Know Your Bible

VOL. 9                           September 26, 2010                           NO. 39

 The Church Treasury - Only In An Emergency?
 
    It seems that considerable controversy has arisen regarding what we call the church treasury, meaning of course the funds contributed by the members of local churches. This controversy seems to be a by-product of the discussion of scriptural and unscriptural ways in which such funds are spent. In the course of discussion we occasionally hear the question raised as to whether or not a church should have a treasury other than on a temporary basis, designed to cope only with emergencies. The following quotation from the FIRM FOUNDATION, November 1, 1960, p. 696, will serve to illustrate the point: "The collection of funds on the first day of the week was commanded due to the rise of the Jerusalem emergency (1 Cor. 16:2, 3) .... The church is recorded as having a collected fund on hand, that is, in their treasury, only after an emergency had already arisen (Acts 2:44,45; 4:34-37; 1 Cor. 16:2). In no case does one find the church collecting funds, except after an emergency had already arisen."
 
     In this writer's judgment, the author of the foregoing, as well as those who share his views on this subject, has evidently failed to consider some matters of biblical record. In fact, it seems to us that even a superficial study of the Bible will reveal that God's people have always had a treasury. And, that such was always drawn upon to meet the normal demands "for the service of the house of God," as well as to cope with emergencies.
 
The Jews Had A Treasury

 Turning to the Old Testament, let us note that the Israelites stored-up treasure - had a treasury - to be used for the construction and maintenance of the temple, both in its planning stage in the days of David, as well as its restoration in the days of Nehemiah. Let us read: "They with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasure of the house of Jehovah" (I Chron. 29:8). "They gave after their ability into, the treasury of the work" (Ezra 2:69). "The governor gave to the treasury of the work" (Ezra 2:69). "The governor gave to the treasury a thousand darics of gold" (Neh. 7:70). "And, some of the heads of fathers' houses gave into the treasury of the work twenty thousand darics of gold" (Neh. 7:71).
 
     Even the collection of first-fruits, tithes, free-will offerings, etc., constituted treasure, and such were given a Storage-room or treasury in the temple (Neh. 13:5). The prophet, Malachi, charged the people with having robbed God because they had not surrendered the tithes and offerings which were due Him. He admonished them, saying: "Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse [treasury James Moffatt], that there may be food in my house, etc." (Mal. 3:10).
 
     Turning to the Gospel by Mark, chapter 12, verses 41 through 44, we learn that the Jews continued to have a treasury in the temple into which the people gave of their money. Jesus once sat in the temple, these verses inform us, "over against the treasury" and observed the gifts of the people, and from his observations He taught a much needed lesson. And again: when Judas Iscariot returned the pieces of silver which he received in payment for betraying Jesus, the chief priests said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is the price of blood" (Matt. 27:6). So, we see that the Jews always had and sustained a treasury, and used it to meet the demands made upon them as the people of God. It seems also quite evident that Jesus approved of this arrangement.
 
Jesus And His Disciples Had a Treasury

     That Jesus and His disciples had a treasury is clearly shown from a reading of John 13:27-29. Also the fact that they used it to aid the poor and to purchase the necessary things for their worship of God.
 
The Jerusalem Church Had A Treasury

     Passing now to the establishment of the church in Jerusalem, we observe that the early disciples, among other things, "continued steadfastly" in "fellowship" (Acts 2:42). Upon this statement, David Lipscomb commented: 'In the fellowship' means the spiritual union and sympathy for each other that all should have. This embraced the contribution and distribution of means to help the needy." - Commentary on Acts, McQuiddy Printing Co.,Nashville, Tenn., 1896.
    Regarding this same verse, J. W. McGarvey wrote: "The original term, koinonia, is sometimes used for contributions made for the poor." He gave as references, Romans 15:26 and 2 Corinthians 9:13. In the former passage Paul wrote "of a certain contribution (fellowship) for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem." In the latter reference he tells the donors that "the liberality of your contribution (fellowship) unto them" both filled their needs, and was the cause of many thanksgivings to God. Fairness of course, demands that we quote from brother McGarvey: "While this is one of the ways in which fellowship is manifested, the word is not usually restricted to this sense." With this we willingly concur. But note: although the word koinonia may have included more than just the "contribution for the poor," it evidently did include such, and so we find the Jerusalem church with a treasury before any mention is made of an emergency. It therefore follows that the liberality of the saints, recorded in Acts 4:34,-37, did not result in the establishing of a treasury, but simply a replenishing of the treasury that already existed.
 
     We might also point out that the treasury of the Jerusalem church was in the custody of the apostles. But, when its administration began to interfere with their ministry of the word, upon their recommendation, seven deacons were selected and appointed to handle it.
 
    Read Acts 4:34, 35; 6:1-6. Again, David Lipscomb wisely remarked: "The first fruit of an earnest church was a full treasury, and these men were appointed to distribute it. . . . Without a treasury there is no work for deacons in a church." -Queries And Answers, P. 86, F. L. Rowe, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1918.
 
(To Be Continued Next Week, ERH) 
 
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Did You Know? . . .

    That the apostles never used food, games or social activities to draw a crowd so they could preach to them? Yet in many churches today, even some calling themselves "Church of Christ," the social programs are so extensive that a social director or a "youth minister" must be hired to oversee the social planning.
 
    Although schools existed in the first century, and the apostle Paul even taught in one for 2 years (Acts 19:9,10), no churches ever supported them financially? Yet in many churches today, even some calling themselves "Church of Christ," the financial supporting of "Christian schools" or "Colleges" is a regular part of the budget.
 
    That the apostle Paul illustrated many of his epistles with analogies from sporting events (1 Cor. 9:24,25). Yet no church sponsored or had sporting teams? Yet in many churches today, even some calling themselves "Church of Christ," the sporting activities are so much a part of the work that full scale gyms have been built.
 
     If these things mentioned above were not a part of the early church and we do not find them in the Bible, WHY are churches doing them today? And who gave them the RIGHT to do it? These things ought not to be! "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17).

---Roger Shouse
 
 
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