Where must we begin, if we want smaller government? With the tithe of Christians being given to the church. Ministers cannot be expected to do their job, unless they’re paid to do so, from the tithe.
Paul explained this comprehensively:
Who at any times serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the law also say these things? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the ploughman ought to plough in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? (I Cor.9:7-11).
Ministers of the gospel ought to get out of bed in the morning, knowing they will be paid for their labours. If there are more than 10 wage earners in the church, that minister should be expecting a full recompense for his work. If the tithing members extends beyond this, he can be paid more, and there should also be monies set aside for needy people: the poor, widows, orphans and strangers. But oxen can’t plough forever without eating, and ministers are no different.
Again, in the context of the payment of elders, Paul returns to the image of the ox. Quoting from Deuteronomy 25:4, and indirectly from Deuteronomy 24:15 he says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “the labourer is worthy of his reward” (I Tim.6:17-18).
The prophet Malachi made this plain. He said,
Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test 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 a blessing until it overflows’ (Mal.3:8-10).
What would be the consequence of the whole tithe being paid? God said there would be “…food in My house.” There would be preachers distributing the Word of God, and there would be food for the needy.
What does this inevitably lead to? The focus of power in society slowly shifts away from a callous, cumbersome, impersonal, bureaucratic, big taxing, big spending government, to the smaller, decentralised, effective, personal, flexible local institutions: the family and the church. Millions of little units shouldering the load of practical care, as opposed to one big one.
And it leads to much, much more. It means that governments steadily lose the capacity to manipulate the community through money and taxes. It means that the control of government gets progressively lessoned, but the voice of the practical obedient church doing its job becomes progressively more known, and respected.
How long would this take?
Probably generations. There has to be the steady growth of responsibility and understanding, over time. One generation can build upon the success of the one that preceded them, learning from the errors; from what worked, and what didn’t. And we build, line upon line.
Indirectly, scripture makes reference to this. It says,
Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; she has prepared her food, she has also set her table; she has sent out her maidens, she calls from the tops of the heights of the city: “Whoever is naïve, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks understanding she says, “Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding” (Prov.9:1-6).
It is not without significance that the speaker here is of the feminine gender, for the church in scripture is typified as a woman. Furthermore, she is calling from the heights of “a city.” What city? Jerusalem.
Yes, the Old Testament Jerusalem was (and is) a place in Israel, but now the scripture says that “…you have come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” (Heb.12:22).
And so what we are referring to is massive change in the community. In fact, it’s so massive, it is staggering to think of how things could be. Overrall tax rates for everyone dropping below 10%, with godly families and churches taking up the load of the needy.
The Bible says that “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox” (Prov.14:4). When God’s people take the ministers of the gospel seriously and pay them appropriately, they can not only ask the Lord for faithful leaders and good preaching. They can ask that there be “food in My house,” as God’s people are fed by their preachers, and there is provision in the church for the truly poor and needy.
Isn’t that the kind of obedient, practical and influential church, you’d want to be a part of?