stop
working ?” The question implies that the apostles did not in general
have a secular occupation. But Paul and Barnabas did. Paul and
Barnabas, with “the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28) on
Paul, were still working. The Lord had given them the special right to
not have a secular occupation but live from the gospel. But they did not
use this right. Here is what Paul says:

1 Corinthians 9:14-18
“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the
gospel should live from the gospel. But I have used none of
these things, nor have I written these things that it

should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die
than that anyone should make my boasting void. For if I preach
the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon
me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this
willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been
entrusted with a stewardship. What is my reward then? That
when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of
Christ free of charge, that I may not abuse my
authority in the gospel.”

Paul had the right to live from the gospel. Nevertheless, he did not
make use of this right, though, as we will see, he indeed occasionally
received unsolicited voluntary contributions from the believers. At the
same time he was working. As Acts 18:1-3 tells us:

“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to

Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in
Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla
(because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from
Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the
same trade, he stayed with them AND WORKED; for by
occupation they were tentmakers.”

The gospel did not and should not have a price tag assigned to it. It
must be free of charge and Paul made sure that it was so. But there is
also another reason that he did this. And this is shown in 2
Thessalonians 3:9-12 :

“But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus

Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks
disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received

from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to
follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we
eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with
labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a
burden to any of you, not because we do not have
were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not
work, neither shall he eat.”

Paul and his team had authority to “eat anyone’s bread free of
charge”. They had authority to it as apostolic workers, not as elders of a
local church. But they never used it. Instead they labored, day and night
as he says. Why? So that they make themselves an EXAMPLE for the
brothers to follow. “Example” is the key word here. And what is the
example: that they should work and if anyone will not work, neither
shall he eat. Now what does this mean for the churches that Paul
founded, the New Testament churches ? If Paul and his co-workers
were working wherever they went, and they were doing this to
be a model, an example to the other believers, do you think
that there was any elder in this church that was not working
but had a salary from the church? I don’t think so. In addition,
though apostolic workers - church planters - have the right to skip
making their living through a secular occupation, elders don’t have this
But the references of the Word of God to Paul’s example don’t stop
here. I Thessalonians 2:9 tells us.

“For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for

laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden
to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.”

They were laboring day and night so that they are not a burden to any
of the believers. Ministry was not an occupation for them; something to
earn their living from. Doing the will of God was their life but they
wouldn’t earn their living from this. To earn their living they would
labor, as anybody else, giving an EXAMPLE to everybody else.
Acts 20:33-35 is another characteristic passage. It is part of the same
speech we saw Paul giving to the elders (shepherds, overseers) of the
church in Ephesus. See what he tells them:

“I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you

yourselves know that these hands have provided for
my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have
shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you
must support the weak. And remember the words of the
Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to

Again Paul presents himself as an example to them. You know, he

tells them, that in my necessities my hands provided. This is a clear
reference to the fact that when he was in Ephesus, he was working to
support himself and the others. But there is more to it. See what he says:
“I have shown you in every way, BY LABORING LIKE THIS, THAT
YOU MUST SUPPORT THE WEAK.” Paul is speaking to the elders
(shepherds, overseers) of the church in Ephesus. He speaks to the
leadership of the local church. And what is he telling them? He is telling
them “look at how I walked among you. I worked hard to support my
needs. DO THE SAME”. So that “by laboring like this you must support
the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is
more blessed to give than to receive”. The local church leadership was to
follow Paul’s example, laboring hard to support their needs. They were

not to be the recipients of salaries from the congregation. Paul, the
example, was not a recipient of such a salary! How could they? They
would rather be help and support to the weak. They would rather be
givers than takers.
Commenting on Paul and his example here is what some well known
commentators and scholars say1:

F.F. Bruce - (The New International Commentary on the New

Testament: Acts [Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1986] p.418)

“Returning once more to the example which he had set them, he

reminds them finally that those who take care of the people of God must
do so without thought of material reward. As Samuel called all Israel to
witness when he was about to lay down his office as judge (1 Samuel
12:3), so Paul calls the Ephesian elders to witness that all the time he
spent with them he coveted nothing that was not his; on the contrary, he
did not even avail himself of his right to be maintained by those whose
spiritual welfare he cared, but earned his living--and that of his
colleagues--by his own labors: "these hands," he said (inevitably with
the attendant gesticulation), "ministered unto my necessities, and to
them that were with me" (v.34). Let those to whom he was speaking
likewise labor and thus support not only themselves but others as well--
the sick in particular.”

