Congregations rarely know the income and expenditure of their church. Believers do not know how much money is donated, what the money is used for; how much has been spent and what has been kept in reserve; who looks after the money; how is the money managed; whether there is evidence about expenditures; whether there is false accounting; and why the congregations are kept uninformed. This lack of accountability reflects poorly on churches who emphasize a spiritual life focused on confession and repentance.
Only one thing is clear to the congregations, and that is how donations are collected. Some churches use donation boxes, some use paper bags and envelopes, some use church staff to collect directly in front of believers, and some simply keep pace with technology by scanning QR codes. Yet, what’s strange is that although churches keep collecting donations, they always seem to be short of money. As for how much money the church has saved, no one asks. In fact, even if you ask, no one will really give a direct answer but usually a vague reply like "It’s used for the house of God" to try and satisfy people’s curiosity.
For a long time, churches’ fuzzy treatment of money donation has become like an incurable chronic disease of an elderly person, which inevitably reduces the enthusiasm of believers in giving money. What’s important is that the end result of this is terrible. Believers have doubts and worries about whether their churches are corrupt. The second is that the church will be filled with all kinds of rumors that do not distinguish between what is true and false. The third is that believers have lost their trust in the church and leaders, and some believers have left their churches while others have been troubled and stopped believing in Christ altogether. As a result, the church loses its integrity and declines, the authority of the Church is constantly challenged, leading even to the rise of divisions.
This situation reminds us of religious reform in the Middle Ages. The direct trigger of the religious reform was the widely practiced sale of indulgences. What the Church lost was not the property and money of believers, but the presence of Christ the Lord. Although this was distressing, corruption continues today. For instance, Zhao Yongji, a pastor of the Yeouido Church in South Korea, and Kang Xi, a famous pastor in Singapore, were found guilty of corruption. I know a church, in which a man embezzled more than one million. In order to cover up his crime, he imitated the handwriting of an upright pastor and falsely claimed that the millions were taken by the pastor. Ultimately, after a thorough inspection conducted by the police, it was that man who pocketed the funds and was finally sentenced to five years in prison. As a result, the church split and there has been no reunification up to now.
It can be seen that the transparency of a church’s revenue and expenditure plays an extraordinary role in curbing corruption and promoting the sustainable development of the church. That is not only related to the belief direction of the whole church but also a means to determine which churches are true and which are false. It is also an important measure to prevent Satan from destroying the roots of the church.
The teaching about tithing has long been delivered by churches as believers are urged to give at every meeting. According to the Bible, tithing was observed by the Children of Israel and it is also necessary for those who believe in Judaism today. However, for Christianity, which follows the requirements and standards in the New Testament, giving goes beyond the system of tithing that was a part of the Old Testament world.
The Gospel of Luke records how a poor woman gave only two pennies to the Temple of God. Jesus witnessed her gift and said that she gave more than everyone else because she gave everything she had. Therefore, the New Testament requires a total donation, including money, time, energy and physical strength. The Book of Romans (12:1) further elaborates: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." This kind of dedication goes far beyond the giving of a tithe, raising the meaning of financial donations to the level of soul and life, and giving has meaning and ultimate value. The Book of Acts records how Ananias deceived the Holy Spirit by keeping privately the proceeds of the property he sold. This is the first case of someone being punished to death by God because of deceiving God.
When we give, we should be willing and grateful to God from the bottom of our hearts instead of fulfilling an obligation stipulated by the law.
The greatest proof of the holiness and godliness of the Church should be reflected in financial management. This is particularly important in this materialistic era. If the church’s financial records are not opaque, all worship and praise, and all reading and praying are just an empty form. Therefore, the financial management of our Church must be transparent and holy. Otherwise, our Church may be destroyed by Satan and become the Church with "golden treasures outwardly but inward darkness."
- Translated by Charlie Li