he members of the Churches of Christ have been taught that in the new covenant scriptures it was God's intention to provide for us a blueprint with meticulous specifications governing every item of corporate praise and life. They have conceived of our highest aim and chiefest duty as being the careful scrutiny of that blueprint to determine the divinely perfect law of procedure and the implementation of the exact course in our lives. It has been constantly held forth that this is the only foundation for scriptural unity and upon no other basis can oneness ever be achieved.
Unfortunately for such a postulation, candor requires an admission that it has produced the very opposite result. There are now two dozen different kinds of "Churches of Christ," and each one of these believes that it has discovered and adopted the pattern, while all of the others are either too liberal to care for it, or too ignorant to understand it. Which of these more than twenty separate factions has recaptured "the scriptural pattern," so that its adherents can be in the favor of God, while all others are to be damned for their obduracy or imbecility? Which is "the loyal group?" Which is "the faithful church"?
Why is it we are divided into warring tribes? Is the blueprint so obscure that it cannot be seen? Is the language so ambiguous it cannot be understood? A united chorus composed of every faction proclaims that "the way is so plain that a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein." Does one party have a corner on the intellectuals in the disciple brotherhood? If so, which one has collected all the brains? Are all of the honest brethren in one faction? If so, which one has all of the men of integrity? Which twenty-three, or so, are composed wholly of scoundrels and reprobates?
Why are we divided over the pattern in scripture? Our strife-torn schism-ridden groups cannot answer. I suggest that the reason we are divided over the apostolic pattern is because there is none. We have been pursuing a will-o-the-wisp, a nebulous invention and figment of our own imagination. Our pattern is a person, and the purpose of scripture is not to involve us in surveying areas, marking out plots, and measuring boundaries, but to bring us to him in a vital relationship which is known as eternal life.
Our problem lies in the fact that we are hooked on the blueprint idea, and because we believe it must be there we infuse it into the scriptures. Every one of our parties declares it has the blueprint, and every party has a different one. The partisans in every group have marked out a trail of passages which they have followed in journals and debates until they can cold-trail in the dark and never miss a crook or turn, and there are a lot of both!
It is astounding that brethren in the Lord can sign propositions for debate and affirm that two positions diametrically opposed to each other are scriptural. Frequently the wording reads "The scriptures authorize," and on Monday and Tuesday nights they authorize one thing, while on Thursday and Friday nights they authorize the opposite. Wednesday night there is no discussion in order to permit all of the interested ones to attend prayer meeting at "the loyal church."
If it were not so tragic and sad it would be laughable to see how brethren locate their patterns in God's Word. A good example is in debate on the use of classes in teaching. In one such discussion the affirmative located classes in the order observed in creation, the feeding of the five thousand, and the instruction of the twelve men in Ephesus who knew only the baptism of John. Although the man who thus reasoned was one of the chief debaters in the segment, he referred to his opponent as one of a group of "third-rate preachers, uneducated, untrained and riding a hobby so they can be the biggest men in their brunch."
Men must resort to this kind of unscrupulous quibbling so long as they hold that the purpose of the apostolic letters was to spell out in detailed fashion the method by which we were to carry out God's will in all ages until our Lord returns. They can never walk in the Spirit, but always in the letter. And where there is no letter they must provide one, else they cannot walk at all. In the final analysis, and carried to its ultimate, this will mean the rejection of every means for disseminating the truth which was not available in Palestine during the time of the Caesars. And this means fossilization!
We have been the victims of eisegesis, rather than the recipients of exegesis. The last word means to get out of the word what has been inspired, or breathed into it of God; the first to inject into it one's own views and explanations. It makes no difference how sincerely our brethren desire to follow Jesus and to please God, it still remains that they have devised and bound upon others unwritten creeds and done so under the guise that these are authorized by the sacred scriptures.
In spite of the fact that I know in advance that I shall invite vitriolic attack in partisan journals I am going to illustrate what I mean by point out the fragile basis upon which a recent split has occurred in the ranks of believers within the "Churches of Christ." The point at issue has been dubbed by such terms as "institutionalism" and "centralization.'' Although there are many ramifications, the fight has been primarily over whether it is scriptural to support orphan homes, homes for the aged, etc., out of the treasury, when such eleemosynary institutions are not the sole work of the local congregation and under its oversight· Allied to this is the question of whether it is scriptural to send contributions from other congregations to a congregation in Abilene, Texas, which produces and supervises Herald of Truth, a radio and television program which is a propaganda medium for Churches of Christ.
