Jerry C. Brewer
From the earliest memory of my childhood, I always heard faithful gospel preachers and Christians emphasize (and correctly so) that the church of Christ asks no financial aid from anyone who is not a Christian. On the other hand, Christians are not only expected, but commanded, to give of their means on the first day of the week to support the work of the church.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).
The above verses teach us that we are to give, 1) upon the first day of the week, 2) for the purpose of “laying by in store” for the work of the church, 3) as we have been prospered, 4) purposefully, 5) of our free will, and, 6) cheerfully. This is the sum of the Christian’s financial obligation to the work of the Lord and the sum of God’s means by which we, as His children, are to raise money for that work. By including all of the above in the church’s financial support, and excluding all other means, the Scriptures eliminate car washes, raffles, bazaars, silent auctions, assessments, or any other dependence on those who are not Christians, to finance the work of the church.
But in recent years it has become common for many works, which are supposed to be under the oversight of elders in a congregation, to ask public funding for their efforts—which is unscriptural and sinful. Asking the public to fund the Lord’s work violates the injunction that Paul gave to Christians to give as we have been prospered upon the first day of the week.
One work (among many others on the internet) which comes to mind is Apologetics Press (AP). That entity is ostensibly overseen by the elders of the Palm Beach Lakes church of Christ in Florida. If that is true, then AP is a work of the church which ought to be funded by the Palm Beach Lakes church. However, its website requests donations from the general public in violation of Paul’s injunction above. Christians must financially support the work of the church and cannot ask outsiders to contribute to it—a principle set forth in John’s letter to Gaius.
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey, after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles (3 John 5-7).
Under the heading, “New Testament Law Of Missions,” the late Guy N. Woods had this to say in his commentary on these verses in Third John:
It would have been unseemly for those who carried the message of salvation to depend for support on those to whom they preached. Such would have exposed them to the charge that they sought material advantage for themselves, and that their preaching was merely a pretext to obtain that. There is nothing which so quickly wins men to a sympathetic hearing as the realization of complete unselfishness on the part of those who bear the message to them: and it is absolutely requisite that in all missionary efforts, the missionaries be wholly independent financially and materially of those to whom they preach (Commentary On Third John, 1956, Gospel Advocate Co., p. 362).
There is no difference today between the church which asks for money from non-Christians and the Jehovah Witnesses’ former practice of hawking their Watchtower from door to door for 10 cents each. The church of Christ must never ask non-Christians for money to do its work. Let us give cheerfully, liberally, and as we have been prospered upon the first day of the week to accomplish the work of preaching to the lost, “taking nothing of the Gentiles.”