Rad Zdero gave a great answer to this in one of his comments on a previous post. He said
"The only authoritative voice is the New Testament teaching about finances. To what did the early church give? There were three groups that funds were given to:
- First, the needy in the church (Acts 2:44-45), such as helping believers in crisis (Acts 11:28-30), feeding hungry believers (Acts 8:1-3), caring for widows who are believers (1 Tim 5:8-9), and so on.
- Second, the needy in general, who are not necessarily believers (Luke 10:30-37; James 1:27).
- Third, material support for traveling apostolic leaders, such as Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc (Matt 27:55-56; Luke 10:7; John 13:29; 1 Cor 9:1-14; Philip 4:15-16; 3 John 1:3-8).
I believe we need to deliberately recapture this kind of New Testament practice for today’s simple/house churches, otherwise people will vacillate between the extremes of giving based on their own personal preferences or not giving at all as a reaction to their institutional church past."
I agree with Rad that these are the Scriptural precedents. But that leaves a number of questions concerning Scriptural giving.
- Is it ever scriptural to give towards a "sacred" building?
- What about supporting leaders who are not in traveling ministry?
- Should we apply criteria to the "poor" as in 1 Timothy 5:9 (where widows were only to be supported if they were over 60, had been faithful to their husbands and were well known for good deeds). What about the person asking for money on the street corner?
- What does it mean when it says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." (1 Timothy 5:17)?
What other questions do you have?