In oral and written debates, as usual, brethren on both sides have been driven to enunciate extended views which, in some instances, have become tests of orthodoxy in the faith. It is now alleged that it is wrong for a congregation to take money from its treasury to help any person who is not a member of the Church of Christ, although individuals may aid any one at any time. A side issue has been the question of providing kitchens in the church buildings" and eating within these corporately-owned structures.
In many areas the community of saints has been divided and rival meetings-houses erected. A constant barrage of attack has been maintained on the air waves. Families have been riven by the civil war, debates held between brethren and the factional spirit crystallized into a concrete work of the flesh. Those who oppose the institutions are referred to as "antis" and hobbyists, those who endorse them are branded as "liberals." Dire predictions of the future are made by the prophets in both camps.
Each faction has its own partisan periodicals, its own colleges, and its own brotherhood. Each maintains its sectarian recognition and its sectarian exclusiveness. The party "lectureships" feature only "sound men," with the soundness being measured by the degree of adherence to the party line, as judged by the "somewhats" who have maneuvered themselves into a position where they can control policy at least on a relative scale.
Preachers on both sides believe they are in harmony with God's plan and purpose, and that the scriptures authorize what they are doing. Both sides profess to be able to give "chapter and verse" for their position, and frequently they both give the same "chapter and verse." Not being allied with either faction it is possible for me to look at all of these struggling brethren with a great deal of compassion, and to assess the real problem without the emotional involvement.
A perceptive observer will soon recognize that the whole thing centers around how a community of saints may spend its money, and I am quite convinced that the real hang-up stems from a mistaken view of both groups over what constitutes worship of God. Both believe that worship has been reduced to a series of acts performed on the first day of the week, one of which consists of giving money into an institutional treasury to be dispensed by certain functionaries without consent, or even approval of the expenditures by the contributors.
I trust it will not shock you if I say that the entire thing may be a mere cobweb constructed of gauzy filaments of human imagination. In the first place the word "worship" is never once applied by the scriptures to anything we do on the Lord's Day morning. The term "acts of worship" is not in the Bible. The word of God knows nothing of the expression "the worship." It was dreamed up to designate a legalistic arrangement of which the Holy Spirit said not one word. The idea of "five items of worship" as the divine plan, has been sucked out of a factional thumb.
Pursuing the thought further, the concept of a public collection from the members of the body every Sunday is based upon an interpretation which may be as full of holes as a sieve. It results from taking a specific instruction for meeting a historic emergency, and elevating it to a general and universal law, which is then bound as the will of God on a weekly basis. Let us study 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and see what it really includes.
"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me."
Out of this has grown a whole flock of assumptions which have been bound as dogmatic requirements. The giving of money every Sunday is an act of worship, or one of the "five items of worship." It is a sin to take up a collection at any gathering of the saints other than on the Lord's Day. Every one is under command to give or he will be judged as falling short of his duty. There must be a "church treasury" and a "church treasurer." Money placed in the "church treasury" cannot be expended on the needs of "outsiders" but must be given only to the saints.
I challenge this whole system as a creedal fabrication read into God's word. It is a clear cut example of what happens when men institutionalize the work of God. I want to deal with this doctrine which has been devised, openly and without fear of what men shall do unto me. I want my readers to see how easy it is to be brainwashed by tradition.
This was a special collection. It was the collection for the saints at Jerusalem. When Paul and Barnabas were in Jerusalem for the appeal to the apostles and elders on the subject of circumcision, and the question was resolved by a compromise, James, Peter and John urged them not to forget the poverty-stricken Judean saints. "Only they would that we should remember the poor, the same which I was aisc forward to do" (Galatians 2:1 0).
Thus, it came about that sometime later Paul urged congregations in the Greek world to gather up what they could that it might be conveyed to Jerusalem "to minister unto them in carnal things." Accordingly he gave instructions to the congregations in Galatia, and later repeated them to the saints in Corinth, advising them as to the best manner of handling the situation.
If this was an "item of worship" why did the apostle not bind it upon these congregations when he planted them? Why did he let them go for several years without saying a word about "systematic giving," and then only mention it when a special occasion arose? Do you realize that there is not even a hint that the congregation at Corinth ever "passed the hat" from the time they began meeting until they received the apostolic letter? Do you realize that everything they collected was turned over to Paul and his co-laborers to be taken directly to Jerusalem? Do you know there is not even a suggestion that they ever collected another penny after this time?
