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Is the tithe a 'stipend'?

Submitted: 3/11/2007
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Question: Do you agree with the following explanation offered by a pastor? 'I often use the term 'stipend' rather than 'salary', because 'stipend' is intended to cover more taxable topics than 'salary'. My position is that, absolutely, these special Men of God should be honored financially for their service to the Lord . . . [to] be sure that the Clergy ends up with 'take home' pay that totals as much, or more, as the present 'Stipends plus Allowances' method [and to] eliminate the need for both the Church and the Clergy to excessively report [to the IRS] expense reimbursements.'

Answer: We agree that those who excel in leaderhip and who labor diligently in teaching the Word should be compensated by the assembly whenever possible (ref. 1 Timothy 5:17-18). As to what term is used for this compensation, we fail to see the relevance. We do agree that compensation packages should be structured so as to minimize the amount of taxable income. This benefits both the man and the assembly. Of course, we do not condone doing anything outside the law. But if the IRS allows certain benefits (such as contributions to churches being tax deductible or designated housing allowances), then we believe it is good stewardship to take advantage of these benefits. Why give money to the government that they are not requiring you to give them? Most of it gets wasted or misused anyway (sorry, our politics are showing). Our attitude is this: Pay every penny in taxes that is required but don't pay one penny more. In our judgment it is better spent benefiting our families or the work of God.