PAUL HAD A SECULAR JOB, SO NO
NEED TO TITHE?
There is an argument today that goes like this: Paul, as a
minister of God, had a secular job, so we do not need to tithe."
Now, upon further questioning, the people who use this argument
are meaning to say that as Paul had a secular job, ministers
today should all have one, and so no one would have to tithe to
support those ministers, no one would have to give anything to
those ministers, as they would be supporting themselves, like
Somewhat of a strange argument I would say, for it does not
address the issue of how then do you proclaim the Gospel near and
far, out into all nations to make disciples for Christ Jesus, and
to proclaim the good news of the Age to come, the Kingdom of God
I suppose they may say that people just give what they can,
when they can, and as much as they can, all put into a fund for
spreading the Gospel. To them it would still mean there was no
tithing law to obey, and certainly not to support the ministry,
as Paul had a secular job, and so hence supported himself. So we
have come full circle and are back to where we started.....Paul
having a secular job, so no need to tithe.
Those who use this argument, usually STOP right there, say no
more than "Paul had a secular job." They do NOT want you to
study it in detail, they do not want you to ask the question
"Why, did Paul have a secular job at times." They do not want
you to read the whole CONTEXT in the New Testament, as to the
reason WHY Paul had to have a secular job at times to support
himself. No, they do not want you to do that, for in doing
so, you would come to clearly see the answer to WHY Paul had to
work to support himself at times.
Paul was a minister of the Gospel who had enemies, Jews and
even other ministers (well they claimed they were minister in the
Church of God) who were after his hide, so to speak. Paul had
people who were suspicious of him, his work, his motives, his
teaching and preaching (many times be accused of this or that
teaching, when it simply was not true, people not having the
facts correct), and so many times, even among those he had worked
with in a spiritual manner, many church members, kept Paul at
arms length, moved away from him, had doubts about him, and just
put him to one side, all the while favoring and even supporting
with physical goods and money, OTHERS who were claiming to also
be apostles of the Lord (many of which were actually false
apostles, and false ministers, who had come within the Church of
God to devour the sheep spiritually and also in whatever physical
way they could).
All this we can plainly see in what Paul wrote to the church
at Corinth, IF we are willing to read it and meditate on what
Paul was actually saying to them about this very situation, in
which he also included the main reasons he and Barnabas had to
work at secular jobs while living among them. We shall, as we
read, see the truth of the matter as to whether Paul thought he
had the right and the authority, to do the work of the Gospel,
while LIVING OFF the physical goods of the brethren, as he moved
and lived among them.
The writers and compilers of the AMPLIFIED BIBLE found the
true sense of what Paul was saying to the Corinthians in this
regard, and have given it to us in their amplified translation of
I will now quote these important passages for our
understanding of this specific subject we are studying under the
topic of tithing. Please read carefully, and in so doing
you will see the plain truth as to why Paul and Barnabas held
secular jobs at times, especially while living within the area of
1 Corinthians 9:1-18 (Amplified Bible). All capitalization of
words by myself.
"Am I not an apostle (a special messenger)? Am I not free
(unrestrained and exempt from any obligation)? Have I not seen
Jesus our Lord? Are you (yourselves) not (the product and proof
of) my workmanship in the Lord? Even if I am not considered an
apostle (a special messenger) by others, at least I am one to
you; for YOU are the SEAL (the certificate, the living evidence)
of my apostleship in the Lord (confirming and authenticating it).
This is my (real ground of) DEFENCE (my vindication of myself) TO
THOSE WHO WOULD PUT ME ON TRIAL AND CROSS-EXAMINE ME.
HAVE WE NOT THE RIGHT TO OUR FOOD AND DRINK (at the expense of
the churches)? HAVE WE NOT THE RIGHT ALSO to take along with us
a Christian sister as wife, AS DO OTHER APOSTLES and the Lord's
brothers and Cephas (Peter)?
OR IS IT ONLY BARNABAS AND I WHO HAVE NO RIGHT TO REFRAIN FROM
DOING MANUAL LABOR FOR A LIVELIHOOD (IN ORDER TO GO ABOUT THE
WORK OF THE MINISTRY)?
(Consider this:) What soldier at any time SERVES AT HIS OWN
EXPENSE? Who PLANTS a vineyard and does NOT EAT ANY OF THE FRUIT
OF IT? Who TENDS a flock and does NOT PARTAKE OF THE MILK of the
Do I say this only on human authority and as a man reasons?
DOES NOT THE LAW ENDORSE THE SAME PRINCIPLE?