A lot of my brethren are great advocates of "the authority of silence." If God specifies a thing there must be no deviation, no addition, no substitution. Now, nothing is clearer than the fact that 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 specifies that the collection laid by in store upon the first day of the week was for the poor saints, and was to be taken to Jerusalem. On what ground can men justify taking part of the money which they affirm is collected under this specification, and use it to purchase elaborate meeting houses, parsonages, automobiles, and just about any other thing they want. Don't write and give me "the line" that is used to explain it. I already know the whole casuistic bit! But brethren who can parlay "poor saints" to include a million dollar building, landscaping, and a minister's salary, ought to have no trouble getting one "little instrument" into singing. The fact is that the argument on silence can always be bent to include what we want to get into it, and then snapped back to flip out what we do not want. There is nothing in all of our history which has been quite so downright deceitful as the so-called "law of silence." The "law of exclusion" always exempts what we have or want.
The truth is that there never was a command of God to place money in a "church treasury." The word "order" is from diatasso, to appoint, arrange, enjoin, charge, etc. As Albert Barnes puts it so succinctly, "It does not mean that he had assumed the authority to tax them, or that he had commanded them to make a collection, But that he had left directions as to the best manner and time in which it should be done. The collection was voluntary and cheerful in all the churches."
Writing about the very same matter, Paul says plainly, '1 speak not by commandment (2 Corinthians 8:8). In spite of this, I was taught all of my life that we are commanded to lay by in store every Sunday. Actually, the collection of which Paul wrote was a spontaneous desire of the givers. He simply wrote to tell them the best way to take care of the matter. "For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem (Roman 15:26). If this was a certain contribution" which the brethren determined to send, on what grounds do men reason that it was a perpetual and continuous practice to take up a contribution?
Paul said that the brethren in Macedonia actually prayed him with much entreaty to receive the gift, and take upon him the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. There probably never was a contribution taken except to meet a need, and the people who contributed knew in advance what the need was and gave to meet it. All of this talk about "giving of your means" every Sunday as a legalistic requirement of heaven and to build up a bank account for the institution is just so much froth dreamed up by the religious Establishment for the perpetuation of its own image! Don't get fighting mad at that until you think awhile.
It has always been assumed that Paul was instructing the brethren to bring money to a public gathering each Lord's Day and hand it in to be placed in "the church treasury." This is not as certain as many preachers would like to make it sound. The book says for each one to "lay by him" in store. The Greek for "by him" is par eauto, and indicates that the laying by is to be done at home. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, plainly says, "by him, that is, at his home." Green's Lexicon just as plainly puts it, "with one's self, at his home." The term is closely associated to the original in John 20:10, "Then the disciples went away again unto their own home."
Faced with the overwhelming evidence of the original term, the commentators have generally sought to be honest in explaining the passages in the light of the apparent meaning. This is so in spite of the traditions of the religious world, and in spite of the questions that are sometimes raised. I propose to give you the result of a little of my own research, although time and space will not permit of my going into the matter thoroughly.
Albert Barnes writes: "Let him lay up at home, treasuring up as he has been prospered. The Greek phrase, "by himself" means, probably, the same as at home. Let him set it apart; let him designate a certain portion; let him do this by himself, when he is at home, when he can calmly look at the evidence of his prosperity." Those who are interested in pursuing this investigation should by all means read further in "Barnes Notes on the New Testament," and note his attempt at modification.
In Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Corinthians, the author translates thus: "Kata mion sabbaton, on each first day of the week. Par eauto, at home. Par eauto titheto, cannot refer to the laying down of money in the assembly. Let him lay up in store at home whatever he succeeds in."
G.G. Findlay, B.A., in The Expositor's Greek New Testa-merit, says: "Verse two refers to the rule previously laid down for Galatia, On every first day of the week let each of you by himself (at home) lay up, making a store (of it) whatever he may be prospered in."
F.W. Grosheide, Th.D., in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, writes: "Upon the first day, i.e., on every Sunday. The reference is not to the church services but to a personal assignment which everyone had to perform. But the fact that Paul speaks of the first day of the week and calls that the day for the collection implies that Sunday was destined for the special service of the Lord. Paul trusts the Corinthians; he does not ask them to hand in their collection on a weekly basis, they are allowed to keep the collected money and thus little by little a sufficient amount will be saved up."
Dr. Herman Olshausen, in his Biblical Commentary, says: "Certainly it may not be inferred from this passage that collections took place among the congregations on the Sabbath, for it was Paul's intention, that each should make a suitable contribution at home.
