Church of Christ
Mission USA

The Handling of Church Finances (part 1)

by Perry Sexton

      It is troubling to hear of church financial problems. Many good sound works have not been done because of a lack of funds for one reason or another. Other godly works have been halted for the same reason. And make no mistake, we all will give account to God.  A lot, if not most problems can be traced directly to sin of some kind. A shortage of funds for good sound works is often caused by some members not giving as they should (cp. Mal. 1:6ff; 1 Cor. 16:1,2; 2 Cor. 8:12; 9:6,7, etc.). But often times it is not the shortage of funds, but a dearth of good hearts to help in good sound works. I have known, and heard of many horror stories of congregations and brethren not using the Lord’s money properly, but hording it up.

      Horror yes, because of their hearts not being right with God and the terrible judgment that awaits them for the good works left undone. In many cases the good works were not even attempted! Certainly they justify themselves (Luke 16:15), but not by God’s Word. Brethren, individually we have the responsibility to give to God according to His will. Woe unto him who does not! As the church we are responsible for using God’s money in His work. Woe to them who do not do so! Much needs to be taught in both areas, but this article addresses another issue.

      The literal handling of the contribution: I presently know of a congregation that is a prime candidate for having its treasurer embezzle the Lord’s money. The congregation is very small and without proper leadership, but that is no excuse. The amazing thing, another treasurer years ago, was caught embezzling! You would think they would learn. Many have been caught embezzling from the church’s treasury and certainly many have gone uncaught, at least by man. Another one I know of got caught, “repented” of what he got caught at, but then more was found out.  Oh, he repented of that also (???), but that is another subject.

      Embezzlement is certainly very bad, but what about the church and its leaders who do not safeguard the Lord’s money? Isn’t this also very bad: shamefully sinful?! Years ago I tried to set in place a work plan (I revised from another preacher) at a congregation, which included most aspects of the church’s function. And it included protecting the contribution. Well, the treasurer got his feelings hurt and some others were saying “Perry doesn’t trust brother ….” That was not the case at all: I (Perry) was simply trying to safeguard the Lord’s money and protect the treasurer from suspicion and from temptation, etc.  In essence, what I was doing was trying to follow God’s Word in all things: “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor. 8:21, please read the context and heed).

      Why should Christians be offended at following God’s Word? Furthermore, the treasurer and all handling the funds should be the ones demanding that truly workable precautions be put in place, and that everyone follow the guidelines very carefully. Just common sense, but most of all it is Bible (ibid).

      We all must recognize that none of us are above temptation and none are above falling (1 Cor. 10:12 cp. Prov. 16:18; Matt. 26:33ff; Rom. 11:20). Some of the ones I know of fell to embezzling because of their personal and/or business financial struggles; and because no real safeguards were in place. Let us understand that brethren can and do deceive others at times. The embezzler is not going to announce himself as such, but will use much skill and thought in his plan to deceive. Being a deceiver is characteristic of Satan, and being deceived is shameful and can be damnable. [See the “Journal” for a lighter side to this.]

      No honest person, and especially a Christian, should want to put himself in a questionable situation where others may suspect (cp. 1 Thess. 5:22; 2 Cor. 8:20) or accuse him. A prudent person would strive to never do this. All Christians must be upright before God, which means following His Word in all matters including 2 Cor. 8:21. And therefore, be upright before men. In this manner no one would have a right or a reason to suspect or accuse. That is the way it should be and will be if God’s Word is followed. And if someone should question or accuse, the matter could be easily proven.

      Invariably, when there is known embezzlement by the church it is known by non-members also. In fact, oftentimes, it is known by them before the church becomes aware of it, e.g., the bank personnel, etc. What does such do for the church’s reputation? Learn from King David: “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, …” (2 Sam. 12:14). We should strive to be as Daniel and when those who do seek occasion against us, they will have no grounds whatsoever (Dan. 6:4).

      This matter is no different than any other matter of Christian living: We all should constantly strive to improve ourselves in the eyes of God (e.g., 2 Cor. 13:5; 2 Peter 1:5-10; 3:18). We need to think and rethink, and constantly beware of the situation and re-evaluate (often) the handling of the Lord’s money from beginning to end. I am certain some congregations have a very well thought out system of safeguarding the Lord’s money from which many other congregations may benefit. It would be good to publish this in brotherhood papers. I welcome your notes, comments and full documentation of your guidelines. I would be happy to print what I could here and on our website if you would like to send it. Or if you just have a point or two you would like to make, please send it to me.

      Learning from Paul in this matter: Paul was very careful in guarding his own reputation and the contribution (2 Cor. 8:20, etc.). Paul used much godly wisdom and is an example to every Christian. In handling any aspect of the Lord’s money, why would not a Christian want to have witnesses, checks and balances, audits, etc.?   Paul did not choose his own witnesses: friends, family, etc. (1 Cor. 16:3,4 cp. Acts 6:3). The men chosen were approved by the church (ibid). I am certain many precautions were put in place that are not recorded, but as common sense and careful thinking dictates. ♥  [continued]

      Next month, the Lord willing, we will make a few suggestions concerning the handling of the Lord’s money. If you have any guidelines I would appreciate you sending them to me.