The Bible and Problems in the Church

Chapter Four

The Problem of Covetousness

What is covetousness?

Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” This is a good explanation of covetousness by telling the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-20). Jesus concluded by saying, “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Covetousness is lust or evil desire for money or material things.

Is covetousness serious?

There is more New Testament teaching against the sin of covetousness than against any other sin. Covetousness is called idolatry (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5). Jesus said that a man cannot serve God and mammon (or material gain) (Matthew 6:24). No covetous man shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). The church is commanded to withdraw fellowship from a covetous member (1 Corinthians 5:11). No sin is more serious than this one.

Is coveting the same as stealing?

No, for in Luke 12 where Jesus warned so severely against covetousness, He did so in reply to one of His listeners’ request about an inheritance (Luke 12:13-15). There is no indication that the one requesting his part of the inheritance was being dishonest. But because Jesus knew the man’s heart, He could see too great a desire for money. This is what covetousness is, not necessarily dishonesty in seeking money. A man can be covetous while seeking only honest gain.

Why is covetousness serious?

Because Jesus warned that unless a man forsakes all that he has, he cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:33). In order to be a follower of Jesus, a man must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). Jesus also asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). The Christian life is a life of sacrifice. A covetous man is the most unlike Christ possible.

Should Christians give a tithe?

The tithe (or ten percent) of one’s income was an Old Testament command for Jews. Abraham gave to Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils of his victory (Genesis 14:20). The law given to the Israelites through Moses required a tenth (Leviticus 27:30,32). But the tithe is never commanded of Christians after the end of the Old Covenant. There is no example or command of tithing after the church was established.

How are Christians to know how much they should give?

The New Testament requires every member of the church to give every Lord’s Day “as God hath prospered him” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Christians are stewards of great and rich blessings from God (1 Peter 4:10). They know that all they have, and they themselves, are not their own, but are owned or possessed by the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:19,20; Romans 16:2). They, then, give back with gratitude in proportion to their prosperity with which they are blessed.

Does the New Covenant require less than the Old?

Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant established upon better promises (Hebrews 8:6-8). The Law was merely a shadow of good things to come in our present age under Christ (Hebrews 10:1). All other requirements of Christ are stricter and higher than the Old Testament commandments (see Matthew 5:21,22,27,28). Surely, then, a Christian cannot give less than did a Jew. Because we live under a better covenant, in a better age, with greater promises, we must certainly expect and want to give more than ten percent.

Is ten percent giving bound on us today?

No Old Testament command is bound upon Christians, as all those ordinances have been nailed to the cross of Christ (Colossians 2:14). We are no longer under the Old Jewish Law (Galatians 3:24,25). But as Christ requires more in every other New Testament commandment than God did in the Old Testament, the same is true of contributions under the Gospel age. The Old Testament commandments were merely shadows of the better commandments under Christ (Colossians 2:14-17). A Christian who gives no more (or even less) than did the Jews does not understand nor appreciate Christianity.

What is the exact proportion of a Christian’s income which he must give?

Jesus said that we should lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven because “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Where we put much money, we put much interest. If we want more interest in the Lord’s work, more money should be invested. Our heart and treasure abide together. Where our heart is, there will our treasure be also. If we want our heart to be given more and more to Christ, we must give more and more money to His work. We prove the sincerity of our love by our giving (2 Corinthians 8:8). We show the exact proportion of our love by the proportion of our giving. The exact amount of our giving is therefore the exact amount of our love. The percentage or proportion which we should give is according to the percentage of our love for Christ. We must contribute as God has prospered us.

Does a shilling show the same amount of love for every giver?

Jesus looks at what remains after a person gives. This determines the real value of his gift. Mark 12:41-44 records Jesus’ teaching as He watched Jewish givers contributing into the treasury. Many rich people cast in large gifts, but a poor widow cast in a half-penny. Jesus said that she gave more than all the rest because she gave of her want and contributed all that she had, even all her living (verses 43,44). Likewise today Jesus is watching every giver who gives into the church treasury. He is not watching the amount put in, but rather, the amount left over after the giving. We must give as God has prospered us and not as others may give. A gift which another person gives might be sufficient for him but quite insufficient for us, depending upon what we save for ourselves.

