Vol.I No.IV Pg.7
April 1964

Who Owns Church Money?

Robert F. Turner

Dear bro, Turner:

Please comment on the question "Who owns the church treasury?"


This is a "hot potato", and all "hot heads" are asked to skip this section. Thinkers, read on!!

The "church treasury" belongs to the "church" -- and of course we are speaking of the local church, for this is the only kind of pooled fund authorized in the New Testament.

The church is a "company" of saints formed by mutual agreement -- (either expressed or understood) in order to work and worship together as one. In order to function collectively these saints must accept some common leadership and pool their means and/or abilities. These pooled resources no longer belong to the individuals making up the "company", but belong to the collective unit, the "church".

The fund is "at the feet" (i.e., at the disposal) of whomever these members (in forming or joining themselves into a church) agree shall act in this capacity. The Apostles once held this position in the Jerusalem church (Acts 4:35, 37,; 5:1-4) and later, the elders. (Acts 11:30)

The elders do not "own" the fund, but act as "trustees" -- to use legal terminology.

Does The Money Belong to God?

Everything belongs to God, including this money --- even before it was contributed to the treasury. (Isa. 66) How desperately, in these days of materialism, we need to understand this. We are but stewards. (Note Acts 17:24-f. God doesn't need anything!)

The church treasury is our means of operating collectively. It becomes God's fund to the extent that we collect and administer it according to His divine will, and for His purpose.

Legally, and I think logically--the fund "belongs" to the purpose for which it was given. (See "cy pres" in unabridged dictionary or law book) If a church is truly "scriptural" the church treasury will be used only for the God-assigned work of the church. It can not be used for any "good work" the elders may see fit to approve.

When Brethren Disagree

Brethren may disagree as to the God-assigned work of the church, and hence have no common purpose with respect to their common fund. A prayerful objective search of God's word should and will settle such problems for all who are willing to do only that for which there is divine authority. But if agreement can not be had, the basis for collective action in the disputed work is destroyed.

When brethren "part company" under such circumstances, an equitable dissolving of company (church) resources is in order- although I blush to admit it seldom takes place. Usually, a sectarian spirit prevails, and the majority, or "strongest" party takes all. (We fight for "God's" (?) money.) Someday we may learn to "give ourselves unto God" -- (2 Cor. 8:5).