Arthur G. Clarke
INTRODUCTION. The question of finance, which often presents such problems to the churches of Christendom, is really simple if the scriptural pattern be followed. Nowhere in the N.T. is there the slightest hint that the world is to be appealed to for funds to carry on the Lord's work. Those who do it are dishonouring Him. Giving to God is a privilege belonging to His people'. whose Offerings alone, spiritual and material, are acceptable to Him. As to others. God asks them to receive, not to give. It is particularly reprehensible to take up a collection at gospel-meetings, indoors or out. In sending out His preachers the Lord Jesus said, " Freely (gratuitously) ye received, freely give. (let you no gold, nor silver, nor brass (copper) in your purses," Matt. 10. 8. 9, R.V. Paul was careful to adopt this divine policy, 2 Cor. 11.7, labouring with his own hands rather than be chargeable to his hearers at Corinth and elsewhere, Acts 18. 3 ; cf. 3 John 7. God's salvation is " without money and without price," Isa. 55. 1 ; cf. Eph. 2. 8, 9. On the other hand it is inadvisable to announce " No collection," as this sounds like advertising generosity and may be deemed a reflection upon the pockets of those who wish to attend.
There will be abundant supply for all needs in the Lord's work if Christians recognize (heir privilege and rise to their responsibility according to the precepts of God's Word. Importunate solicitation, burdensome exactions, worldly expedients and elaborate financial organization, all will (hen be unnecessary. Such methods call down the just reproach of the world upon (he Church as a money-making concern.
PROVISION OF FUNDS. It is a fundamental principle that all a believer has belongs to the Lord, lie himself is not his own and all his possessions are held in trust as a steward of God, 1 Cor, 6. 19, 20; Rom. 12. I ; Lk. 16. 9-13; 2 Cor. 8. 5; see also Lesson 6, " Functions (I) (&)." Under the Mosaic economy God claimed back from Israel a certain portion of their possessions on the same principle, namely, that all they had was first given to them by Him. The first-born males of man and beast were His, though the offspring of man and ass could be redeemed by a lamb as a substitutionary sacrifice, Ex. 13. 1, 2, 11-15. The first-fruits from the land were His, Ex. 22. 29, 30. The tithe (tenth of all) belonged to Him, and this He gave back to the tribe of Levi in lieu of a, common share in the division of the land of Canaan among the tribes. Tithing was observed by Abraham before the giving of the Law, Gen. 14. 20; Heb. 7. 4-10. Withholding any part of the tithe was robbing God, Mai. 3. 8-10. Then certain sacrifices and parts of sacrifices were the Lord's. All these were obligatory- as a rendering up of that which was not Israel's. Giving to God in the (rue sense began after these obligations had been met and is regulated under the term " free-will offerings " which, as the name indicates, were wholly voluntary. First mention of a free-will offering is in connection with the materials and work for the tabernacle of Jehovah, Ex. 35 and 36. As to sacrifices, see Lev. 22. 17-25 ; 23. 38 ; Deut. 23. 21-23, etc. These passages all contain valuable instruction that may be applied to Christian giving. Further examples may be noted in connection with the building of the first temple (1 Chron. 29) and (he second one (Bk. of Ezra).
Under grace, giving is wholly voluntary but the standard should hardly be. less than that under the law, even as the privileges Christians enjoy are far superior to those of Israel. Five times in the NX giving is called a " grace " as being that which, in the Christian, is responsive to the revealed grace of God.
(1) Means of Giving. As we have seen, these lie with each individual believer, and instructions are found chiefly at 1 Cor. 16. 1-3 ; 2 Cor. 8 and 9, which passages should be carefully studied. Note " each one of you," well-to-do or otherwise, though the former have greater opportunity, 1 Tim. 6. 17-19. The churches of Macedonia gave out of their poverty, 2 Cor. 8. 2-4, the first principle of giving being stated (5). Women, too, manifested this grace, Lk. 8. 3, and the Lord accepted the ministry of their gifts. Brethren wholly engaged in the Lord's work are not exempted, for they are like the Levites of old, Num. 18. 25-32.