Simon Kistemaker (professor of New Testament at Reformed

Theological Seminary) - (New Testament Commentary: Acts [Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990] pp. 737,740)

Quotations were taken from: Darryl M. Erkel: “Should pastors be salaried?” (1997)

“In his [Paul] letters he discloses that he worked night and day with his
own hands to support himself, so that no one would ever be able to
accuse him of depending on the hearers of the Gospel for his material
needs (compare 1 Samuel 12:3). He refused to be a burden to anyone in
the churches he established. By performing manual labor, he provided
for his financial needs. Paul received gifts from the believers in Philippi,
as he himself reveals (Philippians 2:25; 4:16-18), yet he declares that he
did not solicit those gifts... The Ephesian elders had observed Paul's
ministry and physical work during his three-year stay. They were able to
testify that he had never exploited anyone (2 Corinthians 7:2), but had
always set an example of diligence and self-sufficiency, in the good sense
of the word. He was a model to the believers and taught the rule: "If you
will not work, you shall not eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10)... It appears that
Paul generated sufficient income to support not only himself but even
his companions... In every respect, says Paul to the elders of Ephesus, I
taught you to work hard and with your earnings to help the weak... He
exhorts them to follow his example and to labor hard.”

Roland Allen, author of the classic work, Missionary Methods: St.

Paul's or Ours? (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1962),

“When I wrote this book I had not observed that in addressing the elders
of Ephesus, St. Paul definitely directs them to follow his example and to
support themselves (Acts 20:34-35). The right to support is always
referred to wandering evangelists and prophets, not to settled local
clergy (see Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:1-14) with the
doubtful exceptions of Galatians 6:6 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18, and even if
those passages do refer to money gifts, they certainly do not
contemplate fixed salaries which were an abomination in the eyes of the
early Christians (p.50).”

Carl B. Hoch, Jr., professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Baptist
Seminary (All Things New [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995]

“In New Testament days, leaders were normally not paid. That is,
money was given more as a gift than as an income or a salary. Leaders
like Paul could receive money, but Paul chose not to receive any from
the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9:8-12). He wanted to serve without
depending on any church for financial support. Churches had a
responsibility to "reward the ox" (1 Timothy 5:17) and to share with
those who taught (Galatians 6:6). But money was never to be the driving
force of ministry (1 Peter 5:2). Unfortunately, churches today will not
call a man until they feel they can support him, and some men will not
seriously consider a call if the financial package is "inadequate" (All
Things New [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995] p.240).”

Watchman Nee - The Normal Christian Church Life (Anaheim, CA:

Living Stream Ministry, 1980)

“It is not necessary that elders resign their ordinary professions and
devote themselves exclusively to their duties in connection with the
church. They are simply local men, following their usual pursuits and at
the same time bearing special responsibilities in the church. Should
local affairs increase, they may devote themselves entirely to spiritual
work, but the characteristic of an elder is not that he is a "full-time
Christian worker." It is merely that, as a local brother, he bears
responsibility in the local church (pp. 62-63).”

To me it is beyond any shadow of a doubt that there was no New
Testament church with salaried staff. What a contrast to today! Today I
have yet to meet a church without paid personnel. Salaries take up a
whopping 50 to 60 % of the church budget with an addition roundabout
20 - 30 % going to building expenses. Another item the New Testament
church didn’t have. Sadly to say, yet true, almost 80-90 % of a modern
church budget is for items the first century Christians didn’t know
about. This is definitely sad.

Supporting the elders: what does the Bible say ?

Now, having said the above doesn’t the Bible provide anything about
those that spend their time teaching and shepherding others? The
answers is yes it does! Though there were no salaried employees in the
local churches, there is however a clear indication in the Scriptures that
the elders, the shepherds of the local congregation, were to be recipients
of honor by the people. As I Timothy 5:17 tells us:

“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor,
especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the
Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out
the grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

Notice again that the passage does not speak about one elder or one
shepherd or pastor. It speaks about elders, many of them. The burden of
shepherding the local church was never to be the job of one individual
only but of many different mature brothers. This is the New Testament
collective leadership under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ vs. the
one-man leadership that is in most of the cases the model today and

essentially throughout the past many centuries. Returning to verse 17,
the reference to honor means respecting, valuing, honoring the elders,
especially those that labor in Word and doctrine. This could also include
free will offerings to them.
That the double honor includes - though not only – support via
voluntary gifts is also obvious from the reference to the ox in the above
passage, as well as from the following passage of Galatians 6:6, where
we read:

“Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with
him who teaches.”