FOR IN THE LAW OF MOSES it is written, You shall not muzzle an
ox when it is treading out the corn. IS IT (only) FOR OXEN THAT
GOD CARES? (Deut.25:4). Or does He speak certainly and entirely
FOR OUR SAKES? (Assuredly) IT IS WRITTEN FOR OUR SAKES, because
the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher ought to
thresh in EXPECTATION OF PARTAKING OF THE HARVEST.
IF WE HAVE SOWN (the seed of) SPIRITUAL GOOD AMONG YOU, (is it
too) MUCH IF WE REAP FROM YOUR MATERIAL BENEFITS?
If others share in this RIGHTFUL CLAIM upon you (the
Corinthians were supporting others in a physical way, the support
rightly claimed by those others from the very law of God, as Paul
had just related to them - Keith Hunt), do not we (have a still
better and greater claim)? (It was Paul and Barnabas who founded
the church at Corinth - Keith Hunt). However, WE HAVE NEVER
EXERCISED THIS RIGHT, but we endure everything rather than put a
hindrance in the way (of the spread) of the good news (the
Gospel) of Christ."
Let me stop and comment.
Can you see what Paul is so far saying to these church
members at Corinth? He tells them he has seen Jesus Christ. That
he is an apostle, and that they are part proof of his
apostleship, for they knew exactly what he was getting at.
It was Paul and Barnabas who started and founded and raised up
the church at Corinth. They were the two men God used to bring
them the truth of the Gospel, bring them to repentance and into
the light of the good news of salvation through Christ Jesus.
Some were putting Paul on trial, so to speak, cross-examining
him, questioning him, his teachings, his motives, even to the
point of questioning his claim that he and Barnabas had the right
to live off their physical means, as in effect, full time, paid,
ministers of the Lord.
He shows them that most of them were not really against such a
practice as this, for they and others supported other apostles,
the brothers of Jesus, and Peter, as they were married and worked
in the ministry, living off the physical goods and money of
church members. He then asks them if, for whatever reason, was
there some "theological" proof somewhere in the Scriptures, that
it was ONLY Barnabas and he that should have manual secular jobs,
while the other apostles did not and could rightly partake of
their physical substances while working full time in the
After that he leads them into using first good old simple
human logic. He uses the examples of a soldier working for a
government to serve and help the people at large living within
that community protected by that government and its army. They
get paid. Then he goes on to the examples of those who work in
the agricultural trade and skill. Those who work and tend and
care for and protect the growth of the fruits in a vineyard
or the lambs, goats, cows, of a flock, also partake in the
physical side of things as they work in those professions.
Next, and even more important, he nails down the truth that he
and Barnabas had as much right to live off the brethren in the
church, as much as any other apostle and minister so actually
doing, by going directly to what God in His word has to say on
He leads off by taking a principle from God's word. The
teaching of the Lord concerning the ox and how it is to live off
the work it is helping to do and bring forth. Under inspiration
of the Holy Spirit, Paul tells them this law of the ox within
Israel's farming profession, was not actually written JUST for
the ox or the farmers of Israel. It was also written to teach a
basic principle, directly from God, that as Jesus once said,
"The laborer is worthy of his hire."
The same principle Paul explains to them is found in the law
of the plowman and the thresher. They both have hope that in
doing their work they will partake of the physical things within
their work, so they can continue to work in their work full time,
not have to as we today call it, "moon light" at some other work
on the side, to make ends meet, in the work they are really
called to do.
After all that he hits the nail squarely on the head in verse
11. He gets pretty clear and plain as to what all this means.
From what he has revealed to them so far, from human logic, the
way humans run things for the most part, and what God's principle
laws have to say to us, he tells them with no uncertain words,
yet still in a kind and reasoning way, that if they, Barnabas and
he, have sown (worked like a plowman or planter, or reaper and
thresher) of their spiritual lives, is it really too much to ask
that he and Barnabas should also reap from them their material
goods and benefits. He puts it that way, hoping they have come
to see, from what he has already told them, that it should
indeed be so.
He finishes this thought in verse 12 by once more bringing to
their attention that they do support others in this rightful
claim over their physical materials, that they really were
not against such a teaching or such a practice. But because of
various reasonings going on in many of their minds concerning
himself and Barnabas (some put there by others that he talks
about in his second letter to them, we call 2 Corinthians, which
we shall look at later) they thought it best, under that
situation, to NOT claim this RIGHT, of physical support. So they
endured all the wrong mental attitudes floating around in too
many of their minds, and so as to not cause more hindrance to the
spread of the Gospel among them, they chose to support themselves
by holding down secular jobs.
