I believe that priorities in financial giving need to be changed. Christians feel their obligation to God has been fulfilled if they give to support the work of the ministry staff and routine church expenses, but don't feel as much obligation to give to the poor. Yet it looks to me like in the NT both the teachings and examples suggest otherwise. We see a radical response to help the needy in Acts 2, and by Zacchaeus in Luke 19. In Philippians 4:15 we see that only the Philippians gave to support Paul on his Second Missionary Journey. In the present day, when we talk about "giving to the Lord," or when we use the word tithe, the implied meaning is not giving to meet needs of the poor, but to support the ministry. We have adapted these meanings, because priorities have been adjusted to fit evangelism goals as well as the more personal interests of leadership. You give some good advice on the fact that tithing, or giving a tenth, is not strictly speaking required, but don't you think it would be wise to also guide Christians as to what the biblical priorities are in the purpose of our giving? [shortened from original question] -- Andy Knight

Good analysis! I appreciate your taking time to engage with the New Testament at a theological level. This is sorely needed in today's world! As to your specific question, even for those who give sacrificially to the church, the imperative to help the poor can easily be missed. I think you are right in your observation. But both are expected--supporting those who preach the word and helping the needy. If you have read my book I Was Hungry!, then you know where I stand on this. My teaching through the years has been that disciples are expected to support the preachers, give to the needy, and invest in missions. In most of the churches I have been a member of, we had three contributions: towards the running of the local church, for the poor, and for special missions. As to how the biblical priorities were reinterpreted, I do not agree that this came about because of evangelism goals; most Bible-based churches inherited it from the Reformation, which inherited it from the Roman Catholics. The imbalance you put your finger on is a very old one!

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