How much should a gospel preacher contribute?

The young evangelist Timothy was told to let no man despise his youth but to be an example to the believers (1 Timothy 4:12). As a public teacher and example, a preacher must give faithfully and Scripturally to the Lord. Unless an evangelist is a good example before the church, the members will despise him as a hypocrite. The Bible says that a man is inexcusable who judges another and yet does the same thing being condemned (Romans 2:1). God’s judgment will be upon such a one who does the things he is preaching against. He will not escape (Romans 2:2,3). Paul asks, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Romans 2:21). A preacher preaching against covetousness must not be covetous. He who condemns insufficient giving must not practice such. How can the congregations learn to give when their preachers rob God before them every Sunday (Malachi 3:8)?

What is assessing?

Assessing is taxing each church member a required amount of contribution. It is a denominational method of securing church money in the way that money is secured by the government by its taxes or “rates.”

Is assessing allowed under the New Testament?

There is no assessing of church funds in the New Testament. Denominational churches authorize assessing in their catechisms, but the New Testament does not. To authorize a practice which is not Scripturally authorized is to go beyond the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). Assessing in the church is an addition by men to the Word of God (Revelation 22:18,19).

Why is assessing omitted from the New Testament?

God’s wisdom has given Christians the best way to do everything. God’s plan for anything is better than the plans of men. The foolishness of God is wiser than men (1 Corinthians 1:25). The forcing of men to pay money into the contribution does not build them up spiritually. Forcing a person to be baptized against his will is of no benefit to him. Forcing a man to take communion when he does not wish to from within himself brings no spiritual blessing. Likewise assessing money forces contributing and makes such collection of money of no benefit to the one assessed.

Is assessing good if a person volunteers a certain amount he asks the church to assess him regular?

This is a way by which some members try to bring assessing into the church. It is really half free-will and half assessment or force. It is a combination of the Scriptural plan with an unscriptural one. If God’s commandment of free-will giving is the best method, then why should it be compromised or substituted either in part or the whole?

What is the New Testament method of financing the church?

1 Corinthians 16:1,2 commands free-will giving by each Christian every first day. This “laying by in store” is to be done “as God has prospered him.” Giving is part of a Christian’s worship each Sunday. The first Christians continued steadfastly in the “fellowship” along with the other parts of their worship (Acts 2:42). “Fellowship” means “taking part together.” By his giving into the treasury of the church a member has fellowship in the work of the church. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 Paul commends the giving of the churches of Macedonia. In verse four this giving is called “fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” Christ’s plan for financing the church is that each member contributes each Lord’s day as God has prospered him. This is part of his steadfast fellowship in the work and worship of the church.

Must Christian giving always be free-will?

The Macedonian churches were “willing of themselves” in their giving (2 Corinthians 8:3). These Christians “first gave their own selves to the Lord” (verse 5). Just as a person must freely give himself to the Lord, he must also freely give his money. No man can be forced to give himself and no man can be forced to give his money. The way of Christianity is for each person to freely give himself and his possessions to the Lord.

Is it important when a Christian gives his contribution?

Giving is a command for Christians to perform “upon the first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:2). As part of the fellowship in the Lord’s work this giving must be steadfast or regular every first day (Acts 2:42). A member’s worship is incomplete if he does not give each Sunday as he has been prospered.

Will the New Testament plan of giving completely finance the church?

The scriptures thoroughly furnish the man of God unto every good work (2 Timothy 3:16,17). The reason churches do not have enough money is that they do not follow Christ’s plan properly. All members do not give as they are prospered. As a result they want to bring in another plan of finance. But the fault is not in Christ’s plan of finance, but rather is in the improper use made of the plan. It is like a church having an excellent plan or blue-print for a nice building. But instead of following the plan carefully and fully, the members do “bush work” in erecting the building. Then when the building is completed, it does not look like the nice plan, and the members complain. They say, “Let us get a better plan.” But the fault is not in the plan but in the members’ misuse of the plan. Likewise, Christ’s plan for church finance is the best plan, but members often do not follow it properly and fully. They should not exchange Christ’s superior plan for an inferior plan of men. They should instead change their poor use of the best plan into a proper use.

