Now, what should our response be when the church leaders do not use the money appropriately? What decision can we make regarding our giving when they neglect poor and the needy, missions and other genuine needs, and lavishly spend money on things that are not truly necessary?
There are numerous people who suppose that their responsibility is just to give the money and what happens to that money is not their concern. In my conversation with a young man, the issue was raised about how wisely the finance of the church ought to be spent. This young person said, “I give money to the church and if it is not used properly, it is God who is going to judge them. I can't do anything about it.” I then asked him, “If your sister is sexually abused in the church by a church leader, would you say the same thing?” He blurted, “No!” He was a bright guy—he got the message.
One of the major reasons for the abuse of God’s money in the church is because of lack of financial accountability. God would eventually judge every person on the Last Day. But as long as we live on this earth, we have been given the responsibility by God to judge those within the church. To the passive believers of Corinth who were silent over the prevailing sin among them, Paul admonished, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” (1 Cor. 6:2-3).
Did you observe those last words, “How much more we have the responsibility to judge the things of this life?” True, we are not to slander, gossip and curse others, but when something goes wrong in the church, we have all the responsibility to judge, i.e. hold people accountable and gently correct for restoration.
Remember, judgment and correction is done, not only by the leaders, but by the whole people of God. It is interesting to notice in 1 Corinthians 6 that Paul was not addressing to any particular leaders to judge and correct the erring person. He was writing to the whole church, exhorting them to purge the evil and keep the church of Christ holy and righteous. Of course, everything ought to be done in order and love, for Paul said in the same epistle to the Corinthians, “Do everything in love” (16:14), and also “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (14:40).
Therefore, a believer who justifies himself/herself, saying, “God knows who I am; He is the One who judges me; No one has any business to question me or to correct me”, is not truly abiding by the principles of the word of God. And a church leader who terrifies believers, saying, “I am a man (or anointed) of God; I am directly accountable to God; If you judge me, God is going to curse you,” isn’t really walking in the light of God’s word. A leader’s life in the church is not a secret book; it is an open album. His life ought to be transparent before others, especially the way he handles the money of the church.
One of the wonderful qualities about Paul was the way he was honest and transparent in handling the money of the church. In no other book Paul spent so many words in writing about the issue of money as he did in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Charles Swindoll gleans two principles from 2 Cor. 8:16-21, relating to who should handle money and how. (A Minister Everyone would Respect, Insights for Living, 1989, pg. 12-13)
First, only qualified people should handle financial matters.
I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. (2 Cor. 8:16-19)
What are the qualifications of people whom Paul sent to handle the money of the church? They were earnest, their good testimony impressed the church to appoint them, and they were zealous to help and to do good works. The responsibility of money management shouldn’t be entrusted to those who are not faithful in administering financial contributions. We are responsible to see that God’s money goes into the hands of the right people who would use it to meet appropriate needs.
The second principle: money matters should be administered honestly and openly.
We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. (2 Cor. 8: 20-21). (2 Cor. 8:16-19)
Have you carefully read in the above text the honesty and transparency of Paul in handling church’s money? His words in regard to the issue of money, “we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men”, implies that he counted himself accountable to people and took every effort to avoid criticism or accusation of any kind in the way he used the generous gifts of the people given to noble causes.
In light of Paul’s integrity, what should we think about the leaders of the church today? How many of them are imitating Paul in regard to financial openness? Regretfully, many leaders aren’t open to the church in the way they use their money. The believers who faithfully give to these leaders have no idea where their money is going. Many churches don’t know how much of the money is coming in and where it is going. Although there are some leaders of the churches who announce every week or every month about the offerings received, they still withhold the information from the believers (intentionally or unintentionally) about how they have spent it.
I am glad to know ministries (not churches)—very, very, very few—who send financial statement, either monthly or yearly, to their sponsors, sharing with them their opening balance, received contributions, expenditure and the closing balance. Praise God for such wonderful exemplary ministries!
Don’t you think every believer in the church, who works hard and faithfully gives money, has the right to know where their money is going? Shouldn’t the leaders be transparent about the way they spend church’s finance? If money is spent faithfully for the right needs, what’s wrong in letting the church know about how their finance is spent? Do we find such accounts on the notice board, such as pastor’s family support so and so, travel so and so, literature so and so, orphans so and so…..etc? I understand there are church leaders, who are diligent and faithful, don’t practice this transparency because they are unaware of such accountability. Writes Charles Swindoll:
When people give their money to churches, ministries, and charities, they trust that their money will be used wisely and carefully. That trust is just as valuable as the money—maybe even more—so it must be guarded. We’re accountable not only to God, but also to the people who contribute to His work. It’s a matter of honor. (pg. 13).
I am glad to learn the lesson of accountability in my ministry. When people give me money, especially with the freedom to use it for my family, I spend it accordingly. There is no need to give an account about how specifically you have spent on your family. But if they give to use particularly for ministry, I give them the account about how the money was spent. I think it is their right to know how their money was used. This would also help me to do blameless ministry, for there are many leaders in our day who are accused (truly or falsely) of financial scam.
But shall we do when leaders are irresponsible in handling church’s finance? Should we ignore such things and continue to give or is there any wise means give our money to be used in a fruitful way? There are two things I want to suggest:
Go to the leaders. Humbly and respectfully ask them how the money is spent. You may also request them to be accountable in their spending of church’s finance. If they are not practicing to share the offerings with the poor and needy, and even to support missions, you may motivate them, based on biblical principles, to consider helping them. In case there are no poor people in your church, there are many outside, especially in other communities and nations. It is noteworthy to observe that in 2 Cor. 8 and 9 Paul was raising money from other churches for the poor saints in Jerusalem.
It is also necessary to consider helping missionaries and itinerant workers who give themselves to extensive ministry. There are many places around the world where such people are working hard for the Kingdom of God in spite of financial crisis. Helping such blessed ones pleases the Lord who provides our needs. Laborious pastors who do local and non-local ministry, whom their churches are unable to offer sufficient support due to financial inadequacy, are well worthy to receive help too.
Here is a word of caution—before giving to any person, ministry or church, it is of utmost importance to examine the credibility of the receivers.
Give personally. If the church leaders are deliberately and continuously refusing to be accountable about the use of money and neglect to give for noble causes, I would stop giving my money and personally meet the genuine needs. I know churches that do not continuously spend even an ounce of their money for the needy and missions. I count them as unworthy to receive a penny of mine.
I know friends who do not give their tithes and offerings to their church but directly give to the people in need, for they have found their church leaders irresponsible in spending their money. I think this is a good practice of investing our money wisely. In spite of your church leaders being unreliable, if you feel obligated to give at least some of your finance (maybe 1 or 2% or whatever) because you are attending the church, and then give rest of your offering personally to meet the right needs of the people, that’s better still.
Finally, keep in mind, you are responsible not only to give offerings but also to consider how wisely you are investing that money to bear fruit.
END OF THE SERIES OF "WHERE IS THE MONEY OF THE CHURCH GOING?"
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