THE MATTER OF FINANCESPrint This Page.
THE MATTER OF FINANCESNow we want to talk about what kind of arrangements we should have in our midst in the matter of finances. On the one hand, how should we distribute the income of the church? On the other hand, what should the relationship be among the co-workers?THE DISTRIBUTION OF MONEY IN A LOCAL CHURCHNormal ExpensesRegarding the question of money, I think it will be clearer if I speak in this way: The income of the local church is first, of course, for local expenses. A locality should not be in debt. In the local church there are many expenditures. First, there are the normal expenses of the church, such as the wine, the bread, electricity, water, and in some places, rent.Taking Care of the PoorSecond, there are certain matters that the local churches need to devote more effort to. In the church God especially stresses that His children should take care of the needy, especially the needy brothers. Therefore, in the local church there is a major need of taking care of the needy brothers.But when we take care of the needy brothers, we should do it very carefully. We cannot say that because they are needy brothers, we can be discourteous to them. When brothers send money to them, we should not cause them to feel ashamed just because they are needy. If we have an elderly mother and father at home, the way we send money to them is the way I hope that we would take care of the poor. It should be just as if we were sending money to our elderly parents. We certainly cannot let our parents feel that their son is having pity on them or that their son is giving them charity to relieve them of their difficulties. We cannot do it this way. In the church when we are managing money to care for the needy, we should be very skillful. In every church the brothers and sisters who pass on money must be people with keen feelings; we cannot send insensitive persons. Needy ones cannot help but receive our money, but they also could not help but be hurt. Therefore, there is a need for people with keen feelings. We should never allow anyone to hurt them.For example, suppose a brother fell and was injured and we needed to carry him to his bed. We would never send clumsy, insensitive persons to do it. Maybe a bone was not broken, but because they are clumsy, they can break a bone. I feel in many places that the brothers who manage money are too insensitive in their feeling. I am not happy about this situation at all. Sooner or later those people may fall into a condition of great poverty before God; definitely God will place some discipline on them. How could they be without any feeling at all? When a brother or sister is in difficulty, we need to be very tender in helping this one. In every locality, regarding the question of money, one part is for the expenses of the church, and one part is for taking care of the needs of the brothers. We need to select a brother who is especially gentle, whose feeling is especially keen, one who can sense the situation from just one word. Such a one should be asked to handle these affairs. If it is not so, problems will arise. We need to be very tender, very fine, very careful. We should not allow these brothers to feel that they are giving charity.Let me relate one incident to you. Here in Kuling there are a few terms which are quite peculiar. For example, when they want to say "intend'' or "plan,'' they use the term continue. Similarly, to help someone is "to favor them.'' No matter what they use to help people with, they say that it is "to favor them.'' More than a month ago, when I was going down the mountain, a few of the sedan-chair bearers told me, "Mr. Nee, I really favor you; I really favor you.'' I said, "What do you mean?'' They said, "Every time that you call us to bear the sedan-chair, we always respond very quickly because we really favor you.'' I hope that in helping the needy ones, we do not do it in the way of favoring them. This is ugly. When you go to help them, never give the appearance that you are doing them a favor. When a believer is in a time of difficulty, you need to preserve his self-respect and his dignity. You do not know when you will be in the same situation. Never do anything to hurt him. This needs to be handled very delicately.Taking Care of the Needsof the Responsible BrothersThird, there is another thing that the local church can do. If a local responsible brother spends all of his time in the affairs of the church and it causes his own job or business to suffer, the church should give him financial help in a very careful way. You are aware that there are many brothers in the local church, especially responsible brothers, who, because of being busy with many church affairs, were unable to continue on with their business and lost their source of income. Due to being occupied with the church, they laid aside their work. This is the situation mentioned in the book of Timothy, where some are worthy of double honor. You should not just send money to the brothers who are workers and neglect the responsible brothers. For a responsible brother to spend all of his time in a church in his locality and suffer is not right. The local church should learn to take care of the needs of the responsible brothers.Sending Financial Helpto Other Local Churches for Their UseIn addition, a local church can also send money to other local churches for their use. Many local churches may have difficulties. Sometimes there are particular hardships, as in the case of Antioch sending money to Jerusalem. When the brothers in Jerusalem had