Is it good to have special contribution days for special offerings?

Those people who have been members of denominational churches will remember many special offering days. In fact, the regular Sunday offerings were usually small because the people were keeping back most of their amounts for assessments, harvest taxes, and special offerings. When such people become members of the church of Christ they often continue the same old financial practices. They may give pennies every Sunday, waiting for a special collection to give more. Every Sunday is a special day of giving (1 Corinthians 16:2). Every Christian must give as he is prospered every week, not just for a special occasion. Special collections are steps in the wrong direction.

Should envelopes be used for contributions?

The answer to this question depends upon the reason envelopes are used. If the purpose is to require each member’s name on an envelope so that assessing can be practiced and checked, such is wrong because assessing is wrong. If the reason is to hide a small contribution which the giver is ashamed for others to see, he is forgetting that God sees all things (Jeremiah 32:19). But if envelopes are useful to help members to give with purpose and planning (2 Corinthians 9:7), they are right and good. Proper giving must be planned ahead of time, and necessary arrangements must be made by each giver to truly give as he has been prospered. Too often a person merely gives what he happens to find in his pocket after reaching the church building.

What does it mean to purpose in one’s heart?

2 Corinthians 9:7 says that every man is to give according as he “purposeth in his heart; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver” To purpose in one’s heart is to decide and plan one’s giving from one’s own inner self. Much study, prayer, and thought must be given to prepare one for proper giving. No church officer can tell a member how much to give; it is a decision which he “purposeth in his heart.” This verse also means that Scriptural giving is considered and meditated upon before Sunday. To “purpose” is to decide one’s intentions beforehand. The way one gives cannot be accidental or haphazard. It must be with planning, preparation, and prayer.

Why is it wrong to give grudgingly or of necessity?

2 Corinthians 8:12 says about giving, “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” God and Christ are much more interested in a willing heart than a large gift (see Mark 12:41-44). If a man bestows all his goods to feed the poor, and yet has not love, it profits him nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). This shows that the attitude or spirit a Christian has in giving is very important. God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). All worship (including giving) must be “in spirit and in truth” in. order to be true worship. The Macedonian Christians were liberal in giving and yet were in “a great trial of affliction.” Even while in “deep poverty” they had abundance of joy (2 Corinthians 8:2). To give grudgingly or of necessity (whether assessed or not assessed) is not giving with a Christian spirit and motive.

What about burial fees?

The responsibility for a person’s feeding, housing, clothing, etc., is his own and his family’s. The same is true of one’s burial expenses. A sensible person will make financial preparations for his own and the burial expenses of his family. If he wishes to assess himself or to join others who are assessing themselves, it is his own personal choice as to how he will set aside the necessary money. But he must not bring assessment into the church for burial expenses or for any other expenses. He must not confuse or combine his giving to the Lord with his personal burial obligations. We must provide physically for ourselves and our families (1 Timothy 5:8) so that the church will not be burdened with our personal needs and expenses (1 Timothy 5:16). But on the other hand, if a member should happen to die in poverty without chance of making his persona arrangement, the church could assist his family from thc treasury if it seemed necessary and in order as a matter of helping a poor brother (Romans l5:26).

Should a church have a treasurer?

Laying by in store (1 Corinthians 16:2) requires a treasury, just as assembling ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25) requires a place of assembly. Each congregation should decide upon the best method of keeping its money and of keeping records of its income and payments. It is a good plan to select two or three men to bear these responsibilities together, so that one man will not be too greatly tempted. One can count the money, one can keep records, and one keep the box. Whatever method is decided upon, the men must be very careful to provide things honest in the sight of the Lord and in the sight of men (2 Corinthians 8:21). When the apostle Paul carried money for churches, he took faithful men with him so as not to be blamed for being dishonest (2 Corinthians 8:19,20). If a church has elders and deacons, these men should select one or more of themselves to care for the treasury. But if a church has no officers, it must be clearly understood that there is no church office in the Bible known as “treasurer.” Those keeping the money are not officers because they keep the money. They have no positions in the church. And to prove this it may be necessary to allow men to take turns, one by one, as keepers of the money. These men must not love to have pre-eminence (3 John 9). They must remember that the keeper of the money for the disciples of Christ was the one who betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver (John 12:4-6; Matthew 26:14,15).

