The Lord's Money and Incidentals
James M. Smelser
Bald Knob, Arkansas
A short time ago I had the privilege of reading an article by A. M. Plyler, entitled "Law, Details, And Incidentals." In this article, it was pointed out regarding God's law that we are not to alter or turn away from it. Details are the small parts of God's law which we have no right to omit or alter. For example, baptism for remission of sins is a law of God. It is a burial of a penitent believer in much water performed in the name of Jesus, putting one into the Lord's kingdom. These are the details of God's law which also cannot be tampered with.
Incidentals are not a part of God's law and are things that may or may not occur in connection with carrying out God's law. The incidentals regarding the law of baptism and its details are whether or not this law and its details are carried out in a pond, creek, river, lake, baptistery, etc. It is God's law that we assemble, and the details of the conduct and purpose of that assembly are spelled out. It is incidental where we meet to fulfill the law of God and its details regarding assembly.
It is not my purpose to review this article, for it was very good and served its purpose well. But I would like to develop the thought of "Incidentals" further for the purpose of putting us in remembrance to ever strive after things eternal.
We have a charge committed to us by our Savior to proclaim his gospel to the whole world. This can be carried out verbally by us in our own communities. It can be fulfilled in bulletins, papers, tracts, radio, television, etc. We can send gospel preachers overseas to proclaim God's message to -those sorely needing it, not having the same opportunities as us. Or we can support gospel preachers who are native to these foreign lands while they teach God's word to their own people. All these things can be done to accomplish the fulfillment of God's law. But it all takes money; except for the verbal teaching we do ourselves.
But where is the Lord's money going? Where is the greater part of the weekly collection being spent? Is it being spent "to carry out the Lord's work in this community," which is God's law with its details? Or is the greater part of the Lord's money being spent on incidentals? A number of years ago, one of the arguments that most impressed me against the Herald of Truth, was its waste of money. Over 56 cents of every dollar was used to oil the machinery. Less than 44 cents of every dollar was actually used to preach the gospel.
Let me illustrate what I mean. Look at your congregation's expenditures for the past year, and thus far this year. How much was spent on carrying out God's law with its details, and how much was spent for incidentals such as carpeting, padded pews, central air-conditioning, new song books, new drapes, maintaining our physical plant, etc.? Congregations many times, seem to be interested in building a cathedral or shrine in which to assemble, spending $200,000 for a building with all its "creature comforts." We will spend several thousand dollars just for a steeple on our elegant buildings. -1 know of one congregation that takes a weekly collection "to carry on the Lord's work" in their community, but has over $10,000 of the Lord's money in a "building fund" doing nothing for the Lord but drawing 5 per cent interest.
On every hand we find need and opportunity to fulfill God's law and its details, but we are overly occupied with our incidentals. Many Filipino preachers have to work at secular jobs to support themselves while they preach the gospel. Some may reply, while patting their velvet padded pews, "Paul worked while he preached. Besides, their standard of living is low, and they're used to hard work."
Brother Connie Adams, upon his return from the Philippines, pointed out that the most experienced Filipino preachers have very inadequate libraries, many of them not even having a concordance. Others may reply, "What can we do about it, we're working on a tight budget," while their church parking lot is being paved and the lawn seeded.
I was told of one Filipino preacher who had to feed his family rice, three times a day for over three weeks, because he had no money with which to purchase an adequate diet for them. Another may reply, "That's just an occupational hazard," as he watches the church building being remodeled.
Many churches in Nigeria and the Philippines are in dire need of Bibles. Gospel preachers wanting to go overseas to preach, many times, have difficulty raising support. Many, many preachers in the United States are making great sacrifices just to be ministers of God's word for congregations who either cannot or will not pay them adequate salaries.
I am beside myself with shame and grief. Many churches are waking up to their real responsibilities and opportunities, and God will not forget their labor of love. But far too many churches are still too concerned with their own ceature comforts and the impression their building makes in the community.
We are stewards of God's possessions. "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the unfaithful. And that servant, who knew his lord's will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another's who will give you that which is your own?" Brethren, are we using the Lord's money wisely in fulfilling God's law and its details, or are we overly concerned with our incidentals?
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 9, pp. 10-11