R.C.H. Lenski has a rather lengthy discussion of the passage in his Bible Commentary, as follows: "The term Iogia, 'collection,' is used only here in the New Testament, but it was discovered in the ostraca and the inscriptions found in Egypt and elsewhere and is there used in the sense of religious collections for the altar of a pagan god, etc. Each member is to deposit with himself each Sunday the amount of his gift for that week and preserve it as a store or treasure, thesaurizo. The participle completes the idea of the main verb: 'let him lay by treasuring up.' ... Each member is to keep the growing amount by him, par eauto, in his own home, and is not to deposit it with the church at once. The probable reason for this advice is the fact that at this early date the churches supervised by Paul were not yet organized to the extent of having official treasurers who were duly appointed to take charge of congregational funds ... Paul's purpose in ordering contributions from Sunday to Sunday is that, when he finally arrives in Corinth, the work may be entirely done. The plural Iogiai, 'collections,' refers to the accumulations made by the individuals; each would have his Iogia. The present tense ginontai accords with this: the collections are not to proceed after Paul arrives. Then it will be necessary that each individual simply bring in his accumulation."
Marvin R. Vincent, D.D., in his Word Studies in the New Testament, says: "Lay by him in store. Literally, put by himself, treasuring. Put by at home."
Arthur S. Way, in The Letters of Saint Paul, writes, "On the first day of the week, let each of you set apart a certain portion of his profits, forming a little hoard, so that the raising of the contributions may not be postponed till my actual arrival."
F. Godet, in his Commentary on First Corinthians, has this: "The words by him, denote an act done by each in his own house, and not, as some have thought, a gift bestowed in the church and known to the giver only."
W.E. Vine in his Commentary on First Corinthians, write thus: "The storing was to be private, wherever the believer lived. The amount was to be allocated by each giver according to his gains the preceding week, lit., 'whatsoever he may be prospered' (i.e., by God). No actual proportion was laid down; a tithe would be little for some, too much for others. Each would see week by week what income he had received through his calling, and store accordingly, so as to avoid immediate decisions or claiming debts or selling goods, in order to make collections when the Apostle came."
Marcus Dods, D.D., in The First Epistle to the Corinthians, says: "It is expressly said that each was to lay 'by him,' that is, not m a public fund, but at home in his own purse, what he wished to give.
The Pulpit Commentary says: "The Greek phrase implies that the laying up was to be done at home, but when the money was accumulated, it was doubtless brought to the assembly and handed over to the presbyters.''
Scott s Bible Commentary says: Some are of opinion, that the sums, thus set apart, were brought to the treasury of the church at the time; but the words do not seem to admit of this interpretation; and if each separately laid by the sum which he proposed to give, the whole would be brought together at once, when necessary, without any trouble in soliciting contributions."
John Peter Lange, D.D., in his Commentary on the Bible, writes: "Par eauto, at home. The phrase is therefore conclusive against the prevailing opinion that the collection was taken up in the church. It was an individual and private affair (this is confirmed by the exhortation in allusion to the same subject, in 2 Cor. 9:7, Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver. -- Stanley)."
The Comprehensive Bible Commentary, says: "Some of the Greek fathers rightly
observe here, that this advice was given for the poorer among them. They
were to lay by, from week to week, and not bring into the common treasury, that
by this means, their contributions might be easy to themselves, and yet grow
into a fund for the relief of their brethren."
The Critical Commentary, edited by F.C. Cook, M.A., Canon of Exeter, has this: "Rather storing up whatever he may prosper in, that when I come no gatherings may take place, for then will by the time not for collecting, but for producing the sum of what has been week by week hoarded at home in profits from trade."
D.D. Whedon, D.D., in Commentary on the New Testament, writes: "Lay by him in store, so keeping a little savings bank at home, and bringing the whole to the church when Paul arrives."
Despite the fact that Rome has been accused of seek-lng to get all the gain possible into her coffers, the commentators in A Catholic Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, kept faith with the original as they wrote: "First day', i.e., Sunday. 'With himself,' by him, in his own keeping. It was not then to be handed in at Mass, apparently."
