The financial support of the gospel ministry

'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. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith' (Gal. 6:6-10).

No study of the local church and the believer's responsibilities to it would be complete if it did not address the matter of pastoral support. The material, financial support of gospel preachers is the subject Paul deals with in Galatians 6:6-10.

The fact is, every local church needs money to operate. Buildings must be erected. Bills must be paid. Office supplies must be purchased. Equipment must be maintained and salaries must be paid. We are to preach the gospel freely to all men, seeking nothing in return, but in order for us to preach the gospel freely, someone has to pay for it. How is the work of the ministry to be maintained? How should local churches raise the money needed to support pastors, missionaries and various works for the furtherance of the gospel? These are the questions we shall examine in this chapter. They are questions which need to be answered plainly and frankly from the Word of God.

There is no scarcity of material in the Holy Scriptures regarding the financial support of the gospel ministry. It is a subject which appears again and again throughout the Bible.

Under the Mosaic economy of the Old Testament those who ministered about the holy things of divine service lived upon the things of the temple. Those who served the altar were partakers of the altar (1 Cor. 9:13). God prescribed by law that the priesthood, the children of Levi, should receive a tenth of all the possessions of the children of Israel, a tenth of their money, property, crops and herds, for their service in the tabernacle of the congregation. The Jews were required to pay a tithe to be used exclusively for the financial support of the ministry of the Levitical priesthood (Num. 18:21). Failure to do so, for any reason, was regarded as robbing God himself (Mal. 3:8-9).

However, we are not under the law today. God's people are no more required to pay a tithe in this gospel age than we are required to keep the sabbath day, or observe the Passover (Col. 2:16-23). We are free from the law. A. D. Muse, the late pastor of Hearts Harbor Tabernacle in Louisville, Kentucky, used to say, 'If you tithe, you're under the law. And if you don't tithe you're an outlaw.' In other words, the person who just pays his tithe is a mere legalist; and anyone who does not do that much is an antinomian. Anyone who uses his freedom from the law as an excuse for being a niggardly miser and selfishly refuses to give of his means for the support of the gospel of Christ is, I fear, without grace. God's people give. They give generously, and they give cheerfully.

The instructions given in the New Testament regarding the financial support of the gospel ministry are unmistakably clear. Those men and women who believe the gospel of the grace of God are expected to support generously those who preach it. Not only is this expected; among God's saints it is practised. God's children are not miserly, self-centred worldlings. They are stewards who use what God has put in their hands for the cause of Christ. They need only to be instructed from the Word of God, and they gladly submit to it.

Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us plainly and repeatedly that those who preach the gospel are to live by the gospel (Matt. 10:9-10; Luke 10:4-7; 1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). Those men who faithfully preach the gospel of God's free and sovereign grace in Christ are to be supported and maintained by the people to whom they minister. Faithful missionaries should be as fully and generously supported by the churches that send them out as the pastors of those local churches.

There were times when Paul and his companions were required to make tents to support themselves in the work of the gospel. It was an honourable thing for them to do so. Paul tells us that his goal was not to enrich himself, but to avoid being a burden to young churches (1 Thess. 2:9) and to avoid causing an offence to young, weak believers (1 Cor. 9:15-19). But the fact that God's messenger had to spend his time and efforts making tents was a shameful reproach upon the churches. Those churches that were established in the gospel should have assumed the responsibility of supplying Paul's needs and the needs of his companions, as they travelled from place to place preaching the gospel. The New Testament clearly makes it the responsibility of every local church to provide for the financial, material support of those who preach the gospel of Christ.

This is Paul's subject in Galatians 6:6-10. Here, by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, the apostle of Christ gives us three points of instruction in the matter of churches supporting those who preach the gospel.

1. A reasonable precept

'Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things' (v. 6). This is one of the clearest statements in the Bible about the support of gospel preachers. All who profit from the preaching of the gospel are expected to give of their means for the support of those who preach the gospel.

The word 'communicate' means 'to share with or distribute to'. It comes from the word 'communion' and basically means the same thing as 'fellowship'. Paul is saying, 'Let everyone to whom the gospel is preached have fellowship with and participate in the preaching of the gospel by supplying the earthly, material needs of those who preach it.'

To whom is this communication to be made?

Paul did not lay down a blanket rule that we should give financial support to every preacher, evangelist, or missionary who comes along, claiming to speak for God. Those who deny the gospel of Christ, preachers of free-will, works religion, are not to be supported by God's saints (2 John 9-11).

