It’s difficult to find something that has been more problemmatic for Christians and believers than church finances.
Money issues aren’t just the top destructor of marriages. Disagreements over money have divided many a congregation.
Recently, I’ve been discussing the theme of the challenges Christians face in separating what exists today from what should exist, with a particular focus on matters pertaining to the church.
In this post, I want to reexamine the concept of money given to the church, which is frequently referred to as “the Lord’s money.”
Grab my free bonus teaching on How to Practice New Testament Giving (Simplifying Church Giving) at the bottom.
Let’s begin by addressing this term “the Lord’s money.”
It’s All GOD’s Money
The Scriptures are clear: GOD owns everything.
It is written in the Psalms:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
(Psalm 24:1 NIV)
9 I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields are mine.
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
(Psalm 50:9-12 NIV)
Anything that we have comes from GOD’s hand (see Jam. 1:17).
It’s only because of GOD’s goodness that we have been allowed to possess anything we have received. That goes for homes, cars, clothes, family, friends, jobs, money—all of it.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s be very careful how we use the word “earn” when it comes to our work and our stuff.
Yes, we work hard (at least we should be working hard), but saying things like, “I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten. I worked hard for it.” Well, that sounds an awful lot like pride to me.
Pride needs to be avoided at all costs.
Pride often moves GOD to take away that which we have “earned.” That way we can be reminded (through out need) how little control over what happens to us we really have.
So, in reality, it’s all the LORD’s money.
We are just stewards—caretakers—over whatever portion of His money that He allows us to have.
And we need to remember that.
This isn’t just true with money we give away; it’s true of 100% of it.
Now, before we go further, recall what we’ve established up to this point in this series of articles:
- GOD’s purpose for us individually is that we be transformed into Jesus’ image.
- The church exists for the purpose of helping to transform people into Jesus’ image.
- Our challenge is to apply what we read in the New Testament in today’s religiously-confusing environment.
I think there is no area of Christian life with more stark contrast between New Testament Christianity and what is often practiced today than when it comes to giving.
Let me show you why…
Christians Should be Givers (Because Jesus Gave Continually)
I have previously written an article entitled “What the Bible Says About Giving,” which I recommend for a detailed look at giving throughout the Scriptures, including tithing.
Jesus taught us a lot about giving.
Christians are to be giving people, because our love motivates us.
The compassionate example of our Savior and Lord compells us to imitate Him in showing kindness and giving to those in need. The Bible is clear that Christians are to do good to all people (see Acts 10:37-38; 20:35; Rom. 2:6-8; Gal. 6:9-10; Jam. 2:14-17; 1 John 3:16-18).
Individual vs. Church Giving
Some Christians make a strong distinction between what an individual can or should do and what the church can and should do. I, too, felt this way before conducting an in-depth private study on the church, forcing myself to set aside what I had always been taught or believed in the past in a concentrated effort to search objectively.
We must ensure that we maintain the biblical concept of “church” in our thinking and studies at all times. (Recall from “Examining the Church Concept of Placing Membership” that the word “church” simply means an assembly or a congregation.)
Specifically applied to Jesus’ body, a church is a gathering of some Christians—a collection of individuals who are seeking to imitate Jesus.
The truth is that, with a few exceptions, such as male leadership, Lord’s Supper observance, and financial support for widows, the Scriptures provide little distinction between daily Christian living and church meetings and activities.
When it comes to giving, in the New Testament (NT), we see two types of teaching/examples:
- Individual Christians giving to other people to meet a specific need—Christians and unbelievers. Support for evangelists, like Paul and Timothy, would be included here.
- Groups of Christians collecting funds to help other people meet a specific need—Christians (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9) and unbelievers (2 Cor. 9:12-13).
What we do not see in the NT is churches stockpiling funds in the event they may one day have a need.
Someone says, “What about 1 Cor. 16:1-2 where Paul tells us to lay by in store each first day of the week?”
Yes, Paul did tell the Corinthians and the Galatians to set aside some money each Sunday.
The end of verse 2 tells us: “so that when I come no collections will have to be made.“
If we back away from the snippet of 1 Cor. 16:1-2 and look at the larger picture, we can see that this is a special contribution that is being gathered for a specific need, which Paul would carry to Jerusalem in order to meet that need. (I explained this in detail in “What the Bible Says About Giving.”)
In trying to separate what is from what should be, the truth is:
- When the early Christians were aware of a need, despite some being in deep poverty themselves, they gave liberally out of love in order to try and meet that need.
- GOD didn’t command Christians to give money every Sunday to a church’s (i.e., modern-day non-biblical definition of church intended here: organization; not assembly) general fund.
- Churches (biblical definition) did give to support evangelists, elders, and “qualified” widows (see 1 Tim. 5) when needed.
- Many churches (organizations) have created ongoing needs, often of significant amounts, because of past decisions, such as:
- Purchasing property in order to have a church-owned meeting facility—to have and maintain a church building.
- Paying staff, such as preachers, youth ministers and/or secretaries.
- Committing to longer-term support for evangelists, locally or in other places.
- While not necessarily wrong, the resulting continuous needs arising from these decisions require ongoing collections to maintain the status quo.
- The monetary burden of these self-inflicted “needs” limits Christians’ ability to meet other needs.
- New Testament giving enables the giver to know, without question, what their contribution went to. By contrast, in many churches (organization) today, the money is put into a treasury and the elders (or worse, an unanimous vote of the men, in situations without elders) will decide what funds go to which need.
There is often limited, at best, transparency and people are left to wonder what happened. Or Christians feel like they’ve “done their duty” simply because they gave and they assume the money will get spent wisely.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
I’m not trying to pass judgment on how various churches (organizations) operate.
I am, however, trying to shed light on the difference between what I see in the New Testament and what is done today and to get people to think and question for themselves.
As for me and my house, we will follow the New Testament example as closely as possible.
In closing, I want to leave you with a thought that my brother-in-law Russ pointed out to me a year or so ago:
Since 100% of our money is actually “the Lord’s money,” instead of thinking about how much we’re giving, we should think about what percentage we’re keeping for ourselves.
That has a tendency to change our perspective a bit.
Want to know how to implement biblical Christian giving in your church? Click below to grab my free bonus download, “Simplifying Church Giving.”
Apologies: I haven’t gotten the automatic downloads set up again since moving my website. Email me at webmaster [at] chasingalion [.] com and I’ll send you the file ASAP.—Tim Harris