Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 15, 1970
NUMBER 36, PAGE 5b-7

The Use And Oversight Of The Contribution

Billy W. Moore

When each member of the church lays by in store upon the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2) the contributions make up a common treasury of the church. For what should this money be used? and who has the oversight of this money? I am of the opinion that we need more teaching on the use and oversight of the money contributed, for a failure to recognize how this money should be used has caused many churches to make contributions to programs of work and fields of endeavor that are not the responsibility of the church.

The Common Treasury

When we contribute into the common treasury of the church this money becomes the Lord's money in a peculiar sense. In the strict sense everything is the Lord's, for "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (Psalm 24:1), but this contribution makes up the "church treasury." Some object to such expressions saying they are not scriptural. However, in Old Testament days there was the "treasury of the Lord" (Josh. 6:19, 24), also called the treasury of the house of the Lord, the treasury of God, and treasure of dedicated things. If money put into a common treasury by the people of God in Old Testament days constituted the treasury of the Lord, would not the same be true today? Since the church is the Lord's would not the treasury of the church be the Lord's? Whether we call it the common treasury, the church treasury, or the Lord's treasury makes no difference. The fact remains that when money is contributed into this treasury it is the Lord's in a particular sense. The apostles recognized the difference between that which belongs to the disciple and that which belongs to this common treasury. When Ananias and Sapphira sold their possession and kept back part of the price, he brought the remainder and laid it at the apostles' feet, leaving the impression that this was all their possession brought. (Acts 5:1-5) "Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own?" Peter recognized that the land belonged to Ananias and he could have done with it as he pleased. "And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?" That is to say that when Ananias sold the land the money was his and he could spend it as he desired. But when he put the money into this common treasury (laid it at the apostles' feet) he had absolutely no control over it, for it was no longer his and was no longer in his power or under his control. The sin of Ananias was in lying about what he had given, but the point of distinction between one's own and that which is put into the common treasury is made.

The Lord's money may be spent only as the Lord has directed, or to do the work he has authorized. The individual must give account of the use of his money, so he must not use it sinfully. But when his money is contributed it comes under the power of control of the church, and since Christ is the head of the church the money must be used only as the head directs.

The Use Of The Money Contributed

When we study the use of the money in New Testament days, when the apostles and other inspired men were present to teach God's people for what and how they should use the money contributed by the saints, we will know how the money should be used today.

(1) They used the money to provide for the needy saints. This may be for the needy saints of our own number, that is of the local church where we are members, as the Jerusalem church cared for its own. (Acts 2:44, 45; 4:34, 35; 6:1-8) Or, it may be for the needy saints of another church. Antioch sent to the saints in Judea, which would be of several different congregations. (Acts 11: 27 — 30) Many churches sent to the needy saints in Jerusalem. (See Rom. 15:25, 26; I Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1, 12) Thus, we are authorized to use the money in the common treasury for the relief of needy saints whether at home or abroad.

(2) They used the money to support gospel preaching. The church is the "pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Tim. 3;15) From the church treasury they supported gospel preaching. When we support gospel preachers we are following the example of the churches in New Testament days. (1 Cor. 9:4-14; 2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 1:5; 4: 15-17) Most of the churches across the land contribute to the support of at least one gospel preacher, and many support several preachers. This is God's will. When a church purchases time for a radio or TV program it is using money to preach the gospel. The same is true when space is purchased in a newspaper or magazine, or when tracts are printed. The teaching is the same as would be taught if a man were sent in person.

(3) The money may be used to provide a place for the general assemblies of the church. In connection with the worship and teaching program of the church general assemblies are required. (See I Cor. 14:23; James 2:2; Acts 20:7, 8; Heb. 10:25) Such assemblies necessitate certain things which may be paid for by the church. Whether the churches in New Testament days rented any of their meeting places (Acts 20:7; James 2:2) I do not know. But whatever is necessary for the general assembly of the church may be provided by the church. Thus a church may spend money for a building, lights, heat, cooling, rest rooms, seats, or even a water fountain. The command to assemble authorizes the place, whether we rent, build or buy it. And whatever is necessary at this place for a general assembly for worship and edification is authorized. Pews are deemed a necessity for some could not stand for two hours. When it is cold we deem it necessary for heat in the building, and when it is hot for cooling. A general assembly will also necessitate some rest room facilities, and whether they be our modern rest rooms with flush toilets, etc, or the outdoor "privy" such can be provided, and are necessary. The same is true of a water fountain. A general assembly of two hours or more will necessitate some supply of water. When I was a boy the churches had a pump or well on the grounds, usually near the building. Where such was not available women brought water in jugs or jars for their children, and often for the preacher. Some brethren argue that if the church can provide rest rooms and water fountains why not kitchens and dining facilities? The answer is simply' this: the general assemblies of the church do not require food for the members nor a place to eat. The exhortation and edification of the saints may involve certain expenses such as a place, materials, etc., all of which may be provided by the church.

