By John McCort
The scripturality of a church treasury is very important in the discussion of Christians’ use of the treasury. If New Testament churches had no treasuries then there could be no scriptural restrictions or regulations on how the treasury could be used by congregations. If treasuries are not authorized by the Scriptures then it would be sinful to divide congregations over how the treasuries are to be used. Thus, it is essential to establish the scripturalness and necessity of a church treasury within local congregation.
We all recognize that some things are authorized in the Scriptures (even demanded) which are not governed by a direct command. Some things area commanded through binding apostolic examples and necessary inferences. For example, we learn on what day of the week to partake of the Lord’s Supper by an approved example in Acts 20:7. We also learn that we are to partake of the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week through a necessary inference in Acts 20:7. Acts 20:7 furnishes us our only information we have regarding the day on and frequency with which the Lord’s Supper is to be observed. There are no direct commands in the New Testament which authorize a church treasury but there are an abundance of examples and inferences.
2 Cor. 11:8 states, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you.” The word wages has reference to the regular, stipulated monthly wage of a soldier (“Robertson’s Word Pictures,” Vol. 4, p. 143). How could an evangelist receive regular, consistent wages from a congregation without there being regular, reliable contributions from the members? How could a church support a man regularly without bringing the contributions together on a regular basis and forming a treasury? Acts 6:1-8 records that the Jerusalem congregation supported needy widows. Acts 2:44-46 states that members of the church sold their possessions, pooled their resources, and had all things in common. Pooling their resources would require a treasury of some sort however crude it might have been. 1 Tim. 5:19 reports that certain widows were put on the list of those who were to receive regular support from the church on a permanent basis. How could the churches regularly and permanently support needy widows and evangelists without a church treasury? It would be impossible. 1 Tim. 5:18 states that elders could be regularly supported and. employs the phrase, “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” The word for hire, again, is the word for wages (cf. 1 Cor. 9:7).
In order for a church not to have a treasury, a zero balance would have to be consistently maintained. Today that would be a practical impossibility. Most churches have a building payment, light bill, preacher’s salary, classroom materials, and cleaning supplies that must be purchased and paid for on a regular basis. In order to maintain a zero balance separate contributions would have to be taken for each need and not one thin dime could be left over after paying the bills. Otherwise we would create a treasury.
Some have the idea that we are to save up our money at home and then give as the needs arise. Even taking that viewpoint, a treasury is going to be created at some point. When the money is brought together to satisfy a particular need at least a temporary treasury has been created. Thus the issue becomes not whether a treasury is scriptural but how long can a treasury be maintained. Where are the Scriptures that deal with how long a church treasury can be maintained before it must be depleted? There are no Scriptures that govern the length of time a church treasury may be maintained and thus it is a matter of liberty rather than a matter of faith. After all of the needs are satisfied, the treasury have created a permanent treasury. Where does the Bible speak of temporary or permanent treasuries?
The church is a collectivity of Christians. When the church supports an evangelist, that constitutes joint action of individual Christians. Joint action of individual Christians in supporting an evangelist would demand a common treasury. If you have no common treasury, then the church, as such, is not supporting the evangelist but rather individual Christians would be concurrently Supporting the evangelist. For a church to support an evangelist regularly the church must maintain a treasury of some sort. Otherwise the action would not be joint but rather concurrent.
Some have taken the position that we are to give only on a need-to-need basis. Even if that position were true we have more needs today than all of the churches combined are in are in a position to satisfy. Weekly we receive pleas for assistance in supporting evangelists. Are we ever without evangelists to support and the such like? If we stop giving when we see there are not more needs to satisfy, we then stop giving as we have been prospered. We have been commanded to give as we have been prospered.
The main argument raised against church treasuries is an argument drawn from 1 Cor. 16:1-2. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.” The argument is that the phrase, “lay by him in store,” means that Christians are to save up their money at home and are to give as the needs arise, thus eliminating the need for a permanent, common treasury. Examine 1 Cor. 16:2 phrase by phrase. On the first day of the week. In the Living Oracles translation fo the Bible, Alexander Campbell translated the phrase, “On the first day of every week . . . ” Berry’s Interlinear Greek New Testament also includes the word “every” in the literal translation of the passage. The word for “every” is derived from the Greek word kata in the passage. Discussing the word kata, Lenski said, “The first day of the week is Sunday and kata is distributive so that we may translate, `Sunday by Sunday let each of you lay by'” (Lenski, “Commentary on 1 & 2 Con,” p. 759). Vincent said, “Kata has a distributive force, every first day” (M.R. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies, p. 807). Also Bagster’s Englishman’s Greek New Testament translates the phrase, “Every first day of the week.”
Let each one of you lay by him in store. David Lipscomb has some very pertinent remarks on the subject. “On the first day of the week, each should separate or lay by itself something, casting it into the treasury. Some contend that the storing was to be at home, but that would be incompatible with the idea that no collections be made when I come, for if stored at home, it would have to be gathered when he came. It was to be separated at home from the amount not given, then cast into the treasury” (Lipscomb, Commentary- on First Corinthians, p. 249). Albert Barnes stated, “The Greek phrase `by himself’ means probably the same as at home. Let him set it apart; let him designate a certain portion; Let him do this by himself when he is at home, when he can calmly look at the evidence of his prosperity. Let him do it, not under the influence of pathetic appeals, or for the sake of display when he is with others; but let him do it as a matter of principle, and when he is by himself. The Greek phrase `treasuring up’ may mean that each one was to put the part which he had designated into the common treasury. The interpretation seems to be demanded by the latter part of the verst. They were to lay by, and to put it into the common treasury, that there might be no trouble of collecting when he should come” (Albert Barnes, Barnes Notes On The New Testament, p. 803). Alexander Campbell rendered the PHRASE, “let every one of you lay somewhat by itself, according as he may have prospered, putting it into the treasury . . .”
The Greek word for “treasuring up” (lay by in store) is thasaurizon. The word is the verb form of the Greek word thasaursus which is the Greek word for treasury. Both come from the same basic root form. Thasaurzon is the act of treasuring up while thasaursus is the place where the treasure is put. My question is, how could you treasure it up without a treasury to put it in?
There is historical evidence that the New Testament churches took up a collection every first day of the week. “Justin Martyr is of special interest as he gives us our earliest description of a church service. He says the people gather on a Sunday, the Prophets and the memoirs of the apostles are read, the president explains them and exhorts; this is followed by the taking of bread and wine, and finally a collection” (R. Laird Harris, Can I Trust The Bible, p. 80).
The evidence that the New Testament church had treasuries is insurmountable both from a Scriptural and historical standpoint. Since the scripturalness has been established, than there can be restrictions and regulations that govern the usage of a treasury.
Truth Magazine XXI: 46, pp. 729-730
November 24, 1977