Lord’s Library contributor Bill Furioso offers a giving in the Bible meaning with commentary and key Scriptures. Check out his ministry At Christ’s Table for additional Bible studies and resources.
As you can probably appreciate, it is an “unpleasant task” for a minister to speak to people about “finances”. Over a period of 30 years or so, I traveled to hundreds of churches as an itinerant teacher. And, as guest speaker, it was easier for me to fulfill this “unpleasant task” of speaking about finances on behalf of the local pastors. Over a period of 40 years, I’ve served on staff in 10 local churches, and have had plenty of opportunity to observe the support of the work of ministry. From my perspective, I think there are a number of Biblical issues at the heart of the matter.
The Matter of “Finances” is a Foundational Matter
Let’s begin by reading Luke 16:10-13:
- Luke 16:10: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”
- Luke 16:11: “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”
- Luke 16:12: “And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”
- Luke 16:13: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Jesus said “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” He identified this very little thing as money. He identified the “much” as being the true spiritual riches He also makes the point that being dishonest and unjust in the very little thing of money is, in His sight, the loving and serving of Mammon. A definition of the Aramaic word Mammon is ‘stored up riches that give one a false sense of security.’ What bothers Jesus about this is that loving, serving, trusting, and relying upon something other than the Father God is idolatry.
Giving in the Bible Meaning
There is a spiritual reality that is difficult for most people to perceive and is at the heart of the Antichrist’s agenda: emperor worship or worship of the state. As a famous musician once put it: ‘You Gotta Serve Somebody.’ Human beings serve their source. Giving is an act of worship. We give to that which we serve and worship. Does it sound right to you that we struggle with the idea of giving God 10 percent of our income, yet most of us give Caesar, that is the government, between 15 and 25 percent income tax and more. What motivates us to give our money to Caesar? Fear. That is, we don’t want to go to jail for tax evasion.
Fortunately, that is not one of the consequences of failing to give to God’s work; but make no mistake, there are other consequences.
“The Heart of the Matter is the Matter of the Heart”
The Scripture says in 1 Samuel 16:7: “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” And with regards to the matter of finances, God is more concerned about heart attitude than dollar amount.
It says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that “God loveth a cheerful giver.” The Greek word translated as ‘cheerful’ is hilaros which means ‘willing and prompt to do’ according to Strong’s. Somehow, this word speaks to me of an absence of issues. In other words, a giving that is unhindered by questions, reservations, or conditions in the heart and mind of the giver; but is rather almost unconscious, as in “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:” as it says in Matthew 6:3; free-flowing from a willing, cheerful and prompt to do it, heart.
Sowing, Reaping & Mocking God
Paul wrote to the Galatians (in Galatians 6:6-8): “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
In these few verses, Paul ties together some very crucial points:
- If we receive spiritual teaching, we should give back to the one that teaches.
- To do otherwise is to attempt to mock God.
- We reap what we sow – whether we are referring to investment into our physical lives or spiritual lives.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians (in 1 Corinthians 9:11): “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” See also Romans 15:27: “It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.”
If most people were to answer Paul’s question honestly, their answer would have to be “Yes, it is asking too much.” The perspectives and attitudes of most people belie a pervasive materialistic value system. Most people put much, much more value on that which is physical than that which is spiritual. I very often make the comparison between the tremendous amount of money people spend on their physical well-being and what they would consider investing in their spiritual well-being.
They will pay a medical “specialist” $180.00 for a 15-minute visit but feel spiritual input should be free of charge.
I have often overhead, and have sometimes been personally asked: “Shouldn’t the Gospel be given free of charge?” Sometimes this has been accompanied by: “The Bible says…” This seems to be based on the fact that Jesus said in Matthew 10:8: “freely ye have received, freely give.” So, should the Gospel be given freely? The answer is “Yes.”
But that does not mean one should not also freely give when one receives the Gospel. What applies to the preacher or giver of the Gospel also applies to the hearer or receiver of the Gospel. Jesus didn’t make any distinctions here. Jesus actually means quite the opposite of what many people want His words to mean. Many misinterpret or have an incomplete understanding of what Jesus is saying. Let’s look at Matthew 10:7-10 to His words in context:
- Matthew 10:7: “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- Matthew 10:8: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”
- Matthew 10:9: “Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,”
- Matthew 10:10: “Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”
When Jesus says “the workman is worthy of his meat”, who does Jesus have in mind for doing the supporting? Those who hear and receive the Gospel. Having freely received, they should in response, freely give. I tell you, God, more than the preacher, is looking for that response, because, for God, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. See Galatians 6:7: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” God is not mocked.
What God Desires
The divine principle and purpose that God desires was given in the Old Covenant and is carried over into the New Covenant. Let’s read Deuteronomy 14:22-29:
- Deuteronomy 14:22: “Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.”
- Deuteronomy 14:23: “And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.”
