Poor widow mite parable tithing lesson

The Poor Widow’s Challenge

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Tithing is an important part of a True Believer’s life. Are you following Yahweh’s will by putting Him first

We see a paradox today among those professing the Bible — their most deeply held beliefs are rarely evident in their lives. The nominal worshiper has learned to separate his religious life from his everyday life. Two fundamental reasons explain this:
society has made many individuals fearful of expressing their faith openly, and
most churches no longer teach conviction and how professed faith must be put into daily practice.

In marked contrast, Yahweh is uncompromising about how He expects His true people to worship as well as conduct themselves at all times no matter the circumstance or situation. The Bible is a record of how courageous believers overcame all kinds of difficult situations without yielding their principles.

To know the mind and will of Almighty Yahweh we need only to look at what He commanded His chosen people. Malachi 3:6 and other passages tell us that Yahweh doesn’t change — His expectations are the same for us as for the patriarchs of old.

Worship Is Through ‘Giving,’ Not ‘Getting’

Self-sacrifice is key to what Yahweh expected of all His people both anciently and now. Yet, today’s message is just the opposite: put yourself first.

Aside from their regular offerings for sin, Israel’s worship included returning to Yahweh a tenth part of all their increase. This meant that a tenth of the best of the flock or field was to be given up as proof of one’s faith in Almighty Yahweh as Provider of everything. The principle of giving back through various sacrifices was at the core of the many offerings that Yahweh expected of Israel each day, and it remains a key part of New Testament worship.

Today the tithe is intended to teach Yahweh’s people to revere Him first by returning to Him a small percentage of what most individuals hold dearest —their earnings. Deuteronomy 14:22-23 says, “You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. And you shall eat in the presence of Yahweh your Elohim, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, in order that you may learn to fear Yahweh your Elohim always.”  Fear is the Hebrew ary and means to stand in awe of and revere.

For the majority their pocketbook reflects their heart because it is what they revere most. Financial priorities tend to speak louder than anything else in our self-indulgent culture. Therefore, the question of whether to tithe becomes a key indicator of how much one is devoted to Yahweh. It answers the all-important and fundamental question: does He or do my own wants come first in my life?

The First Commandments is clear — if we don’t put Yahweh above all else then our worship is in vain. He thunders in Exodus 20:3, “Thou shalt have no other Elohim before me.” Yahshua clearly understood this. He said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be also.” Of the 29 parables Yahshua told, over half dealt with a person and his finances. Through these teachings Yahshua pinpointed what people value the highest.

The parable of the rich man comes to mind. This individual described by Yahshua esteemed his riches more than he esteemed His Savior because He was unwilling to give up his wealth to follow Yahshua. By putting riches before Yahweh he proved that his gold is what he really worshiped. His gold was more important to him than his own salvation.

How we give also demonstrates whether we love the brethren, which is another key element of True Worship. The tithe was used to support the priesthood, whose main job was to minister on behalf of the people. When we support the ministry today, which is the vehicle whereby Truth is spread and lives are changed, we are telling the truth seeker and the general body of Believers that we care about them and their salvation.

This booklet will examine the meaning behind the tithe and the purpose for it, as well as what the tithe teaches us about True Worship. We will address common misunderstandings about the tithe, and we will see the great wisdom of Yahweh and His desire for us as manifest in His command to return 10 percent of our increase to Him.

The Tithe Firstfruit Is Holy to Yahweh

We first learn of the tithe in Genesis 14:20 when Abraham gives to the priest Melchizedek “tithes of all” his spoils of war. “Tithe” here comes from the Hebrew maasrah and means “a tenth part.” Later, the patriarch Jacob vows to return a tenth of all he owns to Yahweh, Genesis 28:22.

Why did these righteous men of Yahweh willingly turn over a tenth of their gain or possessions to Him? Because they knew that it was essential to do so. The tithes of Abraham and Jacob demonstrate that these righteous men had a right worship concept firmly grounded in Scripture.

