by Steven Chan
This article will address the subject of the use of the church treasury monies.
- The instruction of the apostle Paul with regards the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem provides appropriate guidance for the Churches:-
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” (I Corinthians 16:1-2 NKJV)
It should be noted that similar instruction on the collection was given to the Churches at Galatia, thereby implying that this was the apostolic pattern for the collection for the work of the church. The collections are to be taken up on every first day of the week. The offering or contribution was to be relative to what God had prospered him.
- Additional guidance on the contribution by the church members at Corinth is found in the following passage:
“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Corinthians 9:6-7 NKJV).
All contributions given by members of the body of Christ, are to be done bountifully, purposefully, willingly, and cheerfully. In fact, the apostle Paul praised the brethren in Macedonia for their generosity in giving beyond their ability: “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing.” (II Corinthians 8:3 NKJV)
- When the early Christians sold their possessions and gave the proceeds to the church, they gave them to the apostles who then distributed to those in need:
“Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” (Acts 4:34-35 NKJV)
It would appear that the apostles were entrusted with the responsibility to distribute to those in need – the actual amount to be given to each one is not specified – presumably in accordance with what funds were available and relative to each one’s needs. It can be reasonably expected that inevitably there will be those who may be feel that they may not have been given their due portion, or that the distribution may have overlooked some needy ones. So we read of the situation in Acts 6:1: “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”
The response of the apostles to the situation was as follows:-
“Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”(Acts 6:2-4 NKJV)
So, seven men of “good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” were chosen by the brethren and entrusted with the responsibility of distributing treasury funds to those in need. Since arrangement had been made to entrust such responsibility to such godly, reputable and wise brethren, there ought not to be further complaints or disputations by other members as to how such funds were to be distributed.
- The oversight of the affairs of the local church has been entrusted to the elders of the church.
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28 NKJV)
So, other churches sent funds to the elders of the church at Jerusalem:
“Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”(Acts 11:29-30)
The elders are required to be men who meet certain requirements including the following:- “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);”(I Timothy 3:4-5 NKJV)
So it is implied that elders have demonstrated the wisdom of “ruling well their own household” so that they can be entrusted to oversee the affairs of the church.
- The elders are expected to rule well:
“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine.” (I Timothy 5:17 NKJV)
It should be noted that the qualifier of the elders “especially labouring in the word and doctrine” implies that the elders also labour or rule in other matters of the church (non-word and non-doctrine).
- It is good to note that the immediate context of I Tim 5 discusses the use of church funds to help those in need :
“If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.” (I Timothy 5:16 NKJV)
Here we have the guidance that the church should not be burdened to support those who have their family members to support them so that funds may be available to help those who do not have anyone to help them. The point to note is not whether the church had ample funds and therefore should just give the funds to whoever has needs. Paul emphasised that each Christian is to learn to show personal piety at home to their parents and grandparents:
“But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” (I Timothy 5:4 NKJV)
So, in such instances the question is not whether the church had ample funds to help those in need but whether individual Christians have learned to discharge their personal responsibility of honouring their parents by helping or providing for their parents or grandparents by “repaying” them for all that they have done in raising them up? In fact the bible warns Christians to not encourage those who are not working by sharing food with them: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labour and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.” (II Thessalonians 3:7-12 NKJV)
- The bible reveals that the elders have been given the responsibility of overseeing the affairs of the church both in “word and doctrine” as well as in areas of benevolent work and support for brethren in other places and for preachers in Mission fields – for example: “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:14-18 NKJV)
The elders using the wisdom that they are blessed with, ought to endeavour to discharge their responsibilities to the best of their abilities as they will be required to give an account to the chief shepherd:
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17 NKJV)
So, younger members are to learn to be submissive to the elders: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5 NKJV)
Brethren are not to be too quick to make allegations or make adverse aspersions against elders without careful thought or substantiated evidence as per I Timothy 5:19: “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.”
This is how God has organized the church and how the affairs of the church are to be managed. So, the issue of any disputations over the use of funds ought not to arise unless there are abuse of funds for purposes other than what the church is authorised to do.