Now, starting in verse 13, Paul wants them to really
understand the law of God on all this. He thinks they maybe still
will not "get it" so now he goes to the very law of those who
work in the Temple. The Priesthood and the Temple being such an
important aspect of Jewish life for centuries, having full time
workers therein, and coming under very direct laws laid down by
the Eternal God for the people of Israel to follow and adhere to.
Paul believes that if they have not got the point yet, then
surely this will drive the nail home, and make it crystal clear
Back to the Amplified Bible, starting with verse 13.
" Do you not know that those men who are EMPLOYED IN THE
SERVICE OF THE TEMPLE GET THEIR FOOD FROM THE TEMPLE? And that
those who TEND THE ALTAR SHARE WITH THE ALTAR (in the offerings
(On the same principle) the Lord DIRECTED that those who
PUBLISH THE GOOD NEWS (the Gospel) should LIVE (get their
maintenance) BY the Gospel.
But I have not made use of any of these privileges, nor am I
writing this (to suggest) that any such provision be made for me
(now). For it would be better for me to die than to have anyone
make void and deprive me of my (ground for) glorifying (in this
matter). For if I (merely) preach the Gospel, that gives me no
reason to boast, for I feel compelled of necessity to do it. Woe
is me if I do not preach the glad tidings (the Gospel)!
For if I do this work of my own free will, then I have my pay (my
reward); but if it is not of my own will, but is done reluctantly
and under compulsion, I am (still) entrusted with a (sacred)
trusteeship and commission.
What then is the (actual) reward that I get? Just this: that
in my preaching the good news (the Gospel), I may offer it
(absolutely) FREE OF EXPENSE (to anybody), NOT TAKING ADVANTAGE
OF MY RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES (as a preacher) of the Gospel."
End of quote from the Amplified Bible.
In verse 13 Paul goes to the direct law of the Temple or
Tabernacle under Moses. His reader either new all this being Jews
conversant in the OT or if Gentiles not that familiar with the
Scriptures they could easily look it all up and read it for
themselves. Paul had led them to the laws given by God to Israel
concerning the men who were employed in the service of the
Tabernacle. Those laws clearly concerned TITHES and FREE WILL
OFFERINGS that the people brought to the Temple in worshipping
God, and those laws clearly state that those tithes and offerings
belonging to the Lord were given by God to the tribe of Levi, to
those employed in the service of the Temple. They PARTOOK in the
main, of all those physical things. Some of the physical goods
brought by the people to God in tithes and offerings were the
rightful "bread and butter" of daily living for the ministry of
those serving in the temple worship of the Eternal God. All this
is plainly laid down, enumerated, and given as laws, in a number
of passages in the books of Moses.
Paul then in verse 14, uses this principle law, or in fact by
direct inspired revelation (and really either way is now the
direct inspired will and revelation of God) from God,says: "The
Lord DIRECTED that those who publish the Gospel should LIVE BY
the Gospel." It is the Lord's will and hence His law that people
can serve in the publishing of the Gospel FULL TIME and be
supported in their daily living for the physical needs of life,
from the physical material goods of the people in the household
and "church" of God (remember, Israel was the "church in the
wilderness" - Acts 7:38).
Now, Paul does not directly use the words "tithes" and "free
will offerings" BUT what he leads them to look at under the law
he mentions concerning those working in the Temple service, is
the law concerning TITHES and OFFERINGS! It is the law that
INCLUDES "tithes" - just no way around it, for the honest reader
of the Bible. God's WORK on a large community basis, from the
time of Moses, was carried on by not only "offerings" but by
Paul is here putting to rest the argument about there being or
not being a NT ministry and "priesthood" of Jesus Christ, that is
doing the service and work of the "good news" or Gospel of God in
the New Covenant age, as the Levite priesthood did the service
and work of God "the good news" (see Hebrews 4) under the Temple
or Tabernacle period. There is no question in Paul's mind that
God has some today employed in publishing the "good news" of the
Gospel of God (which he says is about Christ, verse 12, hence a
New Covenant "good news" or Gospel of Christ). And those so
employed in the spread and publication of that Gospel of Christ,
can, according to the direct will of God, live OFF, get their
maintenance (as the writings of the Amplified Bible put it) by
that Gospel, or as he has already shown from the law of Moses (in
verse 13) that is by the means of sharing and partaking of the
tithes and offerings, brought by the people to God, in the
worship of the Lord, as He leads in promoting the good news or
I have before in these studies answered the question as to WHY
Paul, and for that matter no other writer of the NT, NEVER once
in any way used the word "tithe" towards God's New Covenant
people, as telling them they should now, from the start of the NT
church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), so give all tithes to
the NT Church of God and its Elders and ministers.
