In 1Cor16, Paul speaks of "the collection for the saints" apparently in connection with a specific, directed need. He addresses individuals ("each one of you") to put aside and save on the first day of the week, but when he again references the entire collected gift, there is no indication that any of it is kept back in the "church treasury" for other potential needs that might arise. Rather the entire gift will be delivered to Jerusalem.
In Acts 6, there is again a specific need to be addressed--widows being overlooked with regard to the distribution of food.
I guess I just see so much division over how the "church funds" are to be used, that it makes me question the wisdom, practicality, and authority of a church treasury or fund.
- Acts 4:34-37 - Saints at the church in Jerusalem sold land and "laid the funds at the apostles' feet" for the benevolent care of needy saints.
- Acts 5:1-11 - Ananias and Saphira abused this privilege to bring glory for themselves. Peter's comment indicates that they relinquished control and ownership, once they laid the funds at the apostles' feet, which symbolizes a common treasury.
- Acts 6:1-6 - Needy widows received daily food distribution from a common fund.
- Acts 11:27-30 - Brethren at Antioch collected funds and sent it to "the elders" at the church in Jerusalem.
- I Corinthians 16:1-4 - Paul commands the Corinthians to take a collection before hand, "hat there be no collections when I come". This prohibits independent collections set aside in personal homes; otherwise, there would be a collection when Paul came! The only way this could work is if the collection was made and kept in a common treasury.
- Philippians 4:15-16 - The Philippian church collectively sent support to Paul, while he was preaching. This action necessarily mandated a collection.
- II Corinthians 11:8 - Other Macedonian churches, beside Philippi, also supported Paul out of a common treasury.
Admittedly, a church may be constituted of such prosperous members that no benevolent need exists among its own borders. And, the world may reach a state of such abundance that poverty is vanquished, and no church becomes overburdened in supporting its own benevolent needs (or maybe not - Matthew 26:11). And, churches may become so mature that they no longer need funds for the edification and teaching of its own membership. But, could we ever imagine that the world will never need the gospel? Will there ever come a day when gospel preachers do not need to be sent into areas where the gospel is unknown, forgotten, or abandoned?
Show me a church that either fails to take contribution or spend it, because it believes there is no need, and I'll show you a dead church (Revelation 3:14-22)! As long as this world stands, there will always be a need, so there will always be justification for a treasury.
Admittedly, the church treasury often gets abused, but we should not "throw the baby out with the bath water". Every good and wise thing will ultimately be abused by selfish men, but that does not mean that God's creation was evil - only that men twisted it. Therefore, please don't be discouraged by the abuse you see. I sympathize with your concern and understand it, but we cannot resolve the problem by forbidding a wise function that God bestowed. The answer is to more earnestly teach and preach the gospel, which has the power to transform the hearts of men (Romans 1:16). The rest, we leave up to God.
I pray this helps.
As a footnote, Jesus and His disciples also had a common treasury, which they used to supply their needs while traveling and preaching (John 12:6; 13:29; 6:5-7; Luke 8:1-3).
tm7893 wrote:I guess my struggle comes from identifying when the money becomes God's. Is it any more or less God's money when it's in my wallet as opposed to in the collection plate? ... It seems that once it comes out of my hands and goes into that collection plate, it becomes this sacred fund, whereas had I kept it back, it was without restrictions.
This is a good question, which I believe is answered by a verse briefly referenced in the last post. If you do not mind, please allow me to quote a portion, so we can consider it more fully:
Please note that Peter specifically says that Ananias' money was at first his own and under his own control. This is contrast to the owner and controller, once Ananias "laid it at the apostles' feet". At that point, it became the property of the church treasury, which was used to fund benevolent activities within the church (Acts 4:34-37; 6:1-4). Furthermore, Ananias' abuse of the sacrifice to promote his glory through a lie was specified as being a trespass "against God". Therefore, when one makes a contribution to the church treasury, in a sense, he makes a contribution to God, in as much as the money is supposed to be used to support the work that He commands. However, please notice, the property and money belonged to Ananias until he relinquished control, by laying it at the apostles feet.Luke, the inspired historian, wrote: 1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.
2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet.
3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?
4 "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. (Acts 5:1-5, NKJ)
In some sense, you are right. Any time we use our money to serve God or follow God's commands, that is a form of sacrifice and contribution to God. However, could we not apply Peter's definition to your case as well?
As long as the money remained with you, was it not your own? And after you bought the food, was it not in your own control? However, once you laid the food before the group members, it was no longer your money or food. Control had been relinquished to the group members, and like the apostles, hopefully, they are using those resources to follow God's command.
The key here is "control", as highlighted by Peter. As long as you control the resources, they belong to you. They do not actually belong to the Lord, until you relinquish actual control - not in word but deed. This is a special sense of the phrase. It is not an exclusive meaning.
In fact, you are right. Yes, in some sense, we should say that all we have belongs to the Lord, but it belongs to him in potential - not in actuality. They are really still our funds. We may still spend those funds on something the Lord would not, even though in a general sense, we have verbally recognized them as being the "Lord's funds". Therefore, they are still are own, while they remain with us and under our own control. They are only dedicated in promise - not in actuality.
Yes, we should give ourselves wholly to the Lord (II Corinthians 8:3-5; Romans 12:1-2), and we should always remember that we are ultimately accountable for those funds to God. We are not morally free to spend those funds without regard to Him, even though He has left us in control of them. ... At this point, it seems appropriate to recall a warning from Ecclesiastes:
Like all of life's blessings, they come from God, and we should use them to His glory. In fact, we are entrusted with them, but that trust does not mean we are without accountability, obligation, or judgment. In fact, some day we will be required to give a judgment of all that which was under our control, including our money.Solomon wrote:Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
Finally, in one last sense, all money already belongs to the Lord, even that under sinners' control.
Whether we admit it or not, all the money and everything else, already belongs to the Lord.David wrote: 8 I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices Or your burnt offerings, Which are continually before Me.
9 I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds.
10 For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.
12 "If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.
13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High.
15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." (Psalm 50:8-15)
In conclusion, when speaking of the "Lord's money", let us be careful in clarifying what we mean. The Bible speaks of resources belonging to the Lord in 3 ways:
- Belonging to the church treasury (Acts 5:1-5)
- Belonging to Him by dedication; giving oneself fully to the Lord (II Corinthians 8:3-5)
- Belonging to Him as Creator and Judge of all things (Psalm 50:8-15; II Peter 3:10-12)
Therefore, just because we may speak of our funds belonging to the Lord in a way that transcends the church treasury, we should not assume there is not another more specific way in which we may actually relinquish our funds to His oversight, as administered through His church. Otherwise, how does one explain Acts 5:1-5? "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?"