Whether you’re a newcomer or a long-time member of the church, you may not be clear about the principles and practices of our church with respect to financial matters. During each Sunday worship service, the deacons pass around collection bags to take up offerings. In addition, wage-earning members of the church normally provide regular voluntary contributions. What’s the difference between what you normally put in the collection and when you put an envelope in the box at the back? Let’s take a look at some biblical principles and practices and see if we can make it all clear.
The Scriptures give us many principles when it comes to our money. Already in the Old Testament, God wanted his people to be very clear that their wealth belonged to him. As a starting point, God required his people to give him a tenth of everything (e.g. Numbers 18:21-32). However, this was just a starting point. God expected much more from his people than just 10%. For example, he gave laws about freewill offerings, offerings that were above what was required (e.g. Leviticus 22:17-33). When God’s people were faithful in giving, he promised blessings:
“‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’” (Mal.3:10)
Our Lord Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, including that of the tithe. We cannot earn God’s favour by our faithful giving — our Lord Jesus earned God‘s favour for us by giving himself entirely for us. But what is the result of that for our financial practices in the church?
In giving himself entirely for us, our Lord Jesus showed himself to be the true priest of God — the one who made the perfect and complete sacrifice. Through the Holy Spirit, he now shares this priestly anointing with all Christians. What does that mean for us?
In the words of Romans 12:1-2, it means that we will present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. The Scriptures make it clear that God’s New Testament priests are not going to keep anything back for themselves. You can study the example of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 to see what happens when people who claim to be believers don’t live as priests for the Lord.
So, we love our Lord, we live out of our union with him, and we want to give. We want to give to show our thanks to our Lord. We want to give to honour and glorify our Lord in everything. At the end of the day, the question is not: how little of my money can I get away with giving? The question should be: how can I not give everything I can to my Lord, also when it comes to my money?
The Financial Life of the Church
The Scriptures are clear that believers are to be involved with the financial life of their local church. In the Old Testament, the people of God provided for the Levitical priests so that they could carry out their ministry. The people of God also ensured that the tabernacle, and later, the temple could operate. This is what the offerings, including the tithe, were used for.
In the New Testament era, things did not change. Though the Apostle Paul himself did not impose on the churches, he did insist that those who “preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14). The churches needed support, also for the needy, and the New Testament speaks of collections to that end (see 1 Cor.16:1-2).
Things have not changed to the present day. In the Free Reformed Church of Launceston, we have a number of deacons. The deacons are responsible for the ministry of Christ to those in need, both inside and outside of our congregation. Usually the money that goes in the collection is distributed by the deacons to those in need and to organizations that the deacons deem worthy of our support.
In our church we also have a Committee of Management. The “COM” deals with the daily business affairs of the church, including the paying of the bills. Your regular voluntary contributions are meant for money that goes to the “COM.” The daily operation of the church depends on the regular voluntary contributions of our members. For the church to function properly, it depends on the members to regularly give to our Lord from their first-fruits — in other words, members should make a regular contribution a priority whenever earned income is received.
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor. 9:6-7.