Q. I don’t know how prevalent it is in our group, but lately I’ve noticed more evangelical churches using such fund-raising methods as bazaars, bake sales, car washes, door-to-door selling, and so on. Please give me some Biblical input.
A. As with many issues in the Christian life, we must carefully apply Biblical principles to the issue of fund-raising, since no “Thou shalt not . . . ” verses address these present-day activities. But the Bible does indeed give principles to follow.
First, the Bible clearly shows by word and New Testament practice that God’s work should be maintained financially through the volitional giving of His people. In the local church we have the regular collection of this giving on the Lord’s Day. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper” (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2).
Second, we should have a spiritual motive for giving. Unbelievers cannot truly have a spiritual motive. So we must not collect money as though we are depending on the unsaved to help us do the Lord’s work. The apostle John instructed the elder Gaius that believers were to “[take] nothing from the Gentiles,” meaning believers were not to solicit money from unbelievers for the Lord’s work (3 John 7). If unbelievers put money in the offering plate on Sunday, that is one matter; we don’t presume to know people’s hearts or attempt to police the collecting. But to utilize any fund-raising effort that actively solicits, knowing it will involve unbelievers, is wrong.
Third, the Scriptural method of giving involves faith that God will supply the need (Philippians 4:19). Other methods of getting money may leave the impression that people think the Lord isn’t going to supply the need; these methods say we have to do something beyond the pattern found in the Scriptures to help God out. Someone has said that many churches are raising funds instead of raising faith.
Fourth, unscriptural methods of fund-raising can deny and destroy the sacrificial nature of true New Testament giving. It can also cause people to waste time pursuing these fund-raising activities when they could better spend that time on legitimate ways of serving the Lord.
Fifth, Biblical giving should be a private matter. Other people don’t need to see what a person gives, and believers are to avoid flaunting their charitable works (Matthew 6:1–4).
Finally, unbelievers may get the idea that believers are lacking in any of these five points. So giving becomes a testimony issue. Can we honestly say that we can imagine our Lord today going around trying to sell magazine subscriptions or having a bake sale to fund His work?
In some cases the needs that people believe call for outside methods of fund-raising are not truly real. Like parents who tell their teenagers, “Whenever you go shopping, ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this?’ ” churches must ask the same question. And if the need is real, then people ought to trust the Lord to meet the need in the way He has prescribed through His Word. After all, what is truly gained, even financially, by not doing God’s work in God’s way?