Yahweh’s people know that the tithe is not theirs to keep or use. Yahweh said the tithe belongs to Him and is holy, Leviticus 27: 30. He warns that to keep it is to rob from Him.  “Will a man rob Elohim? Yet you have robbed me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings,” Malachi 3:8.

If we earn $100 then $10 is to be returned to Yahweh. If we keep that $10 we steal from Yahweh. Malachi’s warning is as clear as crystal. Furthermore, Paul cautioned that no thief will inherit the Kingdom, 1Corinthians 6:9-10.

Giving over to Yahweh the firstfruit sacrifice was and still is fundamental to True Worship. The tithe is a firstfruits offering, the first 10 percent of our increase given before any of our own needs are met.

Turning over the firstfruits to Yahweh is fundamental in both Old and New testament Scripture. This ancient principle extends all the way to Yahshua the Messiah Himself, who is a spiritual firstfruit offered by the Father on our behalf because of our sins. “But now Messiah is risen from the dead, and has become the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,” 1Corinthians 15:20. Yahweh so loved us that He gave to us the first of His creation — His very beloved and only Son, John 3:16.

What if He had decided to keep His Firstfruits —His Son — for Himself? In that case we would be lost in the death penalty earned by our sins! Can we give back any less than our own firstfruits to Him in joyful and humble appreciation? Every true child of Yahweh should have a compelling desire to tithe. That desire should be basic to worship.

Proverbs 3:9 directs us to “honor Yahweh with your substance, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.” Firstfruits were offered to Yahweh in acknowledgment that everything ultimately belongs to Him and that all we possess is merely on loan to us. Those who revere Him will be blessed.

Some spend their tithes on the poor. Yahweh commands, however, that His tenth be given to Him and used for the furtherance of His Truth, ministry, and teachings. It is the job of the ministry to determine where the greatest need is, just as it was with the priests at the temple. Malachi 3:10 commands, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says Yahweh Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” This also applies spiritually to the ultimate blessing of everlasting life!

Israel willingly gave of the firstfruits of their crops, their livestock, their orchards and everything else they produced. These firstfruits were the best they had, given from “off the top,” not picked from the leftovers once their personal needs were met. Firstfruits are entirely Yahweh’s and are sacred to Him.

A Compelling Test of Our Devotion

Yahweh commanded in Leviticus 27:30-34: “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is Yahweh’s: it is holy to Yahweh… And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto Yahweh. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”

No matter what is earned, increased, and gained from, the True Worshiper automatically returns a tenth to Yahweh. We are not to take our share first and give back the leftovers. We first return to Him His due — His 10 percent — and we then take care of ourselves. By this act we show Him that He comes before everything else in our lives.

We must understand that paying tithes is not “giving” or offering to Yahweh anything. It is only rendering to Yahweh what already is His. Giving back only part of what belongs to Him is not tithing.

If someone stole ten dollars from you and then gave you a dollar in return, you would consider the dollar a gift but at the same time you would consider the giver a thief. Similarly, if your tithe is ten dollars but you return only a dollar, then you are robbing Yahweh of His tenth. You may be returning some, but you are stealing the rest. A wife who is 85 percent faithful to her husband is not faithful at all. There is no such thing as partial tithing.

Tithing is not a charity exercise. Our Father in heaven doesn’t need a cent from us. He already owns the entire planet. Yahweh created it all; everything we call ours is His to begin with. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is Yahweh’s, and everything in it.”

Tithing is a compelling test of our true desire to serve Him by showing whether He indeed comes first in our lives. Putting Him last monetarily — after we have first taken care of ourselves — reveals a spiritual defect. It tells Him that I am more important than He is! If Idolatry means putting anything else before Him in worship, then non-tithing is idolatrous.

The Feast days teach a fundamental principle here through the harvest firstfruits that Israel was to present to Almighty Yahweh on His special days. One Feast in particular, Pentecost or Feast of Firstfruits, is specifically about this firstfruits offering to Yahweh, where the first gatherings of the wheat harvest were presented to Yahweh and only then could the general harvest begin. In other words, once our obligations to Yahweh are met then we focus on our own needs.

