Scriptures

Can The ‘Church’s Finances’ Be Used To Help Non-Christians?

Introduction

I must admit I didn’t realise how hot a topic this was until I did some research on it and it seems to be a subject which has been debated on many times over the years and still causes some division within some churches today. I personally find it an interesting subject to say the least but hopefully some simple study and common sense may help us understand the subject better.

The argument suggests that as ‘individual Christians’ we can give out of our own ‘personal money’ to help non-Christians but ‘the church’ as a whole, can’t give non-Christians money ‘out of the church funds’.

When I was doing my research on this subject, it really saddened me to read the following from a preacher who insisted that if the church as a whole, financially helped any non-Christian from the church funds, that church, ‘would go to hell if it took money from its treasury to feed hungry, destitute children.’

Let’s think about a few things before we get into the main text

1. Israel were told to care for those who come among them, the widow, the alien, the foreigner. They were to care for those unbelieving pagans from the resources given to them by God.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 ‘He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.’

Deuteronomy 16:11 ‘And rejoice before the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you.’

Deuteronomy 24:19-21 ‘When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.’

2. Jesus met the material needs of many who made no profession of faith in him.

For example, many of the 5,000 whom he fed,

‘turned back and no longer followed him.’ John 6:66

Ask yourself, wouldn’t the example of Jesus be a worthy model for the church to imitate, since we are the body of Christ?

3. The churches, and I underline ‘the churches’ in Galatia, Galatians 6:1, were told to care for all people irrespective of their faith, but the church has a particular responsibility to the family of God.

God wants His people, individually and collectively, to help the poor, regardless of their nationality, skin colour, or even spiritual status.

Galatians 6:9-10 ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’

4. The practice of pure religion, and surely the church must be to practice pure religion, which is to care for the widows and orphans, irrespective of their spiritual standing.

James 1:27 ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress’.

Would Jesus care for them?

Of course, He would! Then why would the church not care for them? The ‘pure and undefiled religion’ of James 1:27 most certainly applies to the church as much as the individual Christian.

5. Paul comments on the generosity of the church in helping, not only their own, but ‘everyone else’,

2 Corinthians 9:13 ‘Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.’

We build buildings, buy hymn books and pay preachers out of ‘the treasury’ without specific examples. Preachers can be supported but nowhere do we find an example that they are paid out of ‘the treasury’.

6. It’s crazy to think that the church can advertise a Gospel meeting, rent a hotel, and incur expenses from its resources in order to reach the unbeliever with the Gospel but then, for some strange reason, declare that it’s a sin for the church to use its resources to meet the material needs of the unbeliever!

7. You don’t need an example in Scripture for everything you do, what you do need is authority from God for everything you do. And we have the authority from God to care for the needs of the unbelievers.

8. Finally, it’s interesting that some Christians make much of ‘the church treasury’, yet there isn’t a mention of it in the Bible.

Furthermore, the reference to 1 Corinthians 16 is referring to funds being raised to meet the material needs of the saints and it was so stop once Paul arrived, therefore couldn’t be ‘the church treasury.’ They try to justify collecting money on a Sunday by referring to 1 Corinthians 16, a passage of Scripture that has nothing to say about such a practice. The apostle Paul teaches us to be prepared for needs beforehand, this is the reason for our collection.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 ‘Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.’

9. All money whether it be personal or out of the church funds belongs to God.

Psalm 24:1 ‘The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it’.

1 Corinthians 10:26 ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.’

Think about this for a moment, if it’s right and holy for individual Christians to help unbelievers, how then could it be sinful for a congregation of Christians to do the very same thing?

Is it sinful to follow the example of Jesus as a church?

I think the Lord Himself also encountered the attitude of some Christians in regards to our topic, an attitude which seems to suggest there is something ‘super-holy’ about the fellowship, the ‘koinonia’!

Acts 2:42 ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’

The word ‘fellowship’ means ‘contribution, distribution, sharing’, but contains no suggestion of limitation of any kind.

Just as a side note this where we get our authority to take up an offering every week. Now some Christians might attempt to use the example that followed Pentecost, in support of the ‘Christians only’ theory, but, we have to remember that what happened following the marvels of Pentecost was simply Christians responding to a unique situation.

Many of those who obeyed the Gospel after Peter’s sermon had come to Jerusalem for the Feast, arriving from many countries, as the list in Acts 2 makes clear, and, as we ourselves do when we take a holiday or make a journey, they had calculated what provisions and how much money they would need.

