Principles of Finance
Tim Temple


There is as much information about finances in the subject of ecclesiology as about any other subject. Scripture is full of information about money. In fact, it is interesting to notice that money is brought up in the subject of the lordship of Christ in the local church. As we have been talking about this subject for a number of months now, we have seen that the lordship of Christ in our church is based on the lordship of Christ in our lives individually. If Christ is not Lord of your life and my life, then we cannot hope that He will be the Lord of this church. That is the subject of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. So when we come to a chapter which deals with money, in a letter like that, in a book like that, we should realize that money is a part of the matter of whether Christ is the Lord of your life or not.

Someone has said that Christ instituted the system of money in order to give Christians the opportunity to have a tangible way of expressing whether they believe what they say or not. It is one thing to talk about trusting the Lord; it is one thing to talk about being a part of God's work, but it is something else to put our money where our mouth is, isn't it? It is one thing to talk about trusting the Lord; it is another thing to actually trust Him for the supply of our finances. It is one thing to talk about supporting the Lord's work; it is another thing to give of our money to the support of the Lord's work. So the subject of money is a very practical subject from the standpoint of the lordship of Christ.

As we come to chapter 9, we are in the middle of a section of the book in which Paul was answering questions that the Corinthians had written to him. From the detail of his answers, we can see that one of the subjects that they had written to him about was money. The problem is we don't have the questions, but from his answers we can surmise that the questions had to do with things such as, “Are we obligated to support Christian workers? If so, which ones? How do we know who should be supported by the church and who shouldn't? In fact, does a minister have the right to expect us to support him?”

It is interesting to notice that in answering those questions, Paul kills two birds with one stone. In the first part of the chapter, he answers their questions, but in the second part of the chapter, he uses his answer to reinforce the principle of chapter 8, which we talked about–the sacrifice of our rights. The essence of imitating the life of Christ is a willingness to give up what we have a right to. Woven into chapter 9 is an illustration of that fact. In answering their question, Paul touches on two subjects. First, in verses 1-14, there is the recognition of rights. Then in verses 15-27, we have the relinquishing of rights. In the first part of the chapter, he is going to talk about his right as a full-time Christian worker to be supported by the church. How preachers love to teach this passage! In the second half, he is going to say that he is willing to give up that right for the glory of God. Churches love to hear that part of the chapter taught!

Recognition of Paul's Rights

Let's begin by looking at the recognition of rights which Paul outlines in verses 1-14. The first thing to notice in that regard is the basis of His rights, which we find stated in verses 1 and 2:

I Corinthians 9

1Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
2If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

Paul lists two rights that he has. First, there is his right of Christian freedom. You will notice in the text of the verse there are two questions. In the Greek text, the order of these two questions is reversed, and I think it is best to consider them in that order. Paul says, “Am I not free?”–the same subject that we talked about in chapter 8. He says, “Isn't that true of me? I am a free agent; I have the freedom of the payment of my sins.” But then he says, “Do I not also have the rights of an apostle?” He has all of his rights as a Christian, but there is also the matter of his rights as an apostle.

Evidently some of the Christians in Corinth were questioning whether Paul was an apostle or not. So here he lists at least two of his qualifications in that regard. He had seen the Lord in person on the road to Damascus. Later on he is going to tell us that at some point in his life (he doesn't give much detail) he was caught up into Heaven and he saw the Lord. Secondly, he says he can demonstrate fruit from his ministry. Notice what he says in the last part of verse 1:

I Corinthians 9

1… are not ye my work in the Lord?

Then in the last part of verse 2:

I Corinthians 9

2…for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

So Paul is establishing the fact that he not only has the rights of a Christian, but he has the rights of an apostle. Those are the bases of Paul's rights.

Substance of Paul's Rights

In verses 3-14, we find the broadness of his rights. Verses 3-6 give some examples of the substance of those rights. Notice in verse 3:

I Corinthians 9

3Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
4Have we not power to eat and to drink?
5Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

You see, the bottom line of the substance of his rights was the right to be supported by the Corinthians. Leon Morris is an outstanding New Testament scholar. He reminds us that because of the known practices of the early Church and because of the context of I Corinthians, we could actually add the phrase, “at the expense of the church,” at the end of each of these questions. The questions in verse 5 would then read, “Do we have no right to eat and drink at the expense of the church? Do we not have the right to have a wife at the expense of the church?” That is what he is specifying about his rights. Verse 6 is the most specific. He says:

I Corinthians 9

6Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

Paul says, “I am an apostle, and I have the right to have those to whom I minister support me.” That is what he is saying. That is the substance of his rights.