Those that are taught are to share in all good things with the one that
is teaching them and one of the functions of a mature brother is to teach
(I Timothy 3:2). Again, it is not a salary, but it is a sharing, a voluntary
support. Seeing from the elders side this is not a job for living. They are
to do this not for money or due to money. They are to do it anyway,
without any money. As Peter says speaking to elders:

I Peter 5:1-2
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder ….. Be
shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as
overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing,
as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to

Again notice that elders, shepherds and overseers (or “bishops”) are
all terms used interchangeably. As we see, the elders were to be
shepherds of God’s flock, overseeing it. Notice also that shepherding the
local church is not a “job”. It is not something that you do when you get
a salary and something you don’t do without one. Shepherding the local

church is a gift, a ministry and it has to be seen as such. Now, it is
difficult to be seen like this when the task of shepherding is resting on
the shoulders of only one brother, whom people call the “pastor”. But it
was never supposed to be like this. This burden was to be resting on the
shoulders of many brothers, the mature ones in Christ. They were to
share it. And, to return back to our subject, they were to be recipients of
honor from the congregation, including voluntary gifts from them.
These however were gifts, they were given voluntary and they were not
solicited. The elders were not to base their living on them. They had to
earn their living on their own as everybody else. They had no salaries
from the church. They had to follow the example of their father in the
faith, Paul, who, with so many responsibilities on him, was going to the
market place to work his trade and support himself and the others with
him. This is in so much contrast to today where ministry is so often
considered to be an occupation that somebody would not do without
being paid for it.


New Testament giving – supporting missionaries

We already touched this area. As we saw previously, 1 Corinthians

9:14 tells us:

“Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the
gospel should live from the gospel.”

As we said in the last chapter, this passage does not refer to elders but
to preachers of the gospel, to people like Paul, Timothy and Barnabas, to
apostolic teams that were going from town to town preaching the gospel,
to further the kingdom of God. These were iterant workers, people that
today we would probably call missionaries. They were not planting just
one church and then stayed there to…. “pastor” it but they were moving
from town to town establishing new churches. These people were
entitled and are entitled to live from the gospel, though Paul and his
team did not use this right. Nevertheless, Paul did receive voluntary gifts
from people, though he never requested such gifts in his letters. The
letter to Philippians shows us a case where a church sent him support.
Let’s see the related record starting from Philippians 4:10-13 :

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for
me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you
lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for
I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I
know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.
Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be
full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer

need. I can do all things through Christ who
strengthens me.”

Paul’s ministry was not based on a salary from a church. His trust was
not a salary. He didn’t have one. He was completely dependant on the
Lord. He had learned to be content in whatever state he was. How?
Through Christ who strengthened him. Christ was his foundation, the
source of his contentment. Notice that he learned this. He was not
born with this. He had to learn it. May we learn this too. Notice
also that he says: “Not that I speak in regard of need”. He did not have a
list of needs that he was circulating around. After speaking to the
people, he would not pass a cup around to collect an offering. He would
instead go to the market place and exercise his trade. By this way, he
was setting an example for everybody to follow. But when a church sent
him support, it was received with thankfulness:

Philippians 4:14-18
“Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the
gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church
shared with me concerning giving and receiving but
you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once
and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I
seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all
and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the
things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable
sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

The Philippians supported Paul. Supporting apostolic workers,

missionaries that go from town to town and preach the gospel is one
more area of viable giving. However these workers should not base their

trust on such gifts or on the regularity of them but on the Lord. They
and every Christian should, as Paul, be content in whatever state we are.
Notice also what Paul is saying: “no church shared with me concerning
giving and receiving but you only”. Paul was not getting support from
any church, at least “in the beginning of the gospel”, which again shows
that his personal support was not a matter that he spoke about to the
churches. Furthermore, he also said: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek
the fruit that abounds to your account.” There was a fruit associated to
the gift. The gift would produce a fruit and this fruit would be credited
in heaven to the Philippians’ account. As Paul’s work continues bearing
fruit, I guess the Philippians’ harvest in heaven is very big by now and is
getting bigger.


New Testament giving – Supporting the widows of the


Another area where support in the New Testament was directed was
to true widows. Widows in the Bible are those women that lost their
husbands though death. Now some of you may be surprised that we
have to clarify this at all. I do it because I read somewhere that this word
supposingly also includes those women that are separated or divorced
from their husbands. Though these women do need brotherly support
from the believers, they cannot be classified as widows. “Widow” in the
Bible - and as a Greek word in general – is the woman that lost her
husband through death.

