Vol.XIV No.I Pg.7
March 1977

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Is it scripturally permissible for a Christian to buy or use products or services of a public service institution which is owned operated and/or supported by a denomination or liberal church? W.M.A.


The Lord's church does not sell or rent its services or products, hence we need not expect to find scriptures regulating such an operation. But churches wearing Christ's name may drift so far from His way as to engage in such; and many human religions are little more than social and eleemosynary societies. The question, though quite practical, is not one I can answer with a yes, or no. Each case has extenuating circumstances.

First, we should distinguish between contributions (support gifts) and paying for service or materials. Many hospitals, schools, etc., receive donations from individuals, foundations, and churches — because the donors "have a care" for general welfare. Tuition or service charges are, therefore, seldom the full cost. However, when we pay "market rate" for what we receive, we should not feel we are "donating" our money and in this way "jointly participating" in the institution's program. On the basis of "value received," I would buy a book from a church-owned book store (although I believe the Lord's church would not have such a store); but, I would not contribute funds to the treasury of that store-owning church. As a general principle, I do not believe "value received" transactions with those in error are wrong. But now we must do what some might call "hedging"; or maybe we are saying there are principles more basic, more deeply fundamental, than that which I called "general." It was all right, as a "general principle," for one to eat whatsoever was set before him, as respects meats (1 Cor. 10:25-31). But when that eating encouraged another to do wrongly, for the other man's sake (v. 29, one should abstain Whatever we do, it must be to the glory of God (v.31).

If you have reason to believe that your patronage of a store, school, or pie-sale is contributing to the promotion of error — that by refraining, a contribution to truth and the glory of God is made — then (putting God's glory and the good of others above self) you should certainly abstain. The closer one gets to "home" the more likely this situation is to obtain. Example: you may do little if any harm in buying from a Catholic institution; but buying pies at the liberal "Church of Christ" in your neighborhood, could encourage brethren in further sin. (Now, have a ball with that if you choose; but I believe experience has proven it true.)

Then, especially in matters such as these, we must recognize individual conscience. One brother may, with good conscience, buy services or substance from a church-supported organization, believing no wrong is done. Another may be unable to so act, feeling it is not to the glory of God nor for the good of his erring brother. The line between "general principle" and specific application is such as to warrant charity on the part of all.