Yahweh judges what we give by what we keep. What we cherish reflects our heart’s true desire. The question of whether I should tithe or not boils down to a simple issue: do I recognize, honor, and serve Him above all else? Even above myself? If not, then I need to re-examine my attitude and get right with Him.

Is the Tithe Only for Farmers?  

Let us re-read Leviticus 27:30, “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is Yahweh’s, it is holy unto Yahweh.” Some believe this means tithing applies only to farmers. This is not only irrational but also clearly inequitable.

Are we to believe that only farmers are to fear and revere Yahweh? That just farmers alone are to put Him first in their lives? That only farmers are to receive instruction and practice on what is holy to Yahweh? That only farmers return what belongs to Yahweh while the rest of us are free to keep what isn’t ours?

In truth, a tenth is required from all the riches and wealth that the earth produces to our benefit, no matter what it is and who earns it. As an agrarian people Israel derived their income from the land so naturally Yahweh would instruct that whatever the land produced they were to tithe of.

Not everyone in Israel farmed, but everyone still tithed. Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils of war, Genesis 14:20, while Jacob gave a tenth of all he possessed, Genesis 28:22. The Levites as well had to give their 10 percent from the tithe given to them, Numbers 18:26-28. The Levites were priests, not farmers. They could not own land or produce anything. Their income was from a second-hand source — the people who came to the temple.

Most giving in the Old Testament was to support the priests and the Levites in their duties, Numbers 18:24. The Priests and Levites were the clergy of the Old Testament. The Priests handled the sacrifices and were responsible for instructing the people in the Word of Yahweh (2Chron. 31:4, Mal. 2:6-9). The Levites led people in worship and assisted in the physical management of the tabernacle and temple (1Chron. 23:28-32).

It All Belongs to Yahweh

The issue is not where the tithe comes from but whether we prove our faithfulness by turning over to Yahweh a tenth of whatever is produced or profited from — no matter how we make our living. Yahweh does not need our adherence to any of His commands. But He does expect our willing obedience as a sign of our true hearts as His committed people. By this He knows who are indeed His.

The word “land” that Israel was to tithe from in Leviticus 27:30 is far broader in scope than just agricultural fields. It is the Hebrew erets and includes “earth, whole earth, earth as opposed to heaven.” From erets we see that everything belongs to Yahweh, even our existence.

Paul said in 1Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (NRS).

We leave everything behind when we enter the grave so that nothing is truly ours. Hearses do not pull U-Haul trailers. The gift of our life itself ultimately returns to Yahweh who gave it, Eccl. 12:7.

If He wants to let us keep 90 percent and requires only 10 percent in return, who are we as His creation to argue? What is the clay that it should challenge the potter?  What does it tell Him about us as His worshipers if we resist or refuse? Yahweh has the perfect right to demand everything from us, yet He asks for only a small percentage and then waits to see whether we revere Him enough to follow through.

When we willingly obey He blesses us with more, Mal. 3:10-12. Tithers soon discover that 90 percent of their income after tithing will stretch further than 100 percent without tithing. Yahweh blesses the tither.

Quibbling over whether or not to tithe exposes a heart problem. By keeping the tithe for ourselves we say to Yahweh that He isn’t even 10 percent important to us. Not only that, but that we think so little of Him that we would steal from Him!

In marked contrast, a True Worshiper puts Yahweh above everything else. The person with Yahweh at heart will not keep what is not his but would joyfully give it ALL up if asked to do so — even if that means his very life. Rightly managing the tithe proves that we have a heart longing to obey.

We see this principle in operation when Yahweh directs Abraham to offer up Isaac, the patriarch’s most valued possession. What Yahweh really wants is to see Abraham’s true heart revealed through his willingness to part with his son if it came down to it, just as Yahweh revealed His love for mankind by giving up His own Son for us. Abraham passes the test and thereby confirms his complete devotion to and love of Yahweh. True Worship always requires a measure of personal sacrifice.