Symbols of Paul's Rights

In the next verses, he appeals to six different areas, proving by each one of these the legitimacy of his right to be supported by the church. These are what I am calling the symbols of his rights. He gives us in verses 7-14 some symbols of his right to be supported. First, there is the appeal from custom, from the custom of living off the work that one produces. Look in verse 7:

I Corinthians 9

7Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

First here is the example of the soldier. The government foots the bill for government service. Whoever heard of a soldier going to battle and paying his own expenses. No, when you are drafted into the army, when you join the army, when you fight for the government, then the government pays your expenses.

Then there is the example of the farmer, which is the same point. Who plants a vineyard and doesn't eat of the vineyard? The farmer doesn't raise his crops and then go down to the grocery store and buy crops that he is growing. He raises crops for himself and eats of those crops also.

There is also the shepherd, which is the same point. The shepherd drinks the milk of the flock.

Then in verses 8-10, there is the appeal from Old Testament law. Notice in verse 8:

I Corinthians 9

8Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

Verse 9 is a quotation of Deuteronomy, chapter 25, verse 4. It is quoted word for word. The point of that passage in the Old Testament is that the priests were to be allowed to eat the meat of the sacrifices. In the Old Testament, when the people brought their sacrifices to the temple, the priests went through the various ceremonies which were outlined in the book of Leviticus, but they were allowed to eat part of the meat of the sacrifices and part of the grain that was brought. That was part of the way they were supported.

The Principle of Overflow

In verse 10 we have another reminder of a principle which shows up in several places in the Scripture. It is what I like to call “the principle of overflow”. Notice:

I Corinthians 9

10Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

When the farmer plows the field, he is hoping to get food for himself, for his family, and food that he can sell to other people or give to other people. By the same token, when someone studies the Scripture, our motive ought to be, first of all, to get food for ourselves and also to get enough to share with other people.

Listen, if you are a Sunday School teacher or if you are involved in a ministry of any kind–all of us ought to have a ministry–our study of the Scripture should never be just so we can prepare the Sunday School lesson or just so we can get up and preach the sermon on Sunday morning or evening. Our purpose in studying the Scripture, no matter who we are, should be that we would be fed. That is why the farmer plows the field. That is why we study the Scripture–to be fed spiritually.

God, in His grace, gives us enough food to feed ourselves and to feed others. God gives us the opportunity to share with others those things which we are partaking of spiritually; but any legitimate ministry has got to be based on the principle of overflow. God's design is that our ministry should be just an overflow of that which He has provided for us. If you try to base your ministry on any other principle, it is not going to have the kind of blessing that it would have otherwise. Now God blesses His Word. Even if the teacher is out of fellowship when he is teaching the Word, God is going to bless the Word. If you are going to be a false teacher, you are better off teaching the Word of God instead of your own ideas, because at least God can bless His Word. God's principle is that we should only teach out of the overflow of our own hearts.

I would appreciate your prayers for me in that regard. When you have the kind of work that I have to do where there is a regular presentation to be made, there is a temptation to simply get enough together to simply be able to stand up and talk about it. Someone said to me recently something that when I heard it, I realized I had known it all along, but didn't know how to say it. It is true for everyone, but it is certainly true in the ministry. It is always either Monday morning or Friday afternoon. The week is just gone before you know it, and you have to stand up and teach something on Sunday morning, and there is a real tendency to say, “Well, let's see. I can say this, and I can say that.” That is not God's design. Sunday School teachers will identify with that, I am sure, and others of you who may have some teaching to do. God's design is that we feed on His Word, and as we feed on His Word, as we are fed, as we put it into practice in our lives, then we can share it with other people. That is what Paul is talking about here. Paul says, “I am just like the farmer or the shepherd or the soldier. I am taking care of the needs of others, so I have a right to be supported by others.”

Material Support of the Ministry

We have seen the appeal from custom and the appeal from the Old Testament. there is a third appeal here. It is the appeal from basic justice in verse 11:

I Corinthians 9

11If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

I think that verse speaks for itself. Paul says, “If I have ministered to you spiritually, if I have spent my time, time that I could be using to make a living, is it unfair that you should take care of me materially?” Then in verse 12 there is the appeal from precedent. He says:

I Corinthians 9

12If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

Evidently the Corinthians did recognize their need to support some Christian workers. Apparently there was some question about Paul, but Paul was saying, “If I have ministered to you, I have the right to expect to be ministered to by you in material things.” That verse has more of a specific personal appeal from Paul, but the principle is still the same.

