Speaking Sound Doctrine

The Work Of The Church

VII.  The Treasury Of The Church

A.    A Storage Of Resources

For the intent of this study, a treasury is understood to be nothing more than monetary funds or needed goods stored up and saved to meet current known and future unknown needs in the church.

1 Corinthians 16:1-3  Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 3 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.

In verse 2, "storing up" is from the verb form of a family of words with definitions by Thayer as follows:

      THESAURIZO {thay-sow-rid'-zo} [verb form] "1) to gather and lay up, to heap up, store up 1a) to accumulate riches 1b) to keep in store, store up, reserve 2) [metaphorically]. so to live from day to day as to increase either the bitterness or the happiness of one's consequent lot."

      THESAUROS {thay-sow-ros'} [noun form] "1) the place in which good and precious things are collected and laid up 1a) a casket, coffer, or other receptacle, in which valuables are kept 1b) a treasury 1c) storehouse, repository, magazine 2) the things laid up in a treasury, collected treasures."

The English words "treasury" and "thesaurus" are directly derived from THESAUROS.  In the passages that follow, the words indicated in bold are translated from THESAUROS or its kindred forms.

Matthew 6:19-21  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

1 Timothy 6:18, 19  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

James 5:3  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have heaped up treasure in the last days.

Note particularly in James 5:3 that the word is used of a monetary treasury of funds reserved for future use.  The authority for having a church treasury is derived from the direct command in 1 Corinthians 16, but there is a necessarily inferred connection to the basic need of the church to pay for things pertaining to its work.

B.     The Purpose For The Treasury

The apostle Paul makes clear what the reason for maintaining the treasury is: "That there be no collections when I come" (1 Corinthians 16:2).  Conclusively, the contributions each member puts aside are to be gathered into a common collection of church funds.  It is not reasonable that Paul is instructing each of them to create their own private reserves at home.  If each one had their own private treasury, then when Paul comes to administer the delivery of the gift, these private treasuries will all have to then be gathered into a common collection in preparation for delivery.  This is the very scenario Paul wants to avoid.

1.       Monetary funds: ownership and control

The money collected no longer belongs to or is controlled by the individuals; it now belongs to and is controlled by the Lord as He regulates within His church as a collective group.  This concept of ownership and control transfer is clearly seen in scripture:

Acts 4:36 - 5:4  And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. 1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart?  You have not lied to men but to God."

The implication is this: whether it is the property that money can buy or the money that can buy property, ownership and control are the same for both.  When Ananias and Sapphira are holding the property, it is theirs to control.  When they exchange it for money, it is still theirs, and they still have control of it.  However, when they give the money to the apostles, they no longer have ownership and hence also no longer have control of it; the apostles do.  The same is true for the church treasury: there is no difference between the Lord's money and the things it can buy.

2.       Economics: property and intent

The question frequently arises over whether there is divine authority for a church to draw interest on funds kept secure in a bank.  There is certainly room for opinions here.  We can all agree that a non- interest-bearing method of securing funds is authoritative, but exactly how to expedite such a method in modern times is not easy to conceive.  For example, cash could be kept in a vault owned or rented by the church, but monetary disbursements on a cash-only basis are not only unsafe in many circumstances but are sometimes downright impossible or even illegal.  A bank-managed checking account is an expedient way of handling disbursements, but many such accounts earn interest as a matter of standard policy.

There are natural rules of finance involved in any economy functioning on a legal tender basis: depreciation, appreciation, inflation, and interest.  The variable of time plays a part in each.  Interest describes the time-value of money, whether earned or paid.  For example, a church can expediently assemble for worship and for teaching in a place that is either rented or owned.  If a church should decide to purchase property for these purposes, interest can be paid if the funds are not available for an outright cash purchase, which is the same in reverse principle as interest earned on a checking account.  These economic principles are recognized in scripture (Deuteronomy 23:19, 20).  We should consider whether we are good stewards of the Lord's money if we refuse these common benefits.

Matthew 25:25-27  "And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.  Look, there you have what is yours." 26 But his lord answered and said to him, "You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest."

Consider the reason a church puts money into a bank.  A church does not put money into a checking account for the express purpose of earning interest; the intent is only to lay it aside and store it up, ready for use (1 Corinthians 16:2, 3).  The fact that it might earn interest is coincidental.  The church is certainly not now going into the investment business.