(2) Measure of Giving. This is to be according to a person's ability. 2 Cor. 8. II, 12 ; Acts 11. 29 ; " as he may prosper," 1 Cor. 16. 2. Liberty rules, not law, 2 Cor. 9. 5, but inasmuch as God is a liberal giver (Jas. 1.5; Jn. 3. 16 ; Rom, 8. 32, etc.) ; His children should be like Him. Our Lord impoverished Himself to make us rich, 2 Cor. 8. 9. Such superlative grace is an incentive to all ; cf. Rom. 12. 8, margin ; 2 Cor. 8. 2 ; 9. II, 13. Note the Lord's estimate of measure, Mk. 12. 41-44 ; Lk. 21. 1-4 ; and the Lord's promise, Lk. 6. 38 ; cf. 2 Cor. 9. 6 ; Prov. 11. 24, 25 ; 22. 9 ; Mai. 3. 10.
(3) Motive of Giving. Negative.—not for the admiration and applause of men. Matt. 6. 1-4, therefore our giving should be done unostentatiously and, as far as possible, privately. It is the world's way to publish lists of charitable gifts, placing the names of those who contribute the largest sums at the top, ctr. Lk. 21. 1-4. Positive—love to God and man, 1 Cor. 13. 3 ; 2 Cor. 8. 8 ; 1 Jn. 3. 17, 18 : Gal. 6. 10 ; constrained by divine love not by human appeals, 2 Cor. 5. 14 ; seeking the glory of God, 1 Cor. 10. 31.
(4) Manner of Giving. Willingly, 2 Cor. 8. 3, 11, 12; and cheerfully, without grudging, 2 Cor. 9. 7 ; Acts 20. 35. Christians are to give honestly, by which is meant that they give only what is rightly theirs. Debts to tradesmen and others, for instance, and prior family obligations must be discharged first, Rom. 12. 8 ; Mk. 7, 11-13 ; 1 Tim. 5. 8 ; 2 Cor. 8. 20, 21. Also necessary is a clear conscience in relation to brethren for gifts to be acceptable to the Lord, Matt. 5. 23, 24.
(5) Method of Giving. The Word of God teaches us to give systematically not haphazardly, 1 Cor. 16. 1, 2. This is done by:
(a) Laying up a store proportionately to income, setting aside with purpose as before the Lord. Some have a. special box at home for this. Well-to-do brethren often have a separate bank-account. Others simply make a book-keeping entry. It is from such a store that gifts are made to various objects as exercised by the Spirit of God, and thus the embarrassment of a sudden tail is avoided, 2 Cor. 9. 5.
(b) Regularly putting by, 1 Cor. 16. 2, linking it thus with worship and the remembrance feast of the Lord's Day. (This was also the day of the presentation of the first-fruits in Israel,
(a) the wave sheaf, Lev. 23. 9-14, and
(b) the wave loaves, Lev. 23. 15-21, typical of our Lord's resurrection (1 Cor. 15. 20, 23) and Pentecost (Acts 2), respectively.)
COLLECTION OF FUNDS. Collective gifts are indicated in Acts 11. 29, 30 ; Rom. 15. 25, 26 ; 1 Cor. 16. 1 ; Phil. 4. 15, 16 ; individual gifts, 2 Jn. 5-7 ; Gal. 6. 6 ; Heb. 13. 16 ; 1 Tim. 6. 18 ; Acts 4. 36, 37. Contributions for many local church expenses can scarcely be regarded as giving to the Lord. Rent, furnishing, light and heat, caretaking, etc., are necessary to secure the comfort and convenience of the saints themselves. Sharing such expenses is a matter of obligation, a debt rather than a " free-will offering."
ADMINISTRATION OF FUNDS should be in the hands of more than one brother. Acts 6. 3-6 ; 1 Cor. 16. 3, 4 ; 2 Cor. 8. 18-21 ; 9. 3-5. This wise arrangement leaves no room for unkind suspicions, increases the confidence of saints, and spreads the burden of responsibility. Though such brethren minister in temporalities, their moral and spiritual qualifications arc to be high, Acts 6. 3 ; 1 Tim. 3. 8-13. Obviously they must also possess business capability. From these passages it would appear to be a principle with the Lord, that those who contribute funds should have a voice in the selection of persons to take charge thereof. Other than the possession of the necessary qualifications no indication is given of the method of choice, so that elders as leaders in the assembly would seem free to judge the most expedient way of discovering the mind of (he saints. Accounts should be rendered at regular intervals, again on the principle of 1 Cor. 14. 40.
DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS. In the N.T. we see four main avenues for the disbursement of gifts.
(1) Needy Widows, Acts 6. 1-0 ; 1 Tim. 5. 4-16. Not all widows in the assembly arc qualified for such aid. They must be:
(a) really destitute, having no family able to support ;
(b) at least 60 years of age ;
(c) a woman of prayer and trust in God ;
(d) one bearing a character approved for godly living and activity.
(2) Poor Saints, Rom. 12. 13 ; 15. 23-27 ; Gal. 2. 9, 10 ; Acts II. 29, 30 ; 24. 17 ; 2. 44, 45 ; 1 Cor. 16. 1-3 ; 2 Cor. 8 and 9 ; Prov. 19. 17. There is no lack of opportunity, Mk. 14. 7. This does not include the indolent and thriftless, 2 Thess. 3. 10. Compare the charge to Israel, Deut. 15. 7-11.
(3) God's Servants, Phil. 4. 15-19 ;
(a) the Evangelist, I Cor. 9. 4-14 ;
(b) the Teacher, Gal. 6. 6 ;
(c) the Elder who labours in the Word, 1 Tim. 5. 17, 18—in cases where secular employment has been relinquished for the sake of serving the Lord. Apostolic example should not be forgotten, however. Acts 18. 3 with 20. 34. Questions of expediency may arise—
(a) to make the gospel without charge (1 Cor. 9. 15-18), so removing all ground for suspicion of mercenary motives, 2 Cor. 11. 7-12 ;
(b) to be an example in the matter of Christian giving, Acts 20. 33-35 ;
(c) to avoid being burdensome to saints both poor and suffering persecution, 1 Thess. 2. 9; 2 Thess. 3. 7-9.
(4) Philanthropic Efforts, Gal. 8. 10 ; 1 Thess. 5. IS. The household of faith has prior claim upon the gifts of God's people but not an exclusive claim.
The Effects of Giving are seven :—
1. ft is well-pleasing to the Lord, 1 Cor. 9. 7 ; cf. Heb. 13. 16 ; Phil. 4. 18.
2. It brings relief to necessitous saints, 2 Cor. 9. 12.
3. It stimulates others to like effort, 2 Cor. 8. 1, 2 ; 9. 2.
4. It promotes thanksgiving in grateful recipients, 2 Cor. 9. 11-14.
5. It evokes prayer for the kind-hearted givers, 2 Cor. 9. 14.
6. It increases capacity for further giving, 2 Cor. 9. 8-10 ; Prov. 11. 24; Lk. 19. 24-26. Note the divine principle here.
7. It produces fruit to the donor's account, Phil. 4. 17 ; 2 Cor. 9. 10.
The Rewards for Giving.
Giving after the divine pattern brings a present reward in the joyful knowledge of doing the will of the Lord, and in the pleasure of assisting others in need ; Prov. 11. 24. 25 ; Lk. 6. 38. Nevertheless, God is pleased to indicate further means of approval in a coming day, faithful stewardship ranking high in His gracious estimation," Matt. 6. 19-21 ; 25. 14-30; Lk. 16. 9-13; 19. 11-27; 2 Cor. 9. 6. Note the principle, Matt, 25. 40 ; 10. 42. A “well done” from the Lord is assured, and a "welcome (well come)" from many friends in the eternal tabernacles, Lk. 16. 9.
Christians, then, should give:
(1) Devotedly (Godward) ;
(2) Lovingly (manward) ;
(3) Willingly (with cheerfulness) ;
(4) Liberally (abounding in this grace) ;
(5) Methodically (purpose— preparation—proportion) ;
(6) Unostentatiously (no self-display) ;
(7) Honestly (only what is truly theirs).
EXTRA NOTE. It is hardly becoming in servants of the Lord to advertise personal needs. Paul and other apostles did not do so, though they did make known the needs of distressed saints. Information is often desirable but solicitation never. Servants of Christ look to their Master alone for due support. He it is who moves the hearts of His people in right directions to meet His servants' requirements. Gifts for personal service may be acknowledged by word or letter, but account of stewardship should be given for the disbursement of all entrusted funds.