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  • Support your local minister

    As I have said in the past, these are letters from Paul to the various congregations regarding spiritual, cultural, and administrative matters. Some of Paul's comments had to do with the customs of the times, such as women being silent in the church, while these comments have to do with the support of the ministry by the congregations. While Paul often worked as a tent maker when he entered a new city to spread the gospel, it is obvious that later the established churches would send tithes of support to him and other ministers who were spreading the word.

    The concept of a paid ministry is not that foreign, although it is more prevalent in this century than in others. The Church of the Brethren, for example, did not have a paid clergy until the mid-twentieth century. They were primarily farmers, and whoever was selected as the minister would tend to his flock while the others would tend to his farm. The congregation would collectively purchase the seed, plant the crops, and do all the things necessary for the crop to flourish so the “minister” could be free to perform the duties of his appointed office.

    Technically, Catholic priests and nuns are not paid, but are supported by the church, which is supported by the congregation. This allows them to pursue their service to God and the church without worrying about the necessities of life.

    Brothers and sisters, I want you to be aware of the generosity shown to our ministry by the churches of Macedonia.

    They are suffering greatly, oppressed by non-believers for their faith, and yet have given freely of their abundance. This was their idea, and I feel it is right to tell you their surrender to the Holy Spirit is why they have given in this manner.

    They sent their gifts along with their prayers so we would accept them and distribute them as needed among the ministers of the gospel.

    They did this of their own volition, not with our encouragement, but by the direction of the Holy Spirit when they surrendered themselves to God.

    This so moved me that I asked Titus to encourage you to do the same, so that your faith would grow abundantly and you would know the mercy and peace of God's grace.

    This is not a commandment, but an example set by the generosity of others that proves the sincerity of their love. You know that Jesus Christ sacrificed his rightful claim to earthly treasures for the sake of the poor, that He by His example would enrich us all.

    So here is my advice on the matter: give support to the ministry and continue to support those who preach the gospel as you have in the past. Continue to give of your abundance and do so willingly and of your own accord. If a man gives freely of his bounty, it sets in his mind a humility and shows others he is grateful for the gifts God has given him. It also shows his trust of God, that He will continue to bless the faithful with abundance.

    I am not saying you alone should support the entire ministry, merely that you should provide the support you can when you are able. If all of the congregations do the same, the ministry will flourish by the generosity of all.

    Now the scriptures tell us that those who hoard their abundance will come to know great need and poverty, while those who share what they have been given will be given even more.

    I thank God for the way you cared for Titus, how you attended to his needs and sent your gift of support along with your delegate for the support of the ministry. Titus, being more outspoken on such matters than I, did not hesitate to ask for the support you so cheerfully and freely gave.

    We have sent your delegate on to deliver those gifts, for we know he is a man of good reputation and well respected by all. We know he will faithfully carry out your intentions, and in this way you will know your gifts are used as they should be. I want you to know that while I am the administrator of these gifts, I do not decide how they are used.

    You should also know your gifts will be used to provide necessity and not be used for desires or frivolous things. The gifts are distributed so the ministry will continue and the gospel is preached and spread throughout the land. Those who distribute them are diligent and honest men who are more aware of the needs of the ministry than I am.

    As for Titus, he is my partner and coworker who is sent to you. All of the others with me are also messengers to the churches, testifying to the glory of God.

    Continue to support them, children, as an outward sign of your love and a testimony for all that my boasting of you is not in vain.

    Give back what you have been given.

    You know, tithing is probably the single most criticized component of the church, regardless of denomination or sect. Jokes are made about it, and several ministers over the years have gone to prison for misusing tithes and offerings, notably Jim Bakker, although he certainly is not alone.

    But the fact of the matter is that tithing is an important part of the Christian experience, not only to pay for a church building or a minister and a secretary, but to gain an important lesson in God's grace. The lesson is more obvious than you think, but also one most Christians don't want to hear. You see, once you become a Christian, you no longer own anything. It all belongs to God.

    That doesn't mean you have to give everything away and live as a pauper in the streets. If you have a family, you are not only obligated by man but by God to take care of them. You are to be a good citizen, pay your taxes, and be thankful for your ability to do so.

    What it does mean is that you are required to be a good steward of the gifts you have been given and use them accordingly. This means not only supporting the ministry, but also supporting charities and other causes which you believe to be in keeping with Christian values. It also means not being susceptible to spurious or impulse spending. You budget your money, you plan your spending, and you put away what you do not need for a time when it is needed.

    We often criticize our educational system for failing to teach our children how to manage money, but is it right to do so? Aren't they supposed to learn this at home?

    Paul commends the Corinthians for giving their gifts and asks them to keep on giving, not only to support the ministry, but to show their children and others their faith in God to provide for their needs. Not a bad lesson at all, I'd say.

    I hope you are all having a blessed and glorious day.

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