One outstanding commentator, while admitting that most others make the treasuring up a private affair at home, files his objection to such an arrangement. Charles Hodge, D.D., in his Commentary on First Corinthians, says: "Every one was to lay by himself, i.e., most modern commentators say at home, par eauto. Compare pros eauto in Luke 24:12; see also John 20:10. The direction then is that every one would lay aside at home whatever he was able to give, thus treasuring up his contributions. To this interpretation it may be objected that the whole expression is thus obscure and awkward. 'Let every one at home place, treasuring up what he has to give.' The words do not mean to lay by himself, i.e., let him take to himself what he means to give. What he was to do with it, or where he was to deposit it, it is not expressed. The word the-saurizo means putting into the treasury or hoarding up, and is perfectly consistent with the assumption that the place of deposit was some common treasury and not every man's house. If Paul directed this money to be laid up at home, why was the first day of the week selected? It is evident that the first day must have offered some special facility for doing what is here enjoined. The only reason that can be assigned for requiring the thing to be done on the first day of the week, is, that on that day the Christians were accustomed to meet, and what each one laid aside from his daily gains could be treasured up, i.e., put into the common treasury of the church."
I am sure that Charles Hodge will become the hero of my brethren, who generally feel that the best commentator is the one who agrees with them. We like to have our practices condoned rather than condemned, and no one is more popular than the man who tells us that what we are doing is the scriptural thing. However, I should like to speak a word of warning for those who are prepared to adopt Mr. Hodge as a "patron saint" of giving, for John Peter Lange, replied to the above, in these words:
"This is well argued in behalf if the solemn observance of the Lord's Day; but we can no more change the meaning of par eauto than we can parallel phrases in other languages. They are idiomatic expressions for 'at home' and honestly require that we should so interpret. This is the rendering which even the ancient Syria version gives it."
In one of the previous quotations, reference was made to the Greek fathers, and their interpretation of the passage. We should like to share with you the words of John Chrysostom (about 375 A.D.) in his Forty-third Homily on First Corinthians. His words are: "He said not, 'let him bring it into the church, lest they might feel ashamed because of the smallness of the sum; but having by gradual additions swelled his contribution, let him then produce it when I am come, but for the present lay it up, saith he, at home and make thine house a church, thy little box a treasury. Become a guardian of sacred wealth, a self-ordained steward of the poor. Thy benevolent mind assigns thee to this priesthood."
Have you read other versions of the passage in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4? Since it is helpful and enlightening to pursue this form of investigation, we submit herewith the verses as translated in some of them. We hope they will be helpful to you in your honest research to determine the meaning of the passage.
Concordant Literal New Testament: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, even as I prescribe to the ecclesias of Galatia, thus do you also. On one of the sabbaths let each of you lay aside by himself in store that in which he should be prospered, that no collections may be occurring then, whenever I may come."
The New Testament in Plain English (Charles Kingsley Williams): "On the first day of the week let each of you put aside and save something from his earnings; so that the money has not all to be collected when I come."
The New English Bible New Testament: "Every Sunday each of you is to put aside and keep by him a sum in proportion to his gains, so that there may be no collecting when I come."
The Authentic New Testament: "The day after the sabbath let each of you put by savings as he has prospered, so that collections do not have to be made when I come."
The Modern New Testament (George M. Lamsa): "Upon the first day of every week, let each of you put aside and keep in his house whatever he can afford, so that there may be no collections when I come."
The Modern Speech New Testament (Richard Francis Weymouth): "On the first day of every week let each of you put on one side and store up at his home whatever gain has been granted to him; so that whatever I come, there may then be no collections going on."
The Twentieth Century New Testament: "On the first day of every week each of you should put by what he can afford, so that no collections need be made after I have come."
The New Testament in Modern English (Centenary Edition): "On the first day of each week let each of you put aside something, keeping it in store as he may prosper, so that when I come there may be no collections going on."
The Revised Standard Version: "On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come."
Whether we like it or not, there is not one indication anywhere in the sacred scriptures, that any congregation of saints ever took up a public contribution every Sunday. Obviously the congregations in Galatia and Corinth did not take up an offering when Paul planted them, or for several years afterwards, and then the language used indicates that individuals simply laid up a sum privately each week and kept it until the apostle came, when they turned the whole amount they had saved over to him to take to the relief of the poor saints for whom they had been laying by their weekly sums.
In spite of this I was taught as a child, and even taught it myself as I grew older, that all of our giving had to be done "through the church." We were even led to believe that if there was a needy person in the community we should give our contributions for relief into the treasury and let it be dispensed from it "so the church could get the glory." Sometimes, after we put it in, the brethren would not pay it out. The church wanted the money more than it wanted the glory. We were told that it was a sin to take up a contribution on any other day of the week than Sunday, and we advertised this fact in the newspapers to prove our loyalty. Of course, we could bring clothes for orphans on Wednesday night, but not money. How silly can you get?