Tithing in the New Testament

Our firstfruits — the tithe — is an essential way of proving our true love for Yahweh. Giving is part of love itself. We give to our spouse and children because we love them. Giving to Yahweh through His ministry here on earth reveals our love for Him and the brotherhood. “Elohim is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them,” Hebrews 6:10, NIV. In contrast, Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 held back for themselves a portion designated for the work of Yahweh and each swiftly suffered the ultimate punishment.

Yahshua in the New Testament put His own authority behind the tithe when He said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices…. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law —justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matt. 23:23, NIV)

Notice that Yahshua did NOT say, “Just worry about justice, mercy and faith and let the herbs take care of themselves,” or something equally dismissive. Rather, He confirmed the necessity of the tithe by directing them not to neglect it, either, as they refocused on what they had been disregarding.

In another parable in Luke 18:12, Yahshua confirmed that proper tithing constitutes a tenth of our gain, regardless of how that gain is achieved. He never told the Pharisee or anyone else that tithing was no longer required.

Some may say they could show their love better by giving whatever they wish instead of a set amount like 10 percent. The Bible shows that the tithe is just a starting point, a minimal amount expected of us. If one desires to give more, one is freely allowed to do so and will be blessed accordingly. Yahshua said in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” He put no limits on giving. Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices Elohim is well pleased,” NIV.

There are actually three kinds of tithe in Scripture: the first is a tenth of all increase by wages or profit, Leviticus 27:30-33; the second tithe is used personally for attending the Feasts, Deuteronomy 14:22-27, and the third comes around every three years and is for the stranger, widows and orphans, Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12. All of these tithes carry with them a promise of blessing if we do them, Deuteronomy 14:29.

Since the Garden of Eden man has been trying to do things his own way — instead of the way Yahweh prescribed — and man’s way nearly always leads to problems. Yahweh showed us through Old Testament Law that tithing was part of what He considers acceptable worship. He never said otherwise in the New Testament.

Some contend that because we are not under the Levitical priesthood that tithing is brought to an end in the New Testament. It is true that we are now under the Melchizedek priesthood with Yahshua as our High Priest in the Melchizedek order, Psalm 110:4. But as shown in the account of Abraham, the Melchizedek priesthood also took tithes. It was to Melchizedek the High Priest that Abraham returned a tenth of the spoils of war, Hebrews 7:1-2.

Yahweh’s desire is that His ministry under today’s Melchizedek priestly system have a means of support to carry out the work of preaching and teaching, in the same way that the Levitical system was supported by tithes. Paul instructed Timothy, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages,’” 1Timothy 5:17-18.

Paul was a tentmaker, Acts 18:3. But he did not rely exclusively on his vocation. The brethren in Philippi sent him aid when he was out ministering (Phil. 4:16), which he accepted. Paul explained that those who minister have a right by authority of Yahweh to expect support: “Yahweh has commanded that those who preach the evangel should receive their living from the evangel” (1Cor. 9:13-14).  The Apostle Paul personally chose not to live solely by proceeds from ministry, even though it was lawful for him to do so.

The Poor Widow Gave Her All, Literally

Paying the tithe is our obligation, and our attitude toward it is as important as the act of doing it. Yahshua looked for examples where righteous people showed their generosity of spirit regardless of their own personal needs or situations.

One of Yahshua’s key examples leaves us all without excuse when it comes to giving.

Yahshua was not impressed with the large amounts that the rich contributed to the temple treasury. And although the wealthy did give, “they all gave out of their wealth” (Mark 12:44). What won Yahshua’s praise and His heart was the sacrificial giving of a poor widow who couldn’t afford to give by anyone’s standard and yet she still gave — of the very money she needed to survive on!

What dedication! What faith! Her true heart was revealed as she put Yahweh before even her own basic need for food and shelter.

