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Vital Church Truths
by R.J. Anderson
Chapter Five-Scriptural Method of Financing a Church
How shall a Church be financed? First, let us approach this question from the standpoint of cold hard logic. Let us first make the logical application to those who are outside the Church.
May I ask the following questions? What would the country be with all churches and all church influences removed? Would you want to establish your home and rear your family in a land entirely void of all churches and all church influences? Do you believe the community and nation is better and safer because of the influence of the church and the teaching of Christian principles? Do you not believe Christ was right when He said of Christian people in Matthew 5:13-14: "Ye are the salt of the earth" and again "Ye are the light of the world." If Christians are indeed the light of the world and the salt of the earth and if the churches are a blessing to our community and nation; if our families are safer and our lives are happier because of the church and her teachings, then both saint and sinner are reaping great benefits from the church.
Cold hard logic teaches that every one is a debtor to his benefactor and the one, who wishes to reap all the benefits while others bear all the responsibilities, has a low rating in the minds of all thinking people.
I would further say that it is not really a donation when you invest your money in an institution that gives returns far greater than the value of the investment. In our nation we have schools, courts, police departments, etc. I believe they are necessary for the good of society and certainly we do not believe that others should pay their up-keep and we should be relieved of such responsibilities, but share in all the benefit. Neither do we call it a donation to charity when we pay taxes to support them. I believe they are necessary. The same cold hard logic would make every thinking individual a supporter of the church for all reap benefits from it.
In 1 Samuel 25 we have the story of Nabal, a man who failed to appreciate the benefits he received from the protection God's servant had given him and his possessions (1 Sam. 25:21) and when they asked a slight favor at his hands he treated them with scorn and acted as though they were beggars. (1 Sam. 25:11.) He wanted everything for his own personal gratification even to the extent of dissipation. (1 Sam. 25:36.) Many people are like Nabal thinking they can scorn giving anything to the cause of God and use everything they get possession of for their own pleasure but they too will one day learn the folly of such reasoning. Verses 36 through 38 shows how God's hand fell in judgment upon this selfish, ungrateful man. May we remind you at this point God is no respecter of persons and all who treat God's cause so shall some day be punished for so doing. Even though cold logic says that every fair minded man should be willing to do his part to support that ,from which he reaps great benefits, yet I do not believe the church should expect unsaved people to support it and try to work plans and schemes to get such support. There is certainly no Scripture to indicate the early church ever did so.
Now let us apply logic to those within. If you are a stockholder in a company do you expect to reap returns but expect the other partners to pay all upkeep, running expenses, etc.? Certainly not. You expect to pay your part as well as receive your part. If you go on an outing, a hunting or fishing trip do you expect the other members of the party to pay all expenses or do you expect to pay your part? If you belong to a lodge, a labor union or a club do you expect them to carry you as a member in good standing if you refuse to do your part? You know they would not. Why not apply the same logic to your church? It is the most important institution in the world. Every Christian admits that. We know it is of Divine origin, that our Lord gave His life to found it, that He is watching over it, that He is present whenever it gathers together and that some day He is coming to receive it to Himself. We believe He gave to the Church the great and glorious mission of evangelizing the world; yet many members who profess to believe all these things (if not audibly, yet in heart and mind) complain because they are expected to do their part to support the church. May we digress enough to say people never grumble and complain about supporting that which they love. A man who loves his wife and children gladly supports them and feels very, very badly if he is unable to do so. Even so everyone who truly loves the Lord and church for which He died and which He loves so dearly, will be extremely happy because he has the privilege of supporting it with his presence at its services, with the talents he has, with his prayers and also with his money. I like to take the most kindly view possible and I do believe the reason so many Christian people give so meagerly and often grudgingly is because they have not been rightfully instructed from the Word of God on this subject. While I am fully convinced that the voice of logic would make every member a happy loyal supporter, I believe the voice of inspiration speaks with greater force than cold hard logic alone, though I certainly believe that logic and inspiration agree on this and all other subjects.
