THE DOCTRINE OF STEWARDSHIPPART THREE
Please allow me to say up front that the following section is NOT a plea for the financial support of the BATMQ.NET ministry. My ministry does NOT solicit or receive financial support, as it is personally funded.
There are practical advantages of an Internet-based ministry. The overhead expense is minimal and the pastor teacher is not tempted to water down his message or obtain or to retain financial support. Job security is not an issue, affording the pastor the freedom to say what has to be said and let the chips fall where they may. I do appreciate the prayer support of those who are inclined to pray for the success of this ministry. That being said, let us now continue with the Doctrine of Stewardship and examine the issue of managing our money.
- Pastor Doug Laird
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The Stewardship Of Money
The Lord Jesus Christ taught that wherever one's treasure is, there his/her heart is also. Accordingly, what we do with what money we have reveals much about what lies beneath the surface in our hearts of hearts.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6: 21 NASB)."
It comes down to a matter of priorities. God is well aware of legitimate expenses that we must address. God does not want and does not need money that we do not have. At the same time, when we spend more money on recreation, tips, hobbies and non-essentials than what we choose to give to God and/or the things of God, a 2Cor. 13: 5 examination to determine if we have “abandoned (what should be) your first love (Rev. 2: 5 NASB parentheses mine),” might be in order.
"if a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say) given to God," you (the Pharisees) no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition that you have handed down, and you do many things such as that (Mark 7: 13 NASB)."
During the OLD TESTAMENT dispensation (period of time) tithing (giving 10% of what you earned to God) for the support of the Temple and its functions WAS in place. Many pulpits of the Church Age misuse this Old Testament precept to pressure (and in some cases require) that its members continue this practice in support of their local assemblies or ministries.
Here, in the Church Age, the Old Testament precept of tithing is no more valid than the animal sacrifices that DID have a place and purpose during the Old Testament dispensation.
At the same time, Scripture does teach that the pulpits of the Church Age should be financially supporting there source of spiritual edification. "The elders (believers in positions of authority) are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing, and The Laborer is worthy of his wages (1Tim. 5: 18 NASB)."
There were times when the Apostle Paul received financial support and there were times that he had to do secular work to support himself. Paul also took charge of collecting financial contributions from other local assemblies in support of the local Church in Jerusalem at a time when it was facing very hard logistical times.
Believers should financially support their local assembly or ministry, but the amount that one chooses to give to the Lord or to the things of the Lord, is NOT to be the result pressure being put on them or based on the Old Testament precept of tithing 10% of their income (2Cor. 9: 7).
Nor is one's financial support to be the basis of one's "standing with the Church" or eligibility to receive ANY of its services. The things of God are NOT to be bought with or provided for with money (Acts 8: 20 NASB). "..."may your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money." Note that it would be just as wrong for the Church to receive money that is given for the wrong reason(s) as it is to offer it.
It was clearly a part of the plan of God when being an “eye-witness of the risen Lord (Acts 1: 22)” became one of the requirements to fill the position of Apostle. In God's timing, there would (and did) come a time when there would no longer be anyone left here on Earth that could meet this requirement. As of the end of the Apostolic Period, there were no more Apostles, as the purpose for which God had established the position had been fulfilled.
As of END of the Apostolic (First Century) period of the Church Age, the administrative and teaching authority became that of the pastor teacher of each and every independent local assembly. The primary teaching and administrative authority and responsibility is on the shoulders on the pastor-teacher.
The pastor teacher may appoint and delegate limited authority to Biblically qualified deacons (1Tim. 3: 8-13) to assist him in various logistical issues and functions of the ministry. Functional authority can be delegated; responsibility can not. Responsibility for all that goes on within or in the name (authority) of the local assembly or ministry remains his own.
Pastors are to receive double honor (1Tim. 5: 18), but along with double honor comes the double accountability. Pastors will not only give an account (to God) of the personal life he led in the capacity of a believer (Romans 14: 12 ) as will ALL believers, but will in addition, he will also give an account (to God) of how he functioned in the capacity of a pastor-teacher (James 3: 1).
The primary focus of a pastor's evaluation will be based on the quantity and the accuracy of the doctrine that he taught to his congregation on an ONGOING and REGULAR basis.
Neither the evaluations of the believer nor of the pastor have ANYTHING to do with obtaining or retaining salvation, but have everything to do with certain rewards and accompanying privileges that will be received by some and forfeited by others (1Cor. 3: 12-15).
There were times when the Apostle Paul received financial and logistical support, and there were times when he engaged in secular employment.
Q. What does this have to do with the management of our personal money?
A. Financially or otherwise supporting any local assembly or ministry makes those who do so a "partner" in the good (or evil) that it produces or promotes.
For this reason, this partnership is a double-edged sword. While it qualifies the contributors to share in the blessings it receives, it also makes contributors partners in whatever "evil" it promotes as well.