Paul's doctrine is this: those preachers who faithfully teach the Word of God are to be supported by the church; particularly, they are to be supported by the churches they pastor. We must not let ourselves be deceived by personality, charm or flowery speech. God's prophets are not always personable, but they are always profitable. Their delivery is not always impressive, but their message is always instructive. Their preaching is not always stirring, but it is always sound. Every preacher must be judged by one thing: what does he preach? What is his doctrine? God's servants faithfully instruct men and women in the Word by preaching the gospel of Christ. They teach their hearers the Word of truth; and those who hear them are taught in the Word of truth. If a man is sent of God to preach the gospel, he will preach with such unmistakable clarity that all who hear him regularly will be taught the doctrine of Christ.

If you want to know what a man preaches, ask the people who hear him. If he consciously and consistently preaches the gospel they will know it (see John 18:19-21). It is impossible for a person to hear a man preach the gospel regularly and not know, at least in his head, the doctrine of the gospel. He will know his lost condition of depravity and condemnation by nature (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1-3). He will have some understanding of the doctrine of Christ: our Lord's divine person, his incarnation and virgin birth, his representative obedience to God for his people, his effectual, sin-atoning, substitutionary death. Those who are privileged to hear a man faithfully preach the gospel will know that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. All who hear the gospel faithfully preached are taught what happened in the garden, what happened on the cross, and how God saves sinners. And the man who faithfully preaches those things is worthy of the financial support of God's people.

It is the responsibility of God's church to supply generously the needs of every man who faithfully preaches the gospel of God's free and sovereign grace in Christ. This is only reasonable. Are you taught the good things of the gospel? Then it is your reasonable and equitable responsibility to supply the material needs of the man who teaches you. You should supply him with good things materially, who supplies you with good things spiritually (1 Cor. 9:11). It is the ordinance of Christ that 'They which preach the gospel should live of the gospel' (1 Cor. 9:14). No man who preaches the gospel of the grace of God should be required to provide for himself or his family (Acts 6:2-4; 2 Tim. 2:4). This support of the ministry must begin with each local church supporting its own pastor. Once that is taken care of, every local church should assume responsibility for the support of faithful missionaries. Those churches which are well established should also assist in the support of smaller churches and their pastors.

God's servants are not ambitious, greedy men. Faithful men will not abuse, or take advantage of, the generosity of God's people (1 Cor. 9:17-18). But God' s preachers should never be expected to live as paupers. Those men who labour in the Word and doctrine of Christ, faithfully giving themselves to the work of the ministry, are to be supported generously in a comfortable life-style.

I am often asked, 'How much should the church pay its pastor?' I often reply,' How much does it take for you to live?' The pastor has a wife and children to clothe, feed, house and educate, just like you. And he will incur many necessary expenses which you do not. His home is a virtual free hotel for God's people, and he wants it to be. His table almost always has a few extra mouths to feed, and he wants them there. He has miles to travel and books to buy, necessary for his work. All these things require cold, hard cash every week. When the church contemplates the pastor's salary a good rule of thumb is this: pay the pastor at least as much as the average income of the working men in the congregation, and then add enough to cover his additional expenses. If the church is not able to do what is needed, it is expected and responsible to do the best it can, and this is only reasonable.

How is this financial support to be secured?

This may seem strange to some, but the way to secure financial support for the gospel of Christ and those who preach it is in fact not to secure it. God will supply the needs of his church and his servants by the free, voluntary, generous gifts of his people. The moment a preacher, a missionary, or a church begins to secure its financial stability on its own, it leans upon the arm of the flesh and dishonours God.

There are some things, dishonouring to God and contrary to the gospel of his grace, which must not be done. God's church must never be brought back under the law, by having the law of the tithe imposed upon them. We must never solicit pledges from people, hold bake sales or rummage sales, or set up investment schemes to raise money for God's work. God's servants and his churches must never beg and grovel for help from men, as though the work of God depended upon man's assistance. Nor must we ever solicit the aid of unbelievers. I know these things are commonly practised in our day, but they are contrary to every principle of grace and faith. God's church operates by faith, and faith looks to God, not man! Any work that is of God will have its needs supplied by God through the free, voluntary gifts of God's saints (2 Cor. 9:7).

If a pastor wants the people to whom he preaches to be generous, he must be generous. In all things, like a shepherd, the pastor must lead God's sheep and show them the way by personal example. The moment men and women detect selfishness, greed and unfaithfulness in their pastor, these things will be reflected in them.

The Word of God supplies us with an abundance of instruction about this matter of giving. All of 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9 am taken up with this subject. But them are no commands given to the people of God, anywhere in the New Testament, about how much we are to give, when we are give, or where we am to give. Tithing and all systems like it am totally foreign to the New Testament. Giving, like all other acts of worship, is an act of faith and grace. It must be free and voluntary, or it is unacceptable. However, them am some plain, simple guidelines laid down in the Scriptures for us to follow. Hem am ten things revealed in the New Testament about giving.

