The Church and Its Finances

I Cor 16:2 - "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made."

Let it be emphasized that giving is a personal matter. No one can presume to tell another just how much they should give to the Lord. I want to emphasize that anything that I shall say as we study this lesson is not a criticism of anyone, nor is there any attempt or desire to try to tell you what to give. However, God has much to say about giving, and it is an important area of Christian living and service.

In the Sermon on the Mount, 24 of the 167 verses refer to money. When someone says: “The preacher is always talking about money” it is a compliment that could also have been aimed at the Lord Jesus Christ or the apostle Paul. Do you consider a message on giving or money to be just as spiritual as a message on soul winning or on the subject of the Spirit-Filled life? As we know, money is essential in the work of Christ. Gospel literature, missionaries, preachers, building, all cost money. To talk about giving, about money, is just as spiritual as any other biblical subject. A Christian leader was making an announcement. He said: “Now I must talk about money. I would rather preach.”

We are told to give to the hungry, to clothe the naked. This involves money. It is not carnal to discuss this subject. As most of us have been reminded, it is not money that is evil, but the LOVE of money that is evil. Money dedicated to the cause of Jesus Christ is indeed a blessing.

I read of a well-known pastor, who years ago, walked down the aisle and watched to see what people put in the offering plate. Some people were amused; some were irritated. When he returned to the pulpit, the pastor reminded the people that God was watching. God was greater than he was. If we are sensitive about money, if we feel any resentment when this subject is discussed, perhaps we should search our hearts. Perhaps you have read reports of the per-capita giving of different denominations in the U.S. It is astounding when one reads of the small amount given by some organizations.

A Preacher who wrote out a church notice for the local newspaper. Among other things he wrote: “In the promulgation of the gospel, three books are necessary: The Bible, the Hymn book, and the pocket-book. Come tomorrow and bring all three.” And then I read of a family who went to church, and on the way home the father criticized the sermon. Mother found fault with the organist. The eldest daughter declared the singing was atrocious. But the subject was suddenly dropped when the small boy of the family spoke up and said: “Dad, I think it was a mighty good show for a nickel!” The power of God is able to deliver us from all sin, even the sin of selfishness toward God. He gave His all for us; let us give that others may hear this glorious message.

I. Passages that speak to us of Giving.

A. Mal 3:7-15

Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?' "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty. "You have said harsh things against me," says the LORD. "Yet you ask, 'What have we said against you?' "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.' "

Of course, this was written to Israel, a people living under the law. But, let us remember that before the Law was given, God’s people were presenting offerings to God. Abraham tithed. So, we can see divine principles given in the O.T. (We do not reject the 23 Psalm because it was written under the Law.) It has been estimated that a devout Jew would have given 30 to 40 percent of his income of God. Whether we believe in tithing, or whether we do not, we can learn from this passage that it is possible to rob God. This is a strong term. It sounds as through someone who would never think of robbing a bank or store, is never-the-less, a robber. If we love God, can we be stingy with Him?

B. I Cor 16:1-9

Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.  If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you--for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.  But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

In light of this, we see two things:

  1. Giving is to be regular
  2. Giving is to be systematic

And the principle is: “as God hath prospered him.” There are those who believe we are not bound to tithing as in the O.T. And, I believe we must consider that if God prospers us abundantly, we could well question if 10% was sufficient. A preacher had a member who was wealthy. He wanted the pastor to preach on tithing. The Pastor did not believe we are under the O.T. tithing system. He told this wealthy man there were some members in the church who could not tithe. He pointed out there were those who had prospered, and they should give as they had prospered, and they were not to stop at a tenth. This rich man never again suggested that the pastor preach on tithing. He wanted to give only 10%.

C. II Cor 8:1-15

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,  they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.  So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us--see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little."

In light of this, we see four things:

  • v2 – Liberality
  • v3 – Beyond their power
  • v5 – Gave themselves to the Lord. This is the answer. If God really possess us, He has our income.
  • v12 – Must be a willing mind. And, God does not expect us to give something we do not have.

Remember the widow and her two mites. She gave more than the rich men. All the she had.

D. Phil 4:10-19 - 10

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.  Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.  Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;  for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.  Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.  I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Paul writes to thank them for financial help. He was glad to receive their help, but he would have gone on without it. What glorious liberty to be content with that which God give us. And, what glorious liberty to give to God without flinching. Without thinking what we could buy with the money. To give cheerfully – willingly. Someone has written: “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” (Shoeleather, 354) Love is the key. A man who loves his family does not begrudge the money that is needed to supply their needs. If he does, he had better look into his heart.