However, the events of Pentecost had completely disrupted their plans, with the result that they were experiencing hardship. But the local Judean Christians were equal to the emergency and many sold property and lands to meet the needs of their new brethren. They weren’t responding to any church-law or practice, and it never became a law, nor is there any account of it being repeated.

They were just doing what any Christian or Christians would do in an emergency, when led by the Spirit of the One Who said,

‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’, Acts 20:35

because behaviour of this kind needs no law, and, when a need is identified, there should be no argument! When Jesus said,

‘it is more blessed to give than to receive,’

He was speaking to the elders of the Ephesian church, in their official roles as elders.

To suggest that the ‘contribution’ should be used only to help believers is utterly foreign to the spirit of the Christ Who

‘went about doing good,’ Acts 10:38

He didn’t investigate the religious affiliation of the person in need, He met their need! When He fed the 5000 and the 4000, He didn’t instruct His disciples to separate the people into those who believed in Him and those who didn’t and then feed only the believers! And He, not His disciples, was the one who recognised that the people were hungry! It was His idea to feed the needy! Not His disciples.

Do we really think that the One who ‘was moved with compassion towards them’ when He saw that the people ‘were like sheep without a shepherd’, Mark 6:34 discriminated in such a way? His disciples would have sent the crowds away to fend for themselves. Ask yourself the questions, would the Lord have the same discriminative, selective, exclusive attitude towards the use of His money?

There was also an occasion when He pointed out to the religious Jews, with obvious approval! That when David and his men were hungry, they actually entered the Tabernacle and ate the Shewbread, which, according to the Law, was intended for the exclusive use of the priests! Using that event to point out that the Sabbath was instituted for the benefit of Man, not Man for the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:1-8 ‘At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread— which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’

Similarly, the regular ‘fellowship’ was instituted to do the will of God, not to be shared out among ‘believers only’. The only command that I know is found in Galatians 6:10,

‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’

It’s impossible, in the light of this command, for the church to escape, the responsibility it imposes, to help any who are in need.

A closer look at Galatians 6

‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.’ Galatians 6:1

In Galatians 6 a contrast is drawn between individual behavioural instruction and corporate behavioural instruction with the opening of Galatians 6:1. Paul clearly addresses the brothers and sisters, which is plural in Galatians 6:1.

‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfil the law of Christ.’ Galatians 6:2

Again, in Galatians 6:2 the instruction is to the church corporate and the plural indicates this.

‘For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.’ Galatians 6:3-5 KJV

In Galatians 6:3-5, Paul is discussing particular individual responses to the corporate action of Galatians 6:2. This is indicated by the connecting words of ‘for’ in Galatians 6:3, ‘but’ in Galatians 6:4, and ‘for’ in Galatians 6:5. This is all one thought explaining and answering the attitudes of individuals regarding the corporate action in Galatians 6:2.

‘Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’ Galatians 6:6-8

Galatians 6:6 begins a new thought and that is corporate in application as well, but in the universal particular, i.e., Paul expects every member of the church to do these things and in so doing they will be acting corporately. This is also true regarding Galatians 6:7-8, these are universal particulars, they apply to individuals as well as to churches.

Both individuals have the responsibility not to be deceived and the church, as a collection of individuals, has the responsibility not to be deceived. Both individuals and churches, as collections of individuals, who sow to the flesh will reap the flesh.

And while I could understand the possibility that Galatians 6:7-8 are referring to individual behaviour, Galatians 6:9, in clear contrast, brings the discussion back to corporate action with the inclusion of the first-person plural, ‘us’ and Galatians 6:10 also uses the first-person plural in the word ‘we’ and ‘us.’

‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’ Galatians 6:9-10

The action in Galatians 6:9-10 is corporate in nature. Galatians 6:9 emphasizes the need for the church not to get discouraged and Galatians 6:10 gives the method of preventing the church from getting discouraged, do good works! The context is also corporate in its scope, Paul is giving instruction to the church on how to handle the problem of Judaizing teachers.

Galatians 6:10 applies to Christians as individuals, but not to individuals ‘only’. It also applies to the action of Christians as a group, that is, in congregational action or individuals acting on behalf of the congregation.

Acts 6:1-5 ‘In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So, the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.’

For example, in case of the widows being neglected in Acts 6, there were seven individuals that did the work Acts 6:5, but it was the church acting Acts 6:3. The individuals were appointed to do the work, but it was church action. The church cannot do everything the individual does, but that does not mean there are not things that both, not only may do, but must do.