There are some things for which we have no right to use the Lord's money. We have no right to use it to support preachers if they are not preaching the truth. (See Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9-11) To use it to support false teachers would be sinful. The money from the common treasury was not used to provide the needs for those of the world. The church supplied the needs of the saints, but not for the world. Some who were not members of the church, but who depended upon others who were for their livelihood, may have received help, but this was done as the church provided for the saints. My needs would not be supplied while my ten year old boy was hungry and destitute. The money in the common treasury is not to be used in any field of endeavor other than teaching the gospel and caring for the saints. Such things as kitchens and dining rooms, recreation for members, homes for unwed mothers, schools for secular training, youth camps, etc. are not to be supported with the Lord's money. The Lord has designated a far more worth-while work for the church than eating, drinking and making merry.

The Oversight Of The Money

God's plan for organization calls for "elders in every church." (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; I Peter 5:1-4) The elders are "overseers" of the flock of God. (Acts 20:28) They are to take the "oversight" of the flock of God which is among them. (I Peter 5:2) Under their oversight comes:

(1) The members of the church, for whom they watch. (Heb. 13:7; Acts 20:28)

(2) The worship of that church, which they seek to keep after the divine order. Even though worship is an individual matter the elders are to see that the worship is not made vain by following the doctrines of men. (Matt. 15:9; John 4:24)

(3) The work of that church, which must be according to the doctrine of Christ. (Eph. 4:12; Tit. 1:9-11; Heb. 8:5)

(4) The money of that church, which must be used for that which the Lord authorizes. When the church in Antioch sent to the relief of the brethren in Judea, they sent to "the elders" by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. The elders had the oversight of the money sent from Antioch, and were to distribute it to the saints in need.

Of which of these things can the elders release their "oversight" and turn it over to other men? Do they have the right to use the monies contributed to do something that is not a work of the church? If they decide to use the money for something other than that which the Lord has made the work and responsibility of the local church then the members should rise up in objection to their action.

The question is asked: What about the deacons, don't they oversee the money? Deacons are special servants in the church, and as such their function is that of serving. Deacons are not "overseers" in the church, thus do not have the oversight of either the members, worship, work or money. The elders have the oversight in the local church. This is God's arrangement. I do not know where the idea started that the elders are over spiritual things, but the deacons are over material things, lest it be that the deacons were servants who had to do with physical things, and the supplying of physical needs. I believe the elders are over the church, all of the church, and that none of their oversight is given to the deacons.

Someone asks: Did not the deacons in Acts six have charge of the money? This was when the apostles instructed the church in Jerusalem to look out seven men whom they could appoint over the serving of the tables in caring for the widows. These seven men were specially appointed servants, and though they are not called deacons I would not be contentious with those who prefer to call them such. But they were chosen to "serve tables." (vs. 2-3) They were appointed over this business of the daily ministration to the widows. They were not given the oversight of the common treasury, but were put in charge of serving tables. They no doubt spent money that came from the common treasury, but the money was "laid at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:34) which means under their oversight or control, and the fact that these men spent some of that money does not justify the conclusion that they were in charge of the treasury. They were in charge of serving the tables in the daily care of the widows. That's all I can read. Money for relieving needy saints was put under the oversight of the elders. (Acts 11:30) They would determine who should receive such, and may use deacons to have the service carried out.

A deacon may be appointed over a certain work, and that work may require the spending of money and the deacon may be authorized to spend that money. A deacon may have charge of maintaining the building, which would require the spending of money. He may be in charge of the care of needy families, and spend money. Or a deacon may be put in charge of arranging a meeting place for a mission meeting, and spend money. Or he may be the treasurer of a local church, or be in charge of printing and mailing the church bulletin, and thus spend money. But in the doing of these things the deacons would spend money for the things which the elders had already agreed should be done, and they of course must agree to spend the money only for things which the Lord has authorized. Thus the oversight of the money is given to the elders of the church, though deacons or other members of the church may spend some of the money as the elders appoint them to do a certain work.

In my judgment, wise elders will always keep their minds open for suggestions from those whom they oversee, and seek to keep peace and unity among the people of God. When they exercise their oversight of the spending of the money contributed by the members they should keep the members informed as to its use, to provoke them to more liberal giving. And they should make sure that the money we contribute is used only to support the preaching of the gospel, or to care for needy saints, or provide a place for worship and edification.