What does God's Word teach on this subject? If it teaches us anything at all on this subject whatever it teaches must be accepted as final and certainly every child of God will want to follow His teaching on this subject the same as on all other subjects.
There are some who seem to believe the Lord gave the church guidance on all other matters but no guidance on how it should be financed. They insist His Word teaches how members should be received, how the Lord's Supper should be observed, how the church should be governed, how missionary work should be carried on, etc.; and they even admit He had a financial plan for Israel but say He hasn't any for the church. If there is no Scriptural plan to finance a church, then every church and every member in every church has an equal right to his opinion and all of these opinions must be treated with equal respect, admitting however that some might reason out a better financial plan than others. Such views of church financing can lead only to financial confusion.
Let us lay aside all personal opinions and search the Scripture with the desire not only to know, but to follow its teachings on this subject. Let us note a few facts found in 2 Corinthians eighth chapter. 2 Corinthians 8:1 refers to the disposition to give us a grace of God bestowed upon them. Surely God has implanted in the heart of all who are truly saved the desire to give. Let us note carefully the fruits of this grace in their lives. Verse 2 shows they were in GREAT trials of affliction and DEEP poverty but even in this condition there was ABUNDANCE of joy and RICHES of liberality. Verse 3 shows they were WILLING givers and even to the great apostle Paul it seemed as though they were giving beyond their power. Verse 4 indicates that the apostle, knowing their circumstances, hesitated to receive their gift but they entreated him MUCH that he would take this gift and use it to take care of the needs of the saints. What a picture of the effect of God's grace working in the hearts of redeemed people so gloriously that even though they are in great trial of affliction and deep poverty they plead for the privilege of giving to the needy saints and these saints were not in their own church or community but lived at distant places and were unknown to them. How different it is today when it seems we must plead with people (who are in far better circumstances than these saints at Macedonia) in order to get them to give. In verse 6 we find he is sending Titus to the church at Corinth in order that he might finish in them the grace of giving. We need many men like Titus today who can develop in churches and individual Christians the grace of giving. Verse 7 emphasizes the fact that it is not sufficient to abound in faith, knowledge and love, but they are to ABOUND in this grace also. What does he mean by "this grace?" He means the grace of giving and when he says abound in this grace he means that we should have the disposition to give in great abundance.
2 Corinthians 9 says much about giving. Let us carefully note some of its great truths. Verse 6 shows a man reaps in proportion to what he sows, therefore a man who gives little needs to expect but little from God and the one who give much will receive much from God. I do not believe this means you will become rich in this world's goods by giving to the Lord or a pauper if you do not, for even Paul the writer of this epistle was poor in this world's goods, but it certainly means great spiritual blessings will be given you in this world and great eternal rewards will be yours. By giving you are laying up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). Your pastor and church are doing you a very great injustice if they do not teach you to give. They are robbing you of a chance to invest your money in a way that will pay eternal dividends. Verse 7 warns us against giving in the wrong spirit. God not only sees the gift but the spirit and He does not want that which is given grudgingly, nor does God want us to give because of necessity. Some give because they feel it is necessary to maintain their standing, some because they are high pressured into doing so, but not cheerfully. The following verses in the chapter emphasize how marvelously God's grace is lavished upon the cheerful giver. 1 Corinthians 13:3 shows that if we give all our possessions and even our life and are prompted to do so by any other motive than love, it will bring no blessing at all to the giver. Acts 5:1-12 shows God so abhors the wrong motive for giving that He stuck the first pair dead that gave to get praise from man. In the preceding chapter we learn Barnabas and others had given every thing they had but were prompted by the motive of love. Ananias and Sapphira wanted the church to think they were also willing to give all they had so they concealed a part of it and gave the remainder. Their motive was to maintain their standing in the church, but in reality they gave grudgingly, and God struck them dead. Many a man has lied to the church on the question of giving since that time, either by pretending he had given all he could when he really had not, or pretending he could not give when in reality he could. God has not struck all such dead but God is no respecter of persons and He does not think more of people who give from wrong motives or practice deception on the giving question now than He did then.