By Jady W. Copeland
In previous articles we have seen that the purpose of the Lord’s advent into the world was spiritual, and further that the purpose of our work as followers of him likewise is spiritual. Not only does he save us to be finally glorified in the next world, but he uses us to save others (I Tim. 4:15-16; 2 Tim. 2:2). When we stop to think about the fact that our sojourn in the world is so very short, and that “things” are purely temporary, we immediately realize that material possessions are simply tools which we use to save ourselves and those who hear us.
But man is too often bothered with covetousness. We are “possessed by our possessions” (they control us instead of our controlling them) and because they are something we can see, use and enjoy here we too often think more of the material than the eternal. Paul speaks of the ministry of the word and the hardships it causes “pressed on every side, yet not straightened; smitten down, yet not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10). Then after speaking of being “delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake” he seems pleased to endure such “that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (v. 11). But it was for the sake of the Corinthians (vv. 12,14). Why would suffering for Christ be so sweet? Read carefully verses 16-18 and note: (1) the outward man is decaying but the inward man is now renewed (better or refreshed); (2) the afflictions are light but they work out “for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory”; (3) and all this because “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (emp. mine, JWC). The very fact that “things” of this life are temporal should make us consider them as of much lesser importance than the eternal.
In the remainder of this article let us consider the Lord’s money. Money of itself is neither good nor evil. Whether it is good or evil depends on our attitude toward it. Abraham, Job and other Bible characters were rich, but they did not let “possessions possess them.” They were in control of material things. By the Lord’s money we mean funds that have been given into the treasury of the local church to be used by the church in harmony with the will of God. In Acts 5:1-4 we clearly see the difference in “my” money and the Lord’s. Before Ananias and Sapphira laid it at the apostles’ feet, it was theirs (v. 4). After they gave, it did not belong to them. So it is when one gives into the Lord’s treasury on the Lord’s day; before one contributes it, it is his; afterwards it no longer belongs to the individual; it belongs to the Lord in the sense that it is to be scripturally used. “Laid at the apostles’ feet” simply means put under apostolic authority. That is still true today. Monies given into the Lord’s treasury are “laid at the apostles’ feet” in the sense that they are to be used by the direction of inspired teaching. Elders have no authority to use that money except as authorized by Christ.
The Lord’s Money
How is the Lord’s money to be raised? In 1 Corinthians 16:2 Paul says, “Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper.” In 2 Corinthian 8 and 9 Paul lays down some principles that must govern us in determining how much we should give. Since the Lord has given this instruction and since the rest of the Bible is silent on the way to raise money for the Lord’s cause, I conclude that this is sufficient. They gave out of their generosity when the need arose. In this case it was benevolence.
Let us note a few guidelines for our giving to the Lord. “As prospered” necessarily implies that some can give more than others. Some have more obligations than others and must give less even though they may have the same salary as one sitting next to him. But we must remember the Lord has prospered us and when there is a need we must remember what he has done for us, even though we may not have as much as we desire. I am afraid that many give only after their selfish pride is satisified, and they think they need more than they actually do. Some believe they are giving as prospered but only after they have an expensive car, home (much larger than needed), boat, swimming pool, etc. I almost get depressed when I see people with such luxurious possessions giving less than a godly brother who makes a third of the former’s salary. I wonder what the Lord thinks!
Prayerfully consider the widow who gave all she had, and was praised by the Lord (Mk. 12:44). And think of the Macedonians who “gave in much proof of affliction and abundance of their joy and their deep poverty” (2 Cor. 8:2). We speak much about “taking the Bible as our guide” but I wonder if we only mean it in regards to “faith, repentance and baptism.” And then when we get a request from one who wants to go to Europe to preach we say, “but we can’t afford it.”
I think a key to giving is found in 2 Corinthians 8:5. “And this, not as we had hoped, but first they save their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God.” Do not we obey Christ because we belong to him (Mk. 9:41)? If he is living in us, are we not directed by his life and teachings — even including our attitude toward things of this world? If he controls us, we act according to his wishes; if Satan controls us (posessed by our possessions), we let selfishness, greed, covetousness and pride get in our way of giving as prospered.
How is the Lord’s money used? We have noted that “laying the money at the apostles’ feet” means putting it under apostolic authority. It is no different today. When I give into the Lord’s treasury, apostolic authority (through the Word) must control the use of that money.
First, it may be used to preach the gospel by supporting the preaching of the gospel (2 Cor. 11:8). Paul “robbed other churches, taking wages of them” that he may preach at Corinth. The church in Philippi sent money to Paul, sup-porting his needs while he preached the gospel (Phil. 4:15-16). In defending his apostleship (1 Cor. 9) he defends the right to refrain from working, and goes ahead to show that “those who proclaim the gospel” have a right to “get their living from the gospel” (v. 14, NASB).
Secondly, the Lord’s money may be used for limited benevolent purposes. In Acts 11:27-30 we learn the brethren sent funds to churches in Judea for relief in time of famine. Years later we find Paul raising funds for the church in Jerusalem from many churches when saints there were in need (Rom. 15:25-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8,9). I know of no Scripture where churches sent the Lord’s money to anyone for general benevolent causes or institutions. It was sent to needy saints in churches in time of emergency.
Other than these two purposes, I know of no apostolic authority for the Lord’s money to be used for other causes.
“I am afraid that many give only after their selfish pride is satisfied, and they think they need more than they actually do. Some believe they are giving as prospered but only after they have an expensive car, home (much larger than than needed), boat, swimming pool, etc. I almost get depressed when I see people with such luxurious possessions giving less than a godly brother who makes a third of the former’s salary. I wonder what the Lord thinks!”
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 6, p. 18-19
March 18, 1993