Where Does the Money Go in Church?

Have you ever stopped and thought about what the early believers did with their money?

We know that the Lord had some challenging things to say about money and possessions and that he practiced what he preached. We also know that the early church tried to put this teaching into practice to some extent.
The question is, where did this money go? What was it used for? Who managed the process and who benefited from it? I offer the following posts as a reasonable summary of the way that money was used in the New Testament churches. Any thoughts, responses or disagreements, please leave a comment.

1. To provide the necessities of life

Obvious, I know, but not always highlighted. It's worth noting that in some churches, teaching on "money" often takes the form of teaching on "giving", which of course is only one aspect of the subject area.

The Old Testament background makes it clear that God provided materially for his people in order that they may be clothed, fed and sheltered from the elements. The New Testament writers insist on the duty of adult believers to provide for themselves and their extended families. Relevant verses include
1 Timothy 5:8 and Titus 3:14. Paul reminds the churches he planted of his own example of working to provide his needs and implies that those in the local church who live otherwise are not following sound doctrine (2 Thes 3:6-8). The neglect of such personal and family duty was severely criticized by the Lord Jesus when he rebuked the Pharisees for their super spirituality In Matthew chapter 15:

Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: " 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"

Here's a question: when a church is holding a gift day (towards a building project, for instance), is it ethical to encourage members, explicitly or implicitly, to give away money that they have set aside for food? Or, what about money that they would otherwise have put into a saving fund for their children's education? Or a pension fund to cover the costs of their retirement? I know this happens. I also know that some believers later come to regret having acted in this way. The latter group do not always get the chance to publicly testify to God's provision in their lives. As a result, sometimes church members are only hearing some of the outcomes of acting in this way.

Is it right?
And should not our teaching on money begin with these more mundane principles of provision for self and family before we start encouraging extravagant giving (a subject I will return to in a future post)?


Tom Foster said...


interested in this topic - would like some more teaching and less questions! What does the bible teach on the questions you pose?

Adam Heaton said...

Was this an issue in the New Testament?

For me this highlights a couple of problems with some current Church practise;

1) Elders/church leaders who are disconnected from direct pastoral involvement with the church members they serve. So the issues you mention simply aren't noticed. I think many of our ecclesiastical models make this worse - particulalry the church/business with a senior elder/CEO. My view is that the NT never seperates Elders from direct pastoral responsibility for people.

2) Tything - a hot topic - but strikingly not mentioned in NT church practise. For leaders that believe that Tything should be practised, the following applies:

8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me."But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'"In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 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.

The storehouse is said to be the church (nice example of replacement thelogy in practise, Ron Diprose is good on this)and strong appeals are therefore in the members best interests.

Contrast this, to Pauls appeal:

7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

For me, the debate hinges on these two issues.