Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 31, 1962

Is It Right?

Herschel E. Patton

Is it right for money to be taken from the treasury of local congregations and given to organizations such as hospitals, for works of mercy; orphan and old folk home incorporations, for works of benevolence; schools-colleges, for works of education; Gospel Press - Herald of Truth, for works of evangelism?

Is it right for money to be taken from the treasury of local congregations to provide camping fun, swimming, hiking etc., support Boy Scout Troops, equip and support ball teams, provide secular studies in kindergarten or higher level schools, build and maintain recreational and dining halls, etc.?

These questions involve practices that have brought division and strife to the body of Christ. Everything mentioned has been, and is being, done by some churches of Christ today. Many "great" preachers of today and "churches on the march" are in full sympathy with the organizations and practices mentioned. Preachers and churches that believe these things to be unscriptural are branded by the sympathizers as "anti" and said to be unworthy of fellowship or encouragement. True, there are some who deny being in sympathy with ALL the above mentioned things, but since opposition to any one would brand them as "anti" and put them in a bad light with popular publications (like the Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation) and schools (such as Abilene Christian, Freed-Hardeman, and David Lipscomb), they dare not speak out or use a preacher who does not have the endorsement of these "brighter lights." By supporting such preachers, whether they themselves endorse ALL or not, people become "partakers of the evil." (2 Jno. 9-10)

The Matter Must Be Resolved By "A Thus Saith The Lord"

Brethren who object to such practices have repeatedly called upon our modern-day promoters to cite one passage of Scripture which by precept, example, or necessary inference authorizes elders to use money from the treasury (that "laid by in store") to support a human organization or institution which proposes to do a work the Lord assigned to congregations, or to provide entertainment, recreation, and banqueting for members. To this day, not one passage has been given!

In evangelism, churches may send a preacher (Acts 11:22-24, 15:22-32); send to a preacher (Phil. 4:15-16, 2 Cor. 11:8-9), but there is no record of their sending to an organization (e.g. Missionary Society - Gospel Press) which "sounds out the word."

There is Bible authority for churches sending to other churches which are in need (Acts 11:27-30, I Cor. 16: 1-2, 1 Cor. 8 & 9), but there is none for sending to a church, not in need, so that it can be a "Sponsoring Church" for many others.

In benevolence, a church is Obligated to her own needy saints (Acts 6:1-7, 1 Tim. 5:18) and may send to another church, or churches, in want (Acts 11:27-30, 2 Cor. 8 & 9, Rom 15:25-28), but there is no Scripture which makes the treasury of congregations a welfare fund for the world.

The Scriptures obligate a Christian to "provide for his own" (1 Tim. 5:8) and all others, believers or unbelievers, as he has opportunity and ability (Gal. 6:10), which would include social and recreational needs, but there is no Scripture authorizing elders to use money from the treasury of the church (that "laid by in store") to provide such needs.

Some brethren have already accepted the philosophy which spawned the First Christian Church — "If the Bible doesn't say don't do it, we are free to do it." Have you?

Some False And Deceptive Efforts

When Scriptural authority is lacking for a belief or practice which some want to hold, those espousing the thing usually resort to human reasoning, comparisons, associations, camouflage, etc., to sustain their desires.

(1) Whatever the Christian can do the church can do. It is argued that the church is made up of Christians, therefore whatever, the Christian can do, the church can do. If the Christian can contribute to the Red Cross, a school, or another congregation, then churches may do the same. If the Christian can sponsor a ball club, provide swimming, boating, picnicking, etc. for his family and others, then churches can do likewise. If Christians can enter business enterprises to raise funds for their needs and to do good, churches may also do this.

That such reasoning is false is obvious from passages which clearly make a distinction between the actions of individual Christians and of the church (congregation). (1 Tim. 5:16) Many duties are assigned by the Lord for Christians (who make up the church universal) to perform, which are not duties to be performed by congregations, or, jointly, at the direction of elders. For example, "love your wife," "fathers ....chasten children ....," "work with own hands.... may have to give...." are commands involving individual action rather than congregational action.

(2) No difference in use made of "Our Money" and the "Treasury" of a congregation. The Scriptures do make a distinction between "our" money and the use made of it (Acts 5:4) and the Lord's money — that "laid by in store" — put in the Lord's "storehouse." (1 Car. 16:1-2, Mal. 3:8-10) Before it is "laid by in store," it is in our power (Acts 5:4) but afterward it can only be used at the direction of the elders for THAT AUTHORIZED BY THE LORD. The Scriptures teach that Christians can, and should, engage in business (Eph. 4:28; Jas. 4:13-15; Lydia - Acts 16; Priscilla and Aquila -Acts 18) to provide for their families, and others (1 Tim. 5:8, Eph 4:28) which provision would include education, recreation, and the like, but before a congregation, out of that "laid by in store" can do these things there must' be authority from the Lord, and there is none.

Brother G. K. Wallace, in 1/11/62 Gospel Advocate, ridiculed the idea of there being a difference in what a Christian can spend his money for and what money from the church treasury can be spent for. He wrote about the "Budget," accusing some of believing the "budget" to be something "written by the finger of God" and declares "there is no record of a church ever making a budget." His use of "budget" shows that he means the same thing as "treasury." Note these statements: "The budget of the average congregation is made up of a number of special collections"; "Sometimes it is said that the elders of the church have the right to decide what is to be done with the money in the budget." Budget in both of these statements means the same as "treasury." Even Webster's definition of "budget" and "treasury" shows the terms may be used to signify the same thing. What then does brother Wallace mean by saying "there is no record of a church ever making a budget"? The Corinthian church had a budget — a treasury — for "lay by in store" means to cast into a common treasury. Brother Wallace said, "in the little congregation where I grew to manhood we had no budget....On Sunday morning we took a collection. of the brethren gathered up the money and put it in a Bull-Durham tabacco sack and pulled the strings together and took it home with him and kept it for the poor." Webster lists as a first meaning of the word budget — "a bag or sack with its contents." So, they did have a budget. Brother Wallace just didn't know what it was, but he is old enough to know better now. This is a sample of the camouflauge used to mislead. By using the word "budget" which is not in the Scriptures instead of "lay by in store" or "treasury" (which according to Webster can mean the same) which is a Bible term, the impression is created that the treasury — how made up and how spent — is all just a matter of human judgment. The conclusion is; money out of the treasury can Abe used for anything that is not specifically condemned.

In trying to show there is no difference in the use a Christian makes of his money and that in the church treasury, so long as the thing is not wrong, brother Wallace says, "If it is right to take a vacation, you may do so; but if it is not right, you should not use a single dollar to do it." I agree with this statement, but according to his argument, if it is right for a Christian to spend for a vacation, then it would be all right for the whole congregation to take a vacation on money front the church treasury, providing such a thing was desired and placed in the budget by the brethren. Indeed, churches are already rushing into "church camp" projects for just such a thing, Brother Wallace ridicules the idea of elders deciding what to do with money in the budget. He contends that it is first appropriated by the brethren.... put in for whatever purpose they desire.... and if the elders fail to spend it for things desired, they are guilty of misappropriating the funds. Why! indeed, money "laid by in store" is appropriated money, but what it has been appropriated for has been determined by the Lord, and not by brethren. It has been appropriated for evangelism (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Cor. 9:14); to edify (Eph. 4:16) and to assist needy saints (1Cor. 16:1-3; Rom. 15:26), and if the elders spend it for something not connected with these ends, they have misappropriated the funds. When the brethren are made the ones to decide what money is "laid by in store" for and therefore its use, the gate is opened for congregations to use their funds to aid any organization that does good and to provide anything in the way of entertainment or recreation — even to a vacation for every member — that they may desire. Oh! the lengths to which people will go and the Scriptures they will twist in order to justify (?) what they want! !

(3) There is no pattern. "There is no pattern for many things we use and do" has become a popular cry with many. The New Testament is the Lord's pattern. Things are in the pattern either by specific or general authority. Things essential to the doing of that which the Lord requires, though not specified, are in the pattern. Because the Lord requires the saints to assemble (Heb. 10:25), which necessitates a place and equipment for doing the things required in the assembly, a church building, rented hall, private dwelling house, lights, heat, water fountain, rest rooms etc., are all in the pattern. Kitchens for banquets and recreational halls are not in the pattern because the Lord did not place meeting man's social needs in the work of a congregation. If the Scriptures authorize churches to engage in banqueting, then it will be admitted that a kitchen and banquet hall are in the pattern. But, where is the authority?

Churches cooperated in New Testament times by each one working diligently at the same things — with the same mission, by sending aid to a church or churches in need (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8 & 9; Rom. 15:25-28), by several congregations supporting the same preacher. (2 Cor. 11:8) This is the pattern for con-preacher. (2 Cor. 11:8) This is the pattern for cooperation. Having specified the local congregation and having limited the authority of elders to the "flock of God among you," other organizations or institutions and sponsoring churches through which numerous churches combine their efforts are out of the pattern.

The person who cries "there is no pattern" and objects to being asked to find his practice in the pattern is doing something he has no business doing.

(4) Whatever the elders decide. Some seek to justify these questionable practices by saying "The elders are the overseers of the church, so whatever they decide to do, the members must accept. If the eldership voluntarily decides to help some corporation or institution, it is their business.

Elders have never been given authority above the Word of the Lord. If they fail to "abide in the doctrine" — transgress by seeking to enjoin that which is unauthorized, members should "obey God rather than men." Elders have no authority to use money from the Lord's treasury for that unauthorized by Him. Whether they are forced or give it voluntarily to an organization or institution, they are still obligated to give Scriptural authority for their action.

