By Bobby L. Graham
About thirty years ago at the Holt-Wallace Debate in Florence, Alabama, brother G.A. Dunn remarked to this writer’s father that most problems that had come about among the Lord’s people related to money. Whether his judgment was -precisely correct or not, experience indicates his remark apropos. The variety of problems involving money in local churches and among different local churches has included disdain for the very idea of a local-church treasury, reluctance to use the money collected, and looseness in the use of church funds.
A Local Church Treasury
The first congregation in Jerusalem had a treasury under the control of the apostles. Acts 4:32-5:10 demonstrates that generous saints funded the physical assistance of their brethren’s daily needs. The funds likely never made it to the bank, but a fund was initiated and maintained for an indefinite period of time for the expeditious meeting of needs.
When the apostle was trying to raise funds for the physical needs of the poor among the saints in Jerusalem, Paul instructed local churches in Galatia and Achaia to do as the Christians in Macedonia were doing in this matter (I Cor. 16:14; Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:1-7). He told them to store up (“treasure up” in Greek) their money collected on the first day of every week to prevent the necessity for collecting it upon his arrival.
From these two accounts it is easy to observe that an appointed work justly belonging to a local church is the only justification needed for a local treasury, for it helps to expedite work assigned by the Head of the church. Because some works continue over a long time, it is wise to maintain a standing treasury to meet the continuing needs. When the money was collected at Corinth, it remained in a pool or fund for some time. How long that time was, makes no difference in the matter of justifying a local treasury. When a church agrees to support a preacher at home or in another area, it usually exercises prudence in making sure that it has sufficient funds to meet its commitment to the man, either through periodic contributions alone or through both contributions and money treasured up in the event of loss of income to some of the local contributors. Those who decry the scripturalness of a local treasury need to open their eyes to these Scriptures and the wisdom of conducting the Lord’s work in a predictable manner, as much as possible.
Reluctance to Use Money
To some brethren the treasury seems to be an end in itself. The sole reason for having it is to have it. Oh, some quip that the money is needed for unexpected events such as building or equipment repairs or disaster-caused needs among saints. The point that needs to be seen, however, is that they see no imperative for proclaiming the gospel in a single place to the benighted souls of earth. To such the highest calling for that money is to repair the air conditioner, replace the roof, or send $100 to brethren hit by a hurricane. (Such writing does not mean that such needs do not exist and they should not be prepared for by a church.) Evidently they have forgotten they need to sound out the gospel like Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:8), send men to plant the gospel and strengthen the saved like Antioch (Acts 13:1-3), receive laborers in the gospel and send them forward on their journey as in 3 John 5-8, and be partners with workers in their needs (Phil.4:15,16). Is it possible they have closed their eyes to some among than who have medical needs, housing needs, or other physical needs that they are unable to meet except with a forty-year debt. Brethren, need to be more generous in seeing and meeting legitimate needs. We do not need to be loose with God’s Word, but we need to be liberal toward those described by the Lord as objects of our help.
It might be wise to remember that a brother doesn’t need to be penniless before the church can help him. When the congregation waits that long, it only increases the amount of help it must give him. Greedy church treasurers, elders land brethren who close their eyes to needs for the gospel and the needs of evangelists, and churches who disregard the needs of the poor among the saints win answer to God for their neglect. I’ll tell you frankly that the judgment will not be pleasant for such as these.
Some churches envision no more noble use for “their money” than saving it. Could they possibly be concerned about the banker’s needs? Do you think they might be saving it until Jesus returns? Just think of it: they win be able to turn over to the Lord all that money! What a joy that will be. Oh, brethren, how carnal we are. We are willing to give the Lord money, but not souls. Is such really the mission that he has given us?
To those who sincerely fear an emergency need which the local church could not meet without a sizeable fund, some remarks are addressed. Most of the emergencies that brethren anticipate never materialize. When an emergency does arise, brethren who have been taught properly will respond properly. We need to be teaching Christians to be liberal and to respond to increasing needs. Elders who truly lead will teach and challenge the people to rise to needs according to their ability and even beyond their ability (2 Cor. 8:1-6). Christians who learn that the Lord does not seek theirs but them will be better prepared to give themselves unreservedly, with the effect of considering all that they possess as belonging to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5; 12:14). If the need arising exceeds the church’s capacity, there is always the route of borrowing, to which we resort for buildings. Why not for other needs in those very few instances where needed? There is also a lack of trust in brethren in the local church to respond favorably, as well as in brethren in other churches to assist in time of need.
In conclusion remember that every appeal to Christians to give of their financial means was accompanied with the work for which the money would be used. All giving in the New Testament was done for a work. None was ever given to accumulate and hold a large fund I May we all learn the lesson and do likewise!
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 9, pp. 257, 279
May 4, 1989