Then there is the appeal from the priesthood in verse 13:

I Corinthians 9

13Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

This is the same point that we saw back in Deuteronomy, a reference to the Old Testament priesthood; but the same thing was true of the pagan priest in Corinth. Even those false religions had the same principle. The priests were partakers of the substance of the offerings.

Finally, there is the appeal from Christ Himself in verse 14:

I Corinthians 9

14Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

If we search through the text of the things that are recorded that Jesus said, we don't find a specific statement like this from Jesus. But two things are true: In Matthew, chapter 10, where Jesus commissioned His disciples to go out and preach to Israel that their king was here, He told them that they should be supported by those to whom they went. The other possibility about this statement–I mention this because the critics sometimes say, “Aha, here is a contradiction in the Bible, because Jesus never did say this.” Well, Paul is either referring to the principle of Matthew, chapter 10, or Mark, chapter 6, or of Luke, chapter 7, because all three Gospels record that Jesus told those disciples that they were to be supported by those to whom they went; or it is very possible that Jesus said that, but it was not recorded. He might have said it in these very words.

Remember at the end of the Gospel of John, John said that Jesus did many other things that were not recorded here. Obviously if Jesus did many other things that were not recorded, He also said many things that were not recorded in the Scripture. But John said, “I have written down enough so you can know that Jesus is the Christ and that believing, you might have life through His name.” The point is the workman is worthy of his food. So there are six reasons here why Paul had a right to be supported by the church.

Ministries Worthy of Support

In order to get the most out of this passage, I want to look at the basic principles that are wrapped up in Paul's rights. What we have seen so far has been a kind of technical survey of the chapter, but I want us to go back now and make some observations derived from and based on those principles. The basic principle is very simple: The Christian worker has the right to be supported. But how do we know who falls into that category? We live in a day particularly in which there are so many appeals for funds. There are so many appeals for help financially. I get letters and brochures and post cards and advertisements every week, and I am sure you do too. In most cases, they are legitimate appeals for help. It is very likely that most of us as Christians wonder how we know to whom to respond. I believe the principles are here in this chapter.

Two things are suggested along that line back in verses 1 and 2. Notice what Paul said in verse 1:

I Corinthians 9

1…are not ye my work in the Lord?

He had obviously had results in his ministry because in verse 2, as we have already pointed out, he says:

I Corinthians 9

2…for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

So the basic principle of knowing who to support is that it should be someone who ministers to you. If someone is ministering, and he is having fruit in your life, then he is worthy of your financial help.

We could extend that and make it even more broad. If a person is ministering and maybe it doesn't specifically touch your life but you can see fruit of his ministry, and you know of other people who are being blessed by his ministry, then he is worthy of your support. Someone who doesn't meet one or the other or both of those requirements does not deserve your support. Two things may be true. He may be ministering to someone else, but you just don't know about it; or maybe he is not ministering to you at all and because of that, as far as your personal contribution to that ministry is concerned, you don't need to worry about it no matter how urgent his appeal is if he is not ministering to you or anyone else that you know about. If he is ministering to someone else, then God will see to it that they can support him.

Responsibility to the Local Church

There is something else suggested here and that is the basic priority suggested by Paul's rights. We have talked about the basic principle, but I think we can look a these rights and also see some priorities that we can establish in our giving about to whom we should give. I think this is significant because in the last few years there have been ministries to whom maybe even some of you have contributed and have discovered that that money was not being used properly. As I said before, with so many appeals financially, how do we know what to do with our money? You should give first to those who minister to you. I think that specifically means the local church. I believe there is precedent in this chapter for saying your first line of responsibility in giving is your local church.

That is easy for me to say because I am one of the main beneficiaries of your support of the local church. Aside from that, I believe it is a Biblical principle that our first responsibility financially is to our local church.

Someone wrote a letter to the local newspaper editor about the scandals of the television ministries that are going on. They were saying this same point, that our first responsibility ought to be to our local church because “they are the ones that marry you and bury you”. How long has it been since you have seen one of the television evangelists come and bury someone? I'm sure they do. I'm sure they even conduct weddings occasionally. I am using that as an illustration of the fact that the local church is your family; the local church is what the New Testament defines as our web of support. The local church, described in the New Testament, is defined as the one to whom you should be able to turn in any kind of need. Even though there are some other legitimate ministries around, for many different reasons, you can't turn to those ministries for the kind of support and comfort and ministry that the local church was designed to give; so our first financial giving responsibility is to our local church and its ministries.