Having made this clear, it is shown throughout the Bible that widows
have a special place in God’s heart. Here are some passages from the Old

Exodus 20:22
“You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict
them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear
their cry;”

Deuteronomy 10:17-18
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the
great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor
takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless
and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food
and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 14:17-21
“You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless,
nor take a widow's garment as a pledge …. "When you reap
your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you
shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the
fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may
bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat
your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall
be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When
you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it
afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless,
and the widow.”

As we also saw previously tithes also had widows as recipients:

Deuteronomy 26:12-13
“When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your
increase in the third year—the year of tithing—and have given it
to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that
they may eat within your gates and be filled, then you shall say
before the Lord your God: 'I have removed the holy tithe
from my house, and also have given them to the Levite,
the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, according
to all Your commandments which You have
commanded me; I have not transgressed Your
commandments, nor have I forgotten them.”

Deuteronomy 27:19
“'Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the
stranger, the fatherless, and widow.' "And all the people
shall say, 'Amen!'”

Psalms 146:9
“The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the
fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns
upside down.”

Proverbs 15:25
“The Lord will destroy the house of the proud, But He will
establish the boundary of the widow.”

Isaiah 1:17
“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend
the fatherless, Plead for the widow.”

Jeremiah 7:6-7
“if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the
widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk
after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in
this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and

Jeremiah 22:3
“Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the
fatherless, or the widow”

Zechariah 7:9-10
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Execute true justice, Show mercy
and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the
widow or the fatherless, The stranger or the poor. Let
none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.'”

I believe these many passages of Scripture make clear how much the
widows, together with the orphans and the stranger are in the heart of
the Lord. This is carried on in the New Testament too. We read in Acts
6:1 that a complaint “arose against the Hebrews by the Hellenists,
because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” By
distribution is meant the distribution that was done to everybody, out of
the common fund the church had established and according to their
needs. Nobody was to be neglected, but the widows even more so, as
they were people for whom special care was needed.

The New Testament treats extensively the matter of widows and the
support to them in I Timothy 5. There we read:

I Timothy 5:3
“Honor widows who are really widows.”

The honor as we explained earlier about honoring elders includes also

material support. Not all widows are to have this honor though. The
mere fact that a woman is a widow does not obviously make her a real
widow to whom honor is to be given. What is the distinction? Paul
makes it clear:

I Timothy 5:5-6
“Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God
and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But
she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.”

There is the widow that trusts in God, whose hope is God and
expectantly prays to Him, continually, “night and day”. But there is also
the widow that her life style is worldly. The phrase “lives in pleasure” is
the Greek word “spatalao”. “Spatalao” means “to live riotously” (Vine’s

dictionary, p. 871). The noun form of the verb (“spatali”) means
“excessive riotousness, vain, excessive spending of wealth” (Mega
Lexicon of the Greek Language, p. 6621). Such widows, widows that
have a world-centered vain life style, widows that live riotously, are not
real widows. It is not to these widows that honor is due.
Having made this clear from the outset, Paul makes also clear that the
children or the grandchildren of the real widows are the first that have
responsibility for them. Here is what he says:

I Timothy 5:4, 7-8

“But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first
learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this
is good and acceptable before God. … And these things
command, that they may be blameless. But if anyone does not
provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he
has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

There is a clear responsibility of the children for their parents,

including grandparents. As the Word says, the children are “ to repay
their parents”. And as Vine mentions in his dictionary about this word:

“The word “repay” is the Greek word “amoive” that means

“recompense (akin to ameibomai, to repay, not found in the New
Testament), is used with the verb apodidomi, to render, in I Tim. 5:4.
This use is illustrated in the papyri by way of making a return,
conferring a benefaction in return for something” (Vine’s dictionary p.

There is an obligation of children and grandchildren towards their

parents. This is the obligation to “honor their parents” which includes
caring for them and their welfare. In the case of widows, their children

and grandchildren should take care of them and their needs. Caring for
your own and your household is a priority and in fact an obligation each
one of us has. I think we touched on this previously: this kind of “giving”
has pre-eminence over any other kind of giving. Other kinds of giving
are voluntary contributions. This one is not. This one is an obligation.
There is no option here. This shows how much importance God gives to
it. If you are a believer you have to “render re-compensation” to your
parents (and grandparents), meaning taking care of them and their
needs. And so that no doubt is left verse 8 says: “But if anyone does not
provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has
denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This is really serious.