- Deuteronomy 14:24: “And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:”
- Deuteronomy 14:25: “Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:”
- Deuteronomy 14:26: “And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,”
From these verses, we see that:
- The Old Covenant tithe is for people – for the work of ministry to people. The Lord doesn’t want the tithe for Himself – He is not going to “eat” it.
- The Old Covenant tithe is also for “the place” – that is, the maintenance of the meeting place.
- The giving of the Old Testament tithe was meant to be an act of worship towards God and a celebration of His providence.
- Deuteronomy 14:27: “And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.”
- Deuteronomy 14:28: “At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:”
- Deuteronomy 14:29: “And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.”
From these verses, we see that:
- The Old Covenant tithe is for the support of the “Levite” – those who labor in the work of the ministry in the Lord’s house.
- The Old Covenant tithe is also used to meet the needs of the needy.
So, these are some of the Biblical issues I think are at the heart of the matter. Now, we’ll continue with an overview of what the New Testament Scriptures have to say about supporting the work of ministry. I will not be supporting my statements with in-depth detail but will just be supporting them with Scripture references. So, I’d encourage you to be as the Bereans – “searching the Scriptures daily” to see whether these things were so.
- Acts 17:10-12: “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”
Supporting the Work of Ministry as Taught by Jesus & Paul
Jesus Himself, as well as His disciples, were dependent upon others for support. Luke tells us that as Jesus and the Twelve went about ministering, certain women contributed to their support out of their private means. See Luke 8:1-3: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”
In sending out the twelve disciples, Jesus taught that a worker is worthy of his support. See Matthew 10:5-10: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”
In sending out the seventy, Christ said the laborer is worthy of his wages. See Luke 10:1-8: “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:”
In an effort to silence his accusers Paul at times waived his right, but never-the-less defended the right of ministers to make a living from the Gospel. See 1 Corinthians 9:3-14: “Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?”
Paul said that the Lord Himself had directed this. See Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7:
- Matthew 10:10: “Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.”
- Luke 10:7: “And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.”
The New Testament Pattern for Supporting the Work of Ministry
A review of the New Testament Scriptures will show that believers are to give in support of:
- Acts 6:1-7: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
- 1 Corinthians 9:3-14: “Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”
- 2 Corinthians 11:8-9: “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.”
- Galatians 6:6-7: “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
- Philippians 4:10: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.”
- 1 Timothy 5:17-18: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.”
- 3 John 5-8: “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.”
- Romans 15:25-26: “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.”
- 1 Corinthians 16:1-3: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.”
- 2 Corinthians 8:4: “Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”
- 2 Corinthians 8:19: “And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:”
- 2 Corinthians 9:1: “For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:”
- Acts 2:45: “And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
- Acts 4:34-35: “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”
Especially those who are of the household of the faith, see Galatians 6:10.
Widows & Orphans
- 1 Timothy 5:3-10: “Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.”
Motivation from the Scriptures for Supporting the Work of Ministry
When we give in support of the work of ministry, it is a testimony to those who do not yet know the Lord. 3 John 7 says: “Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.” The apostle John is encouraging the Church to support ministers who took “nothing from the Gentiles.” This likely means they did not solicit support from those who did not yet know the Lord, depending instead upon the Church.
When ministers of the Gospel solicit help from non-believers, it sends a bad message. See: “All these pastors are just in it for the money” or, “If what they teach is worth anything, why don’t their own followers support it?”, etc. But when the Gospel is offered free of cost, being supported whole-heartedly by those who know it best, it can be a powerful testimony of the value we place on it.
When we give in support of the work of ministry, it allows those who give to be fellow workers with the truth. 3 John 8 says: “We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.” When we support preachers and teachers of the Gospel, we have fellowship and participation in their work.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians in Philippians 4:15-17: “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
As co-workers, we will one day enjoy the same rewards, for Jesus promised in Matthew 10:40-42: “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”
The Bottom Line
It has been said: “The Heart of the Matter is the Matter of the Heart.” Jesus said (in Matthew 6:21): “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Let’s let a passage from the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount speak for itself:
- Matthew 6:19: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:”
- Matthew 6:20: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”
- Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
- Matthew 6:22: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
- Matthew 6:23: “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
- Matthew 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
- Matthew 6:25: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”
- Matthew 6:26: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?”
- Matthew 6:27: “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?”
- Matthew 6:28: “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:”
- Matthew 6:29: “And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
- Matthew 6:30: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”
- Matthew 6:31: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”
- Matthew 6:32: “(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”
- Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
- Matthew 6:34: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
Lord's Library participates in affiliate programs. We may make a small commission from products purchased through this resource.
- Giving in the Bible Meaning with Key Scriptures & Commentary - May 13, 2023
- Baptism Meaning in the Bible with Supporting Scriptures - April 5, 2023
- Repentance Meaning in the Bible with Defining Scriptures - March 31, 2023