Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 16 No. 7 July 2014
Page 16

Questions and Answers

Send your religious questions to editor@gospelgazette.com

Santa Claus

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis Rushmore“…how do you tell young children about Santa Claus? He is supposedly everywhere and knows whether you are good or bad. Is this a permissible lie to tell or is this being a little ridiculous? May God continue to give you and Bonnie what you need to do His work.”

Some brethren feel very strongly that Christians must not go along with the Santa Claus story regarding their children. Many of them believe that such is lying, which would be sinful (Revelation 21:8). One Gospel preacher, who views Santa Claus as a lie, told me that he was disillusioned after he learned that Santa Claus was not real; as a youngster, he then began to wonder if his parents had lied to him about God, too, and that perhaps He was not real either. Other Christians who object to Santa Claus also reject all aspects of Christmas on the basis of its origin arising out of Catholic and pagan religious practices. Further, these saints argue for an observable distinction by the churches of Christ, respecting Christmas, from Catholicism, denominationalism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.

Certainly, one ought not to violate his or her conscience (Romans 14:20, 22-23), irrespective of whether the practice against which a person has a conscience is right or wrong biblically (Romans 14:5, 14). The apostle Paul taught in Romans 14 a tolerance of Christians toward each other in matters of conscience that Scripture does not clearly define (1, 3, 5, 10, 13, 15, 19, 22). There are some issues that are not important to God, and they are things over which Christians should not divide (Romans 14:17). The children of God must exercise caution that they do not unnecessarily press as doctrine anything that is not specifically taught in Scripture by command or direct statement, approved example or divine implication (requiring correct inference).

First, Santa Claus in western society today is on par with fairy tales, cartoons, fantasy, movies and books. Typically, mental normality among most of the youthful population has little to no difficulty distinguishing between make-believe and reality, at least by the time it approaches adolescence and often before that time. Discovering that Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Spiderman, Superman, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are fictitious has not resulted in a disconnect with reality by teenagers.

Secondly, the commercialized Santa Claus associated with the national holiday of Christmas in many western countries is divorced from its roots in either Catholicism or paganism. That secular Santa Claus and the secular Christmas with which he is associated do not represent a religious observance. Whereas Catholicism and denominationalism maintain religious observances of holy days such as Christmas, certainly Christians and the Lord’s church ought not to do that in the absence of biblical authority for those kinds of religious observances (Galatians 4:10-11). Therefore, Christians should not impose doctrinal restrictions upon fellow Christians respecting their treatment of secular Santa Claus and secular Christmas. Yet, it is quite understandable, especially in foreign countries that do not have the western backdrop of a secular Santa and a secular Christmas holiday, if Christians in Hindu and Buddhist nations, for instance, opt not to show any affinity for Santa Claus or Christmas, secular or religious.

Thirdly, people in general and Christians in particular have no difficulty whatsoever making a distinction between pagan or pseudo-Christian origins otherwise. Hence, they should not place doctrinal restrictions on secular Santa and the national holiday of a secular Christmas that they would not put on, for instance, the days of the week or the months of the year. Sunday is the day of the sun or worship of the sun god. Monday is the day of the moon or worship of the goddess of the moon. Tuesday, Tyr’s day, was named after the Norse god of war Tiu or Tyr, son of Odin or Woden. Wednesday, Woden’s day, was named after Odin or Woden. Thursday or Thor’s day was named after another son of the mythological god Odin, Thor. Friday, Frigg’s day, was named after the goddess of the sky and wife of Odin. Saturday or Saturn’s day comes from the Roman god Saturn. Likewise, some of the names for the calendar months were derived from similar sources: January (the Roman Janus); February (Roman purification festival called Februa); March (Roman god of war, Mars); May (Roman goddess Maia).

In conclusion, to expose one’s children to Santa Claus, Little Red Riding Hood and Mickey Mouse are parental decisions. Aesop’s Fables have more than entertainment at heart as they present morals to the stories, but they also resort to fantasy with talking animals, etc.; it remains the responsibility of the parents according to their discretion whether they permit their young ones to be introduced to them. Parents in particular and Christians in general ought to decide for themselves how they will proceed with these, without imposing their personal judgments on others. In the absence of clear biblical instruction on this sort of thing, we need to demonstrate toleration, irrespective of what we personally decide for ourselves and for our families. That is my opinion based on general and specific scriptural observations.