Moving further on the matter of widows, the Word of God tells us

more about the participation of the church concerning the care of the

I Timothy 5:9-16
“Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the
number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well
reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she
has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has
relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good
work. But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun
to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having
condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And
besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to
house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying
things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger
widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no
opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some
have already turned aside after Satan. If any believing man or

woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the
church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really

There is a “number” (Greek: katalaigo = enroll) in which some

widows were to be included and some others were not. What is this
“number”, this enrolment ? Though Paul does not mention it explicitly,
it appears to be something familiar to Timothy and I believe it was the
number of the widows to be supported by the church. Not all widows
were to be in this number but only the old ones, 60 years old and above,
and under certain additional conditions. For the younger widows, Paul,
and God through His Word, desires that they get married again and bear
children. The last verse of the above passage sums it up: if anyone has
widows in his family, he should relieve them and not let the church be
burdened with their support. However the church would indeed support
the older widows that were real widows according to the conditions
given in the previous verses and if there was nobody else from their
family able or willing to give them the necessary support.

I have left last the examination of two passages that people sometimes
use to support tithing and the receiving of salaries by the clergy. This is
the subject of the next 2 short chapters.


Were Abraham and Jacob tithers ?

In contrast to what we have seen in the first chapters of this study,

and to support the application of tithing, many say that tithing is in fact
not part of the law because it was applied - they say – before the law, by
Abraham and Jacob. Thus, in this view, it is a principle that transcends
time and Bible administrations and applies equally to before, during and
after the Mosaic law. Before we go to the passages they use, let’s see how
Jesus Christ saw and classified tithing. Matthew 23:23 tells us:

Matthew 23:23
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay
tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the
weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

The Lord is speaking to the Pharisees. These people were paying their
tithes but they had forgotten the weightier matters of the law. They
were hypocrites! The phrase “weightier matters of the law” makes a
comparison between lighter “matters of the law” and weightier
“matters of the law”. Tithing was a lighter matter of the law. Justice
and mercy and faith were weightier matters of the law than tithing. This
is not a comparison between general matters but “matters of the
law” and tithing was classified by the Lord as a “matter of the law”. And
such a matter it is.
Let’s now move to the records of Abraham and Jacob, starting from
the former. We find the related passage in Hebrews 7. Paul is explaining
there Jesus as our High Priest. The last verse of Hebrews 6 tells us:

Hebrews 6:20

“where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having
become High Priest forever according to the order of

Then chapter 7 carries on speaking more about Melchizedek and how

he was a prototype of Christ as High Priest. It is in this context we read
about Abraham:

Hebrews 7: 1-6
“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most
High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings
and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of
everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness";
then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." Without
father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days
or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave
him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the
descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from
the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers
are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace
his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham
and blessed him who had the promises.” (NIV)

Some people use this passage to say that tithing is a principle that
transcends times and administrations and thus it is valid today too. This
is because – they say – Abraham was a tither and this was before the
law. So also we, without the law, should be tithing too. But I don’t think
that this is what the passage is telling us. The main focus of the passage
is on Melchizedek and how Jesus Christ is the High Priest according to
the order of Melchizedek. To show how great the order of Melchizedek

is, it refers to Genesis where Abraham, returning from the slaughter of
the kings, gave him a tenth of the spoils that he got. But this has nothing
to do with the tithe as we know it, and here is why2:

1. What Abraham gave was completely voluntary. Nobody told him that
he had to give a tenth of the spoils. He did it absolutely voluntary. In
contrast tithing is mandatory, something that you have to do, regardless
of whether you really desire it or not.

2. Furthermore, tithing is something that you do regularly. Not just

once. Did Abraham do something like this ? His life is well documented
in the Bible with 14 chapters of Genesis devoted almost completely to
him. Yet this is the only time in his life in which we see him giving a
tenth. In other words, what is described in Hebrews and Genesis was a
one time event and not something that was repeated regularly, week
after week or month after month.

3. The fact that what Abraham did was something extraordinary rather
than something regular is also obvious by the fact that he gave
Melchizedek 10% of the spoils that he got. This was not his normal
income or belongings, but spoils. Something unexpected, a windfall
gain. Today, such gains are for example: lottery winnings, or an
unexpected inheritance. His giving was like getting an unexpected
inheritance and then giving 10%. Again this is not what people mean by

To summarize, what we see Abraham giving was a one time voluntary

gift of 10% of a windfall gain he received.

His giving was:

See also: Frank Viola and George Barna: “Pagan Christianity”, Tyndale House
publishers, p. 174

i) voluntary, not obligatory.
ii) a one time thing, not something done regularly.
iii) Finally it was out of a windfall gain he received, not out of his
regular income.

Was his giving 10% ? Yes it was. Was his giving a tithe in the meaning
it is taught today (regular and obligatory giving of 10% of your income) ?
From what we saw, this was obviously not the case.

Was Jacob a tither?

Moving now to Jacob, the passage that is used to support that tithing
is a principle that is applicable today is in Genesis 28. Just to give the
background: Isaac sent away Jacob to go to Haran, the place where
Laban the brother of Rebecca was living. On his way there, he stopped
somewhere to sleep and he saw in a dream the Lord promising him to be
with him, to give him the land on which he was sleeping, to multiply him
abundantly and to bless all the peoples on earth through him and his
offspring (Genesis 28:10-15). This was not an ordinary dream! Imagine
how you would be after something like this. As a reaction to this Jacob
did the following:

Genesis 28:20-22
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and
will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me
food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my
father's house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I

have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you
give me I will give you a tenth."” (NIV)

The key phrase here is “made a vow”. What is described here is not
something that Jacob did obligatory nor something that he was doing
regularly. In contrast, it is a vow, something that was done voluntary
with an “if” in front of it. “If you do this Lord, I vow to give you the tenth
of what you will give me”. Again this has nothing to do with modern day,
regular and obligatory tithing.


On 2 Corinthians 11:8-9: What was Paul receiving while in


2 Corinthians 11:8-9 is a passage frequently misunderstood, with

many using it to support that Paul was receiving a salary from a church
while in Corinth. It would be fine for Paul, an apostolic worker, to “live
from the gospel”. He was entitled to this. However as we saw previously
he chose not to do so, giving an example to the other believers. Before
we go to 2 Corinthians 11:8-9, let’s first go to Philippians where we read
about the support these believers sent to Paul. This is necessary so that
we get the background needed to understand 2 Corinthians 11:8-9 :

Philippians 4:14-18
“Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my
distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning
of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no
church shared with me concerning giving and
receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you
sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I
seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.
Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from
Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling
aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

Many consider that the support of the Philippians to Paul was only
during the time that he was in Thessalonica. However this is not what
the passage is telling us. As it says the Philippians supported Paul “in
the beginning of the gospel, when he departed from Macedonia”.
Thessalonica was part of Macedonia. Also see that the passage says that

“even in Thessalonica you sent me..”. In other words what he is saying
is: “you sent me support in the beginning of the gospel, after I departed
from Macedonia …. in fact you even sent me support when I was still in
Macedonia, in Thessalonica”. Now, where did Paul go after he departed
from Macedonia? Acts 17 and 18 tell us that he went to Athens, where he
stayed only briefly, and from there he went 50 miles southwest to
Corinth. There he stayed one year and a half preaching the Word of God
and establishing the local church. I believe it is there where he received
the support of the Philippians. Acts 18:5 tell us:

“When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul

[now in Corinth] was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the
Jews that Jesus is the Christ.”

The Philippians helped Paul “in the beginning of the gospel, when he
departed from Macedonia”. Where was he when he got their help? I
believe in Corinth, and he got their help through Silas and Timothy the
brothers that “had come from Macedonia”. So Paul was supported partly
by the Philippians church in Corinth. He was also working, at least part
time. The fact that he was working there is clear from Acts 18:1-3 :

Acts 18:1-3
“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to
Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in
Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla
(because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from
Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the
same trade, he stayed with them AND WORKED; for by
occupation they were tentmakers.”

Paul was working in Corinth. He also received support from the
church in Philippi. From the record of Philippians it is clear that this
was not an involuntary support extorted from Paul, but a voluntary
given gift. Having clarified this, let’s now turn to 2 Corinthians 11:8-9
where Paul is saying:

“I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in

order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I
did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from
Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain
from burdening you in any way.” (ESV)

I have used the ESV translation here, for it is much closer to the
meaning of the original text. The translation of KJV/NKJV is rather
misleading, reading as follows: “I robbed other churches, taking wages
from them to minister to you.”. Many people use this translation to
support that Paul was receiving a salary from other churches. If
somebody was to read this as the KJV/NKJV has it and without paying
attention to the context and the other references, he may conclude that
indeed Paul was receiving salaries from other churches. But once the
context and the other references are taking into consideration, it
becomes apparent that such conclusions are without foundation. Paul
was not receiving “wages”, salaries from other churches. He received
support. This support was voluntary given for we never see him
soliciting it. How did he get this support? “From the brothers who came
from Macedonia”. From which churches? We have seen already one: the
Philippians who “sent him support in the beginning of the gospel, after
he departed from Macedonia” and went to Corinth. Other Macedonian
churches may have supported him too, though it is not mentioned
explicitly in the Scriptures. Did he rob these churches? Of course not.
But he uses this phrase as a figure of speech, to make a point, because

Corinth was a very wealthy city. As Strabo, a Greek historian and
geographer that lived in the first century, informs us:

"Corinth is called 'wealthy' because of its commerce, since it is situated

on the Isthmus and is master of two harbors, of which the one leads
straight to Asia, and the other to Italy; and it makes easy the exchange
of merchandise from both countries that are so far distant from each
other" (Geography, 8.6.20).”

According to ancient sources, Corinth at the time of Paul was more

wealthy and prosperous as never before. Its population was 300.000
free men plus 450.000 slaves, a city of huge size by ancient (and even
modern) standards. Paul in saying that he robbed other churches he
uses a figure of speech to say that he was supported by other poorer
churches in his ministry to these wealthy Corinthian Christians. It is in
a figure of speech “robbing”. Not literal but figuratively.

To sum up:

Paul was not receiving a salary from a church. He was working, at least
part time, while in Corinth and was also partly supported with free will,
unsolicited, gifts from the brothers from Macedonia. He did not rob any
church literally but he uses this term figuratively to point out that he
was receiving support from poorer churches to preach the gospel to a
rather wealthy community of people.


Conclusion and what to do with the information in this book

Now from all the above let’s make a not so long conclusion.

From our study it has become clear that there is no tithe in our times,
in the New Testament era. The tithe, together with the other ordinances
and handwritings of the law, has become obsolete, through the death
and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. What is valid in the New
Testament is free will offerings which were given for the following

i) to support the poor saints. This is the most common form of

offering and the one about which the New Testament speaks
ii) free will gifts to missionaries and apostles i.e. sent ones (that’s
what the word “apostles” mean) that went around, from town
to town, spreading the Word of God.
iii) free will, voluntary gifts (not salaries) to elders i.e. to the more
mature in the faith (“elder”) brothers that were acting as
shepherds, overseeing the flock of God in the local church.
iv) support of widows that trust in God and in addition are old in
age, commendable for their works and have nobody else from
their family to take care of them.

The gifts were free will gifts “as one may prosper” i.e. in accordance to
what he had. They were to be given as “one purposes in his heart, not
grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Though I believe every part of the Scripture is equally important I do
believe that there are parts that are emphasized more than others

because of the space that is given to them. If I’m speaking to you and 90
% of what I’m saying is about A and 10% is about B, I obviously put
more emphasis on A than on B. And on the matter of giving, 90 % is
about giving to the poor saints (including widows) while there are 2
verses about giving to elders, another few verses about giving to church
planters (missionaries, apostles, sent ones). All are important but the
scriptural weight is, in my opinion, in supporting the poor saints.
Comparison to today? In a typical, 21st century, western church about
40-60 % of the expenditures relate to staff salaries with another 20-30%
going to building expenses and bills. They didn’t have such items in the
1st century church! Why do we need to have them? Why can’t we go back
to the New Testament church model, establish collective leaderships of
believers each of whom has his own occupation to earn his income? Why
don’t we meet at homes as they were meeting instead of having to sit in
an auditorium to hear a 40 minute sermon every Sunday … which costs
a pastor to give it and a building to house it ? If this is how they were
doing it in the New Testament why can’t we not do it like them? Why
do we take what would normally go to the poor saints and to
missions to further the kingdom of God and give it to
maintain structures and traditions that are foreign to the
Word of God? Think about it and ask the tough questions.

What to do with what you learned in this book

Having said the above, I need to make it clear: With these questions I
want to challenge you, but I’m not propagating that you should leave
your church organization. Leaving a church is not a solution. It is just a
reaction and in fact an immature one. The church for me is something
much more than structures and tithes: it is people, brothers and sisters