Look at verse 11 again:

I Corinthians 9

11If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

Some of you are visiting here today and are not really a part of this church. We are delighted to have you here. I would assume that maybe some of you are visiting here today in the process of searching for a local church. We welcome you to come and be a part of this church if you are in that category. But if you don't attend this church or don't make the decision to attend this church in the process of looking for one, you need to find a local church that will meet your needs spiritually and one to whom you can contribute financially wholeheartedly, one that, as stated in verse 11, ministers to you in spiritual things.

Support of Outreach Ministries

There is a second priority and that would be ministries that are an outreach of the local church–missionaries, tape and printed page ministries, radio and television programs that are specifically supported by your local church. We are talking about priorities here. I am not saying that these are the only things to give to; we are talking about a list of priorities. If you are part of a local church, then you need to support those parts of the local church that even may not minister to you specifically. It may be that many of you never or rarely see our Sunday morning television program, but there are many people in our church who are sick and shut-in who do see that program and who are ministered to by it. There are many people in this town who are ministered to by that program, so as you give money to this church, you are supporting something that reaches out to other people in our church and out of our church who can't come to church. There are some in the church who are not directly ministered to by the tape or printed page ministry, but others are. That is a part of our church, and so another top priority would be to ministries of this church.

Other Legitimate Ministries

A third priority would be those who minister to churches. What do I mean by that? I mean seminaries that who train pastors; I mean Bible colleges that train pastors and other Christian workers. They should have a high priority in your giving because obviously as the current pastors of churches and missionaries get older and go to Heaven, others will be needed to take their places. So if the top priority is the local church, then a very high priority would be those that feed the local church, those that supply workers for the local church.

A fourth priority would be those who have legitimate ministries, even though they may not specifically touch you. There is a place for giving to those ministries, but as I understand the Scriptures, it is far down the list of priorities. Para-church ministries, such as the Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, Walk Through the Bible, Bible Study Fellowship, Bible Memory Association, very fine ministries, legitimate ministries you may not even be involved in, but they are still worthy of your support if they are doctrinally sound, etc.

These are the priorities that we can establish from these principles that Paul sets forth in this chapter: the local church, peripheral ministries of the local church, ministries that directly affect you, ministries in general that are sound, Bible-teaching ministries. You see, the Bible does have a great deal to say about money and the ministry. This chapter is only one of many that deals with that subject, but it is a legitimate interest and concern of Christians. In fact, as I said earlier, the use of our money is a very important part of the lordship of Christ in our lives and in the lordship of Christ in the church. I believe that the main reason that there is so much criticism of ministries and churches in the area of money is because so many are not careful to follow the instructions of the Word of God. If finances are handled properly, God will bless and will keep people from being offended. Satan loves to attack in this area, and one of the easiest ways to get people turned off is to get people's thinking mixed up about the financial aspect of churches.

There is always going to be some misunderstandings, even when handling things properly and Biblically. The important thing for us as a church to do is to be sure that we are handling our finances Biblically and properly and not be ashamed to talk about it and leave the rest in the Lord's hands. If there is misunderstanding, then at least we know it is not our fault because we are doing it to the best of our knowledge the way God has outlined.


As we close, let me just add this one question: Is Christ the Lord of your finances? In this day of easy credit, in this day of ready availability of financing, etc., it is very easy for us to take matters into our own hands; and if we want something, we just get it. In this society, in this generation, we don't really have to trust the Lord that much to get this or that that we want. Don't misunderstand me. I believe–some of you may not agree with this–that sometimes God does allow the use of credit. I am not saying it is a sin if we use credit. I am saying that many times, because credit is so readily available in this age in which we live, it is very easy for us to bypass what God might want us to do and go ahead and get the financing some other way than what God has in mind and take matters into our own hands. You see, our finances are a very tangible way in which we can determine whether God is really the Lord of our life. Is He the Lord of your life in the area of finances? What about in the area of your giving to His work?

As I said earlier, one of the reasons that God has given us a money system is so we can see a tangible demonstration of how much we love Him and how much we trust Him and how much we respond to Him.

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