The Congregation And It’s Money – Part 3

Giving our Money

 

 

How Should We Use God’s Money?

 

The question that we’ve been examining is;  How is a congregation authorized to use it’s money?  We have clear examples in the new testament, of congregations sending money to other congregations who are in need, and also of congregations using their money to help members of their own congregation.  But the question remains;  Do we have the authority from the bible, for the congregation to use the money collected through the weekly contribution, to assist non-Christians?

After examining the scriptures, we find that we have no examples of such being done.  But yet we have many commands instructing us, as Christians, to help the poor, and those in need, and to be a neighbor to everyone.

For example, we have the well-known story about “the good Samaritan”, from  Luke 10:30-37.   This story teaches us clearly that we need to be a “neighbor” to anyone and everyone who is in need.  And this story also clearly authorizes us to use our money to help strangers.  For instance..

Luke 10:35  says,  “And on the next day, he took two denarii, and gave them to the innkeeper and said;  Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.” 

And Jesus says in V-37,  “Go and do the same.”   So, go and be a neighbor to anyone who needs a neighbor, and be willing to use your money if you need to.

 

But this is a command to individuals isn’t it?  The church didn’t even exist yet when Jesus gave this command.

 

Here Lies The Debate

 

DebateHere’s a verse that Christians often use to show that the congregation does have the authority to help non-Christians.   Let’s see if this verse actually proves that belief.

Galatians 6:10     “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to ALL men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”   We can easily see, that as Christians, we’re commanded to help all people who are in need, with a special emphasis on “those who are of the household of faith”,  in other words, Christians.

Here’s the question:  Is this a command given to individual Christians only, or is it a command for the congregation as a whole to obey?

 

This command was given in a letter that Paul wrote to the various congregations located in Galatia.  Listen to how he opens the letter.  “Paul, an apostle, not sent from men, nor through the agency of men, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead, and all the brethren who are with me;  To the CHURCHES (or, in other words, to “the congregations, or the assemblies”) of Galatia.”   Gal 1:1-2.

  So then this letter was addressed to everyone residing in the region of Galatia, who had been called out of the world by God, who God then added to His church.   So they were “the called out of Galatia”. 

And one of the commands that Paul gave to all these people, was..   “..while WE have opportunity (do you see how Paul includes himself in this number of called out people..  They’re all one, they’re all one body) “So then, while WE have opportunity, let US (the command is for all of us, even for Paul)  “..let US do good to ALL men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”   Especially to church members..  Church members have priority!

But some people contend that this command is ONLY for individuals, not for the congregation collectively.

Remember though, that individuals make up the congregation.   “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”   1 Cor 12:27  

Can you even separate individual Christians, from the body of Christ?  Do individual Christians stop being the body of Christ, when they’re not gathered together in a group?  Are they not the body of Christ, 24 hrs a day?

So were these people who read this letter, supposed to think of themselves as individuals, separate from one another?  Or were they supposed to think of themselves as the ONE body of Christ, and individually, members of it?

 

How Do We Feel About Ourselves ?

 

Reading a LetterHow about THIS congregation.  If Paul had written specifically to your congregation, he might have started it like this..

Paul, an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ;  To those who are “the called out”, in Yourtown., USA.  And here’s one of the things that he writes..

“Brethren, if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”   Gal 6, verse 1. 

“If a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness..”   Which one of us, from the congregation is supposed to restore the one caught in a trespass?  Just one of us?  Two of us?  Isn’t the command given to ALL of us?  So then ALL of us, who are spiritual, should restore such a one!   And we should do it in the spirit of gentleness  “lest we also be tempted”. 

Doesn’t this verse place a responsibility upon the whole congregation, to attempt to restore one of it’s members who’s in sin?  Would anyone actually contend that this verse PROHIBITS the whole congregation from joining together to help restore someone in sin?   Does the fact that we don’t have an example of a congregation attempting to restore one of it’s members, prohibit the congregation from doing this?

 

Let’s keep reading Paul’s letter.   “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  What does that mean?  Does that mean we should all pick a partner, and take turns, bearing each other’s burdens, so that it’s just one-on-one?

