By Harold V. Comer
This is a day of religious fund raising and money promotions. With all of the emphasis on pressure and gimmicks, there is a great need to restore the New Testament pattern of giving. The first century practice would correct many of the abuses that have become so obvious and distasteful in religious groups today.
I propose that the New Testament church had a specific pattern of fund raising which it was commanded to follow. That pattern called for freely given contributions, contributed upon the first day of the week.
Few people deny the fund raising abuses that exist today. Churches take up repeated collections at any excuse. Stewardship committees solicit members with high pressure techniques seeking larger pledges. Some churches tax members and try to set what each member’s contribution will be.
Some groups have repeated bake sales, rummage sales, fund raising suppers, car washes, candy promotions, and solicitation of non-members. Denominational groups build large endowments and investment resources with contributed funds. Congregations operate rental properties for profit.
Some preachers are always preaching on money and repetitively push for increased giving. Some preachers appeal to materialistic desires with promises of wealth, assuring you that your contribution will be returned in actual dollars and multiplied ten times or even one hundred times.
In churches of Christ a congregation would sell tapes for profit with the stated purpose of supporting its TV program. An institutional radio program offers prizes and gifts if you will send in a minimum contribution. “Special” contributions are taken up on Wednesday evening or during a meeting. Some preachers continually “harp” on giving.
If you are tired of a calloused, materialistic emphasis on money, you need to go back to the New Testament and ask if God cared enough about the financial affairs of His people to command anything specifically about how the necessary money matters were to be carried out. Did God command anything on this subject?
Only Contributions Commanded
In I Corinthians 16:1-2 the apostle Paul commanded,
. . . as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him is store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
In 2 Corinthians 8:7 Paul referred to the grace of giving. He said, “. . . see that ye abound in this grace also.” In 2 Corinthians 9:7 Paul commanded, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” In Acts 4:32-37 the church at Jerusalem practiced sacrificial giving in its hour of great need.
Note that the passages show that contributions were commanded. Paul says that his words were an order or a command. God cared enough about their financial processes to specify one way to do it. When an authority specifies a certain way, that command excludes doing it any other way unless that other way is authorized elsewhere. No other commands are given about congregational fund raising so anyone who wants to go back to the New Testament pattern today should expect to have a contribution but should expect to stop there.
The contributions were specified for the first day of the week. The laying by in store was not laying some money by at home because then there would have to be collection or collections when Paul came. The contributions were to be given upon the first day of the week.
That is why churches that are determined to follow the New Testament pattern do not take up collections every night during a gospel meeting or on Wednesday evening. I’m sure that many could use the money well but a continual emphasis on money is finally distracting to their spiritual purpose of saving souls. When churches continually stress money they begin to look like pagan religions where salvation and redemption are purchased with one’s silver and gold (1 Pet. 1:18).
Occasionally, congregations depart from this pattern because of needs that are 46special” purposes to them. An institution or a “missionary” wants a special collection, so the pattern is bent and an unscriptural precedent is set as the congregation takes up a d6special” Wednesday night contribution.
Paul also specified that the contributions were to be given freely and cheerfully. Churches that use high pressure to squeeze more money out of people than they are willing to cheerfully purpose in their heart and give are violating the original plan. They show little concern in restoring the first century pattern for fund raising.
If we restore the New Testament pattern of giving we are going to have to teach commitment of ourselves to God (2 Cor. 8:5). We are also going to have to teach on giving and encourage brethren to give liberally (2 Cor. 9:13). Yet that is different from a constant emphasis on church budgets, needs, and financial matters.
If New Testament churches are to support themselves by the contributions of their own members, that excludes them
from door to door solicitations or street corner appeals. A church that is seeking to restore the first century practice will not allow itself to be drawn into sales and fund raising promotions. It will not be drawn into apartment management or farm management by keeping farms or apartments that might be given to it.
If you appreciate the simplicity of the contribution practices of Paul and Peter and the rest of the apostles, and the congregation where you attend doesn’t follow those, then there are probably other areas where they have departed also and you need to give thorough consideration to all of their practices, examining them and comparing them to the original pattern.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 11, pp. 345, 353
June 5, 1986