Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Bible on Financial Accountability


In 1Cor 16:1-2, Paul tells the Corinthian Church to take up an offering for the poverty-stricken Jerusalem Christians, "Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made." After this, he introduces the principle of financial accountability in 1Cor 16:3-4, “Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.” With the letters of introduction, Paul is making sure there will be no opportunity for financial mismanagement. If he needed to go, these representatives of the Macedonian churches would accompany him as witnesses. This would avert any accusation of him committing embezzlement. In other words, the churches that made this offering were to form an audit committee. The ones receiving the funds would have to be accountable to them.
It is unfortunate when Christian ministries lose their testimony because of financial mismanagement. The opportunity for mismanagement is great simply because Christians are a giving and sharing people. These words were said to me by a non-Christian, ‘you Christians are a very charitable people.’ I used to run a Christian home for drug addicts in the Philippines called the House of Hope. One day a friend invited me to a dinner gathering with his church friends. As I sat down, he introduced his friend to me and mentioned what I was doing in the country. Immediately his friend reached into his pocket and counted off P$10,000, worth about SG$500+ then. He gave it to me, saying “Use this for your good work helping our people.” Then he went to the next table and encouraged his other friends to take up an offering for my ministry. That’s typical of Christians, charitable by nature.
Sadly, that is also why there are pastors and Christian leaders who are so motivated in enriching themselves, they use all means to squeeze money from their flock. The apostle Peter warned Christians in 2Peter 2:3, “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up”, about false teachers and preachers who would deceive the church for their own profit. In the phrase “these teachers will exploit you”, the Greek word translated as ‘exploit’ is ἐμπορεύομαι, (em-po-rio'-om-ai). From this, we get the English word ‘emporium’ meaning ‘a centre of commerce or a market’. It implies trading or making a deal for profit. Peter says these teachers will ‘em-po-rio'-om-ai’ Christians, meaning they will sell and trade Christians off for profit. The King James actually translates it more accurately with “these teachers will make merchandise out of you…” To these false teachers, their flock were not sheep to be spiritually fed but lambs to be slaughtered.  No believer should want this to happen to his generous giving. Therefore, he should also hold the church or ministry accountable for the way they use his charitable giving. Faith is not blind so we do not give blindly.
I am glad that, having worked with four treasurers in our church, I know HPC takes its financial accountability to its members seriously. That’s why we can be perceived as slow in disbursing money and making financial decisions. The main aim is not only to ensure money is used wisely but also to ensure no financial decision comes back to bite us, years down the road. By then, everyone would have forgotten the circumstances that led to the decision. It will then be tragic to see church leaders point accusing fingers at each other in order to avoid blame. Thus, members can help by scrutinizing the expenditure statements to make sure money is used wisely and blamelessly. I believe it pleases our Lord Jesus Christ when members act responsibly in this way

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