As you read this account, notice that Yahshua did not excuse her from giving because she was poor. He recognized that giving is an essential part of worship that teaches us to subjugate self while reaching out in love to others. This is a critical lesson for the True Worshiper: if you don’t sacrifice then how can you truly serve Yahweh?

“And Yahshua sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow has cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living,” Mark 12:41-44.

The act of giving is just as much a part of True Worship as keeping the Sabbath and calling on Yahweh’s Name. The tithe is like loving a wonderful spouse. It is a token reminder of how important he or she is, but at the same time shows that they deserve much more than it would be possible to give.

If you think you can’t afford to tithe, examine your budget and expenses each month to determine what you can do without so you can tithe. The lesson of the widow proves that no one has an excuse.  And if someone claims he cannot tithe but yet owns a cellular phone, cable television, a boat, a sizable savings account, or any of life’s non-essentials, that person needs to re-evaluate priorities and begin putting Yahweh first.

A Modern Parable

The following parable speaks to those who go no further than profess their good intentions: Once, a man said, “If I had some extra money, I’d give it to Yahweh, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.” And the same man said, “If I had some extra time, I’d give it to Yahweh, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs — every single minute.” And the same man said, “If I had a talent I’d give it to Yahweh, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I’ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to.”

Yahweh was touched, and so He gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent. And then Yahweh waited…and waited…and waited. Weary of waiting, He shrugged His shoulders and took all those things back from the man — the money, the time and the glorious talent.

Eventually the man said, “If I only had some of that money back, I’d give it to Yahweh. If I only had some of that time, I’d give it to Yahweh. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give it to Yahweh.” And Yahweh sighed in deep disappointment.

Good intentions are worthless unless we put legs on those intentions, carry out our obligations and fulfill our promises. When we make a commitment to Yahweh, that commitment is binding and unchangeable. Our promise to be faithful to Him in ALL things was permanently and irrevocably set when we repented and were immersed into the Body of Messiah. We vowed to change our lives and obediently do all that He commanded us in His Word. Vows are irreversible, Ecclesiastes 5:4-6.

Finally, the Apostle Paul tells us to remember this,
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for Elohim loves a cheerful giver,” 2 Corinthians 9:6-13. May we live up to our promises and receive the blessings that come with being good stewards of what He gives us.

Qualifications to be a minster

Qualifications for the Ministry

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The following actually happened to men in the ministry:

On a ministerial tour, a minister entered a particular home with the hope of explaining Yahweh’s truth. During the conversation the man of the house asked whether the minister’s wife ever accompanied him on such trips. “Oh, she never comes with me,” the elder answered. “She isn’t in the faith.” The incredulous man responded, “Then I have some advice for you — why don’t you go home and convert your own wife first before you presume to teach me.”Struggling with marital problems, a couple sought counseling from a minister. After a few extraneous responses to their questions, they asked him, “Are YOU married?” “Well, no, I’ve never been married,” he answered. They were skeptical. “If you have never experienced married life firsthand, how can you really help us solve our marital problems?”An elderly man who had been ordained for a couple of years was asked some questions from a somewhat younger elder. The younger minister hoped to gain some special insight from the older man’s wisdom and knowledge of the Word. To his surprise and dismay, it was soon obvious that the older minister’s vague answers were indicative of one who had done little Bible study.A very young minister was sent to counsel a middle-aged man experiencing personal trials. The session failed, mostly because the older man was put off by the fact that someone less than half his age was trying to give him advice about life.

Each of these events is real. And they all emphasize an important fact when it comes to the office of ministry: It is crucial that those who are ordained meet certain Biblical standards and qualifications. Before they receive ordination, they must have first proved themselves, as Paul clearly explains in 1Timothy 3:10. If an elder who does not qualify Biblically is placed in authority before an Assembly, that ministry will inevitably suffer. Yahweh’s blessing will be lacking, and those responsible for ordaining him will suffer the consequences for their negligence.

This is a serious problem in some Assemblies today and the consequences have proved devastating.

