By Hoyt Houchen
Question: Is it Scriptural for a local church of Christ to have a large sum of money in the treasury (say $100, 000 or more), deposited in a bank or land savings and loan association and earning interest, instead of helping those many preachers who requested support that they may be able to spread God’s Word? I may add that the money was and is not needed by the church at the present or future times.
Reply: God is not pleased with a situation such as the one described in the question. It is unscriptural. The New Testament teaches that Christians are to give their money upon the first day of the week, as they have prospered, to be used in the Lord’s work (I Cor. 16:1,2). In the “ample of the Corinthians, the money placed in store was to meet a special need – that of the poor saints in Jerusalem. This was a treasury (from Greek word thesaurizo which means “in store,” W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, Vol. 4, p. 77). It is not wrong for the church to have a treasury, for the Scriptures authorize it. Nor is it wrong for a local church to have a large sum of money in the treasury (a bank where the money is in safe keeping) provided it is there for a present or future specific need. But for brethren who are supposed to love the Lord and be dedicated to His Cause to allow a huge sum of money to lie dormant, only to earn interest and not be used in the Lord’s work, is inexcusable.
The Bible teaches that Christians are to engage in honorable occupations or professions that they may support the work of the church, support their families and meet other necessities of life (see Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 5:8 etc.) They are to give from the heart liberally and cheerfully upon the first day of the week, that the work of the local church can be done (2 Cor. 9:6,7). When they contribute their hard earned money, they have every right to expect that it be used for the work of the Lord by those who are entrusted with it.
Scores of faithful and worthy gospel preachers are in need of financial support. There is hardly a week that goes by that we do not receive an appeal for help from such preachers. It is shameful that some of these men must work with their hands – “make tents” for a living or to supplement their income because of a lack of financial assistance from brethren. Brethren who are responsible for such an existing situation as referred to by our querist, will have to answer to God at the judgment. They are not properly discharging their obligations as faithful stewards. They fail to consider, that the money contributed upon the first day of the week by Christians, is not their money to sit upon, but it is the Lord’s money to be used. Preachers, like others, can work at other jobs for their support; but there is no reason why they must do so. when there are churches financially able to support them.
Paul labored with his hands while at Corinth, not taking financial support from those brethren, but not because he did not have the right for such support; for in this case he waived this right so that he would not be suspected of seeking gain (1 Cor. 9:12). Paul upheld the right of those who labor in the gospel to be remunerated for their work and gave examples in 1 Corinthians 9: the soldier who receives pay for his services, he who plants a vineyard and eats the fruit from it and the one who feeds the flock and eats the milk from it (v. 7). He reminded them of what is said in the law of Moses: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn” (v. 9). He asked, “If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your carnal things?” (v. 11). Then he sums up this teaching in verse 14: “Even so did the Lord ordain that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel.” Brethren who have any doubts about gospel preachers being supported by brethren would do well to read and ponder upon 1 Corinthians 9:1-8. Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth, “I robbed other churches, taking wages from them” (2 Cor. 11:8). He later wrote to Timothy: “The laborer is worthy of his hire” (1 Tim. 5:18). The church at Philippi had fellowship with Paul in the preaching of the gospel (Phil. 4:15,16).
Brethren who allow large amounts of the Lord’s money to accumulate and sit idle with no present or future plans, and with the many gospel preachers who need to be supported, should be ashamed. We are afraid that some brethren will lose their souls for such action and neglect. The main business of the church is to preach the gospel, not to accumulate huge bank accounts. I feel keenly about this matter and have great concern. If any who read this column are guilty of such selfishness and indifference, may they repent and use the Lord’s money in the way He intended for it to be used.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 5, pp. 132-133
March 1, 1984