We have repeated examples in the Bible of how God’s people raised money for various needs. We learn many things from these examples, but one of the most striking is how unlike this fundraising is from the kind of fundraising we are accustomed to. Some of the principles appear in more than one passage, and this brief treatment below is by no means exhaustive.
“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Dt. 8:18).
An early example is building the tabernacle. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering” (Ex. 25:1-9). God led them in what was to be done—the tabernacle was to be built according to the pattern, and with the materials specified. Fundraising in God’s name is not to be conducted to build out man’s ideas. Is the Lord leading? And we see here that gifts were only to be received from those eager to give. The offering was gathered from those who are willing to give in their own hearts.
The construction of the Temple was another obvious example.
“Furthermore King David said to all the assembly: ‘My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced; and the work is great, because the temple is not for man but for the Lord God’” (1 Chron. 29:1-20).
David set the leadership example by giving himself (vv. 2-5). The leaders of Israel followed (v. 6), representing the people, who in their turn rejoiced. There was joy in the giving, not guilt.
“Then the people rejoiced” (v. 9). We all know that God loves a cheerful giver, but we frequently stand this principle on its head. When people are being squeezed for money, they sometimes start to grumble. The principle is then applied to them—you really ought to be more cheerful. “God loves . . . etc.” But the attitude is affected by the process.
There was theological humility in this. David acknowledged the Lord (w. 10-13). Our gifts to Him are already His (v. 14-16). And a construction project is a time of testing. God tests us as we collect money for the work of the kingdom (w. 17-20). But beware of misunderstanding the nature of the test. The issue is not whether you get the red paint up to the top of the thermometer. The issue is whether you understood the character of God, and worshipped Him with what He had given you.
A third example was the restoration of the Temple.
“Then at the king’s command they made a chest, and set it outside at the gate of the house of the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:8-11).
No coercive techniques were needed. The opportunity to give was created, and the way of doing so was made clear. The money was not collected at the point of a gun. There is an imperative for giving in the law; the requirement does come from Scripture (v. 9), but is not the kind of mandate that men come up with. The teaching of Scripture should be set before the people of God without playing the manipulative violins.
A fourth example was the care that was needed for the Pentecostal homeless (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35). “Now all who believed were together. . .” This was not communism, but rather love. The believers were of one heart and soul (4:32). This affected the checkbook directly, and their life in community together.
Yet another New Testament example was famine relief.
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also …” (1 Cor. 6:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:1-15). We see here that love goes further than just next door. The gift here was going from Greece all the way to Palestine—from brothers, clamoring to give. The issue is love (v. 8) and joy (v. 2). Their priorities were godly (v. 5).
And last, consider how Paul’s ministry was funded. “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity” (Phil. 4:14-20). There is no embarrassment in it. Paul assumes the rightness of the giving. It is an appropriate thing (v. 10). At the same time, there is appropriate gratitude. The Philippians had done well in giving (v. 14). And beneath it all was a foundational contentment. This is related to all the passages we have looked at. Paul was content with what God supplied to him (v. 13). And so should we be content—and turn away from any fundraising which proceeds from discontent and not joy.
“This was not communism…”
An excellent point that, hopefully, is not lost due to the mistaken belief that it crumbled with a wall in Berlin.
Yeah, those who point to Acts as an example of communism forget that these are the people told their city would be destroyed in their lifetimes and they’d need to be prepared to flee.
Acts 11:29 and Acts 4:35 sound a lot like “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”, but the giving is entirely voluntary.
It’s the difference between “receiving” and “taking”. It is exceedingly dangerous to give any authority whatsoever to anyone who cannot draw a sharp distinction between those two actions.
On another note: since the building programs of today are far more distributed than the tabernacle or temple, and inter-congregation aid seemed to be a normal new testament practice, should we seek to add to the 2 Chron. 24:8-11 chests of other congregations?