As far as we can ascertain from historical records, the true Church of God has always refused to charge money for its literature and other material which proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Church has also refused to charge for other spiritual services which it might provide, such as conducting weddings or funerals or anointing of the sick.
We state the following on our website:
“Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge.”
When others realized that God was blessing such an approach, they also began to offer their religious material “free of charge,” but many times, they state that it can be received for a suggested donation of a certain amount. We do not engage in such questionable conduct.
Offering our material free of charge is not a cheap advertising trick, as some have accused us of, with the goal that those who receive our material would even pay more than a designated price. Rather, we are acting in compliance with biblical principles.
In this Q&A, we will examine the many Scriptures in the Bible which tell us that we are to proclaim the gospel and offer certain services to individuals free of charge.
For instance, we read in Proverbs 23:23: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it.” We have to understand the word “buy” in context. The Bible is not suggesting that we actually buy the Truth somehow from those who have it, i.e. the Church, as this would contradict the thought [as discussed below] that the Church is not to sell the Truth. Rather, the concept is that we are to acquire the Truth free of charge, but this might involve sacrifice and it requires that we give up everything which might prevent us from embracing the Truth.
We read about the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-22 who was not ready to go all the way. Christ asked him to sell everything that he had and to follow Him, but he was unwilling to do so. We find a different reaction in the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, in which Christ is explaining the value of the Kingdom of God which cannot be compared with any physical possessions: A man finds a treasure (the Kingdom of God) hidden in the field and for joy over it, he sells all he has and buys that field. A merchant seeks beautiful pearls, and when he has found a pearl of great price (the Kingdom of God), he sells all that he has and buys it (Matthew 13:44-46). Even though the concept of buying is used again, the idea is to give up what prevents us from inheriting the Kingdom of God and eternal life, and to do everything that we can in order to acquire it. We cannot “purchase” eternal life—it is given to us as a free gift (Romans 6:23). We cannot “buy” it (or the material which the Church of God offers, showing us HOW we can obtain eternal life).
Let us also consider the following passage, which explains what is meant with the word “buy” in this context:
Isaiah 55:1-2 says: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes. Come buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.”
This passage clarifies that the waters are offered free of charge, and they cannot be paid for. The invitation to those who have no money to buy makes no sense, if we were to take the word “buy” literally, since we cannot buy something without money and without price. Rather, the idea is to acquire or accept the living waters free of charge.
Other passages confirm this conclusion:
Revelation 21:6 says: “And He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of water of life freely to him who thirsts.” Revelation 22:17 reads: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.'”
Isaiah 52:3 says: “For thus says the LORD: ‘You have sold yourselves for nothing. And you shall be redeemed without money.'”
Paul recognized this truth, when he said in 1 Corinthians 2:12: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit [which] is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”
It is true, of course, that the Church must pay for services in order to be able to disseminate its material (for instance, the printer needs to be paid for printing the booklets; stamps have to be bought to send out our literature; electronic equipment has to be purchased to tape and broadcast our video messages; hotels have to be paid for assembling there for our services, which we broadcast live over the Internet, etc.). But this does not mean that we buy the Truth; rather, we buy certain services so that we can make available and distribute the Truth.
We must realize that nobody can buy the Truth or Godly privileges. Simon Magus offered Peter money for the gift to bestow the Holy Spirit on others, but Peter rebuked him and said, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money” (Acts 8:20).
God is also telling the Church ministry that they are to provide spiritual services, as mentioned above, free of charge, as Matthew 10:8 reads: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”
In addition, Paul explains that he preached the gospel free of charge:
1 Corinthians 9:18 reads: “What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.”
2 Corinthians 11:7 says: “Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge?”
Does this mean, then, that those who receive the Church’s material are under no spiritual obligation to support the Church financially? Not at all, but this must be their decision. The Church is not to charge them for its material about the gospel message or its spiritual services, and those who receive them cannot pay for them. These are priceless as they provide God’s Truth, and nobody can really pay for it, as nobody has enough wealth, money or earthly possession to do so. However, this is not to say that we are to be passive recipients of God’s goods without any obligation on our part to respond in some way. The above-quoted passages do have equal application for us, when they say: “Freely you have received, freely give.”
We state the following on our website:
“Our activities and literature… are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work. While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.”
The Bible teaches that especially those who are or want to become part of God’s people are commanded to tithe to the Church of God. The “Old Testament” tithing law is still in force and effect today.
Malachi 3:8-10 tells us: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.’”
The entire context of the book of Malachi has to do with OUR immediate future! For instance, we read in Malachi 4:1-4: “‘For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this,’ Says the LORD of hosts. ‘Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.’”
