God’s Word for You
Acts 11:29-30 Should we tithe?
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, April 23, 2020
29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 They did this and sent it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul.
This little passage that ends our chapter raises some questions. Exploring those questions will deepen our appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit in the church to this day.
1, Why did they send help in the form of money rather than supplies of grain, rice, meat, or fruit?
This is a transportation question. The church did not send ships of cargo because the church did not have ships. Hiring such vessels (or camel trains, or wagons) would have used up whatever money they had collected. Perhaps a cargo of grain or grapes would have made it from Antioch to Jerusalem without rotting or being waylaid or confiscated, but it was more expensive than just sending coins.
2, Why didn’t they just keep the Old Testament regulation of tithing?
Like the dietary laws, tithing was among the many laws of Moses that were fulfilled by Jesus and came to an end with his ministry on earth. Tithing (that is, giving ten percent) might become a good personal goal for some Christians, but what constitutes a tithe? Is it ten percent of one’s gross income, or net income, or something else? If a man says he is going to tithe, does he create a stumbling block for another man simply by using the word? Does he make it seem as if the Old Testament law is still in place? When the scribes and Pharisees practiced tithing, they gave even a tenth of their garden herbs, “mint, dill, and cummin” (Matthew 23:23). Does a man who claims to tithe really tithe? We should not use that word anymore. We are free to give gifts, and if we give a gift, we should give it and not concern ourselves with trivial details.
3, Why wasn’t this gift sent to the apostles in Jerusalem, but to “the brothers living in Judea”?
This is a good question, and the only answer seems to be that neither the apostles nor the seven “deacons” were in Jerusalem any longer. They were all out visiting and encouraging the churches throughout Judea and elsewhere. There are accounts from all over the Middle East and beyond that this or that apostle was here or there, proclaiming Christ. While there are many traditions (Andrew went to Scythia and Achaea; Thomas went to India, Bartholomew went to Armenia, etc.), none of them have any real Biblical or historical support. But the text of the Bible does indicate that the apostles did the work of encouraging the believers. When persecution came to Jerusalem, they stayed there (Acts 8:1). When it lifted, they departed to build up the churches (see Galatians 1:18-19).
4, Why doesn’t the New Testament tell us more about the office of elder so that we can adopt it ourselves?
The qualifications for an elder seem to be similar to those of a pastor (Titus 1:6), except that they were not always required to teach (see 1 Timothy 3:2). The duties of an elder are kept from us because there are no longer set forms of ministry in the New Testament. The church is free to say, we need this or that kind of a servant at this time, and later on, we don’t need this kind of servant anymore, but we need these types today. There will always be a need for pastors and teachers, but other positions like elders, deacons and bishops will come and go according to the needs of the people of God.
Pray for those who serve you in the church today. Whether you are a layman, a student, a child, a pastor, a teacher, a minister of some kind, a mom, a nurse, a doctor, or whatever you are, know that your work is not in vain. “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith,” Paul said (1 Thessalonians 1:3), “your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus.”
Pastor Timothy Smith