1. Our giving should be planned (2 Cor. 9:7).

2. Our giving must be free, voluntary, unconstrained (2 Cor. 9:7).

3. Our giving must be motivated by love and gratitude towards Christ (2 Cor. 8:7-9).

4. Our giving must arise from a willing heart (2 Cor. 8:12).

5. Every believer should give to the work of the gospel according to his personal ability (1 Cor. 16:2).

6. Every believer should give a portion of his goods for the cause of Christ (1 Cor. 16:2).

7. Our gifts for the gospel should be liberal and sacrificial (2 Cor. 9:5-6; Mark 12:41-44).

8. We are to give as unto the Lord (Matt. 6:1-5).

9. This kind of giving is well-pleasing to God (2 Cor. 9:7; Phil. 4:18; Heb. 13:16).

10. If we am willing to give, God will supply us with the ability to give (2 Cor. 9:10: Luke 6:38; Phil. 4:19).

Someone once said, 'There am three kinds of giving: grudge-giving, duty-giving and thanksgiving. Grudge-giving says, "I have to." Duty-giving says, "I ought to." Thanksgiving says, "I want to."'

2. A recognized principle

'Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also map. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh map corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit map life everlasting.'

'Be not deceived.' The Judaizers and false teachers at Galatia were persuading these men and women not to support the men who faithfully preached the gospel of Christ to them, and devised many excuses for them not to do so, which the Galatians readily seized. People are easily led astray from what they know to be right by personal greed and covetousness. They often excuse their miserliness by their own earthly cares and responsibilities, or by finding some petty fault with the preacher. Neither excuse is valid. If we work hard and live within our means, we will not be too financially tied to give. Nor do our personal likes or dislikes of something about God's messenger in any way lessen our responsibility to support him in the work of the gospel. Men with money often try to exert control over a pastor by how much they give, or refuse to give. It should not need saying that God's people do not have this attitude, or that God's servants cannot be controlled by money!

'God is not mocked. Men an women who find excuses not to give to the cause of Christ and work of the gospel mock God. Paul is saying, 'You cannot insult God and get away with it!' Remember, in the context Paul is talking about the support of the gospel ministry. If a man comes to you in the name of God, preaching the gospel of Christ, and you refuse to give of your means to support him, you insult God! And you will not get away with it!

'For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' This is a universal law, applying to every realm of life. Generally speaking, whatever we sow, as to kind, quality and quantity, we will reap. If a farmer sows wheat, he reaps wheat. If he sows sparingly, he will reap sparingly. If he sows bountifully, he will reap bountifully. If he sows good seed, he will reap a good harvest. If he sows nothing, he will reap nothing. Everyone understands that in the natural world, but here Paul applies it to the things of God.

'He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.' In other words, if we use what God puts in our hands to pamper our flesh and gratify our personal greed and covetousness, if we spend our substance upon luxuries for ourselves and our families, or hoard it up to increase our riches, we shall of the flesh reap corruption. Paul is telling us that the way we use, or abuse, our money reveals the true state and condition of our hearts (see Matt. 6:19-24).

'But he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.' This does not mean that men and women can earn salvation, or even a greater degree of heavenly reward and glory by what they give to the cause of Christ. The text simply means that, if we lay out our worldly substance for the cause of Christ, the preaching of the gospel and the good of his kingdom, we will reap that for which we have sown it 'life everlasting'! Our use of what God puts in our hands does not secure anything for us, but it does reveal the true state and condition of our hearts (Matt. 25:24-30).

3. A required perseverance

'And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.'

Satan uses many things to discourage us, and God uses many things to try us. We do not see immediate results. Our circumstances, the economy of the nation and the needs of our families all change. We sometimes begin to think, 'Maybe I ought to stop, or at least curtail my giving. Nothing much appears to be accomplished by it. The kingdom of God will get along all right without my few dollars in the offering plate.'

To such thoughts, Paul says, 'Don't give up now!' 'In due season,' at God' s appointed time,' we shall reap, if we faint not.' The seed sown will spring up again, and the bread cast upon the waters will be found after many days. But there must-be a time of waiting, between the sowing of the seed and the reaping of the harvest. This time of waiting is to try our faith, to prove whether we really believe God. It is our responsibility to use what God has given us for the cause of Christ, to sow to the Spirit and to wait for God to give the increase. He will give it in his way, at his time, for his glory.

'As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.' By doing good Paul means communicating to the needs of men and women, particularly to the needs of God's children, and in this context to the needs of his servants. While the time of life lasts, let us use what God gives us for the good of his people and the furtherance of the gospel. If we do so, then we partake of and have fellowship with God's servants in their work (Matt. 10:40-42).

I am calling for commitment to Christ. If I am committed to something, I throw my life into it; and if I am committed to the cause of Christ in this world, I throw my life into his cause. That means that I do whatever has to be done and give whatever has to be given to get the job done. The very least that I can do is give! As you come to the end of this book, I ask you to give yourself in unreserved commitment to Christ, the gospel of his grace and the church of God.