Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 18, 1950
NUMBER 3, PAGE 6,11b

Church Finances -- The Lord's Plan

Rufus Clifford, Old Hickory, Tennessee

God's plan for financing the church is very simple, just as all of God's teaching to us is simple. It was written for common people, for ordinary folks. Even children can understand much of the word of God, especially those duties and obligations that have to do with the plan of salvation and the matter of Christian living. The plan God gave for financing the work of the church is of that simple variety. Here it is: "Upon the first day of the week, let everyone of you lay by him in store as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." (I Cor. 16:1, 2.)

If someone objects that that was written to the Corinthian church centuries and centuries ago, and was never intended for us, we have only to look at the salutation of the letter. "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 1:1.) Would that not include us? The letter was written to the saints of all ages, to those who "call upon the name of Jesus Christ."

Who Shall Give?

The plan of giving is very brief and very simple. In the first place, notice who it is that is to give. "Everyone of you." Each member of the church, therefore, is to give. Salvation is a personal matter. The elders cannot live the Christian life for the members; neither can they give for any save themselves. The deacons and the preachers cannot give for any save themselves. No man can go to heaven by proxy. Neither can any man give by proxy. The plan of the Lord is that "everyone of you" shall give.


Consider in the second place when we are to give. The record says, "upon the first day of the week." That's God's special time for us to place our means into the treasury of the Lord's house. Of course we understand this does not exclude our giving at other times. Paul covers that in another passage, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of faith." (Gal. 6:10) But regardless of how much we may do at other times ("as we have opportunity") there is a special command for giving on the first day of the week.

How Much?

Well, the answer to that is "as he may prosper." Many people seem to have difficulty in understanding just exactly what it means in directing them to give "as prospered." They ask: "how much is that?" But I've found that most of us don't have any difficulty in knowing what kind of house to live in "as we are prospered." We can know what kind of car to drive "as prospered." We can know how much insurance to carry, how much to put into the bank for a rainy day, how much land to own "as we've been prospered." We have no difficulty at all in understanding these matters!

There is a tendency on the part of many of us to try to "keep up with the Joneses." We want to live in a house, drive a car, have our wife wear clothes that will impress the Joneses with our prosperity. We want them to think we are $20,000.00 a year men, when we really make a third that much. Well, if we were as concerned about impressing the Lord with our spirituality as we are about impressing Jones with our prosperity, we'd have little difficulty in giving "as we have been prospered." I think it all depends on the attitude we have toward material things and spiritual things.

A Cut Vs. A Raise

When folks get a raise in salary, what's the first thing they usually do? Well, the first thing is to increase their standard of living. The woman puts on a splurge, buying new hats, getting the "new look;" the man buys some things he has been wanting a long, long time; the children get more of the things they want. And finally (maybe) we get around to raising our contribution a little bit. But suppose we get a cut in salary, what is the first thing we think of? Cut living expenses? quit buying new clothes? Hardly! The first thing on the list is to cut down the contribution to the church, and go on living as we have been for as long as we can. And only when forced to, do we cut down our standard of living.

Not Grudgingly

The Lord will accept only an offering from the heart. Paul says, "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according as he hath not." (II Cor. 8:12.) Again, "Every man according as he hath purposed in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver." The offering must be given willingly, cheerfully, heartily, sincerely, joyfully. Otherwise it is not acceptable at all.

According To Purpose

Just as faith is a prerequisite to acceptable baptism so purposing is a prerequisite to acceptable giving. But do church members do it that way? They are busy all the week, get their pay check, cash it, and think nothing of the Lord. Then they come to church on Sunday morning, take part in the singing, listen to the sermon (or go to sleep), wake up in time to eat the Lord's Supper; and then comes the collection plate. Suddenly they remember they are supposed to give something, so reach hastily into a pocket, fish around for a bill or some change, and drop the money in with scarcely a thought. They have not purposed concerning what they will give; they have not obeyed the Lord's command.

Some brethren get scared when you mention the word purpose or pledge. They are perfectly willing to purpose and pledge themselves for nearly everything except the work of the Lord. They'll sign a pledge to buy an automobile, a house, clothes for their family; but when you mention pledging to the work of the Lord they have a spiritual spasm and think you've gone modernist! They don't mind pledging to pay over a period of years for a farm, or a house, or a new refrigerator—but pledging to the church, that's different! We need to grow up.