I have answered this before, but I will once more give it
again in a nut shell, as we often say, or in a condensed form.
The Old Covenant, with its Tabernacle or Temple, and
Priesthood, was established by the Eternal. All of its
functioning was from God. Part of that function was the people
tithing and giving free will offerings to God through the Temple
service and those who worked there could collect those tithes and
offerings and partly live off of them. Up to 70 A.D. that Temple
and Priesthood was STILL IN FUNCTION. Hence it was still a part
of the laws of God. It had not come to an end, and those priests
still had the God given right to accept the tithes and offerings
from God's people and so live off them.
It would have been quite WITHIN the law of God during those
years of the first century, up to 70 A.D. for God's people within
the New Covenant Church of God, to give their tithes to the
Temple and its priesthood IF they so chose to do so. Paul nor ANY
minister of the New Covenant Gospel of Jesus Christ, up to 70
A.D. was in a position to teach and demand that tithes and
offerings should ONLY COME TO THEM AND THE NT CHURCH!!
In effect God had TWO, yet one, set of people serving in His
Priesthood. There was the OLD priesthood STILL looking after the
functioning of the Temple service, that was ordained and
instituted by the Eternal under Moses, and there was the NEW
priesthood of Christ, as instituted by God through Christ, for
the function of the New Covenant Church of God, that Jesus said
He would build, and which the gates of hell or death would never
Paul here in 1 Corinthians 9 makes it very clear that this new
ministry of Christ, for the Gospel of Christ, and those called to
serve in it, could serve FULL TIME, as did the ministry in the
Temple service, living off the physical goods and materials of
those they were serving.
There was no need for any kind of competition between the two
priesthoods (old and new) for the tithes and offerings of the
people. There was enough for all to be functioning. Certainly
enough faithful Jews to give to the Temple priesthood, who were
still blinded to the light of the Gospel (Romans 9-11), and
enough called by God to His grace and light of the Gospel of
Christ, to support the full time ministry in the NT Church
It would all work out if all knew that their tithes and
offerings could go where God led the heart of the person giving.
Paul (nor any other minister of Christ) could demand that all
tithes and offering should go only to the Church of God, while
the old priesthood and Temple service was still functioning, but
he could tell them that they, the ministers of Christ under the
New Covenant could also live off tithes and offerings, as full
time workers, also.
All this being the case, Paul goes on to tell them in verse 15
that he and Barnabas, DID NOT make "use of any of these
privileges" nor was he now writing to them to suggest that it
should NOW be so.
He further goes on to actually feel good about not living off
the Corinthian people. He is kind of proud about it in a correct
manner under the situation with the Corinthians (which comes out
a little more in certain things he says to them in the letter to
them that we call 2 Corinthians). He mentions that he is
compelled, as one chosen by God, to preach the Gospel, no matter
what, under any circumstance, whether he likes it or not, but it
is better to have a happy positive mind-set, in so being called
to preach the Gospel.
In verse 18 he does tell them that the situation while living
among them, does give him a kind of "kick" and a special "reward"
within himself, for he was able to serve them, teach them, guide
them, lead them, in the good news of salvation in God through
Christ Jesus, WITHOUT having to take anything physical from them.
He was able to do all this while he supported himself by working
at a secular job. And all of that circumstance did give him some
added satisfaction, for he could truly say that to them he gave
the Gospel FREELY and without charge.
REVEALING INSIGHT IN 2 CORINTHIANS
Once more I quote from the AMPLIFIED BIBLE as they seem to
catch the very essence of what Paul was really saying to the
Corinthians. This many sided apostle you will notice could be
very blunt and sarcastic at times, when he felt it necessary.
Remember he was inspired in all he wrote by the Holy Spirit. All
capitals are mine.
" I wish you would bear with me while I indulge in a little
(so-called) foolishness. Do bear with me!........But (now) I am
fearful........For (you seem readily to endure it) if a man
comes and preaches another Jesus than the One we preached, or if
you receive a different spirit.......or a different
gospel.......you TOLERATE (all that) well enough! Yet I
consider myself as in no way inferior to these (precious)
EXTRA-SUPER (FALSE) apostles.......But did I perhaps make a
mistake and do you a wrong in debasing and cheapening myself so
that you might be exalted and enriched in dignity and honor and
happiness by preaching God's Gospel WITHOUT EXPENSE to you?
OTHER CHURCHES I HAVE ROBBED BY ACCEPTING (more than their
share of) SUPPORT FOR MY MINISTRY (from them in order) TO SERVE
And when I was WITH YOU and ran SHORT FINANCIALLY, I DID NOT
BURDEN ANY (of you), for what I LACKED was abundantly made up BY
THE BRETHREN who came from Macedonia.