difficulties, the brothers in Antioch sent money to Jerusalem. This is also something that a local church should do. We may hear of special circumstances in a church in a certain locality. As a consequence, we should send them money. The mutual supply among the churches is an important matter. Remember that in the beginning in Jerusalem, many brothers and sisters sold their lands and houses. During the time of famine, Antioch sent money through the hand of Barnabas and Paul. I am glad that the elders in Antioch did not ask, "We wonder whether they have spent all that money. Do the apostles still have anything left over from that sale?'' This was not something the other churches did. What was done in Acts was very good. Antioch rose up and sent brothers to take money to Jerusalem to supply the need in Jerusalem. It was at this time that Barnabas came from Jerusalem to Antioch for the purpose of helping Antioch, and Antioch asked Barnabas to take the money and go and help Jerusalem. This is a very pleasant thing.Giving to Individual WorkersThere is another matter. When a local church receives income, there should be money given to individual workers. This is what Philippi did with Paul. When Paul was working in the region of Macedonia and in Thessalonica, the church in Philippi once and again sent money for his use. When we read the book of Philippians, we know that when Paul was in Macedonia and Thessalonica, all of his money came from Philippi. Otherwise, the work could not have gone on. Therefore, we need to help the brothers everywhere to see and help them to learn to give money to the brothers who are workers. The church in Corinth was a declining church; its spiritual condition before God was poor. With respect to the supplying of Paul, they only criticized. Nothing was given. They gave Paul nothing except criticism. Therefore, I think that the churches in various localities should pay attention to how to give money to those who serve the Lord. The churches should pay attention to the aspect of giving to individuals.Giving to the Work in the RegionI want the brothers and sisters to pay attention to yet another need. The money from all the local churches should be sent not only to the individual workers, but also to the work in the entire region. If our view is not mistaken, the exhortation that Paul gave to the Corinthians was that he expected them to prepare the money to be sent to Jerusalem. At that time there was not just one church that sent money to Jerusalem; the churches in Galatia sent money as well. Galatia is a province, and there were many churches there. Paul exhorted the church in Corinth to gather their money and send it quickly to Jerusalem, just as the churches in Galatia had done. At that time not only was Jerusalem in famine, but Judea was as well. Hence, the money sent to Jerusalem was given not only for the local church in Jerusalem, but also for Judea, the entire region represented by Jerusalem. The money was sent to Jerusalem so that Jerusalem could send it to all of Judea. There is a principle here. Money can be given to a local church for their use. For example, if Foochow is in difficulty, we can give money to the local church in Foochow. If Wenchow has problems, we can send money to the local church in Wenchow. However, if that region has difficulties, then the money would not be given to the one locality of Foochow, but Foochow should be asked to make arrangements for distribution to the brothers and sisters in the entire region. Therefore, we should show the churches that with respect to the work among the churches, there is this matter of region. If a church in a region is having difficulties, the brothers should learn to give.Even during normal times when the churches are not in difficulty and there are many co-workers in a region, everyone should learn before God to pay attention to the need of all of the co-workers in the region. The local churches need to learn to send the money to the co-workers in the region so that they can distribute it among the co-workers in that region.I do not know if you are clear that these are things that a local church should do concerning money. What they have received, they need to use for local expenses, for needy brothers, for the responsible brothers, for brothers in the work in other cities, for the needs of other churches, and for the region.THE RELATIONSHIP AMONG CO-WORKERSThe Need for Those Taking the Leadto Care for the Co-workersI especially want to mention another point. There are persons such as Paul who bear considerable responsibility but are not from a particular locality. Timothy, Titus, Silas, and Luke were known to the churches only in later times, but not in the beginning. All those who are in the position of Paul need to learn the principle that "these hands have ministered to my needs and to those who are with me'' (Acts 20:34). No brother can be a leader in the work and yet be miserly in matters of money. In China I know two or three brothers who were quite useful in God's hands in the beginning, and yet they cannot be conceived of as leaders among the brothers in the matter of money. They were only able to receive. They were only able to live by faith, but they did not know how to give by faith. Therefore, before the Lord, they never had a way to lead other servants of God to go forward. I also knew a sister who had a deep knowledge of God. She was very godly and could lead people, but she did not have the faith to supply others. Those who are learning to be like Paul may not have attained to Paul's standing, but if their names are especially known to the churches, they need to care for those whose names are not known to the churches. You need to know that your income is not just for you alone but also for those who are with you. If you keep the income for yourself, a time will come when you will be manifested to be unworthy to lead your co-workers. If you cause those younger co-workers to receive less money than you, what shall they do? This is clearly a failure of those who would stand in the position of Paul.Therefore, all those who are the leaders among the co-workers in various localities and who are known to the churches must have the habit of giving, especially giving to those who are with them. You have to see that the Lord's supply to you is not just for you personally, but also for your co-workers. As long as the money is held tightly in your hands, you will be put outside of your work sooner or later. The gifts that God has given you cannot replace the gifts that you give to others. If you are foolish, you will think that since God gave to you, you are able to serve the church. This is wrong. You need to give to others; then you can serve the church. Therefore, I hope that the brothers who are like Paul would learn to give to other brothers so that they can have a proper living. The elderly brothers in every locality should also learn to give to their co-workers from the offerings they receive. Do not care just for your own needs but for those of your co-workers as well.Distributing according to Everyone's NeedHow should a brother who is a leading one distribute money to his co-workers? Suppose a brother has eight or ten co-workers in Canton. How should he distribute money to them? I think that the principle in the Bible is to give according to each one's need and not according to each one's gift. Many times the brothers in the church give money to a brother because of his gift in the work. We cannot support a brother who is useful in the work according to his spiritual gift; we have to support him according to his need. The brothers may be wrong, but we should not be wrong, because we are leading ones in the work. Therefore, we should be more knowledgeable than they.For this reason, in normal times the brothers who bear responsibility in the work should make a list of the brothers in the work in their area. This does not mean that they have something formal, but rather that the responsible brothers need to have the number. They need to have a list of names, including the number of their children and how many are in school. There is a difference between a single person and one with children. We cannot make arrangements on a moment's notice. We know that the burdens of some brothers are light, those of some brothers are heavy, and those of others are very heavy. If we have such a list in our hands, then when money is put into our hands for the work in our region, we will know how to support them according to their need. This does not mean that there is something formal among us. But the responsible brothers should learn to be aware of how many brothers are in the work in this region and how great their needs are. When money comes into our hands, we can then distribute according to our own needs and their needs.At one time in Foochow, I helped a brother compile a list of the co-workers in that region. In Shanghai I also helped a brother do this. My point is that the needs of many brothers can be met by doing this.The Need to Look to God andOur Not Bearing the Responsibility for AnyoneHowever, if the Lord does not send money, we still have to look to God. We cannot bear the responsibility for anyone. No one bears the responsibility for us, and neither can we bear the responsibility for them. But when there is money to distribute, it is not according to one's ministry, but according to one's need. In this way meeting the needs of the co-workers will be with equality. We cannot give to them formally; they themselves have to learn to look to God. Other churches or brothers from different localities can give to them on their own. When we have extra, we can distribute it to those who are with us in that region. When there is income in our region, we can distribute it according to the need. I hope that we can take care of the financial matters properly among us. God will gain the glory in this matter.QUESTIONSThe Practical Way to DistributeArrangements Being NeededQuestion: How should we distribute money in the local church at the center of the work? There we have both elders and co-workers, and some of the elders need to be in the distribution. How should the distribution be carried out practically?Answer: It is a matter of the arrangement that we mentioned earlier. Although it is not something formal, there need to be some decisions. If there is an additional need, we must look to God. Why did I help the brothers in Foochow and Shanghai make their arrangements? It was because it was more convenient for us to bear this responsibility. Even though I do not have the time, I still did it because it was more convenient for me to do it. Naturally, if they were to do it, they would feel that it was awkward.After Expenditures and Gifts,the Remainder Being Sent to Other LocalitiesThe distribution of money in a local church should always be for local expenditures first. Canton, for example, may receive one thousand dollars every month. The first responsibility of a local church is to take care of the local expenditures and the needy brothers. The needs of the elders can often be included with the needs of the co-workers. At