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 gives us a little added light on Scriptural giving. First, it is to be done regularly (the first day of the week); second, none are exempt (everyone of you); third, it is to be proportionately (as God has prospered you). This brings us to the question, is there any way to know what proportion constitutes Scriptural giving? To this question I answer, yes. Let us briefly summarize what we have discovered. First, that the disposition to give is a grace bestowed by God in the heart of the redeemed: second, that where that implanted grace has taken root in the heart it produces such a desire that even though we are in affliction and poverty, even though Christian leaders think we are giving beyond our power, we will insist on giving; third, we find Christian leaders are to develop the grace of giving in the church and Christian people are urged to abound in this grace also; fourth, we learned our blessings will be in proportion to our giving; fifth, that God insists the spirit of giving must be right for He has no delight in that which is given grudgingly or of necessity or to receive the plaudits of man or without love, but is highly pleased when we give cheerfully and will abundantly bless the cheerful giver; sixth, we learn every Christian is expected to give; seventh, that we are expected to give regularly; eighth, that we are taught we should give proportionately. Before I discuss the proportion the Scripture says we should give, I wish to point out there is no such thing as giving too large a proportion of our possessions to God, if it comes from a heart of sincere love and is given cheerfully. Acts 4:34-37, tells of many who sold all their property and gave all the proceeds to the Lord. While this type of giving is not commanded in God's Word it is certainly highly commended and is well pleasing to God. Mark 12:42-44, tells us the poor widow cast in two mites which was her entire living. Jesus did not call her foolish but spoke of her giving in very complimentary terms. So we see there is no maximum to the proportion we can give, for if we give all it is pleasing to God, but there is a minimum and God calls those who give less than the minimum robbers. How strange it is that those who give as much as the minimum usually consider themselves good givers and are so considered by the church, however, we must admit if all professed Christians gave no more than the Scriptural minimum the Lord's work would receive many times the amount it now receives.
Let us turn to the word of God and see what is the minimum proportion of our income that is acceptable to God. Here we find it clearly taught that the tithe is the smallest portion of our income acceptable to God and all who give less are accused of robbing God (Mal. 3:7-10). If anyone does not know what portion is meant by the tithe we ask you to look it up in your dictionary. The definition in my dictionary is that tithe means the tenth part of anything. So it is very clear that the tithe of your income means one-tenth of it. When the Scripture speaks of tithes and offerings as it does in Malachi 3:8 the offerings are what is given in addition to the tithe. Frequently we hear people say that tithing belonged only to the age of law and was God's method of financing His work in Old Testament times but that in the church age the Scripture does not require us to tithe. May we ask you to do just a little clear thinking on this subject before we study the Scripture on it.? Do you think that God's people should love Him less since Christ died for them on the cross than those who lived before that time and looked forward to the crucifixion of Christ for their sin? Can you imagine the apostles saying the age of law is closed and there is now no law demanding that we give a tenth, so we will now give less to God and keep more for ourselves? Do you think the Jew in the Old Testament age owed a deeper debt of gratitude to God than Christians do in the New Testament age? Doesn't logical reasoning force us to the conclusion that the individual who argues tithing is not expected of Christians in this age and who gives less than a tithe, is so arguing to justify his own selfishness? I grant that we might respect the honesty of convictions on the part of the individual who argues tithing does not belong to the church age if that individual gives a tithe or more to God, but we cannot have much faith in the quality of his love or the integrity of his argument against tithing if his giving falls below the tithe. Let us make one more observation in our appeal to reason. As a pastor for 25 years we have found VERY, VERY few exceptions to this rule. Those who oppose tithing give less than the tithe and those who practice tithing strongly advocate it. [Since writing this in 1945, it is now 1972 (now after 57 years in the ministry) I am more strongly convinced than ever this statement is true and I believe flit same about this entire book.]