SO I KEPT MYSELF FROM BEING BURDENSOME TO YOU IN ANT WAY, and
will continue to keep (myself from being so).
As the truth of Christ is in me, this boast (of independence)
shall not be debarred (silenced or checked) in the regions of
Achaia (most of Greece)........But what I do, I will continue to
do, (for I am determined to maintain this independence) in order
to cut off the claim of those who would like (to find an occasion
and incentive) to claim that in their boasted (mission) they work
on the same terms that we do. For such men are FALSE apostles
(spurious, counterfeits), deceitful workers, masquerading as
apostles.......(For) since many boast of worldly things and
according to the flesh, I will glory (boast) also. For you
READILY and GLADLY BEAR WITH the foolish, since you are so smart
and wise yourselves. For you ENDURE IT if a man assumes CONTROL
of your souls and makes slaves of you, or DEVOURS (YOUR
SUBSTANCE, SPENDS YOUR MONEY) and preys upon you, or deceives and
takes advantage of you, or is arrogant and puts on airs, or
strikes you in the face.
To my discredit, I must say, we have shown ourselves too weak
(for you to show such tolerance of us and for us to do strong,
courageous things like that to you)!........." ( 2 Cor.11:1-21,
pertinent verses to our topic).
Paul uses some "foolish" talk as he says, but asks them to
bear with it. The digging sarcasm and tongue in cheek speech he
uses towards them at times, comes through loud and clear.
He tells them that they seem eager to listen to, and even
embrace the preaching and teaching of, what to Paul are clearly
false ministers and false apostles. He tells them that perhaps he
made a mistake in teaching and preaching the Gospel to them at
HIS expense, and costing them nothing at all. He was able to do
this because not only did he and Barnabas work at secular jobs
(this he told them in the letter we call 1 Corinthians),
but when low in physical funds, he accepted physical help from
those who came from Macedonia, even when for them it was over and
above what they could give, hence much like robbing them. All
this so he could keep himself from being a burden (you can see
the tongue in cheek here, as he knew they were willing to give
physical materials to false apostles)to them.
Paul tells them he will continue to so live towards them, to
maintain his independence from them as he still gives the Gospel
and the Word of the Lord to them. In so doing this it will also
have another benefit Paul goes on to inform them. It will cut
off the claim of those false minsters who would claim that they
also work on the same basis of preaching the Gospel to them
(free) as he and Barnabas did.
In the last verses we looked at, Paul really lays the sarcasm
on thick and heavy. Read verses 19 and 20 again. You can just see
the sarcasm dripping from Paul's mouth, as he tells them they are
so smart and so wise that they bear well with the foolish false
apostles. They are so wise, Paul says, they allow these fellows
to make slaves of them, and to devour and spend their material
goods and money, even with such control that they can stand up
with arrogance and strike them in the face.
Paul keeps up the sarcasm by telling them that he and Barnabas
showed themselves too weak in this regard. He is with tongue in
cheek telling them that perhaps Barnabas and he should have acted
like those false apostles towards them, and then they would not
have had to hold down a secular job to support themselves, and
taken from the brethren in Macedonia, but could have abusingly
lived off their material goods and money, like the precious
extra-super false apostles were doing.
I hope you can now see that Paul only held down a secular job
WHEN he felt it was necessary under the situation he was in at
any one particular time during his ministry of teaching and
preaching the Gospel of Christ.
Paul was not above receiving material and financial help from
those who with a loving and kind and generous heart, would give
it to him.
I hope you can now see that MOST of the apostles, brothers of
Christ, and Peter, are shown by Paul to have had wives that went
with them in their work of preaching the Gospel, and that such
did not have secular jobs, but LIVED OFF the children of God they
were teaching and serving as they went about their ministry in
the Word of the Lord.
I hope you can now see that it was quite within the rights of
those serving in the priesthood of Christ to do so full time, as
the people of God chose and decided to give all of their tithes
and offerings to that priesthood, or part of those tithes and
offerings, if they also so chose to give part to God's priesthood
that was still functioning in the Temple at Jerusalem. Either
way, it was within the law of God that the ministers of the New
Covenant Church of God should not have to work at a secular job,
but if possible be supported in a physical way by the people of
Paul and Barnabas only worked at a secular job while serving
in preaching the Gospel to others, when those they were teaching
would not give to them of their physical material goods, so they
could teach them full time.
Written October 1999.
All articles and studies by Keith Hunt may be copied, published,
e-mailed, and distributed as led by the Spirit of God. Mr. Hunt
trusts nothing will be changed without his consent.