the same time, according to the principle, the money which a local church receives should be sent to other localities.This is because as soon as a local church keeps money for its own use, many problems will arise and many improper principles will be introduced. In the future difficulties may arise among us, although I do not mean that this could happen today. We need to remember the situation in Rome. In Rome the situation became such that the Romish apostles would go out only to those localities where there would be an income; if there was no income, the Romish apostles would not go there. At that time the situation in Rome had actually developed to this extent. In England, whenever a pastor goes to a place to be a pastor or an overseer, he will say, "I am called to'' a certain place. Amazingly, many are called to wealthy places, but no one is called to impoverished places, and everything of the world follows them. This is very ugly and absolutely not spiritual. Worldly thoughts and thoughts of money came into the church.I have considered this matter much before God. You can see that at the beginning in Antioch Paul was one who carried money. There was no mention at all of the need in Antioch or of the need of the work in Antioch; Paul only carried money to Jerusalem. Later, the region of Achaia sent money to Jerusalem, the region of Galatia sent money to Jerusalem, and the area around Corinth also sent money to Jerusalem. At that time there could have been the misunderstanding that Paul's tentmaking business was prosperous and that he did not need more money. Therefore, I believe that when we manage money in our region, the best way is not to let the local co-workers have it but to always send it to other places. Our needs will be met with what comes from other places. We prefer to let the bank earn a service fee for sending the money. We have to put the church on spiritual ground. As soon as our ground is not spiritual, we are useless.Today in China the work must begin in several regions. All of the brothers in a region should endeavor to consider the work in other regions. What Paul did was very comely. He went out from Antioch and brought money to Jerusalem. He entreated Galatia, Corinth, and the whole region of Achaia to send money to Jerusalem. It seemed that while there were needs on every side, he personally did not have any need at all. Actually, his two hands did not cease to work. We have seen how he said to the Ephesians, "These hands!'' Man always thinks that his needs come first, regardless of everything else. I hope that we will care for the need in other places and let our needs be cared for by God. God will lead brothers to care for our personal needs. Our way is to believe in the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. The entire Bible shows us that God has His arrangement in everything. We believe in the arrangement of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if I have an extraordinary need today, I can look only to God to grant me a special miracle. Then a brother may suddenly meet my need and resolve my difficulty. God is living!Furthermore, I do not want there to be a dead method in the region. I fear formal things. I believe that the brothers who have been with me for so many years all know that I fear formal things, because once something becomes formal, it ceases to be spiritual. However, I want you to keep the following principle. If in the region of Canton you have some income, at the most you should keep a portion of it, perhaps one-third or two-fifths, always less than half, and designate the greater part to be sent to other localities. Presently, we have ten regions of work. We do not send the same amount to each one. You yourselves have to receive the leading before God.In this way God will easily maintain the support in the church. Please remember that as soon as the Israelites ceased to provide, the Levites went hungry. For the Levites to have a problem indicated that Israel had a problem. For the Levites to have no lack was a proof that the Israelites were standing on God's side. Therefore, we need to learn to send money to other localities to care for their work. As for us, we need to let God spontaneously maintain the work in our locality.The advantage to this is that the locality which has the supply will not have too much, and the locality which does not have the supply will not have too much lack.When responsible brothers or co-workers have a need, we should make some arrangements. We need to see what the magnitude of their need is and give to them proportionately. Then we will not have troubling thoughts. In this way I believe that many problems will pass away, and that we will avoid many troubles. Otherwise, how are we going to apportion the money in a local church? It will be very troublesome. Who would then give money to a responsible brother? Being a responsible brother in that locality, how could one take the money himself? Who would give it to him? His sense as a Christian would not allow him to take it. Therefore, we must make arrangements for him to spare him this inconvenience.The Need to Have Two to Handle the MoneyI personally believe that in every region there should be at least two persons to handle the money. The principle in the Bible is always to have two. The first time it was Barnabas and Paul. Subsequently, there were always two persons. We need two brothers to handle the money and manage the accounts. Perhaps one brother will handle decision making in particular, and one brother will mainly take care of the bookkeeping.The Need for the Ledger to Be PublicQuestion: Some churches publicly display the ledger, while other places do not. What should the principle be?Answer: I think that the income of a local church should be displayed. Matters related to the work should be known to the co-working brothers and sisters of the region.First the Expenses, Then the ApostlesQuestion: Because many people do not know how to give an offering, should the offering boxes be separately designated for the locality and for the work?Answer: It does not matter if the brothers and sisters do not designate them; we have to do the designating. The expenses of a local church, such as electricity, water, and rent, should always come first. The needy brothers come second. The workers should always be placed third and not first. If we are first, then something is wrong. Therefore, we need to care for the needy brothers first. This is a basic principle. The church in Jerusalem gave first to the brothers in need, not to the co-workers. Therefore, workers should not be mistaken to think that the apostles are first. On the contrary, the poor, the needy brothers, the widows, and the orphans are first. We need to help these people first, then come to the apostles. We should never first care for the apostles, then care for the poor. That would be completely backwards. The case in Jerusalem is quite clear: The offerings were distributed among all according as anyone had need. After this come the responsible brothers. We do not want to be the first.This is also done according to the spiritual principle. First, we send money out, then money will be sent to us from outside. We should retain a small amount, whether one-third, one-fifth, or one-tenth, the less the better. The rest should always be sent out. In this way there will be no problems.When we do have the money, divide it according to the need. Do it according to the proportions we have written down. If we personally have a particular need, then we should go before God separately and look to Him for the need. Co-workers can receive only according to their proportion. I think this closely follows the biblical principle. The matter of money is a very difficult matter, but I think that handling it this way is very much according to the Bible. Based on what I can see in Acts and the Epistles in the New Testament, there is only this principle. The method used to divide money was very good. There was no difficulty at all; it was divided in a very good way. "These hands have ministered to my needs and to those who are with me.'' This is a matter of need, not gift. A church might say that since a certain brother is able to preach, they would give him more. I cannot give more to Timothy because he preaches better than Titus. The word need is very good; with it we cannot easily go wrong.The Way to Distribute Money Entrusted to YouQuestion: If someone entrusts me with the distribution of an amount of money, how should I determine the proportions?Answer: Before a list of proportions is produced, according to my personal view, I myself would not use anything that has been entrusted to me for distribution. As soon as I use any, there will be a problem. As soon as you use it, spontaneously you will appear to be unfaithful. No matter how clear your conscience is, you still will not be at peace. A difficulty with the conscience is different from other difficulties; you cannot reason with it. It is like a child that cries when he wants to cry and throws a tantrum when he wants to throw a tantrum. If there is a sum of money for me to distribute, even if I use one dollar, my conscience will have no peace. If it was designated for me, then I can use it as I please. If it is one thousand dollars, it would not matter if I used nine hundred ninety-nine for myself. But if I was asked to administrate and distribute it, I would still give out the whole amount. I believe that once we establish the proportions, we cannot go wrong. In the past we did not have established proportions; we needed to give away the whole amount. In your region every co-worker has a portion due him, and you also have a portion due you. In such a case we should distribute according to the proportions, and no difficulties with the conscience will arise. In the past we indeed gave out the entire amount.Sometimes a brother or sister sent in money, and when there was no way to distribute it, I wrote a letter telling them that I did not know how to distribute it and asked them what I should do with it. One sister replied with a good answer. She said, "If you want to throw it into the Whampoa River, that is your business. You can do as you see fit.'' Because she washed her hands of the affair, it became an entirely different matter.Sending Letters to All the Placesconcerning the Building of a Meeting HallQuestion: In the past there were a few localities which wrote to all the other localities when they needed to build meeting halls. Is this a good practice?Answer: It is not so good. Whenever this kind of letter reaches my desk, I read only the first six words, and then throw it into the wastepaper basket without reading the rest. If an individual brother fellowships with certain brothers in other places, that is all right, because that is not something formal. As soon as this kind of thing becomes formal, I am afraid that it is spoiled.The Matter of Supporting the Responsible BrothersQuestion: The responsible brothers should receive double honor. This is correct, but how should we make it known? It is difficult. If we ask the apostles to decide, that will also