How Much Money Does the Church Need?
We Must Be Good Stewards of All That God Blesses Us With
The Old Testament church required a lot of financial support to keep it going. There was a tabernacle to build and transport. The temple later replaced the tabernacle, but it required regular maintenance. The priests and Levites received support too.
This huge need required the people to give their tithes and various offerings, some mandatory and others voluntary. In today’s church, facility costs and payroll expenses make up most of the church’s budget, sometimes all of it. Yet if we were to do away with these two elements, there’s not so much need for money.
After building and staffing costs, what small amount remains in the budget falls into two categories. First is benevolence, that is, taking care of our own just like the early church did. Second is outreach, sending missionaries out to tell others the good news about Jesus (Matthew 28:19–20, Mark 16:15–16, and Luke 14:23). Think of all the good a church could do with its money if it directed 100 percent of its funds on these two activities and not needing to pay for facility and staff.
New Testament Church Finances
In the New Testament church, people share what they have to help those within their spiritual community, that is, those within their church. They seldom take offerings and when they do it’s to help other Jesus followers who suffer in poverty. The third thing they do with their money is to fund missionary efforts. Instead of building buildings and paying staff, they help people and tell others about Jesus. It’s that simple.
Rather than focusing on 10 percent as the Old Testament prescribes, we should reframe our thinking to embrace the reality that all we have, 100 percent, belongs to God. We are to be his stewards to use the full amount wisely for his honor, his glory, and his kingdom—not our honor, glory, and kingdom.
Paul writes that the love of money is the source of all manner of evil. An unhealthy preoccupation with wealth is especially risky for followers of Jesus, as our pursuit of accumulating wealth can distract us from our faith and pile on all kinds of grief (1 Timothy 6:10).
Keep in mind that Paul is not condemning money. He warns against the love of money. For anyone who has accumulated financial resources, this serves as a solemn warning to make sure we have a God-honoring understanding of wealth and what its purpose is. When it comes to the pursuit of possessions—our love of money—we risk having it pull us away from God.
Three Uses of Money
We need money to live, but we shouldn’t live for the pursuit of wealth. We should use money to supply our needs, help others, and serve God. Consider these three areas:
First, we should use our financial resources to help fund the things that matter to God. This means we need to understand his perspective. With the wise use of our money, we can serve God and honor him. We must remember that we can’t serve two masters: God and money (Matthew 6:24).
Second, we need God’s provisions to take care of ourselves (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We must focus on what we need, not what we want.
Third we should consider the needs of others. What do they need? How can we help them? Again, as with our own balancing of needs versus wants, we must guard against supplying someone with what they want, instead of focusing on what they truly need. God especially desires that we help widows and orphans (James 1:27). He also has a heart for us to help foreigners and the poor (Zechariah 7:10).
Therefore, we should give to God first (Exodus 23:19). Then we should concern ourselves with our needs and helping others with theirs. God wants our best, not what’s left over. This applies to our possessions and our actions.We must direct our money as wise stewards to where it can have the most kingdom impact. Click To Tweet
Where Does Giving to the Church Fit In?
Does this mean we need to give to the local church? Maybe. But it’s much more than that. We must direct our money as wise stewards to where it can have the most kingdom impact. I question if this means supporting an organization where most—or all—of its budget goes to paying for buildings and staff.
We must reform our perspective on money, realizing that 100 percent of it belongs to God, and we are merely stewards of his gifts. We must use God’s financial provisions wisely in a way that will honor him and have the greatest kingdom impact.
Check out the next post in this series addressing the fallacy of church membership.
[Read more about this in Peter’s upcoming book, Jesus’s Broken Church.]
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.