(5) False and misleading associations. By these, some have been deceived into thinking that the modem practices being questioned are all right.

It is claimed that a church contributing to an asylum type home is the same as contributing to a private home. Those objecting to Orphans and Old Folk Homes (corporations) are said to be inconsistent because they admit the church can help a private home but can't help a substitute home.

The Scriptures no where speak of churches relieving HOMES. They do speak of churches relieving "saints." When a needy saint is relieved, he/she is enabled to discharge responsibilities to children or others for whom responsible. In relieving needy saints, the elders oversee the relief as to who gets it — how much and what kind. They do not take over the duties of relieved saints to their charges. When churches help the so-called "substitute" home, they actually contribute to a corporation that then decides who, what kind, and how much. If this practice is acceptable, someone must find a Scripture authorizing churches to relieve human organizations, institutions, corporations, etc. There is no such Scripture, and the practice is a violation of local independence. Many have been deceived by the false statement "churches can relieve private homes," and by the play that is often made on the word "home," — using it variously — as a domicile, a family relationship, and an asylum.

Another misleading association is in comparing a kitchen for banqueting, provided with the Lord's money, to a water cooler or rest rooms. As previously pointed out, drink for the thirst — particularly children — and rest rooms are directly connected with essentials to orderly assemblies — a thing authorized, but there is no authority for the church, out of the Lord's treasury, providing for man's social needs.

Scriptures Vs. Human Reasoning

I am not opposed to human reasoning, but when this is used to justify things in religion which are without Scriptural authority, you may be assured the reasoning is not sound, but fallacious.

It is easy to turn to Scriptures such as Acts 14:21, 11:30, 1 Pet 5:2 and see that each local church is completely independent, self-governed and fully sufficient to do the things God expects congregations to do. Since this is the arrangement the Lord made for the furtherance of His Cause in the earth, why should men form organizations and institutions, separate from congregations, through which congregations are urged to do their work? Any form of justification for such as pleasing to God would have to come through human reasoning for one can not turn to the Scriptures and say "Here is my authority for it."

One can readily see from 1 Pet. 5:2 that the oversight of elders is limited to the congregation of which they are elders. If one group of elders wants to oversee a brotherhood work through funds contributed by hundreds of churches, they must reason themselves and others into thinking that many things do not have to be in the "pattern" to be acceptable. A few efforts have been made to make a "sponsoring" church out of Jerusalem and Philippi, but they were so soundly exposed that in more recent efforts such arguments have not even been attempted.

Scriptural proof is not lacking for churches engaging in evangelism (Acts 11:22-24; 15:22-23; Phil. 4:15-16; 2 Cor. 11:8-9), aiding saints in need (Acts 6:1-7; I Tim. 5:16; 2 Cor. 8 & 9) and edification (Eph. 4:16; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26), using any righteous, unspecified means essential to effectively doing these. But, when men desire to put a congregation in business for gain or have it provide secular education, entertainment, and recreation, something besides Scripture must be relied upon for justification.

All the real progress the church has ever made in any age has been by relying upon a "thus saith the Lord" and acting in His Name. Until these human practices began to be promoted, brethren in general were content, yea desirous, to speak and act only when they could give chapter and verse. A few years ago if a brother or paper had advocated congregations providing banqueting and recreational halls, pooling their resources in one church to be overseen by one eldership or in an organization like Gospel Press, or placing schools and colleges in the budget of churches, a cry of protest would have gone up that could be heard from Dan to Beersheba. Yet all of this and much more is not only being done by many churches today but such practices are being urged and pushed to the point of dividing the Lord's Body. The promoters even have the colossal gall to accuse the objectors of proclaiming some "new doctrine."

The "new doctrine" is proclaimed by those who have abandoned the Scriptures and embarked on the road of humanism. "Oh, but we have always had Orphan Homes," someone says. No, not always — only fifty three years. The first one was begun in 1909 (Tenn. Orphan Home) amid a storm of protest. The second one "among us" was the Tipton Home in 1925. These have always been questioned as to their Scripturalness, but because of the emotional appeal they became more or less generally accepted. It took the introduction of these other practices, urged upon the brotherhood by the same arguments used in an effort to justify the Homes to cause many to make a restudy of the Orphan Home question. It wasn't hard to see that if churches could establish Orphan and Old Folk Home Incorporations for works of benevolence, then in the same way they could set up a Missionary Society Organization for evangelism, schools or colleges for edification, hospitals for works of mercy, and many other such things The reason you hear more said about orphan homes is because modern promoters know that if they can sell it to the brotherhood these other things will follow — through the same gate, and the home is the one thing concerning which they can stir the most sentiment and arouse more emotions.

Brethren, it is still necessary to "abide in the doctrine of Christ" (2 Jno. 9-10) and not "go beyond that which IS written." (1 Cor. 4:6) I plead with you not to abandon this proven ground for the shifting sands of human reasoning. — Lufkin, Texas