be hard. Whenever an apostle goes to a certain place, can we ask him to make an effort to mention that the elders should receive double honor?Answer: This is a special question concerning the center of the work, not concerning a local church. The list should be only in localities where there is a center of the work.Timothy Being the One Who Should SpeakAccording to the letter written by Paul to Timothy, it is very clear that Timothy was the one who should spread the word to the churches in all the localities regarding how a local church distributes money. When workers go to the local churches, they need to tell the brothers in the local churches to provide material support for the elders. This was Timothy's responsibility, not the elders, because Paul charged Timothy, saying, "Let the elders who take the lead well be counted worthy of double honor'' (1 Tim. 5:17). This was Timothy's responsibility. When you visit churches in different places, if you see elders who labor in a church and are therefore encountering financial need, those who are Timothys need to cause the local brothers to see that such ones should be given double honor. You need to do this individually.The Deacons Needing to Bear More ResponsibilityWhy do the elders come third in the administration of money in the church? In the Bible the administration of money in the church is, of course, the responsibility of the elders. There is no doubt about this. Practically, however, the use of the money in the church is not in the hands of the elders, but in the hands of the deacons. In other words, the use of Jerusalem's money was not in the hands of the twelve apostles, but in the hands of the seven deacons. The fact that the apostles did not attend to tables indicates that they did not manage the use of the money. The principle of administration and the way to administrate are in the hands of the apostles. But when money is actually used, it is in the hands of the seven deacons. Therefore, when arrangements are made for the money, the deacons, not the elders, know the local needs and the needs of the poor. The responsible brothers do not know what the situation is with the brothers in need, but the seven brothers know. Only the seven deacons, not the twelve apostles, are aware of the local expenses. In other words, the use of money is the deacons' business; it is not the elders' business. It is the deacons who manage the local expenses and the giving to the poor.Therefore, the deacons should also bear more responsibility regarding the supply to the elders. This is my personal opinion. It is very difficult for the elders to do this. It is good if a church can care for the responsible brothers, but the church needs to be aware of their responsibility. At any rate we need to make the church aware of their responsibility.Here the flesh needs to be terminated. When brothers and sisters give offerings of money, there should not be any personal concerns. When managing money, only God's commandment counts. There should be nothing else, and there should be no personal feelings. You may say that we should give it all to the poor. This means that if it were up to us, we would receive a portion the next time we are poor. Therefore, there cannot be personal feelings. We have given the money to God. It should then be distributed according to what God has decided. First, we should not be indebted to others; all our bills should be paid. Second, we should care for the poor. Third, we should care for the responsible brothers.The responsible brothers should not take money themselves. The brothers who are deacons should say, "We need to give honor to them.'' The deacons do this on behalf of the church. In honoring does anybody honor himself? No one honors himself; others are needed for this. Therefore, in this matter the deacons can represent the church to honor them. The brothers who are deacons may say, "I know that at this time a certain brother is having a considerable difficulty. His son needs to go to school this term. We need to consider this matter.'' The deacons may not propose in other areas, but in this area they may. The elders can speak on any matter, but not on the matter of being honored. They have absolutely no right to speak about this. It is up to the deacons to say something.This matter is in the hands of the deacons. If we have to call a meeting of the church to decide upon this matter, then we will become Laodicea. It is best to entrust the deacons with this matter so that they can take care of it every week and every month. The time to do this is not fixed. In the Bible the day of settling accounts is not once a month, unlike the tree of life which yields its fruits every month. In Corinthians it says that they settled accounts week by week. The deacons should say that they are going to give a sum of money to a certain elder. The money is in the hands of the deacons. They do not manage the money; they only have custody of the money. They need to say that they represent the church in giving this money to an elder.In the past the money has been in the hands of the elders. Now we need to change. The elders administrate, but actually the money is in the hands of the deacons. The deacons are the cashiers. In other words, the disbursement of funds is the business of the seven deacons; it is not the business of the twelve apostles. Concerning the elders themselves, the Timothys should indeed always say, "You should care for the needs of the responsible brothers here. They administrate the church. It is wrong for you to treat them in a careless way.''