You know, of course, that I am a missionary, so therefore I base what I believe on the Bible. I try not to have preconceived ideas to cloud my viewpoints, only what I think the Word is saying to me. I love actually reading the Word and see how we as Christians, through religion or whatever, have messed up over time. I think I enjoy doing this mostly because I was raised in a somewhat religious home and church and went through confirmation at 12, but never had a relationship with Christ until I was 22. When I read the Bible for the first time, I was amazed at what it said and kept repeating, "How come I didn't know this?" or "Are other people reading the same thing I am?" Maybe some people go to church or do religious acts all their lives and never study scripture. Maybe that's why the church is in the mess we are in. Anyway, just my opinion and some background on that....
So that brings me to my topic for today. Giving and the priorities the Bible puts on it and where it should go. When I studied this topic, I wanted to be sure that my resources were going where God says to put them and where God says the leaders should put them...according to priority.
1) Give to the Poor- There are many scriptures about giving that begin as early as Cain and Abel bringing their sacrifice to God, then to Abraham bringing his tithe to Melchizedek. When God told Abraham that he would be blessed to BE a blessing. As a worldwide church, I believe we have done well giving to the poor, but we could do much better. I believe God gave the responsibility to the church to take care of the poor, but when the church's responsibilities get out of order, there are issues and problems. When there are issues and problems, the government or other institutions have to step in where the church is failing in their priorities. When America was a new nation, the church was involved if not in charge of schools (small community ones up to universities), but they have since let the government take charge, the church was the leader in many hospitals and taking care of the sick, and we have also let go and let the government take care of the poor. God gave those to us to care for, and we have handed it off. The church is so concerned with buildings, when God cares for people. Just some references to refer to if you would like to do some study...(Rom. 15:25-27, Rom. 12:13, Acts 11:27-30, Acts 20:35, Acts 6:1, Gal. 2:9-10, I Cor. 16:1, II Cor. 8 and 9, I Tim. 6:18, Lev. 25:35, Deut. 15:7-11, Ps 41:1-3, Prov. 14:21, Prov. 19:17, Prov. 22:9, Prov. 28:27, Heb 6:10, I John 3:17, Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:34-37) Giving is an overflow to the generosity and gratefulness that we have inside. If we are missing this generosity and gratefulness, giving will be a law rather than a love.
2) Gifts to ministers- From the OT to the new, we see that the ministers had to live off others generosity in order to minister full time. They didn't own land or have inheritances to give their descendants, they lived in constant reliance on God and the people of God. They weren't intended to be uber wealthy, but to live sacrificially, but comfortably. (I Cor. 9:7-14, Gal. 6:6, I Tim. 5:17-18, Deut. 14:27:29, II Chron. 31:4-20, Phil. 4:10-19, Acts 15:3, Acts 21:5, Rom. 15:24, II Cor. 1:16) There is something about a preacher/missionary living in a mansion with the poor living all around that doesn't seem quite right, as there is also something not quite right with a preacher/missionary living in poverty that is also a wrong witness (that they are not being cared for by God or His people). I thank God everyday that we have people that support the work we do. That we live comfortably and our needs are met each month.
3) Give to missions- The missionaries could fall into the ministers category, but they could be separated. Paul himself was a minister and missionary. The minister himself needs to be provided for, and also the work he/she is doing. They are different categories. He sometimes took offering for himself, and from others he didn't want their offerings. He was a tent maker and could support himself. (Rom. 10:15, 3 John 6) Many circumstances missionaries are not allowed to work to make money in the countries they are in, so funds must come from those who are doing the sending.
4) the Temple/Facilities- God set aside offerings to build His house in the OT (Ex 25:1-8) and a tax to help maintain the temple (Ex. 30:11-16). In most of the NT, the believers were more concerned with people and the poor than buildings it seems to me. Not that it is wrong to have a nice church building by any means, but remember, when our priorities are out of order, as we saw in yesterday's blog, things can get out of order and cause major problems. Especially when mindsets are continued over long periods of time. I see the church (being American I see mostly this philosophy there, but American church philosophies carry over to the rest of the world, believe it or not). We are in Roma/Bulgarian churches now and most of what we hear are needs for buildings, not people. It's sad to me... we are not an OT church, we are a NT church.
I love it when churches are about people, when they love people and meet needs (physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, financially, and, of course, spiritually).