Consider similarly that a church does not purchase a meeting house with the intent of raising revenue by appreciation; the purpose is for doing the Lord's work.  Suppose a church needs to buy a larger meeting place, and they sell their current property for more than they paid for it.  The fact that it might have appreciated is coincidental.  The church is certainly not now going into the real estate business.  These differences ought to be apparent.

Nevertheless, if brethren are of the opinion to conscientiously avoid any kind of interest-bearing checking account for the church treasury, they do not sin.  However, be careful before condemning others who consider it a matter of coincidence and would do so.  We make closer examination of coincidental matters later in this study, which will give the Bible student more to consider on the subject.

C.     The Use Of The Church Treasury

If God appointed the first century church to maintain a storage of funds (1 Corinthians 16:1-3) and to perform certain works, it stands to reason that they would have used those ordained treasuries to pay for those appointed tasks:

      Teaching the gospel (Acts 13:1-5),

      Providing for assembled worship (Acts 20:7),

      Relieving the needy saints (Acts 11:26-30).

There is no example of a church-owned meeting house in scripture, but that does not mean we have no authority for one.  Scriptural authority is not derived by approved example alone.  Authority for a church-owned meeting house comes by necessary inference from the scriptural requirement for the church to assemble together (Hebrews 10:25); it is intrinsically impossible to assemble without a place to do it.  Now the place can expediently be large or small, new or old, brick or wood, rented or owned.  A church-owned meeting house is only an optional expediency for fulfilling the generic command to come together as a church (1 Corinthians 14:23-28).  If nothing other than teaching and worship is being conducted, a church-owned building is only an expediency.

1.       Collective action

Notably, when we apply the principles established earlier regarding individual and corporate activity, we understand that anything that is done with the Lord's treasury is done by the collective church.  Since the treasury is generated by collective action, every use of it depends upon and is inextricably linked to that collective action.  For example, if an individual member of the church purchases light bulbs with the Lord's treasury and replaces some in the meeting house, the entire contributing body has a share in this.  For scriptural examples, Paul explains that the contribution of each individual in Corinth results in a collective sharing in the benevolent work (2 Corinthians 9:7-14).  To the Philippians, he explains that, through their contributions, they collectively share in his personal evangelism.

Philippians 1:3-7  5 …[I thank my God] … for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,… 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.

4:15  Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

2.       Limitations of use

As the church is only to perform authorized practices, so then the church's money, which belongs to the Lord, is also to be used only for authorized practices.  Since the Lord's money is His to be used only for His authorized work, then the things bought with the Lord's money are also His to be used only for His authorized work.  Therefore, the church-owned meeting house and furniture ought not be used for parties or secular celebrations.  The church-owned copy machine ought not be used for cupcake recipes or basketball tournament brackets.  The church-owned video projector ought not be used for secular business or entertainment.

This is often a misunderstood concept.  Though some might see clearly that the church's treasury should not be utilized to pay for unauthorized practices, they are often willing to use the building and equipment paid for with the church's treasury for unauthorized practices.  People attempting to validate secular or recreational activities in the church will argue that a church-owned meeting house or related property is not holy or sacred.  This relates to the idea of venerable objects worthy of worship, as would be associated with idolatry or with some rites of Roman Catholic doctrine.  The further implication of this argument is that this is surely a thing undeniable, accepted, and understood.  After all, the building is only bricks and wood.  Let's take a closer look.

3.       Holy things

In English, "holy" primarily means having the quality of divinity: exalted and worthy of our devotion.  However, the original Hebrew words often translated as "holy" in our English Old Testament have multiple meanings as follows:

      QADASH {kaw-dash'} [verb] "1) to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to be set apart, be consecrated 1a2) to be hallowed 1a3) consecrated, tabooed 1b) (Niphal) 1b1) to show oneself sacred or majestic 1b2) to be honoured, be treated as sacred…" (BDB).

      QADOWSH {kaw-doshe'} [adjective] "1) sacred, holy, Holy One, saint, set apart" (BDB).

      QODESH {ko'-desh} [noun] "1) apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness 1a) apartness, sacredness, holiness 1a1) of God 1a2) of places 1a3) of things 1b) set-apartness, separateness" (BDB).

These words describe not only a divine nature worthy of our worship but also the characteristic of being separated from others in order to be dedicated to a special service.  The difference in sense is demonstrated in the following examples:

Leviticus 10:3  And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy [venerable]; And before all the people I must be glorified.' " So Aaron held his peace.

Leviticus 11:44, 45  For I am the LORD your God.  You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, [QADASH] and you shall be holy [QADOWSH]; for I am holy [QADOWSH]….

Ezra 8:28  Then I said to them, "You are holy to the LORD, and the utensils are holy [dedicated]; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the LORD God of your fathers."

Why are the temple utensils in Ezra's day holy?  It is not because they are objects of veneration but because they belong to the Lord, not the people.

Leviticus 20:26  And you shall be holy [QADOWSH] to Me, for I the LORD am holy [QADOWSH], and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.

Joshua 6:19  But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated [QODESH] to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.

The rules of ownership and control are reflected in the Jewish laws of dedication and redemption in Leviticus 27.  According to the law, if a man dedicates a piece of his property to the Lord, the priest assesses its fair value (verse 14), and the property no longer belongs to the one dedicating it but it becomes holy, that is, it now belongs to the Lord (verse 28).  Should the man ever want to have it for himself again, he must redeem it by paying the assessed value plus one-fifth, and it will then again belong to him (verse 19).

The original Greek words translated "holy" in our English New Testament likewise mean either worship-worthiness or dedicated.

      HAGIAZO {hag-ee-ad'-zo} [verb] "1) to render or acknowledge, or to be venerable or hallow 2) to separate from profane things and dedicate to God 2a) consecrate things to God 2b) dedicate people to God 3) to purify 3a) to cleanse externally 3b) to purify by expiation: free from the guilt of sin 3c) to purify internally by renewing of the soul" (JHT).

      HAGION {hag'-ee-on} [adjective] "1) reverend, worthy of veneration 1a) of things which on account of some connection with God possess a certain distinction and claim to reverence, as places sacred to God which are not to be profaned 1b) of persons whose services God employs, for example, apostles 2) set apart for God, to be as it were, exclusively his 3) services and offerings 3a) prepared for God with solemn rite, pure, clean 4) in a moral sense, pure sinless upright holy" (JHT).

The different senses are likewise revealed by the context.  For example, Peter quotes Leviticus 11:44 and explains that the reason we should devote ourselves to the Lord is because He is worthy of our homage.

1 Peter 1:14-16  as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy [venerable], you also be holy [dedicated]  in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy [dedicated] nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Revelation 4:8  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.  And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy [venerable], Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!"

As discussed earlier, the noun form, HAGIOS {hag'-ee-os}, is often translated "saint" when used of Christians: those belonging to Christ.  The verb form is often translated "sanctify" when the implication is of being set apart:

Romans 15:16  that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified [HAGIAZO] by the Holy [HAGION] Spirit.

Romans 15:25  But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints [HAGIOS].

Therefore, consider that church-owned meeting houses and all associated property are truly holy in the sense of belonging solely to the Lord and being set apart and dedicated for His particular uses.  Review the meaning of HAGION: "…set apart for God, to be as it were, exclusively his services…."  Remember also from earlier in our study that the English word "church," first used of the meeting house, is derived from KURIAKON: "belonging to the Lord."  The church-owned meeting house does not belong to man and hence is not under his control for his own purposes.

D.    The Abuse Of Church Property

Consider again the illustration of a church member purchasing light bulbs with the church treasury.  Now if he uses them for his personal use in his own home, the church as a collective body still participates in this as well.  However, as this is not an ordained work of the church, the entire collective church participates in the abuse.  We earlier established that the Lord’s treasury is not limited to the monetary funds in store; it includes things the funds have purchased, such as the building.  Therefore, any unauthorized work for which the church building is used is also fellowshipped by the entire congregation collectively, even if not every member attends the function.  For this reason, every member of a local body ought to be aware of how the Lord's money and the Lord's property is being used, unless they become unwitting partakers of unauthorized practices (Ephesians 5:11). 

Consider also that if a church rents its meeting place, then the time for which the church has paid for it is likewise the Lord’s and should be used for doing the church’s work.  Though some might suggest we conduct secular activities in a building purchased with the Lord’s funds, it is not likely they would suggest we conduct secular activities in a rented facility and ask the church to pay for it.  However, there is no difference in principle.

There is an abuse in Nehemiah's time similar to the abuse today of social or recreational events in church-owned meeting houses.  In Nehemiah 13:4-9, the priest sets up a residence for one of the officials: Tobiah.  This is not Tobiah's place.  The temple belongs to the Lord; it is sacred, special, set apart, and devoted to a divine purpose.  Eliashib and Tobiah make it a common or profane thing; Nehemiah throws him out.

