By Frank Jamerson
One of the major problems through the years among brethren has been the accumulation and use of money. The major reason for the trouble has been the failure to distinguish between individual and congregational activity.
When churches have bazaars, operate businesses and rent property to make money, they are doing what individuals are authorized to do, but the church is not authorized to raise funds in these ways. Individuals are to “work with their own hands” in order to have resources to support themselves and to help others (Eph. 4:28). The same writer said that if a man will not work, “neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10). An individual may farm, operate a business or work for someone else, own rental property, etc., but churches that engage in such methods of raising money are acting without authority from God.
A local church is to raise money by the giving of members on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1, 2). God has revealed no other day or way for churches to raise money. When brethren recognize the distinction between individual and congregational activity, they will not contend that the church can do what the individual can do. Those who do not understand this distinction will have churches involved in all kinds of business enterprises to earn money.
Another problem area is the use of money. The Bible clearly teaches that there is a difference between what belongs to the individual and what belongs to the church. The property of Ananias and Sapphira did not belong to the church, and the money gained from its sale did not belong to the church (Acts 5:1-6). God killed them because they lied about how much of it they were giving. They wanted people to think they had given it all when they had not. God knew that what they kept was under their control and did not belong to the church!
Other passages clearly indicate that individuals have responsibilities that the church does not have. A Christian is to “relieve” his widow, “that the church be not charged” (I Tim. 5:16). Individuals are authorized to provide recreation (1 Tim. 4:8), participate in business (Eph. 4:28), engage in social activities (such as PTA, Red Cross, Scouting, etc.) (Lk. 10:30-37; 1 Cor. 5:9-11), support political activities (Rom. 13), and fulfill domestic obligations (Eph. 6:14), but this does not authorize churches to participate in, or to support, such activities.
Churches are limited to those things that God authorized congregations to do, which basically may be summarized in “teaching” (1 Thess. 1:8; Heb. 10:24,25), and “relieving” (Acts 2:44,45; 4:32-35; 6:1-6; 11:27-30; 1 Tim 5:16). When a church provides for recreation, entertainment, social meals, political rallies, secular education, etc., it is engaged in projects that are authorized for individuals but not for churches!
A third problem area is in saving money. There are too many brethren who feel that the church may do what the individual may do in saving money.
I know of no one who would contend that an individual may not invest his money in property, savings certificates, etc., for the purpose of earning a profit. In fact the one talent man was condemned for not putting his money to proper use and gaining “interest” (Matt. 25:26,27). There are brethren who are opposed to churches spending their money like individuals do, but they have not seen that churches that save money are making the same mistake!
I am not saying that a church may not save money for a particular need. Corinth gathered for at least a year to send to Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:10,11; 9:1,2). This is not the same as a church going into the “saving business” to get gain.
It certainly would not be using good common sense to spend every dollar collected within the week, but churches that have big bank accounts while the world dies in sin and preachers beg for support, need to realize that churches are not to run their business like individuals run theirs. Brethren if it is wrong for churches to spend their money like individuals do, it is also wrong for them to save it like individuals do! “Saving for a rainy day” (the roof that may start leaking or the central heating and air-conditioning system that “may” break down, etc.) may be simply an excuse for brethren who want to save instead of use the Lord’s money!
The Lord’s treasury must be raised as God authorized and it must be used as He taught. We are not at liberty to use it for “any good work that the individual may do,” neither are we at liberty to save/ invest it like individuals do. Let us contend for God’s way in every respect.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 3, p. 80
February 2, 1984