Men are being ordained who fail in one or several key qualifications laid down in the Word. It is nothing less than a sin to lay hands on a man who does not have the Scriptural credentials, because to do so violates plain commands of the Bible. It also reveals a disturbing lack of a minister’s responsibility to his Assembly to ordain men who do not measure up.

When Yahweh sets the qualifications for eldership in two New Testament chapters – 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1

–  the criteria He emphasizes foremost are not about the man’s ability to preach or teach, but about his character. Behind everything a man says is the testimony of his own life. This is vital, because above all else the office of minister is a spiritual trust. He is responsible for the spiritual guidance of those he serves. If he isn’t living what he preaches and teaches, he has lost his ability to convince. He is his own opposition.

We are told to examine the man’s marriage and family life. Nothing tells us more about a man than his relationship with those closest to him. Is he a good husband and father who receives praise from all? Does even the world recognize him as an honorable individual?

Are his wife and children in the faith? Has he proven himself by converting those closest to him? Paul is quite specific on this point. The candidate for eldership must have already led his family to the truth he holds dear, which is the same thing he will be doing in the ministry.

This qualification speaks volumes about the man and his ability and desire to admonish, guide, and influence others for Yahweh. As Paul admonishes, “For if a man knows not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Assembly of Yahweh?” 1Timothy 3:5.

Yahweh’s Standards Are Non-Negotiable

In essence, Paul says that the man considered for leadership in the Assembly has already demonstrated his spiritual qualifications in the most intimate place — his own family. Often Paul refers to saints in his life as his children.  John calls them his “children in the faith.”  Peter refers to believers as “children.”  Why?  Because spiritual leadership is like parenting, where you interact with others and set a living example for them, besides teaching and instructing them.

The standards Yahweh establishes for the office of ministry are not debatable. Simply put, certain men are fit for leadership while others are not. ALL the qualifications set forth in the Bible must be met before one is considered for such an important and influential office.

Any minister who ordains men for their tithing record, friendship or their ability to massage his ego is falsifying the Word and doing irreparable damage to those brethren he has vowed to serve scripturally in all things. Such dereliction of duty and lack of concern for the Body of Messiah are inexcusable.

Yahweh went to great pains to ensure that the right men were chosen for His service. Consider His selection of Noah, Abraham, Moses, the prophets, David, and the Apostles. Each was specifically chosen out of the world to serve Him, some with much effort. Are we to do less today? Mistakes made in choosing such men will assuredly return one day to plague and even destroy a work.

A true minister is a man who teaches, counsels, guides, manages, and produces for the sake of Yahweh’s truth. Above all, a minister is a leader. A leader is one whose life is so exemplary that others want to copy it. At its essence, leadership means being an example. Therefore, the very character of a man forms the basis for his ministry. If he fails to be a model of what he speaks and teaches, he will not be believed. Such a man is a hypocrite and a mockery to Yahweh’s Word.

Paul constantly had to remind himself not to act with duplicity. He wrote in 1Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

The strength of what a man says rests in his own virtuous life. All admonishment he gives to others ultimately is judged by whether he lives what he says. Paul explains that a minister like himself must be a good example. “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Phil. 3:17, NIV).

Elders don’t just teach the word, they live it. It is similar to the parent-child relationship, and that is one reason Paul emphasizes that a man’s family life be right. He will be doing much the same for the Assembly as he does for his family.

People need a proper standard to follow, because in essence, everyone should strive to attain the ideal expected of elders and deacons. We respect and emulate those who have the highest of character. Where else should we expect to find such examples if not in the ministry? In 2Thessalonians 3:9 Paul writes that he and his evangelists “make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.” Hebrews 13:7 issues this admonishment: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of Elohim to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

An elder’s life is like a giant video screen on display behind his pulpit, revealing the truth about him for all to see every time he speaks. If he doesn’t measure up to his own teachings, it will quickly be evident.

In no profession is it more crucial to embody the highest standards in all aspects of life than for a man who represents the very teachings of the King of the universe! An elder is a servant and the finest example of the kind of life Yahweh expects in all His people. A unique life — proclaiming truth and living it with integrity — is going to have a tremendous impact on others.

What is astounding is how many ministers themselves don’t seem to comprehend this basic fact. They are too wrapped up in achieving personal goals in a position they see not as a righteous witness in humble service and sacrifice, but as a position for power and personal glory.

In 1Corinthians 10:31, Paul writes, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of Elohim.  Don’t give an offense to a Jew or to a Greek or to the Assembly.”  He says, “Just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”

First and Foremost Is Character

Let us examine Titus 1, where we find the specific standards that a man must meet in order to qualify for ordination: “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of Elohim; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”

No honest minister can ever read these qualifications without reevaluating himself each time he reviews them.

The qualifications for eldership, from verses 6-9, can be divided into four categories.  The first is sexual purity, then family leadership; the third is general character, and the last is ability to teach. A candidate for ordination must qualify in all four areas. When he does, he will be above reproach. If he fails to measure up to any one of these, he must not be ordained.

“But that isn’t fair,” some will argue. “The man is a great speaker, we can overlook some of his shortcomings.” Not Scripturally, you can’t. Some will have trouble accepting Paul’s specific requirements for ministers, especially those who desire to be ordained but who fall short somewhere. Remember, Yahweh Himself set up those standards to be followed.

Those men who would argue and contest the standards because they would be permanently disqualified need to consider that half the population is prohibited from the ministry simply by their gender. Women are unable to serve as elders (1Cor. 14:34-35). Right-hearted women accept the fact that Yahweh made them females and go on living their lives to please Him, knowing they can never be ordained. Similarly, men who are not qualified should simply accept that fact. There are other important and necessary ways each can serve the Body.

More Specific Requirements in 1Timothy 3

As a senior minister once wrote, “As goes the eldership, so goes the Assembly.” Moral and spiritual looseness  by elders breeds the same in the people. No wonder that this issue was of the utmost concern to the Apostle Paul, and others. Paul is the senior elder speaking to the young evangelist Timothy in 1Timothy 3.

Paul’s obligation was to ordain men in various cities who would carry on the work that he had started. He realized that the congregation may not always like the selections. To arm the leadership in their choices, Yahweh inspired Paul to establish very specific qualifications they were to follow.

The highest of standards along with the right motivation will give the people the right example they desperately need. All of this is to say that no one but those of impeccable integrity and the right qualifications must be considered for ordination. Therefore, Paul warns in 1Timothy 3:2-11 not to lay hands on any man if he:

  • is not blameless in his life
  • has more than one wife (was married before)
  • lacks self control
  • is not respectable
  • is not hospitable
  • does not know his Bible well and cannot teach it in an inspired way
  • is a drunkard
  • is violent
  • is argumentative
  • loves money
  • lacks control of and honor from his own family.
  • is a recent convert
  • has a bad reputation in the community
  • lacks a respectable, trustworthy wife who does not gossip.

These qualifications reveal and reflect the actual character of a man.

Is it wrong to expect more from elders and deacons? Of course not. That is exactly what we are to do. The 12 Apostles told the early Assembly, “Look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom,” Acts 6:3. These were exceptional men. Men of proven dedication and ability who had impeccable reputations. They were to serve as deacons, showing us that even the lower levels of office demand the same high qualities in a man, 1Timothy 3:8-13.

Rather than defending moral failure, twisting the Bible to accommodate unqualified men, and passing the buck for mistakes in ordinations, Yahweh’s people must demand high standards in their elders and deacons from the start. Yahweh Himself does!

The man with a wife who has not submitted to baptism in Yahshua’s Name is also unqualified for the position of elder or deacon. Paul’s mandate is clear that the wife must be dedicated  in every way, 1Peter 3:1, 5. “Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things,” 1Timothy 3:11. She cannot be faithful in all things if she is rebellious when it comes to the Faith. “Faithful” is from the Greek pistos and is translated “believer,” “he that believes,” “sure” and “true.”