Another similar abuse occurs during the time of Christ.  Twice in our Lord's career, scripture indicates that He forcefully drives money-changing merchants out of the Jewish temple, over-turning their tables (Matthew 21:12, 13; Luke 19:45-47; John 2:13-16). 

Mark 11:15-18  So they came to Jerusalem.  Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'?  But you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.

Commentators explain that the money changers are taking advantage of the people for profit.  Some might suggest that, by His reference to "a den of thieves," the abuse is all that Jesus is condemning.  However, if Jesus only wants to stop the abuse, He does not need to drive out the animals necessary for sacrifice with a whip.  The point Jesus is making is that the temple is provided for spiritual purposes, not carnal; this is not the time or place for commerce.  Now if someone today would come into a church-owned meeting house and knock over the tables at a social or recreational event, some among them would likely seek a way to destroy him, too.

The argument is made that the church has a building just sitting there most of the time going to waste; why not use it for some good work?  Remember, the action justifies the expediency, the expediency does not justify the action.  Besides, authority is established by a scriptural command, example, or necessary inference.  An under-utilized meeting house authorizes nothing.  Moreover, if the building is truly going to waste, perhaps we need to find more ways to utilize it for authorized works of the church.

Questions And Thoughts For Review: The Treasury Of The Church

1.    In 1 Corinthians 16:2, NKJ, what is the meaning of the word translated "storing up" in the original New Testament Greek language?

2.    What is the reason for the collection and storage of funds as revealed in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3?

3.    Is it wrong for a church to pay interest on a loan to buy a piece of real estate for no other reason than to assemble to do the work of the church?

4.    Is it wrong for a church to loan money to another church so that they can purchase property for the same purposes?

5.    Is it wrong for a church to buy a piece of real estate for no other reason than to assemble to do the work of the church?  Is it wrong for a church to buy a piece of real estate for no other reason than to monetarily earn by appreciation?

6.    Who owns the money that is collected into the treasury of the church?  Who controls the money that is collected into the treasury of the church?

7.    What is the practical difference, if any, between the Lord's money and the things that it buys?

8.    If there is no example in scripture of a church-owned meeting house, where is our authority for such?

9.    What are the two distinct meanings of "holy" as we see in scripture?

10.  Is a church building a holy thing?  Explain your answer.

 

Some material in this study is derived or directly quoted from the following texts, which are suggested for further study and additional information:

      (BDB) "Revised Whittaker's Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon," 1906, 1997, Logos Research Systems, Inc.

      (JHT) "A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament," Joseph Henry Thayer, 1979, Zondervan Publishing House

      "Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament: Based On Semantic Domains," Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, 1989, New York: United Bible Societies

      "Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament,", Timothy and Barbara Friberg, 1994

      (WEV) "Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words," W. E. Vine, 1966, Flemming H. Revell Co.

      "A Manual Grammar Of The Greek New Testament," 1927, 1955, Dana and Mantey, Macmillan Co.

      LXX Septuaginta (LXT) (Old Greek Jewish Scriptures) edited by Alfred Rahlfs, 1935, the German Bible Society

      "New Testament Words," William Barclay, SCM Press Ltd., 1964

      (TBA) "The Bible Almanac," Packer, Tenney, White, Jr., 1980, Thomas Nelson Publishers

      (OED) Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com

      "The Bible in English: Its History and Influence," 2003, David Daniell

      "Walking By Faith," Roy E. Cogdill, 1957, 1967, The Gospel Guardian Company

      "Old Issues Do Not Fade Away – A Study In Centralization Of Churches And Institutionalism," Gene Frost, 1975, 1976, Gospel Anchor

      (M-W) The Merriam-Webster American English Dictionary Online, 2012

      Wikipedia: web-based free-content encyclopedia, 2012

 

Bible translations referenced in this work include:

KJV:      King James Version (1611)

ASV:     American Standard Version (1901)

NKJ:     New King James Version (1982)

NAU:    New American Standard Bible (1995)

YLT:      Young's Literal Translation (1862, 1898)

TNT:     Tyndale New Testament (1534)

 

Bible quotations in this work are from the NKJ unless otherwise indicated.  Anglicized equivalents of Greek and Hebrew words appear in all upper case characters with the approximate pronunciation following in braces.

 

Copyright 2012, Speaking Sound Doctrine