Can a Church Scripturally Rent
Out a Vacant Preacher’s House?

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Here is the situation. Years ago, the church met in a house. As the church grew, they were able to build a church building. The church repurposed the house as the preacher’s house. Later when times became difficult, with members moving away to find work, the church made the decision to rent out the house to supplement their support. By doing so, the church was able to continue to work despite the financial hardship. Was the church authorized to rent the house? There are members who believe that renting the house is unscriptural. I would appreciate it if you could provide a clear and reasonable response from the Scriptures. The last thing we want is to cause division. Thank you.

Let’s have lunch at a local eatery. These days, most restaurants serve alcoholic beverages. In my case, I try to evaluate whether a particular candidate for my meal is a restaurant that serves booze or a bar that serves food. The distinction can be subtle, but usually one can discern a difference in atmospheres between the two. The focus and primary purpose of restaurants and bars differ, though they both offer elements of either. The point that we want to offer for consideration is, “What is the intent?” Please bear with me for a moment as we progress.

Certainly, the scriptural instruction for a congregation to finance itself is freewill giving weekly on the Lord’s Day (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). That ought to be the means by which a congregation intends to finance the various obligatory expenses that it incurs. Yet, there are numerous incidental areas in which a congregation may also derive an income, about which no one usually raises any concern as to whether that is scriptural (e.g., bank interest, CDs, proceeds from the sale of a church building when constructing a new meetinghouse, monetary gifts coming to the church on a day other than Sunday [through the mail on Monday], inheritances or renting out vacant property).

The Lord’s church is authorized to make a weekly freewill collection on the first day of the week during the assembly. Yet, Christians and the church also have the responsibility to be good stewards of the assets in their care. Consider the implication and principle in Matthew 25:27: “So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest” (NKJV). While the churches of Christ are not authorized by Scripture to engage in commercial enterprises with the intent of earning money (e.g., secular businesses such as owning beverage, sugar or insurance companies, erecting and managing amusement or tourist sites, running carwashes and bake sales), they do have the duty to effectively manage their resources, though that may garner additional funds to the weekly contribution.

Some Christians and congregations try too hard, and other Christians and congregations do not try hard enough to follow biblical instruction. Though mankind (inside and outside of the Lord’s church) is given to extremes, we need to search for biblical balance. Christians and churches should allow nothing to be divisive that is subject to personal opinion and judgment instead of clear biblical instruction – based on command or direct statement, approved example, or implication from which we are obliged to infer exactly what has been implied.

So, going back to the “let’s have lunch” analogy, what is the intent, focus or primary means for financing the local congregation? Respecting local congregational finances, what are the incidentals involved in good stewardship?

Financial Transparency

Louis Rushmore, Editor

“Transparency.” I have not seen a biblical article that explains why it is ‘scriptural’ to believe that the “contribution” does not belong to any particular member of the church. It is the Lord’s money. In all of the congregations that I have visited, here in …, not one person is requiring that their leaders provide a regular report of the income and expenses received and dispensed within the congregation they are a member of. Most often, the ‘preacher’ works with one or two people that knows the amount of weekly contributions. Nor does this ‘insider’ group encourage a financial report of the expenses against the weekly “offering.” My request is that you provide your prospective of your understanding on what the New Testament has to say on this subject.

The “love of money” (Timothy 6:10) is an ever-present human malady, even among members of the church. There are few congregational considerations that garner more attention than church finances (e.g., budgets, what various works cost, appropriate application of funds, etc.). Since money is of both of special temptation and general interest, financial transparency should be the normal operating procedure for any congregation of the Lord’s people. The apostle Paul provided us with a biblical example of providing this financial transparency when he enlisted several respected brethren to accompany him with the funds for poor saints in Judaea (1 Corinthians 16:3-4). “…who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us — providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Corinthians 8:19-21 NKJV).

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