in Christ. For me, they – and not a building made of stone, a system, or
a name - are the church. Writing this study was two things for me: first
it was enlightening and refreshing. Discovering the truths of God’s Word
is always refreshing and liberating. At the same time, writing this study
was painful because I knew I was writing something that is going to be
controversial. The reason I wrote this book was because we have to be
informed to what the Word of God says. We can’t close our eyes and say
forget about it. It is the truth and as for me personally, I have decided
with the help of the Holy Spirit to follow this truth. I have to show you
what I see that the Word of God says. That’s my job and I have tried to
do it to the best of my abilities. At the same time I pursue to have, with
my brothers and sisters in Christ, a great degree of tolerance on
theological matters. I suggest the same to you. I will not tolerate it if
somebody claims to be a brother in Christ and says that he does not
believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is raised from the dead.
These are fundamental matters of our faith. Nobody can be a believer
without believing in them. He is just not saved. I have to point out the
truth to this person in love and I will do it right away. But with those
that believe the fundamental truths that make somebody a Christian
(i.e. the Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, and God
raised Him from the dead), I will not start a fight about tithing or the
system of today’s churches. Nor of course am I going to leave my
brothers and sisters that is the church, the body of Christ, because they
are not informed about the tithing or they don’t agree with me. The
system does not change like this. The system does not change with
reactions but with actions. It changes I believe when each one of us
starts seeking the truth of the Word. When he is thirsty to learn what
God says about a matter. When he is not satisfied with what a church
official or even I may tell him but searches the Scriptures on his own to
see if it so, as the Bereans did. Then after he learns it, he is eager to
apply it in love. You learned from this book that the Word of God gives

much importance in helping poor and troubled saints. Go ahead and do
it! You learned from this book that in the Bible elders, bishops and
shepherds were not people that graduated from theological schools and
started a career as employees of a church. They were people with jobs
and families like me and you. They were plain, ordinary, people, like the
illiterate fishermen the Lord called to follow Him. They were also people
mature in Christ that took upon themselves to shepherd, oversee the
younger believers. Are you a mature Christian? If yes step up, inside or
outside the system, and do the work of a mature believer. If God wanted
to continue the Levite system with some individuals doing the ministry
while the remaining of us would pay the tithes to maintain it, He would
have done it so. But He hasn’t. Instead Christ made all of us priests and
kings. We are all the royal priesthood with our God-ordained function.
Fighting against the one-man-does-it-all system, saying how wrong it is
and at the same time overlooking the fact that we are bothers and sisters
in Christ, is I believe just an immature reaction. The action is to step up,
find and be what God made you to be in the body of Christ. Do your part
and function to the best of your gifts and abilities. You have to know and
be informed based on the Word of God about what is right and what is
wrong. This is what I have tried to do in this book concerning tithing
and giving. This is needed, yet you should not use it as a sword.
You should do what the Word of God says for you to do,
without condemning or separating yourself from those
brothers that don’t do it.
Now if you are a pastor, I also need to make clear that I have nothing
against you. Don’t feel threatened brother. Feeling threatened is again a
reaction not an action. I don’t believe that any church should fire any
pastor because it is not biblical to pay pastoral salaries. This is not the
way to go. What I believe should be done is that everybody should
recognize that pastors are brothers, just brothers. They are not bosses,
they are not the head of the body (as I heard somebody saying in a

church meeting). Christ is the head of the body, Christ is the boss, and
everybody else is a member of this body. Pastors should encourage the
other members of the body to grow, to rise, transferring tasks and
activities from themselves to the more mature of the believers. For
example (and it is only an example): bad or good the focal point of a
church service is the sermon. Ask the congregation to step up as
brothers and give sermons in addition to you, rotating. Not just one or
two or when you are out of town. But regularly, in the same portion as
you do. Why not? It should not be difficult for a brother to leave the
pulpit and isn’t this exactly what church is: brothers and sisters in Christ
coming together? I have seen pastors that are not gifted with the gift of
teaching. This is not bad. Why should it be? A pastor is just another
member of the body. “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all
teachers?” says the Word (1 Corinthians 12:29). The answer is obviously
no. These people may not have a teaching gift but they have other
wonderful gifts. Yet they will be preaching week after week, because,
according to the system, the sermon is a task of the pastor. This is sad,
but I only mention it as an example. It is not the main point. The main
point is that pastors should help the congregation to grow and the more
mature ones should take over some of the pastor’s tasks so that the
burden is equally distributed to the mature brothers. The pastor will
then be functioning in his true dimension as another member of the
body and not in today’s distorted dimension, as, implicitly or explicitly,
“head of the body”. He will then also be free to earn his living by
working as everybody else and the congregation should help him in this
by finding if possible a job for him. There is no ground for divisions and
fights. These are coming only because of reactions to the truth of the
Word not because of actions. As the Word says: “Only by pride cometh
contention” (Proverbs 13:10 - KJV). If we as believers want to follow
God’s way, this way has one name: it is called the way of love and
humility and we can do it. We can do what the first century Christians

did. It may sound crazy, risky and new. It is definitely easier to stay as
we are. But why should we do this? Why should we willingly deviate
from what we know that the Word of God says? I really see no reason to
do this. Do you?