Now let us search the Word and abide by its teachings on this subject. To those who call tithing legalism we ask you to note that tithing was in practice more than 400 years before the Mosaic law was given on Sinai (Gen. 14:20). Here we find Abraham giving tithes. In Gen. 28:22 we find Jacob promising to give a tenth. These men lived long before the law was given. When God gave the law to Moses He incorporated tithing in it just as lie did many other things that were being practiced at the time the law was given. Leviticus 27:30-34 shows how completely tithing was to be practiced under the Mosaic law. When Israel was in a good spiritual condition they tithed (Neh. 10:37) and there never was a financial need in carrying on God's work when the nation was tithing (2 Chron. 31:4-10). I also notice that failure to tithe and spiritual decline were always inseparable (Neh. 13:10-14; Mal. 3:7-11). Many other passages in the Old Testament could be referred to, but these referred to show plainly that Israel was commanded to tithe. God blessed them when they tithed and punished them when they failed to tithe. These Scriptures further show that when the spiritual life was strong they always tithed and that they never lacked funds when they tithed. 1 also note that financial trouble was always proof of spiritual decline. I am convinced that the same rule holds good today and that in most every case a church having a hard financial struggle is at low spiritual ebb. Again I say there might be giving without spirituality but there can never be spirituality without the desire to give.
Now may I ask what Christ and the inspired writers of the New Testament say on the subject of giving? In Matthew 23:23 I find Christ puts His approval on tithing. In Hebrews 6:20 also 7:17 and 21 tells us Melchisedec was a type of Christ, so when Abraham gave tithes to Melchisedec they were in reality given to Christ. Hebrews 7:9-10 shows that when Abraham gave tithes his unborn descendents were represented as tithing for they were not superior to their forefather Abraham, through whom they received their high standing. Most people agree these blood descendents of Abraham should and did tithe. Galatians 3:13-16 shows that the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant was given to the Gentiles through the seed of Abraham; the seed referred to being Christ. Here we see the Gentiles receive spiritual blessing through the Abrahamic covenant and while we admit his natural seed should tithe some argue the Gentiles, who receive their spiritual blessings through his seed, are. free from the obligation to tithe. Galatians 3:24 says, "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." If it be argued that tithing is legalism (though we still say it is not) and therefore was one of the things the law taught us as it acted as schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, isn't it strange that after it got us to Christ, He changed and lowered the standard of giving. I Corinthians 9:13-14 shows that the ministry is toy be supported like those who ministered at the temple in the Old Testament age. Verse 14 says "even so." Certainly dial means in like manner. No one denies that they were supported by the tithe that was brought in. But when we read in 2 Corinthians 8:9 that Christ was rich and became poor for us, when we hear Him say that foxes have dens and birds have nests but that He has not so much as a place to lay His head and when we add to that the fact that He not only gave up all material riches but His very life for us, how can we object to giving and how can we be satisfied to give as little as a tithe?
How can we be so ridiculous as to profess our first love is for Him and then think we have given liberally when we just give one tenth, which is the minimum the Scripture requires? As we study the giving of those early Christians we find they never thought they had reached the stopping point in giving even when they had given a tenth but went far beyond it. Luke 18:28-30 shows the apostles left all for Jesus and Jesus promised them blessings in proportion to the sacrifice they made for Him but He also stated that blessing was for all who put Him first. In Mark 12:42 we find the story of the poor widow who gave all and Jesus speaks very complimentary about her giving. Acts 4:34-37 tells of a group of early Christians who gave all they had. Philippians 3:8 shows how Paul gave everything and counted it as but the filth of the earth in comparison to what he received in spiritual blessings for putting all upon the altar for Christ. Luke 19:8 tells us when Zacchaeus was saved he gladly gave half. So we see in the cases just mentioned how those who loved the Lord really gave.
Do not expect any blessing for giving no matter how much the gift might be or how much sacrifice it represents unless you give because you love Him. Those who love, love to give and the more they- can give the happier they are. Those who do not love, if they give at all, give because they think it is their duty to do so. They get no joy out of giving and receive no blessings for giving. May God grant that if any such read this pamphlet their eyes might be opened to understand the Scriptural truth about giving and may their hearts be warmed to a real fervent love for their Savior. Then may they give with God's blessing upon both the gift and the giver.
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