We learn from the Book of Acts that Barnabas as an individual went from Jerusalem to Antioch, but it was church action,

Acts 11:22-23, ‘News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived, and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.’

Also, note the words of Paul to the church at Philippi concerning his work as a Gospel preacher about his need of support from them,

‘not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.’, Philippians 4:17

Paul was acting as an individual on the field, but the church at Philippi was acting as a group, ‘church action’ through him.

A closer look at 2 Corinthians 9

Let’s take a look at 2 Corinthians 9:13 The apostle wrote,

‘while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and with all men”.

The Greek New Testament has ‘pantas’ in both 2 Corinthians 9:13 and Galatians 6:10 for ‘all men’. The American Standard has the word ‘all’, in 2 Corinthians 9:13, but in Galatians 6:10, the same word is translated, ‘all men’, no italics. The translators of the King James Version, translated the Greek ‘pantas’ in both texts as ‘all men’. The New King James translates it as ‘all men’ in 2 Corinthians 9:13 and as ‘all’ in Galatians 6:10.

A careful examination of 2 Corinthians 9:13 and its context shows that the King James translators were right on target when they translated, ‘pantas’ to mean, ‘all men’.

Some Christians believe that the text of 2 Corinthians 9:13 means saints at Jerusalem and that ‘all’, means all those saints whom the church helped. Yet, in the context Paul used the term, ‘saints’, 2 Corinthians 9:1+12. To say that that Paul was speaking of liberal distribution to one group of saints and to all saints isn’t reasonable nor scriptural.

We are told that if ‘pantas’ is rendered as ‘all men’, then in 2 Corinthians 9:14, we would have Paul speaking of ‘all men and by their prayer for you’. But that will not hold up under scrutiny of the context. Paul wrote,

‘for the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you’. 2 Corinthians 9:12-14

Note the words, ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’ shows that, all three apply to the saints named in 2 Corinthians 9:1+12. God was glorified and the Corinthians were prayed for by ‘they’, the saints 2 Corinthians 9:13-14.

Please note again 2 Corinthians 9:12-14,

‘for the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you.’

Here Paul wrote that the benevolence by the Gentiles, not only supplies the needs of the saints, but that it …

1. abounded through many thanksgivings to God.

2. Caused God to be glorified, 2 Corinthians 9:12-13, for

a. The Gentiles, obedience, 2 Corinthians 9:13, and

b. For their liberal sharing with them, ‘saints’ and with all ‘men’ 2 Corinthians 9:13.

Some extra thoughts

God Himself bestows benevolent favours upon the unjust as well as the just,

Matthew 5:45-47 ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?’

Furthermore, benevolence itself, in principle, is a form of evangelism,

Matthew 5:16 ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’,

and we are instructed to do good unto ‘all’ men, Galatians. 6:10.

Consider that Paul said,

‘now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.’ Acts 24:17

not just the church. Furthermore, Paul described both ‘the saints at Jerusalem’ and ‘the needy of the world’ in saying that he had brought church ‘offerings’ to ‘my nation’, Acts 24:17.

The Bible doesn’t give ‘examples’ of every possible circumstance or scenario, so we must take Bible principles and passages and ascertain their implications, and then apply them correctly. We must learn how to infer what the Bible implies.

Further, what is the difference between a church giving funds to help a non-Christian, and a church giving funds to a Christian who then turns around and helps a non-Christian with those funds?

Christ the Head shed His blood for the non-Christian are we going to say, that the body of that Head cannot give a penny out of His treasury to help a child? God forbid.

The difference between the treasury and the pocketbook of the individual saint is a slim one. Every penny of both belongs to Christ and all is to be used for His purposes. The only difference is that the treasury is a gathering in preparation.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 ‘Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.’

Conclusion

‘My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.’ James 2:1-11

‘The royal law’, ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself,’ James 2:8 means that Christians will not only love and help fellow Christian neighbours, but they will do the same for non-Christian neighbours. The passage from James 2:1-11 shows if the church is willing only to help needy Christians it is ‘showing favouritism’, James 2:1, and is guilty of ‘discriminating’, James 2:4 in refusing to help non-Christians.

If we were to go along with the idea that the church can only help other Christians, this would mean the church can teach Christians to be good Samaritans, Luke 10, but the church itself cannot practice what it teaches.

Luke 10:30-37 ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.’

 

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John 11:25

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