Biblical Principles Concerning Contributions to the Church
To Whom Do We Give?
When the Christian gives, he may give to individuals or to the church, but in the final analysis in doing so he is giving to God (see Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 6:2-4; 22:17-21; Acts 5:4; Romans 14:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:5; Colossians 3:22-25).
Who Should Give?
Only those who have been united with Christ and His church by personal faith in Jesus Christ should give to the people of God and the work of God. In the Bible, every command or exhortation to give is addressed to believers. Taking funds from unbelievers is prohibited (3 John 7; see also 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
Why Should God's People Give?
1. Giving is an obligation
In the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Haggai 1:1-11; Malachi 3:7-12) and in the New (Romans 12:13; Galatians 2:10; Hebrews 13:16; 1 John 3:17), the people of God are commanded to give for certain needs. Failing to give for such causes when one is able is therefore an act of disobedience. Not all giving is required, however (see Leviticus 7:16; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15).
2. Giving is a privilege
The churches of Macedonia were models of generosity in giving, even though they were poor. They gladly gave out of gratitude toward God and love for their brethren (2 Corinthians 8 and 9; see especially 8:4, 9). Paul reminds us of Jesus' teaching that "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
3. Giving is one dimension of our stewardship
Very often Jesus spoke of the stewardship of His people in terms of money (see Luke 16:1-13). Our faithfulness as stewards in this "little thing" of money has a bearing on what other (and greater) responsibilities we will be given (see Luke 16:9-12).
4. Giving is an act of worship
The Old Testament saints could only approach God in worship with a sacrifice, and this sacrifice was a contribution, whether whole or in part. In the New Testament, contributions were also described as sacrifices offered up in worship (see Hebrews 9:1-10; 10:1-25; 13:10-16).
No offering is taken during the teaching hour. This is so that unbelievers will not feel obligated to give, or think that their giving would contribute to their salvation. Unbelievers do not need to give to God, but to receive the gift of salvation which He offers to them in Jesus Christ. The offering is taken during the worship time, after the Lord's Supper, to encourage the saints to give as an act of worship.
5. Giving is an investment
Jesus encouraged believers to give in order to "lay up treasure in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-21). Investing earthly money in the advancement of the kingdom of God is one way in which we can lay up spiritual treasure in heaven (see Luke 16:1-13).
6. Giving is an act of self-sacrifice
All Christian service should be a sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). In giving, we should not seek man's praise, but God's (Matthew 6:2-4). We should not give with the hope of getting ahead in this life, but with the faith that God will reward us in heaven (Luke 14:12-14). We should not give under pressure, but willingly and cheerfully, with gratitude for God's grace to us, according to our ability (2 Corinthians 8 and 9).
7. Giving is an expression of brotherly love
Giving is an expression of brotherly love and of Christian unity. The principle is set down in texts such as Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 3:11; Romans 12:13; James 2:15-17 and 1 John 3:15-18. The practice of this principle is seen in Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35; 11:27-30; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; Philippians 4:14-19.
For What Did God's People Give?
In the Old Testament, the Israelites gave for the construction of the temple and for the on-going maintenance of its worship and ministry (Exodus 25:1-9; 35:4-9; 2 Kings 12:4-16; 1 Chronicles 29:1-17; Matthew 17:24-27). They also gave to the poor and needy (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22; Mark 10:21; Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35; 11:27-30; Romans 12:13; 2 Corinthians 8 and 9; Galatians 2:10). Old and New Testament saints also gave in remuneration for ministry which they received (see Numbers 18; Luke 10:1-9; Galatians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 9:1-14). They supported those who ministered to others (Luke 8:1-3; Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 11:8; Philippians 4:14-19; 2 John 7-11; 3 John 5-8). There was also ministry to those who were suffering and in need (even imprisoned) for the sake of the gospel (Matthew 25:35-40; Philippians 2:25-30; Hebrews 13:3).
How Much Should God's People Give?
In one sense, God's people are to give everything to God (Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:15; 12:33; 14:33). One's loyalty and devotion cannot be shared between God and material possessions (Matthew 6:24). In another sense, we recognize that we really own nothing, that all things belongs to God and we are stewards of them. We may have possessions, but we are not to be possessive (1 Corinthians 7:30). From Acts (2:44-45; 4:32-35; 12:12) we conclude that the early Christians did not claim anything as their own, but neither did they sell everything they possessed. They would, from time to time, sell what they did not need to meet the needs of others, as needs arose. Paul makes it clear that people should give only what they have to give (2 Corinthians 8:12), and this according to one's ability and according to what he or she has purposed to give (2 Corinthians 8:3, 10-14).
What Can God's People Give?
We tend to think primarily of money when we speak of gifts or contributions. Certainly money is one form of contribution to God's people and His work. But in addition to money, other possessions may be given. For example, the materials necessary for the construction of the Tabernacle were donated (see Exodus 25:1-8). Food and clothing may be shared with those in need (Luke 3:11). Another form of contribution is that of labor (see Exodus 35:30--36:5; Philippians 2:25-30; Hebrews 13:16 ["doing good"]).
How Were Monies Obtained?