Evil, in this sense refers to teachings and/or practices that run contrary to what is revealed in the Word of God. Failing to detect and to address the evil within the places of worship in both the Old and the New Testament dispensations has been the downfall of God's people right along. We tend to think of the evil being promoted is talking about the Church down the street, and fail to see the error(s) of our own.
The financial prosperity of the local assembly and the spiritual advancement of the members of the congregation should go hand in hand.
Local assemblies/ministries should not expect to receive financial support if it does not do its part to provide its contributors with their spiritual needs. Disciples should not expect their source of spiritual edification to stay afloat without their support.
It is NOT God's desire that one seeks out, attend, or support a "denomination." God desires that one identifies and connects with a local assembly or ministry where he/she can, "....grow in God's grace and knowledge (2Pet. 3: 18)", as it is in or through such a local assembly or ministry he/she worships God in a manner that He desires (John 4:23).
Just as a baby in the natural realm is fed on milk and gradually introduced to more solid food, so it is with the spiritual appetite and "metabolism" of an advancing disciple (1Cor. 3:2).
"Good enough" is never good enough for an advancing disciple. The advancing disciple wants the best and is more than willing to support his/her means to secure it.
The devil has a plan to diminish and destroy the production of divine good that ANY believer or local assembly (group of believers) produces. The financial needs of any given local assembly will be on the list of targets to be hit in the midst of spiritual warfare. When financially hard times strike, the contributions that God and/or the things of God received from fair-weather su0orters will often be the first to go. Could it be that one's choice of where, when, and how to worship was not really providing much spiritual food in the first place? One should not wait for a financial crisis to discern and to address such issues. The Matthew 16: 18 assurance that the "church" would endure throughout the dispensation of the Church Age must be understood in light of what the "Church" was/is that the Lord was speaking of when Jesus spoke these words.The Church (on Earth) that God designed consists of the collective souls of every born again believer. One simultaneously becomes a born again believer and a member of the Church that God designed IF and when any given soul chooses to BELIEVE (John 3: 18) in a presentation of the Gospel Message. The Church that God designed is NOT a building. Tabernacles, temples, officiating priests, and tangible altars Such WERE (past tense) a part of worship practices during a part of some of the Old Testament dispensation (period of time), but were never authorized for the Church Age. The reintroduction of such things during the Church Age has opened the doors to idolatry (Isa. 42: 8) and many other ungodly activities (1Tim. 3: 5) within the Christian Community.The "rock" was NOT the person of Peter, but the statement of faith that Peter made (Matt. 16: 16), expressing his individual faith (trust and confidence) in the identification of Jesus as Christ who would save the world. It is on the basis of making this same statement of faith that a soul becomes a member of the "Church" that God designed.Right from the very beginning, there was a need for local assemblies to raise and to share the means for the financial support of other local assemblies, with the idea of reciprocal support if the tides should turn. Local assemblies can choose to support evangelistic missions, but with the long term objective of establishing independent local assemblies. The Church (on Earth) that God designed, consisting of all born again believers, are united in purpose (Matt. 28: 19, 20), but are to be independent of each other in organizational structure.Attempts to unite local assemblies under the control of a central governing body with the collaboration of the Roman Empire was what opened the door that led to some of the darkest years of history of much of the Christian Community in Europe. Most Biblical disciples will concur that the work of the Reformers (bringing the Church that God designed back to its Biblical roots) is an ongoing and never-ending (2Tim. 4: 1-4) quest. The Biblical disciple will want to know where the local assembly/ministry that he/she partners with stands in this ongoing struggle.The promise of Matthew 16: 18 applies to the Church (1Cor. 3: 16) at large and NOT to ANY one given specific local assembly, ministry, or denomination. Desolate (empty) local assemblies (Leviticus 26: 31) are among the consequences of divine discipline that God imposes.Some of the more elegant ancient cathedrals and beautiful modern-day places of worship (in God's eyes) are no more than monuments to the evil religious concepts that they represent. Many were and are built on false and/or misleading promises of financial prosperity made to contributors. God is NOT the only one who has the power to prosper individuals or groups of individuals (Luke 4: 6). God the Holy Spirit will see to it that the financial needs for any ministry that He desires to be establish or maintain will be provided (Phil. 4:19).God the Holy Spirit will also allow or cause the closing down of ANY local assembly or ministry that HE desires to be removed in order to achieve a divine objective. Being a good steward of the finances and assets that any local assembly has is a part of the administrative authority and function that a pastor teacher has been given.Function(s) can be delegated, but responsibilities cannot.When offering support there is NO legitimate tithe requirement for the Church Age, nor is there any specific money amount dictated in New Testament Scripture. Religious institutions may want or demand your cash, but God does not want, nor does He need money that you either don't have or must spend on legitimate lifetime expenses (Mark 7: 11-13). At the same time, there is something wrong when we spend more money on non-essentials than the amount of money we offer to God on a regular basis.To be continued…