Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 15, 1949

Proper Use Of The Lord's Money

Clarence C. Gobbel, Santa Barbara, California

That brethren are to give liberally to the cause of Christ and that "upon the first day of the week," is generally well known and fairly well practiced among us. And that the elders of the congregation are to oversee the work that is done through this money is, I am sure, a question upon which all of us are pretty well agreed. There is, however, and has been, some difference of opinion and conviction as to just how this money is to be spent by those who are scripturally authorized to spend it. Is there any scriptural limitation on the ways in which, and things for which, they are to spend the money the congregation contributes?

In many of the congregations, if not most of them, the brethren are inclined to give much more liberally when they know the funds contributed are being wisely and carefully handled, and when accurate and detailed reports are made periodically as to how the money is being spent. There is very little incentive to a full and liberal giving in those congregations where no report is ever made as to how much has been received and how it has been, or will be spent.

Caring For The Needy

We have some pretty clear examples in the New Testament of the use of the funds which were collected by the churches. In Acts 6:1-4 we have the record of some of the Grecian Jews murmuring because they felt their widows were being neglected in the daily ministration. So the apostles made arrangements for this problem to be taken care of; and certainly money was expended in this matter. Certain men were selected by the congregation, and the apostles set these men over this particular work. It is clear, however, that these seven men worked under the general supervision and oversight of the apostles.

Preaching The Gospel

Paul wrote to the Philippians, "ye have done well, that ye did communicate with my afflictions." (Phil. 4:14.) He also said that in the beginning of the gospel, "no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only." (verse 15.) This indicates that from the treasury of the church, the brethren had sent to help support Paul while he was preaching. And this was in Thessalonica, for the next verse reads, "For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity." This support had been brought to Paul by the hand of Epaphroditus from the church in Philippi. (verse 18.)

From these references we conclude that money was used by the church in caring for the needy, and for the support of those engaged in preaching the gospel Thus it seems clear that the elders have the scriptural right to use the treasury of the church for all things essential in carrying out this two-fold work of the church: (1) care for the needy, clothing and feeding those who require such attention, and (2) preaching the gospel.

Since the above is granted, the elders must have the right to build meetinghouses in which to worship and preach the gospel; they have the right to support the one, or ones, doing the preaching.

Do they have the right and authority to use a part of the money to build and maintain orphan homes, in which needy children are cared for, and taught not only the Bible, but other subjects as well? We know that congregations give for such causes, and that out of their treasuries. Do they have the right to do it?

Would the same congregations have the same right to give to a Christian college out of their treasuries? Let us remember that some of the orphan homes are private institutions. That is, they have a separate board of directors, distinct and apart from the local congregation, and not under the eldership of any local church. Does a congregation have any more right to give out of its treasury to such a home than it has to give to a Christian college?

If giving to an orphan home thus operated would not constitute a "super-structure" over and above the local congregation, or tend to destroy the autonomy of the congregation, why would giving to a Christian college, similarly set up and operated, constitute a "super-structure" and tend toward destroying the autonomy of the local church? What is the difference—if there is one? Why would a college thus organized and operated be any greater threat to the control of the church than would an orphan home? And what is the difference in principle between supporting the one or the other.

These questions are asked for information. I would like to see somebody write some articles that deal specifically and precisely with the issue. I would like to get to the bottom of this question, and have it thoroughly discussed in the light of the teaching of the Bible. I would like to see something more pertinent to the issue than most of the discussions that have heretofore come to my attention.