Vol. 7, No. 9
~ Page 13 ~
In the congregation where I did my first fulltime preaching many years ago, I tried to encourage the members to give as they prospered. On one occasion when we needed to make an organized and concerted effort to raise a specific amount to do a job we all agreed needing doing, I suggested that we share with each other the information about how much we felt able and willing to contribute toward the job. One precious lady whom I continued to love dearly criticized the idea vehemently, saying, "What I give is nobody's business but mine and God's."
That idea I have heard expressed and have seen practiced in many ways since that time. In connection with that, I should like to raise a few questions.
In the last year or so, we have seen a spate of articles (whatever that is) on the eldership, raising all sorts of questions, from "Who Calls the Shots?" to "What Do They Do?" But I believe, in spite of all the varied opinions about what kind of leadership we should have, there is practically unanimous agreement in all sections of our brotherhood (which includes the "sisterhood") that the elders are to shepherd the flock, watching after their spiritual welfare.
Surely, no one would deny that whether or not a person attends the services is the elders' business! Why? Because that relates to his spiritual welfare. It is true that a person can bring a warm body (or a cool one) to each service, and still have very little spiritual growth. But that is not our subject today. Surely, no one would deny that it is the business of the elders if a person does not take the Lord's Supper or come to Bible class. Why? Same reason. Surely, the elders need to know if a man is cheating on his wife, or business associate, or getting drunk, or doing any other ungodly act. Why? Same reason.
Now, would some loving soul be kind enough to inform me what process of reasoning (if any) leads to the conclusion that it is not the elders' business if some members are practicing idolatry or covetousness (Galatians. 5:5)? The same passage that teaches that the fornicator, the unclean person, "hath no inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ" teaches the same thing about the covetous one!
Although I am not the judge of men's motives, I have an idea that one reason why some do not want anyone to know what they give is that they are ashamed of it--and properly so. On the other hand, I think it possible that one reason some might want it known is that they might want to compare the amount with others and brag about it. However, I have known only two persons in my life that gave 70% to 90% of their income to the work of the Lord. One was relatively rich, and the other relatively poor, but I never heard either of them brag about it. Every person I know who seemed to approach a sacrificial spirit in giving was too humble to want to brag about it, but they did not care if someone knew what they were trying to do and was encouraged to try to do likewise.
If some astute scholar who knows the answers, or even some humble student who does not even know all the questions, would help me to understand why anything that has a significant bearing on the spiritual attitude or welfare of the church member is not the proper concern of the elders, I would appreciate hearing from you.