Honesty and transparency in money matters by
In his epistle to the Corinthians, in the 8th chapter of II Corinthians, the apostle Paul is all the praise for the churches of Macedonia who had given themselves first to the Lord and then to the ministry of the saints. They exhorted Paul to take upon his team "the fellowship of the ministering to the saints", though they were themselves in a great trial of affliction and deep poverty.
In the same Chapter, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to prove the sincerity of their love to the poor saints citing the example of Jesus Christ who, though He was rich, yet for their sake (for the sake of Corinthians), became poor that they (the Corinthians) through His poverty might be rich.
Paul then proceeds to tell the Corinthians about the visit of his co-worker Titus to them for collection of their gift for the poor saints. Paul makes a note of the honesty of this dear brother who was entrusted with the task of collecting contributions from the Corinthians - "whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches". All the churches visited by this dear brother testified to the honesty of this co-worker of Paul.
Paul makes it very clear to the Corinthians in verses 20-21:
"Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us:
Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men"
Paul took every care that the gifts taken by his team were distributed amongst the poor saints and that he or any member of his team was not blamed while distributing the abundance of the gifts. He also ensured that there was transparency in financial matters, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men.
Thesedays, as I pick up some Christian magazines from India I come across only appeals from the servants of God concerned for financial assistance towards their "God-given" projects. For building of projects or for performing their TV ministries, they seek sponsors in hundreds or in thousands as the case may be. They exhort these sponsors who have been blessed by God through their ministries, to covenant with God for donating their offerings to them through monthly installments. They request such sponsors to pay for their projects in terms of built up areas or in terms of land in square feet.
Pastors of megachurches want to extend their church buildings to accommodate the Lord's sheep in their buildings. They expect the Lord's sheep to be confined to their church buildings not only for worship but also for tithes. Many years ago, a pastor in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, wanted to extend his church building for installing air-conditioners therein so that his congregation might not hear the noise from outside while worshipping God. He wanted to insulate his church from the din of the outside world. A new testament church should be an evangelizing one, preaching the gospel to the lost souls who are in the outside world. We have to worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). The Father does not expect our worship through our lips but through our acts. Worship in truth means obeying the commandment of Jesus Christ for preaching the gospel to every creature. Worship, in other words, means service.
Let us build churches for the poor saints in mission fields or for the saints who need a place of worship. Let us build orphanages for the orphans. Let us build homes for the widows or the destitute or the old people forsaken by their children. Of course, we can construct buildings for educational institutions and hospitals if it helps advance the causes of evangelism and edification of the Body of Christ.
Paul or the apostles did take free-will offerings from the people of God, not for building houses for themselves but for the poor saints and for the widows. The disciples during the New Testament period, sold their earthly possessions and laid the same at the apostles' feet so that there was none amongst them that lacked. (Acts 4: 34-37).
Some months ago, I had requested an evangelist in Tamil Nadu who has been abundantly blessed by God with material resources, to help a poor saint, a 75 year old woman of God (whom God still uses through signs and wonders), who lives in a small house with the roof of asbestos sheet in building a living room for her. But till today I have not received any reply from him. However, I came to know that this beloved evangelist was personally prejudiced against this woman of God.
Today our ministers of God are engaging themselves in raising up towering buildings in the Name of Christ. Some evangelists spend lavishly on their stay in luxury/5-star hotels during their evangelical meetings.
God expects His ministers to be honest 100% in their financial matters. There should be transparency in their financial dealings. Each penny taken in the Name of Jesus Christ should be spent either for evangelism in places not reached by the gospel or for edification of the believers, especially the poor saints of the House of God. Of course, they can make a decent living by the gospel they preach.
"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of His reward" (I Tim.5:17-18).
Let the ministers of God be honest and transparent in money matters, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men. Corruption has permeated not only government administrations but also God's Vineyard. If the "public money" is not spent on the budgeted schemes of the government for the welfare of the people but is spent for giving more comforts to the rulers, it amounts to "corruption in government administration". Similarly, if God's money as given by the people of God through their sacrifices is not spent either for New Testament evangelism or for the edification of the saints in the House of God, it amounts to "corruption in high places". God's money should be spent in God's ways. Use of God's money for any purposes other than New Testament evangelism and edification of the body of Christ amounts to misappropriation and "corruption in high places". God's ministers should be good stewards.
After Naaman was healed of the leprosy through the ministry of Prophet Elisha, Gehazi, the servant of Prophet Elisha approached Naaman and coveted "a talent of silver, and two changes of garments" for ministering to "two young men of the sons of the prophets". When Elisha came to know from Gehazi about the whole episode, Elisha asked the latter, "Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maid servants?". Then Elisha pronounced divine judgment on Gehazi and Gehazi "went out from his presence a leper as white as snow" (II Kings 5:20-27). The leprosy of Naaman not only cleaved to Gehazi but also to his seed for ever. Here, the ministry of Elisha is likened to the ministry of the Holy Ghost and the ministry of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, to our ministry. Let us be very very careful in money matters, especially when we receive the sacrificial offerings of the people of God who have been blessed by our ministries. When we are allowed of God to take their offerings for His vineyard, we are not supposed to "covet" their offerings in any manner.