- The elders of the church in Klang have chosen to involve the deacons and interested members in the decision making so that we can have “consensual” decisions as far as possible – but when there are split decisions among the brethren, then it’s only sensible that the elders make their decisions so as to overcome the impasse to facilitate the smooth operations of the congregation.
- Brethren who feel that they no longer have confidence in the ability of the elders to “rule well” and are therefore not able to submit themselves to the elders (for example by withholding their contributions to the church whether in the form of attendance, participation of the activities of the church or financial contribution, preferring to work with others and not with the local congregation etc.) ought to examine their own conscience whether they are at risk of sinning by being not submissive to the local elders :
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”(Heb 13:17)
It would be advisable for elders to explain to the congregation their decisions so that brethren can understand the basis for their decisions – and therefore avoid any misunderstanding or misgivings about the decisions by the elders. Of course not everyone will agree with all the decisions of the elders just like any other organisation. But they should be humble to accept some decisions that they may not personally agree with. As an elder there have been instances when I have an opinion that differed from the decisions made at the monthly business meetings but I chose not to impose my own opinion in the matter if it is not one that is significant enough to affect the good name or work of the church in Klang. There is room for differences in the matter of expediencies. That’s how we can maintain love and unity in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).
- On the matter of saving of treasury funds, it should be noted that funds are saved for future needs of the church or for helping others that may arise.
We learn that God revealed to Joseph the need for the Pharaoh of Egypt to save 20% annually of all their grains produced during the seven years of plenty so that they will have grains to feed the people during the seven years of famine. The bible urged us to be wise as the ants: “There are four things which are little on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise: The ants are a people not strong, Yet they prepare their food in the summer;” (Proverbs 30:24-25 NKJV)
The early brethren in Klang set aside funds from their pocket monies so that they could save funds the construction of the church buildings that we are now blessed to have. If we don’t save then where will we get the funds to buy the land and construct the buildings? Not everyone have lots of funds in reserve to make the contribution when the large amount of funds is needed.
- How do elders make their decisions about how treasury funds of the local congregation are to be used and what amounts to be expended for each requirement?
It is always with regards to what seems appropriate in each situation as assessed by the elders together with the brethren. Matters taken into account when considering requests for financial assistance, include the following:-
- How much funds do we have available which have not been earmarked for specific projects such as evangelism campaigns, support of preachers, ongoing operating expenses of the local congregations, reserves for specific projects. It is for this purpose that the church has an annual budget to ensure responsible expenditures. Some are mistaken in their belief that walking by faith implies just “going ahead” without any need for proper assessment of sufficient resources to complete a project. Listen to our Lord: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enoughto finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see itbegin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” (Luke 14:28-30).
- How deserving is the request for funds? Would it help further the cause of Christ? Would it encourage other congregations in the brotherhood to also help one another in doing God’s work?
It is good to remember that others helped us in the purchase and construction of the Klang meeting place – many of whom we do not even know as they were in the USA. The golden rule is helpful here: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets”. (Matt 7:12) Treat others as you would want them to treat you.
- We will not assist any groups whom we deem as not sharing the same faith as us (2 John 9-11) – for example, we will definitely not support any work being propagated by those who advocate the AD 70 doctrine (i.e. they teach that the second coming of Jesus occurred in AD70; Jesus will not come again, there will be no future resurrection and this world will not end). Their hope differs from our hope in the resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the apostle Paul: “Men andbrethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” (Acts 23:6). We look forward “for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive andremain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess 4:13-18).
- Matters pertaining to how the church treasury funds are to be used are governed by the authorized work of the church (i.e. evangelism, edification and benevolence) as exemplified by the early Christians. It would not be appropriate for the church to use its funds to buy/invest in commercial businesses or enterprises, or for purely social and recreational activities.
However, in matters for which it is lawful or permissible for the church to use its funds, the specific activities and the amounts to be spent for each of these activities, are in the realm of expediencies (1 Cor 10:23).
It is advisable for us not to be critical of the decisions on the usage of funds that had been made earlier by those present at that point in time as those decisions were made under the circumstances prevailing at that time. Circumstances may change and future decisions may not go the same way. In matters of expediencies, we are not necessarily bound by precedents or the decisions made earlier.