A Pastor told of cripple girl who came forward, walking with a crutch, and pulled a ring from her finger and places it with other gifts. The offering was more than they needed, so he went to the girl after the service, and told her that what she had done was beautiful, but they had some money left over, and so he was returning the ring to her. She looked at him and said: “I didn’t give the ring to you.” (Shoeleather, p 452)

Let us note that in our text in Philippi, Paul refers to their giving as "an odor of sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." When we place money in the offering plate, we are worshipping God just as much as when we sing, preach, pray, etc. “Money is the medium of exchange. The Christian takes money which he cannot keep and exchanges it for that which he can never lose. This is one way to lay up treasures in Heaven.” (Shoeleather, p 274)

II. Those Who Should Give.

It is deplorable when churches canvas unsaved people for money to support their ministry. The work of the Lord is to be supported by those who love Him. They that are in the flesh cannot please God. God has no need for their money.

III. Principle For Giving: We Should Give Willingly

  • II Cor 8:12 - “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”
  • II Cor 9:7 - “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

God has no joy in the one who give reluctantly. I do not think it would be amiss to say that if we give under a sense of compulsion, God really doesn’t want out offering. “It has been said that there are three kinds of giving: grudge giving, duty giving, and thanksgiving. The first says, ‘I hate to’; the second says, ‘ I ought to’; the third says, ‘I want to.’ Grudge giving is done out of pressure. Duty giving is done out of obligation, Thanksgiving is done out of a full heart. We ought to need no strong motivation for giving than the remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ and His work on Calvary.” (Student Quarterly, pp 51-52)

IV. Plan of Giving

Many Christians see the tithe as the minimum amount one should give. As we have seen, tithes were paid before the Law was given. Abraham paid tithes to Melchisedeck, priest of the Most High God. And, it is reasonable to consider whether we should give less under grace. And, it is not amiss to ask ourselves if we should not rather give more. Will we be able when we stand before God to justify certain expenditures of the money He entrusted to us?

V. Proper Place for our Giving

In O.T., the people brought the offerings to the temple - to the house of the Lord. Among other things it was used to pay for the expense of the operation of the temple. In the Promised Land, the Levites were given no inheritance, so they were supported by their tithes. In the O.T., there were not many (only one place) places for giving. The Israelites, as a unit, as a nation, support the House of God and God’s priests.

Today, you and I are besieged by many requests. Many of them are good. Where should we give our offering? Again, this is a personal matter. But, it seems logical that if we are a member of a local church, the church should receive the bulk of our offerings. We remember that God established local churches as a means of preaching the gospel. He has set forth the qualifications of those who are to be the leaders. We should be concerned that our church receive sufficient monies to operate its ministries. Also, one should determine, as far as possible, the legitimacy of any organization professing to be doing the work of the Lord, or doing charitable work of any kind.

VI. The Procedure

I Cor 14:40 - “But let all things be done decently and in order.

If there is any area where a church should seek by every proper procedure to keep its name clear of any scandal, it is the area of finances. As believers we are prone to trust people. Safeguards should be instituted to lessen the opportunity for dishonesty. More than one person should be involved in counting the offerings.

Ezra 8:24-30 - “Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, namely, Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God. I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 20 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold. I said to them, “You as well as these articles are consecrated to the Lord. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.” Then the priests and Levites received the silver and gold and sacred articles that had been weighed out to be taken to the house of our God in Jerusalem.” More than one priest was used.

II Cor 8:16-22 “Thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.  For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.  In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.

In light of this, we see two things:

  • v19 - The churches had chosen a representative to travel with them.
  • v21 – Be honest and above board.

VII. The Product: Blessing and Supply

When God’s people cheerfully accept their God-given privilege of giving to the Lord, the church will have the needed funds for the operation of the church. When we give to God, we are laying up treasures in heaven. We know that this is a fleeting transitory world. In light of eternity, it is as nothing. Our life is as a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. Money is of no value in heaven.

A church member complained to his pastor that the church was always asking for money. The minister’s reply was something like this: “We had a son. It seems that my wife was always coming to me for money for the boy – shoes, clothes, school, etc. the one day the boy died. Since that day, my wife has never asked me for any more money for him.” It’s just that simple. If we do not want the ministry of our church to die, we must give.

Our teacher gives us an interesting and blessed thought in the closing paragraph. “Really, a lesson on the subject is not a lesson on giving. – it is a lesson on receiving. That is, how to receive a blessing. God loves a cheerful giver and is well pleased.” Remember the scripture that tells us about the time Moses had to tell the Israelites to stop bringing their offerings! The response was amazing. We don’t see that too much in our day. Do we ever see it? Thank God for the churches that depend on God’s children to bring in the needed funds for the expenses of the church.

Study Questions

1. From whose possessions do we give to God?

I Chronicles 29:14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

2. What was the qualification for bringing gifts for the tabernacle?

Exodus 25:2 “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.”

Must give willingly with our heart.

3. What did our Lord say about life?

Luke 12:15 “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

There is nothing wrong in owning things; but how tragic when things own us.

Local Church
Archie Rines