Dr. George Cherian General Secretary, Mission India, Tiruvalla

Church as it functions as the body of Christ in the world, monetary transactions and material possessions is inevitable. Functioning of the local congregation necessitates financialresource and also for fulfilling the great commission finances becomes essential. But collection and dispensing of money has to strictly adhere to scriptural principlesto please the Lord and to maintain a shining testimony. Departing from the divine principles andimitating the world’s way and standards have resultedin scandals bringingembarrassmentto the church and even ruin of some congregations. In the church three groups are linked to the financial transactions. The givers, the managers or the administrators and the receivers. All these groups of people must possess integrityand disciplinesto maintain a testimony to the outside world and the approval of God.

Chapters 8&9 of Paul’s second epistle to Corinthians gives us an insight into the teaching of financial stewardship in the church. We observe the grace of giving among the Macedonian believers, the accountability and integrity of those who collected and dispensed the contributions and spirit of gratitude seen among those in leadership and the recipients.
Stewardship of believers- the grace of giving.

Apostle Paul illustrates the grace of giving exhibited by the Macedonian church.Even in the midst of severe trials and even poverty, the Macedonian church generously gave gifts to comfort their fellow believers in Judea who were in need due to poverty and famine.

First of all, it was willingly or voluntarily given. It was not given out compulsion from anyone. (8:3) A truly spiritual person is moved spontaneously to give. Then we also note that they gave generously and joyfully. Joyful giving is always reflected in the generous nature in the donation (8:2). Then in 8:5 we also see that it was a spiritual giving. They first gave themselves to the Lord. It was out of the deep relationship of love to their Lord that they gave the contribution. It was not done to be seen and appreciated of men but given as unto the Lord and for the blessing of others. Lastly it was sacrificially given. We see that even while they were undergoing trails and poverty, they gave liberally and joyfully. Church with such sense of stewardship of giving is a mature and strong. Let us remember that only when one spontaneously, joyfully, generously, sacrificially and joyfully give that authentic Christian stewardship is exhibited through our lives.

Stewardship in administration of church funds
Although all our wealthbelongs to the Lord, the money and material possessions offered by the people of God is to be treated as holy or as things separated unto the Lord. It is instructive to watch how Paul administered the offerings and gifts he received for the work of the Lord.

The fundamental principle he followedis seen in 2 Corinthians 8:20&21. “We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.”In administering this liberal gift, he is taking pain to do what is best and right. It means that he is taking extreme care and caution that he does what is right in the sight of the Lord and men. Anyone who operates on these principles will consistently function with integrity and honour. It calls for transparency, honesty and absence of even a tinge of deception. Keeping the ministry accountable and the financial transactions open for scrutiny of the congregation and governmental authority will authenticate the financial operation of the churches and organisations.This necessitates to appointing godly and committed men to administer the finance of the church. Paulenlists a group of men under the leadership of Titus to carry the funds collected for the relief of the saints in Jerusalem. In recent times, godly qualities and character are overlooked for talents and qualifications. The passage under consideration specifies the essential character traits of those handling church finances.

1. He must be a person with concern and passion for the work of the Lord
Paul says, “I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.” (8:16) Titus had the same burden and concern which the Apostle Paul hadfor the believers.It is not uncommon to find financial administrators in the ministry with no real burden for the work of the Lord and the gospel of Jesus Christ. They follow the schedule and routine yet fail to share the concern and love for those whom they are serving.Only when one has a deep concern for ministry, love for the Lord and passion for the gospelcan the life and conscience be keptspiritually sharp and hence be faithful in what he does. So Paul verified that the man he chose for the managing of money had a heart of concern for God’s glory and love for the people.

2. He must be a person prayerfully chosen by the congregation and a person consecrated to the Lord. (8:19)
Concerning Titus Paul comments that “He was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering.” Approval by the body of believers makes him responsible to them. Independent ministers are prone to become unfaithful since they are not held accountable for their life and actions to anyone. Titus and the brother chosen to travel with him were men approved and appointed by the Church. In addition, Paul commented that Titus was a trusted partner and a fellow labourer in the ministry. It is always prudent to have a tested and proven man to handle church finances.

3. He must be an honest and upright person
Verse 22 says that the person must “do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” Impeccable honesty must be the special mark of those who handle the funds of the church. In a world where dishonesty and deception is dramatically increasing, the church needs to have men and women who are honest and pure in all their dealings. When many are compromising principles to make easy and faster growth and gain, we need to stand firm in our commitment for honesty and truth. It is told that a Godly man wrote “Lord keep me and my book honest.” on the first page of his account book. Let our righteousness exceed that of the people around us.

4. He must be a diligent and hard-working person
Although a good heart and excellence in character is what is essential for those who administer the funds, it is vital that he be a person with enthusiasm an initiative. Paul demonstrated his diligence by having Titus and another brother from the congregation travelling with him as they carried the monetary gift. Keeping himself accountable to the group pre-emptied the critics from accusation of dishonesty and mishandling of Church funds.

Conclusion
The Church remains spiritual and alive when it honestly and wisely uses its resources for the glory of God and the extension of His kingdom. Love of money is one of the very secretive sins that can enter into the heart of a believer or the minister of the gospel. Attitude of thankfulness to God and developing a spirit of contentment is the antidote greed that so easily tempt and enslave us.

May we always be on guard against this cancerous sin that can destroy our life and the Church.