A man whose wife and family are not with him in the Assembly is not the proper example to the membership. His ability to convince and convict is seriously lacking, notably through his lack of initiative with his own family.

On the other hand, if he has children who believe and are not rebellious, they will never bring scandal upon his good name and leadership. Now we can see more clearly some of the reasons behind these qualifications.

Suppose you as a father have older children who have not followed Yahweh or been dedicated to the faith, despite all your efforts. You are not responsible for their rebellion if you have done all you can as a believing parent. But neither would you qualify for ordination, according to clear, Scriptural requirements.

Paul’s guidelines about a wife presuppose that a minister is to be married, as Paul previously was. Being a   member of the Sanhedrin meant Paul had a wife at the time he served in that council. We specifically read that Peter had a wife, Matthew 8:14, Luke 4:38.  Also note what Paul wrote about the rights of an Apostle in 1Corinthians 9:5: “Don’t we have the right to take abelieving wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the [Master’s] brothers and Cephas [Peter]?” [NIV]

‘But…Can’t a Person Change?’

A common argument is that expecting a man to meet all of these qualifications is holding him to an impossible standard. Listen, if the standard were impossible to meet, then Paul deceived us and no one can ever be qualified.

“But what about conversion?” some may ask. “Doesn’t baptism wash away all sins?”

If this were an issue purely about sin, then there would be no point in setting down the requirements in the first place. A man’s conversion and washing away of his sins would make him instantly qualified no matter what his prior sins were. Obviously sin is not the only issue here. In fact, of the 14 prerequisites we find in 1Timothy 3, at least nine are unrelated to sin or are only indirectly associated.


  • A man either has had two wives (through remarriage) or he has not. Baptism cannot wash away that fact. (“one wife” does not mean one at a time. See our Web study: Online Studies/Marriage Studies: “Man of One Wife”)
  • A man’s wife is either converted at the point of his ordination or she is not. Again, his baptism does not affect that, either.
  • His being a recent convert does not change with his baptism. In fact, the lateness of his immersion is what makes him a recent convert.
  • His conversion does not immediately affect his Bible knowledge.

All of these are simple facts in a man’s life that cannot be changed by repentance and immersion.

The criteria listed in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are prior qualifications. He is already supposed to be blameless, husband of one wife (one-woman man; married only once — Moffatt, Jerusalem, NRSV), with faithful children, of good character and able to convince the contradictors by his good Bible knowledge.

This is not a position for novices or one that a man eventually grows into. He is already there. His reputation precedes him and so does his knowledge of the Word. This is because he is to be a special example to everyone from the very start of his ministry.

A teacher is not there to learn himself. He is there to teach, and show by example.

Don’t Accept Compromise

The minister is not like the head of a company.  He is like a father in a family. He is loving, compassionate, and patient. He has a concern for others far exceeding his care for himself, no matter how great the sacrifice. At the same time he is persuasive, courageous and able to motivate. It goes without saying that he exemplifies the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-25.

His attributes are also an example for children.

To persist in attending an Assembly where the elder is a hypocrite is unacceptable with Yahweh. Some parents will close their eyes to a minister who is morally tainted and continue under his leadership.

A child must believe that his spiritual leaders, for all their human failings, are basically honest and obedient to Yahweh’s laws. Children, and especially teens, will spot the hypocrite a mile away and know that phonies do not belong behind a pulpit.  Such a man has no business counseling people about their problems while reveling in the same problems himself.

Adult example is critical to children. If parents continue to bring a child under the teaching of a man he distrusts, the child may conclude that his own parents are hypocrites as well. As a result, he may rebel or also become hypocritical, thinking that if it doesn’t matter to the minister or to my parents, it shouldn’t matter to me.

Showing others the power that repentance and conversion can have in a transformed life is one of the most powerful tools that Yahweh has in bringing people to the truth. A minister must be just that.

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