Why is it spiritually dangerous to love money?

Money is a master which multitudes worship and serve (Matthew 6:24). Covetousness makes one an idolator (Ephesians 5:5). Money is called “filthy lucre” or filthy gain (1 Timothy 3:3,8; Titus 1:7,11). The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some coveting after money have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10). They that seek to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition (1 Timothy 6:9). Trusting in riches makes men high-minded and proud (1 Timothy 6:17). Money turned the rich young ruler away from Christ (Mark 10:17-22). It sent the rich man to torments in flames (Luke 16:19-31). The deceitfulness of riches crowds the Word of God out of one’s heart (Matthew 13:22). The love of money caused Annanias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Spirit and be killed (Acts 5:1-11). It caused Simon the sorcerer to be in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity (Acts 8:18-23). It caused the church at Laodocia to be lukewarm and in danger of being spewed out of the mouth of Jesus (Revelation 3:14-18). It is spiritually dangerous to love money because it makes a man a fool (Luke 12:13-21). What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul (Matthew 16:26)?

Can a member dictate the way his contribution should be spent?

Money put into the treasury of a church is money given to the Lord. It ceases to belong to any individual. It belongs to the church. Therefore, no member can say that he will direct the way that his gift will be spent. However, as a member of the congregation each giver has an equal voice in how the church’s funds should be spent. If the church treasury money is being misused, he has the right to express his opinion together with every other member so that the whole church will direct the money into a good use.

Can one church help another church financially?

The churches of the region of Macedonia helped financially to relieve the suffering of poor saints among the churches of Judea (2 Corinthians 8:1,2; 9:12; Romans 15:25,26). The brethren in Antioch sent relief unto the brethren in Judea when a famine caused the churches there to be in want (Acts 11:27-29). It is, therefore, scriptural for congregations to help financially when sister congregations are in need.

Can churches pay a preacher when he is preaching for another church?

In 2 Corinthians 11:8 the apostle Paul said that he robbed other churches, taking wages of them to do service at Corinth. The church at Philippi sent once and again to help Paul preach in the city of Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15,16). These examples show us that sister congregations can assist another congregation to have a gospel preacher.

If churches can help a weak church financially, is it good to have a gospel meeting treasury for churches in an area to contribute to so as to help a weak church?

Gospel meeting organizations are always dangerous and often sinful. When groups of churches in an area meet regularly and select officers, make decisions, and collect money, they are corrupting the simple scriptural organization of independent churches of Christ. There must be no church officers except those in every congregation (Acts 14:23). Each church makes its own decisions and is ruled only by its own officers (Acts 20:28). There must be no treasury except the treasury of each local church (1 Corinthians 16:2). To change this simple and complete plan of organization is to make the government of the church like the denominations. We must abide in the doctrine of Christ and not go beyond it (2 John 9). We must not add to nor take from the Word of God (Revelation 22:18,19).

Did not Paul assess the churches to help the weak?

The Bible says, “It pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem” (Romans 15:26). The offering was not assessing but rather free-will giving. The Macedonian churches were “willing of themselves” to help their weak brethren (2 Corinthians 8:3). These churches begged Paul to receive their gift and transport it to the needy (2 Corinthians 8:4). “Every man according to his ability determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea” (Acts 11:29). The contributing brethren were the ones who first determined to send, and then actually did the sending. They merely used Bamabas and Paul as their means of transport (Acts 11:30). The money was not sent to some general gospel meeting treasury for the churches, but rather to the “elders” (Acts 11:30). Weak churches can be assisted financially without changing the Bible plan of independent, autonomous congregations, and without assessments of any kind.

Comments are closed.