Jesus Christ confirmed that the tithing law was still in effect at the time of His first coming: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23).
The seventh chapter of the book of Hebrews explains that today, it is no longer the Levites who are to collect the tithes. The Levites were commissioned to do so in the Old Testament (Hebrews 7:5; Nehemiah 12:44). That part of the law was changed (Hebrews 7:11-12, 18), but the tithing LAW was not abolished! It is now Christ—through His Body, the Church (Colossians 1:18, 24)—who has the responsibility of collecting God’s tithes (Hebrews 7:28). Christ was Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-3, 8, 24) who collected the tithe long before the Levites (Hebrews 7:4), and He is doing so again today.
God’s true ministers, who are upholding and forcefully and boldly teaching God’s LAW, are now in the same position that the Levites were, in Old Testament times, and these ministers, as spiritual Levites, are to be rewarded through tithes and offerings. Numbers 18:31 says to the Levites: “You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting.” Today, the employed laborers within the Work of the true Church of God are the spiritual Levites. This means that ministers and others, who are employed by the Church and labor in the Work of God, are to be remunerated or—in modern terms—receive a salary from the Church. The Church is able to proclaim the gospel, feed the flock and pay salaries to its ministers and other employees from the tithe and offerings which it receives.
Note the following applicable Scriptures in this context:
Matthew 10:10 says: “… a worker is worthy of his food.” Luke 10:7 adds: “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.”
1 Timothy 5:17-18 states: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and ”The laborer is worthy of his wages.'”
The Ryrie Study Bible explains that “double honor” refers to respect and remuneration.
Vincent’s Word Studies elaborates:
“Double honor… This at least includes pecuniary remuneration for services, if it is not limited to that. The use of [the Greek word for “honor”] as ‘pay’ or ‘price’ [or “proceeds”] appears [in Matthew 27:6, 9; Acts 4:34; 1 Corinthians 6:20].”
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible states:
“… ‘counted worthy of double honour’… this is to be understood both of that outward respect that is to be shown them by words and actions; and of a sufficient maintenance that is to be provided for them; in which sense the word ‘honour’ is used in this chapter before; See [1 Timothy 5:3].”
In addition, Paul makes the following strong comments in 1 Corinthians 9:7-14:
“Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.’ Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?… Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel…”
It is true that in this particular case, Paul did not demand his right of support from the Corinthians, as their spiritual state was so weak and as they were so much engulfed in sinful conduct, that he was concerned that they might fall away completely. He told them in 2 Corinthians 11:8: “I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you.” He dealt with the more important things first, and it was rewarding to see that they finally got the point and did repent. Nevertheless, Paul pointed out that it was his God-given right to receive financial support, and even though he did not enforce it regarding the Corinthians and other churches who were in an equally weak spiritual state, at least in the beginning, he did accept it from the Philippians. We read in Philippians 4:15-17:
“Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving, but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”
Paul was commending the Philippian brethren for their willingness to help him. The emphasis of his statements does not have to be understood as necessarily accusing other churches for not helping him [some might perhaps have been too poor to help him], even though an underlying correction toward those churches seems to be included, and this was certainly the case regarding the Corinthians.
Of course, the Church or its employees are never to make merchandise of the brethren (2 Peter 2:3; Authorized Version), both spiritually and physically, by exploiting them for their own ends. The same Greek word for “make merchandise” is also used in James 4:13, where it is translated as “buy and sell.” We are also not to use the assembling of the brethren for Church services as an opportunity to buy and sell our personal merchandise, even if it were “religious” in nature. The principle prohibiting such conduct can be seen in Christ’s condemnation of the money changers in the Temple and of those who bought from them for religious “duties” (John 2:14-16; Matthew 21:12-13). Luke 19:45-46 tells us: “Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house is a house of prayer”; but you have made it a “den of thieves.”’”
In conclusion, we also want to stress and clarify that the Church has a responsibility to disseminate its material free of charge to those who ask for it, but it is also to act responsibly as true and faithful stewards of what God provides us with (Luke 12:42; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 1 Peter 4:10). As the previous Q&A on Deuteronomy 23:18 pointed out, specific situations may exist when the Church cannot and must not accept contributions from certain individuals.
At the same time, the Church will not generally send out mass mailings of its literature to individuals, which is meant to be “distributed” to others. We are not to proselytize, and we will therefore only respond to individual requests for literature. When third persons would like to obtain our material, they are to ask for it themselves—either by directly contacting us or asking somebody else, such as a relative or close friend, to request it for them. Also, in order to avoid any wasteful spending of the money provided to us by God, enabling us to produce our literature, we generally send out only up to three booklets to first-time requesters, with the explanation that we will send more once the received booklets have been studied and additional booklets are in fact desired.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link