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Q. How should a Christian organization handle being embezzled?

Hi Sir:

Could you tell me what you feel the Bible says to do in the case of a person who embezzels a whole lot of money from an organization which of course did not know. I feel take your losses and move on and allow God to restore. He will deal with justice. Hard pill to swallow - am I wrong? I just feel like when there is a lot at stake for the organization then it’s best to lay it down and never allow it to happen again. Thank you for any thoughts, scripture, etc.

With regards,

******

Answer:

Dear ******,

I actually have seen this happen with a well-known Christian organization. Sadly (in my mind), the institution decided to institute legal proceedings (not criminal charges, but a lawsuit against the individual). I have great difficulty setting these words of Scripture aside:

1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? 4 So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 (NASB)

The reasoning the institution set forth was that as an institution they had a fiduciary responsibility to carry out. In my mind, that fiduciary responsibility would best be carried out by setting down principles and procedures which would prevent the misuse of funds. Notice how careful Paul was in the handling of the gifts of others:

10 I give my opinion in this matter, for this is to your advantage, who were the first to begin a year ago not only to do this, but also to desire to do it.11 But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality— 14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15 as it is written, “HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK.” 16 But thanks be to God who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord. 18 We have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches; 19 and not only this, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work, which is being administered by us for the glory of the Lord Himself, and to show our readiness, 20 taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; 21 for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 22 We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent because of his great confidence in you. 23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. 24 Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you. 2 Corinthians 8:10-24 (NASB)

I think that crimes, such as theft, should probably be reported, but that would be the end of it in my mind. It is important to protect other institutions from hiring this person and also suffering loss.

Blessings,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ethics, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry