Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 25, 1953

"Whomsoever Ye Shall Approve"

S. F. Timmerman, Jr., Verviers, Belgium

One cannot be too prudent when it comes to the money of other people. Care is needed, not only to abstain from any abuse of confidence, but also to avoid every appearance of such an abuse in the eyes of men. Individuals, as well as churches, should "take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men." (Rom. 12:17)

Thus we see Paul's concern for his own integrity and for the proper handling of moneys destined to the poor saints in Judea. Although he had encouraged the liberality of brethren in Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia and although he was willing to do everything he could personally to expedite the sending of their gifts, he would not assume the responsibility of taking them alone. Thus, he wrote the following words to the church in Corinth:

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. And when I arrive, whomsoever ye shall approve, them will I send with letters to carry your bounty unto Jerusalem; and if it be meet for me to go also, they shall go with me." (1 Cor.16: 1-4)

Since Paul was an apostle of Christ, since he himself had established the church at Corinth and had earned the confidence of these brethren, and since he knew his own motives and intentions, he might plausibly have entrusted himself with any contribution which the Corinthians desired to send to the saints at Jerusalem. The fact that he did not, but rather insisted that the Christians of Corinth select their own representatives, is quite significant. What could have been his reasons?

The reason which is most apparent is the one already suggested: "avoiding this, that any man should blame us in the matter of this bounty which is ministered by us: for we take thought for things honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." (2 Cor. 8:20,21) A person in Paul's position could ill afford to do anything that would give his critics an occasion against him. He was sensitive to the attitude of others toward him; and though he would give ground to no one in matters of principle (Gal. 2:5), he would conduct himself at all times in such a way as to avoid unnecessary criticism.

A second reason for such care on the part of the apostle appears, however, when thorough consideration is given to the text. It is evident that Paul wished to conserve the identity of each contributor. 'Whomsoever ye shall approve, them will I send with letters to carry your bounty unto Jerusalem." It is conceivable that all the churches among which Paul traveled might have put their contributions into one lump sum to forward to Judea. The physical needs of the saints would have been supplied as well this way as any other. But Paul wished these contributions to be personal gifts from the churches, that each one might receive due credit from the beneficiaries of their bounty. "For the ministration of this service not only filleth up the measure of the wants of the saints, but aboundeth also through many thanksgivings unto God; seeing that through the proving of you by this ministration they glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the Gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all; while they themselves also, with supplication on your behalf, long after you by reason of the exceeding grace of God in you." (2 Cor. 9:12-14) I have italicized the personal pronoun "you" to emphasize the personal nature of this fellowship between the church at Corinth and the saints in Judea, which would have been lost had all contributions been sent without identification through a common fund.

Here it may be suggested by some that "whomsoever ye shall approve" could have included another church, or the messengers of another church. Such a possibility, I think, is not necessarily ruled out by Paul's language, so long as the personal character of the contribution was maintained. If Corinth had chosen to send their bounty by the messengers of the church at Thessalonica, for example, it would still have been Paul's wish to keep their gift intact and personal. This would have made of the church at Thessalonica neither a collecting agency among the churches nor a banking agency for funds sent in by the churches. It would also have prevented Thessalonica from exercising, consciously or otherwise, an undue authority by controlling the policies of other contributing churches or the administration of such contributions in Judea. The church at Thessalonica could have been, under such conditions, only a forwarding agency to facilitate the expedition of funds sent by Corinth. (This is naturally a hypothetical case, as we have no way of knowing whether any church ever sent funds through the agency of another church in New Testament times.)

Means of communication have changed since Paul's day, but the principles involved in these passages have not changed. If modern improvements have made any difference at all, they have tended rather to eliminate the necessity of forwarding funds through other churches than to increase it. At a time when the churches are stirred to the needs of worldwide evangelism and are in the position financially to do great things, it is well that Paul's attitude in the matter of sending moneys be given much reflection. First, churches should avoid every possibility of blame or criticism, "taking thought for things honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." Second, churches should zealously maintain the personal identity of their contributions, that those who benefit by them may "glorify God...for the liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all."