One can hardly use the term "solicitation" when referring to the scriptural teaching and practice of obtaining contributions. Giving is often spontaneous, though some obligations are set down as commands (see Galatians 6:6). Jesus never solicited funds for His personal support or ministry. In fact, when He urged people to give up their money, He instructed them to give to the poor, not to give to Him or to His ministry. There were a faithful few who sustained our Lord and His followers (Luke 8:1-3). The same seems to be true of Paul, who often labored with his own hands in order to minister physically and financially to others (see Acts 20:33-35; 1 Corinthians 9:3-14; 1 Thessalonians 2:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). The Christian should never willingly become an unnecessary burden to the church (Galatians 6:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-15), and the family should be the first to minister to their own in times of need (1 Timothy 5:3-8). In the New Testament church, the needs of others were made known, and people were encouraged to meet these needs (see Acts 11:27-30; Romans 12:13). The normal pattern is that we should work to meet our own needs, as well as the needs of others (Acts 20:33-35; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Ephesians 4:28). It would seem from our Lord's strong reaction to the abuse of the temple in His day that profit-making efforts ought not to be carried out in the church (Matthew 21:12-17). Funds to carry on the work of God were not solicited from unbelievers (3 John 7-8). We should therefore avoid any fund-raising from those whose spiritual condition is unclear or from those we know to be unsaved.
How Were Contributions Handled and Disbursed?
Not all ministry with money or goods was carried on through the church. In the Old Testament, corners of the field were not harvested, and other gleanings were left for the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10). In the New Testament we also see that some giving was done privately, such as through the family (see 1 Timothy 5:4).
Paul was meticulous concerning the way in which monies were collected and distributed so that no allegation of impropriety would arise. There was great effort made to assure donors that the monies given were used for the purposes for which it was contributed. Paul sought to maintain a good testimony, not only before the church but also before all men (see 2 Corinthians 8:20-21). Peter's example in dealing with the deception of Ananias and Sapphira indicates that church leadership must require, as much as possible, that the donors be absolutely honest and forthright in their contributions (see Acts 5:1-6).
General Guidelines For Fund-Raising
1. Fund-Raising, Scriptural Teaching, and IRS Regulations
Paul was conscientious in his handling of contributions so he would demonstrate a high regard "for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." Paul also instructed the saints to "pay their taxes" (Romans 13:6). It is the intent of the Elders of SBC to interpret and apply the laws of the land in a conservative manner and to avoid participating in any questionable contributions. This has led us to the following policies regarding gifts to Sample Bible Chapel:
Gifts to SBC must be gifts. In order for a contribution to be considered tax-deductible, it must be given, without strings, to the church, to be used as the Elders determine. Therefore, gifts cannot be designated by the donor to be "passed through" to other individuals.
Gifts may only be designated to funds which have been established by the Elders of SBC. These designations should be made by use of an envelope, not on the check itself, to avoid even the appearance of "pass through" should the IRS audit the donor.
SBC cannot make purchases on behalf of individuals in order to avoid paying sales tax.
SBC is a non-profit corporation, and as such, we will not engage in activities or the sale of items which generate a profit. If books or materials are sold, they can only be sold at a price that covers the actual cost of the item. Donated items are an exception.
SBC will not engage in business activities, and neither do we wish that others use our building, our meetings, or our directory for conducting business.
SBC does not normally give receipts nor do we generally acknowledge in-kind gifts. Neither do we establish the value of items which are donated to the church. The determination of the value of such gifts is the responsibility of the donor, and the donor will also be responsible to justify this value if questioned by the IRS. If necessary and requested, SBC can verify by letter the donation of a gift for tax purposes.
2. Other Policies Concerning Contributions or Fund-Raising Activities
In general, no fund-raising should be carried out at SBC which does not conform to the biblical principles outlined above.
Fund-raising activities should only be conducted with the approval of the Elders of SBC through the appropriate leadership channel, i.e., Missions, Youth ministries, etc.
Generally, fund-raising for organizations outside of SBC and not supported by SBC should be raised outside of SBC.
The meeting of the church is not to be considered a forum or occasion for fund-raising activities. If approved by the Elders, any fund-raising activity would normally come at the end of the meeting, at the time announcements are given.
Fund-raising should not be done in a way that makes people feel obligated to give under compulsion, rather than willingly and joyfully.
Fund-raising for God's work should not be done among unbelievers.
Fund-raising for entertainment (e.g. a trip to an amusement park) should be done privately or in a context separate from the church meeting.
Funds for the personal benefit and/or entertainment of individuals should be raised by legitimate labor or by the sale of something which has a real value.
Fund-raising should not seek to divert the contribution of monies which would normally be given to support the ministry at SBC.
Gifts to mission boards should be according to their instructions, but the donor should satisfy himself that the board is financially reputable and following IRS non-profit regulations. The exception to this is those who serve as missionaries who are approved and/or supported by SBC. Often it is best to support or contribute to these individuals through a contribution made to the mission board under which they serve.
We realize that there are ministries and individuals outside of our church body which are worthy of the involvement and support of those within our congregation. We do believe that giving to the local church is a priority. Our church building, meetings, and publications (such as the directory or newsletter) should not be used to raise funds for ministries, organizations and individuals outside our church without specific approval by the elders.