Stress was placed upon the term "every one" and we believed that, since this was an "act of worship," every individual had to personally put something in the plate with his own hands. Thus, a husband would provide his wife a token amount to put in so she could "worship." Even little boys and girls were given a penny or nickel so they could early learn the importance of "giving to the church." This was one "item of worship" that even the vilest sinner could participate in, for I never knew anyone to receive his money back on the basis that he could not "participate in the worship." Money makes a lot of difference, as the world leaned when the pope sold indulgences. But I now realize that our whole scheme was dreamed up by visionaries, and represents only an illusion based upon an institutional image. But I can never get out of my mind the case of an elderly widow who told the elders when they visited her, that the reason she had not been in attendance, was that she didn't have "anything to put in" and knew that her "worship" would not be acceptable if she left out an item. So she stayed home rather than be embarrassed by her lack of finance.
I plead that you do not misunderstand what I am saying. It is no sin for brethren to pool their resources to carry on any work which they regard as acceptable. They may take up a regular contribution on Sunday, or any other day, and they may select one of their number to act as treasurer, and to give an account of receipts and expenditures. Indeed, I am of the opinion that such a method, while not the only one which might be employed, may be the best in our present state of affairs.
What I am saying is that it is an outgrowth of human rationalization, and has no more direct scriptural warrant than a lot of other things that we do. To declare that this was a heavenly program, properly prepared on high and presented to us in the sacred scriptures as the divine law for giving money is just not true. And to threaten men and women with hell because they prefer to put their funds where human needs are evident, rather than in the institutional bank account, is as bad as popery in its blackest moments.
A realization of this will free some of my sisters in the Lord from the role of second-class citizens in the majestic kingdom of the Father. I know school-teachers, secretaries, clerks and saleswomen who give money into the church treasury and are not even allowed to attend a business meeting where the expenditure of their funds is discussed. If that is not taxation without representation, I do not know how you could have it. My advice is to these faithful sisters is to spend their money in helping the needy and where they can see how it is used. They can give their share of the funds needed to pay the light bill, heating costs, and upkeep of the building, but otherwise let them dispense their alms without allowing someone else to determine how their money will be spend, while they are gagged and muzzled by tradition. This is plain talk, but it is long overdue. Why should any member of the body in good standing be refused admittance to a business meeting of "the church."
Let us be honest with God and one another. We have banded ourselves together though mutual love for our Redeemer to do a work. It requires finance to accomplish that work. It is only fair that all of us should share in communal ventures to the extent of ability, and under our present wage system, Sunday is as good a day as any for replenishing the community funds. It is more convenient because we meet on this resurrection day to share in the fellowship of the body and blood at the family table.
What I am saying is that we should quit saying that "passing the plate" for money every Sunday is the divine pattern. We should stop the silly and mane statement that this is "a prescribed item of worship." What we are doing is reading into the scriptures what we are already practicing, and while the thing we are doing is not wrong, it is certainly wrong to misuse and misapply the scriptures. We ought not to wrest the scriptures to sustain even what is right.
The real tragedy comes when brethren in the Lord start with an unsubstantial and fictitious theory, as a basis for erecting a structured concept, over which !hey split and fragment the saints. This has happened in recent yeas when men have postulated a myth concerning "the church treasury," which they have enforced with laws and statutes that are mere figments of fertile imaginations.
Right now the congregations of Christians in the United States are riven from stem to stern over how to take care of the poor and distressed. Debates as to what can and cannot be done "out of the church treasury" have fomented hate and hostility. It is possible that the whole thing is based upon sheer conjecture. There is reason for grave suspicion that the primitive community of saints ever had a financial drive, a budget, bank account, or treasury. When you are an underground movement meeting tn caves and catacombs it is a little risky to. sneak in every Monday morning with your deposit slip filled out.
I question whether God ever intended to lay down a hard and fast rule to regulate our method of caring for the poor. Certainly there are several different ways sanctioned and practiced by our Lord and his apostles, and no one seemed to get hurt over any of them, except Ananias and Sapphira. It would do well if preachers who elect themselves, as brotherhood regulators would haul down their signs, and allow congregations of saints to handle their own affairs. The projection of a mythical pattern promulgated as God's precise program for all ages can only create unnecessary strife, and the exportation of our foibles to foreign lands will only serve to confuse humble natives. Let God be God! W.Ketcherside, Missouri Messenger, July 1970