In part one on our series on tithing we mentioned that tithing started before the law. It was an act of worship and dedication to God. It confesses His Lordship. Godly men (and women) tithed as they were led. The law made the need for tithing obvious.
Malachi highlighted some of the blessings associated with tithing. The New Testament admonishes us to give. Tithing lets us know where to begin.
Please see part one on tithes of our series on tithing for more on this.
In this part two we address the delicate issue of accountability and management in tithing.
The need for accountability
Why would anybody want to give money to an unknown cause?
When Churches and ministries are open with how they spend the tithes and offering it encourages members to give. After all, in the Old Testament it was well documented what the Levites were to do with the tithes they received (See part one). If they were our example then why should we not follow it?
Firstly, a quick word to church members.
A godly concern by church members
With financial scandals popping up now and again in churches it is very easy to become skeptical and suspicious of anyone who is a church leader. This however is a very unhealthy attitude to adopt. Being negative and critical will never accomplish anything good. We all need to judge our own hearts in these matters.
If you seriously doubt the integrity of your leaders it might be better to find another church where you can really trust and respect the leaders rather than fight a running battle of accountability over the financial reports.
Let your concern for the financial health of your local church or ministry be one that flows out of a heart of concern and love for God's work. Many church leaders are under tremendous strain and pressure already.
How should tithes and offering be spent?
The vision of the church directs it's cause.
Any church or ministry will spend it's money where her heart is. In part one of our study on tithes and offering we mentioned the three broad areas where the scriptures direct that tithes and offering should be spent. Namely:
1. Supporting the work of God - Acts 4:32 - 35
This would cover everything from missionary work (or support), evangelical outreaches, teaching ministry, children ministry and so on.
2. Providing for the laborers and the work of the kingdom - 1 Corinthians 9:14, Galatians 6:6
Church workers, including the Pastor and office staff need to be paid. Accommodation also has to be paid for.
3. To support the disadvantaged (strangers, homeless, fatherless e.t.c) - Romans 15:26, 1 Corinthians16: 1-2, Acts 11: 27 - 30.
All communities have social needs. True religion says James 1:27 is taking care of the needy. This does not mean preaching the gospel at them but providing them with social needs - food, clothing and shelter.
The level of involvement here will vary according to the size and vision of the church and the particular area it is located.
The tithes and offering are not for the leader to spend solely on him or herself. Obviously the leaders need to be paid and so does the cost of accomodation and other practical ventures of the church. Once the vision of the church has been established, the money should be allocated accordingly. Broadly speaking it would fit into one (or in the ideal church) all of the above three areas mentioned above.
A percentage of what would be spent on all of these areas could be fixed. The church leadership could then review these areas from time to time.
Financial reports are a helpful way of updating the church family on what is happening. Incidentally, when done properly, they often motivate people to give more. Financial reports show a breakdown, in figures or percentage, on how the money was spent in accordance with the vision of the church.
In practice, I have found that where there is constant dialogue and working together within the local church, most committed members should be aware of how the church finances are going without any official financial report being issued.
This, nevertheless, should not negate the need for one. There will always be people on the fringes who are not in the know.
A common vision is essential to any church or ministry if it is to move forward. Church leaders are not normally afraid to share their vision with the church and nor should they shy away from sharing financial information with church members. This should not be too difficult if the vision is dictating the spending of the money.
To summarise I would say:
Church leaders should seek God's face and find His vision for the church or ministry. This vision will often bear witness with some of the church members who are called to be part of the church. However, the final perception and decision of what the church or ministry should focus their efforts on rests with the leader.
He or she has God's Word as a clear guideline. The allocation of how the finance should be spent would then be taken in line with what God has called them (the church or ministry) to focus on.
If God has called you to be mainly a witness to the local area then that is where you would find yourselves spending the majority of your finance.
Lets remember the admonition given by Paul.
Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:40)