Doesn’t it mean, that if any ONE of us has a burden, or if SEVERAL of us have burdens, that ALL the rest of us should be helping to bear those burdens?   Isn’t it a joint effort?  It could very well be, that any given one of us, isn’t able to bear someone’s  burden all by himself.  But it’s very possible, that collectively, we CAN bear that burden.

Does this verse PROHIBIT the congregation from acting collectively, to help bear the burdens of one of us?

 

 

How Do We Bear One Another’s Burdens?

 

Bear a BurdenThis verse doesn’t tell us HOW to bear one another’s burdens, does it?  And that’s because HOW we go about bearing the burden, depends on what the burden is.  Nothing is said here about giving financial help, but then, no other kind of help is specified either.  So what kind of help is authorized?

What if the burden is emotional?  We can ALL offer emotional support to a member.  Maybe some of us will be better suited then others, to help emotionally.  But the point is, that everyone in the congregation, who is able, should be involved in helping bear that burden.   Is that wrong to do, because we don’t have any example of it?

If it’s NOT wrong, then couldn’t we offer emotional support to a non-Christian?

 

What if the burden requires physical help?  What if one of our homes is damaged, and we need the help of several people to repair the house?   Can the congregation all join in and help repair the home?   We don’t have any example of that in the bible.  Does that mean we can’t do it?  Why can’t we all join together, and say that WE, acting as the church of Christ in Buffalo, are going to help you repair your home.  Is that wrong to do?

And if it’s NOT wrong, couldn’t we repair the house of a non-Christian?

So then, why can’t that same principle be applied to the congregation’s money?  If we apply the principle to the congregation’s collective time, and it’s collective abilities, why not it’s collective money?

 

Do Good To All Men

 

Do Good to All MenLet’s go back to  Gal 6:10,  “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to ALL men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”    We’re commanded to “do good to all men”.  But God doesn’t specify HOW we are to do good.   How we do good to others, depends on their needs.

If we would just take the scriptures for exactly what they say, without trying to twist words around, there wouldn’t be this debate in the first place.  The simple definition of that words “we”, and “us” proves who this command is for.

The bible warns us about distorting the scriptures, doesn’t it?   2 Peter 3:16  says this about some of Paul’s writings..

“..Which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do the rest of the scriptures, to their own destruction.” 

How would you “distort” the scriptures?   Well, you’d distort the scriptures, by changing the meaning of the WORDS of the scriptures.  It’s as simple as that.

 

So,  Galatians 6:10  says,  “as WE have opportunity”, and “let US do good”.  The very words, WE, and US, describe collective action.  In other words, a plurality of people are involved.  But those who contend that this verse applies only to individuals, want to distort those two words, by changing their very meaning.

People try to claim that “we”, means we as “individuals”.  And that the word “us”, means us as”individuals”.  But those words are NOT singular, they are both plural.  Here’s the very plain definition of the word “we”..

“A word used by a speaker, to refer to himself AND one or more other people, considered together”!  In other words collectively!  Not singularly, but collectively..  Together.  And the same holds true for the word “us”.  It is a word denoting collective action.

And the very same also holds true for the original Greek words.  Both Greek words, are in the plural sense, denoting collective action.  NOT individual action.

The Greek language is VERY specific.  There is a word that means, “to have opportunity”.  And there’s a word that means “to do good”.  And in the Greek, there’s actually are different FORMS of those words, depending on whether it refers to an individual, “having opportunity”, or “doing good”, or to a group of individuals collectively, having “opportunity”, or “doing good”.    In our English language, we simply use a different pronoun;  Such as I have opportunity, or WE have opportunity.  And, I do good, or WE do good.

So then the meaning of this verse isn’t a matter of debate, as some people would have you believe.  Doing good to all men, as we have opportunity, definitely, and without any doubt, is a collective action referring to the whole congregation taking part!  And so then, WHO is spoken of in this verse, as collectively, acting together?   The congregations of Galatia, that’s who are being referred to!

 

The apostle Paul wrote to ALL the congregations of Galatia, and to all the individuals that make up those congregations.  And he’s writing to every other congregation that has ever existed, and that ever WILL exist, and to every Christian who has ever lived, both as individual members of the ONE body of Christ, and collectively, as THE body of Christ.

 

What Is God’s Attitude Toward Money?

 

Money is MammonHow does the bible depict God’s feelings, and His attitude toward money?

First of all, the bible tells us that,  “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.”   1 Tim 6:10    Do you think God loves money?  God loves people, doesn’t He, not money.

Secondly, God calls money;  “Mammon”!  And Jesus says,  “You cannot serve God and mammon.”  Mat 6:24.

Mammon is money, and riches.  It’s what a person trusts in, other than God.  It’s earthly and it’s worldly.  and it perishes with the using.  That’s how God views money.  Money is simply a tool to be used.  And it’s NOT something to be used only on ourselves!

Eph 4:28  says,  “Let him who steals, steal no longer.  But let him labor with his own hands, doing what is good, in order that he may have something to SHARE with him who has need.” 

Now listen to this verse..

1 John 3:17,   “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need, and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”   No one can deny that the scriptures put a special emphasis on helping our brothers and sisters.  How can the love of God abide in you, if you don’t?

But here’s a verse that commands us to love everyone, not just our brothers and sisters.   Jesus calls it the second greatest commandment..  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”   Mark 12:31 

How could individual Christians love their neighbor, without the congregation loving their neighbor?  The individuals ARE the congregation.  When Christians love, the congregation loves!

 

In conclusion, we’ve seen that the EXAMPLES of congregations using their money to help other Christians, really has nothing to do with the direct COMMAND of God, to do good to ALL men.  “As WE (collectively) have opportunity, let Us (collectively) do good to all men.” 

And we’ve seen what God’s attitude has always been toward money.  It’s simply mammon, and its purpose is to be used, and to be shared with those who are in need; and the love of it, is the root of all evil.  In other words, if we think that money takes priority over the love of God, we’re headed down the wrong path.

And we’ve seen that when Paul wrote to the various congregations of Galatia, he wrote to all the congregations as a whole, and he wrote to each congregation individually, and he wrote to each member of each congregation, as individual members of the whole body of Christ.  And he wrote to this congregation as well. And there’s no separating any of us from His body.

 

How much more valuable than money, is the precious blood of Christ?

Is it at all consistent with the bible, to say that God would give His blood for sinners, but we had better not give them His money?   The very words of the bible prove, that the congregation’s love for PEOPLE, has to take precedent, over the concept, that the congregation’s money, has somehow become sanctified, and can ONLY be used to help Christians.

WE are sanctified, but our money is not.  We need to be careful, that we don’t put too much emphasis on money.  God’s emphasis, is on the souls, that the money can help!

 

May God bless you in the study of His word, and in the handling of His money, and most especially, in your spiritual health.

 

We welcome any and all comments or questions.  Please don’t hesitate to leave your remarks in the space provided below.

 

 

 

Share

This article has 2 Comments

  1. I’ve always thought it interesting that after Jesus died and rose again, the disciples lived in communes with each one’s treasure being shared according to one’s needs. Then when the one couple didn’t share, they were struck down. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but in these communes, if one didn’t work they didn’t eat. The difference between these communes and today’s communism, aside from the religious aspect, is that the communes of the disciples were voluntary, whereas a communist state is imposed and therefore doesn’t work.

    1. Hello Fiona. Thanks so much for your visit here and for your comments. I don’t agree though with your assumption that Christians lived in communes. The bible does say that many people did sell what they owned and shared with everyone (Acts 2:45), but it also says that they went “from house to house, taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart”. (Acts 2:46). So it does sound like Christians still lived in their own homes, and everyone did not actually live together in a commune.

      I believe that the two people you refer to as being “struck down”, were Ananias and His wife Sappfira. Their story is in Acts 5:1-10. But the cause of them being struck dead was not that they didn’t share, but it was because they lied about the money that they were sharing.

      The command was given much later in the new testament, that if one refused to work, neither should he eat. (2 Thess 3:10).

      Christianity was never a commune type of living arrangement. But the Christian principle of bearing one another’s burdens has always been a law of God. Thanks again for your comments. I truly appreciate them. May God bless you according to your needs and His will.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *