By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Do the Scriptures authorize using money out of the local church treasury to give members in order for them to pay their bills, or to loan them money for that purpose. I understand that money is not to be used from the church treasury for unauthorized works, as “fellowship” kitchens and benevolent institutions, but what about material aid to saints who are not needy or destitute; they just need to have their bills paid?
Reply: The Scriptures plainly declare what work the local church is to perform. It is threefold: (1) preaching the gospel (2 Cor. 11:8; 1 Tim. 3:14,15), (2) edifying the saints (Eph. 4:11-16) and (3) helping qualified needy saints (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 9:1). Other passages could be cited as to this threefold work. The Scriptures only authorize the local church to spend money out of its treasury to do the work that God has assigned it to do.
The treasury of the local church is often abused. Money is taken from it to be used for things which are not the work of the church. This is unscriptural. It is not scriptural to use money out of the treasury of the local church to provide “fellowship” halls, recreational facilities and to support human institutions because these things are not the work of the church. It is the work of the church to provide for its needy saints for whom it is responsible, but not to pay the utility bills and house rent for members who are not needy or destitute. The church may provide food, clothing and shelter for needy or destitute saints, but to loan money to members and pay their personal obligations is another matter. Banks are in the business of loaning money. The church is not in the banking business. When brethren object to using money out of the treasury to loan money to members so they can pay their taxes, rent or make house payments they are not manifesting a lack of love and concern. It is simply a matter of respecting the authority of the Scriptures. Furthermore, if one member expects the church to pay his personal obligations, why cannot all the members expect the same? What a precedent this would set! Even from a mere business point of view, the treasury would soon be depleted and the congregation would be unable to do the work that God has given it to do.
The unscriptural use of money contributed to the Lord’s work, leads to other problems. Not only will members take advantage of the church, but non-members will soon learn that a church is loaning money to its members and paying their bills, house payments and rent. The door is wide open for these non-members to take advantage of an opportunity, and also to pass the word to others that, “If you want a loan, taxes and bills paid, just become a member of the church of Christ!” This is a consequence of the improper use of the money that is contributed by Christians to do the Lord’s work. Simply because we feel sorry for someone’s unfortunate circumstances, in the area under consideration, does not give us the right to violate the plain teaching of the Scriptures. Brethren (elders, where they exist) must decide upon each individual case of benevolence, and what provisions are to be made for needy or destitute saints. But abuse is what we are considering, using money out of the treasury to pay taxes, rent, house payments and utilities for members who get themselves into a bind but who are not really destitute or needy. Any of us can get into such situations. Sometimes, however, a husband may approach the church for financial assistance (a loan for a stipulated amount of money), and yet he and his wife both work and own their own home. They are not needy or destitute in the true sense (we all may need something). Rather than imposing upon the church, they should make arrangements with family members, friends, the bank or individual members of the church. Individual brethren may, out of their own pockets, come to the aid of other members whom they deem worthy; but to use the money out of the treasury of the church to pay the personal obligations of brethren is to misuse it. Spending money out of the treasury of the church is a great responsibility. We should use extreme caution to see that it is spent wisely and according to the Scriptures.
Again, the obligations of the church and those of the individual should be kept distinct.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 14, p. 421
July 21, 1988