Why No Collections?
WHY no collections? That is a question that is frequently asked by persons visiting a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses for the first time. Typical is the incident that took place in a town in Nigeria, West Africa, within the past year. At the end of a meeting a young man, accustomed to the taking up of collections at church services, brought forward a sixpence on a plate and offered it to the presiding minister. Upon its being refused, he exclaimed: “Never before have I seen such a thing in any church—pastor refusing collection!”
This was indeed unusual. It certainly was in striking contrast to the stress placed on money matters by churches in general, even as noted in the article “The Money Raisers,” appearing in Time magazine, September 4, 1964. It began by saying: “Where once they had only to pass a plate among Sunday attenders, churches nowadays raise money in ways that range from bingo to bonds. Fund raising brings up questions of taste, discretion, prudence and donor psychology that stir heated debates across the land.” Of course, all these varying means of raising money are used in addition to the taking of collections. Collections no longer suffice to defray all the expenses.
But had you noticed that the question of Bible principles appears not to have been raised, according to the report in Time? That really should be the crux of the matter for all who profess to be Christians and it explains why the young Nigerian received such a surprise. Even as in other matters, Jehovah’s witnesses are governed by Bible principles in their giving and receiving.
One reason why they do not pass a plate or basket to take up collections is that there is no Scriptural precedent for such a practice. In ancient Israel when funds were needed for special occasions, as for the building of the tabernacle and later the temple, a simple announcement was made and the people responded so generously that at times they even gave “more than enough.” True, the Levites, who had charge of the organized worship of Jehovah God for the nation received the tithe, but this was merely because they did not receive any inheritance in the land.—Ex. 35:5; 36:4-7; 1 Chron. 29:9.
Coming down to the time of Christ and his apostles, at no time do we read that they took up a collection. On the contrary, Christ instructed the apostles he sent forth: “You received free, give free.” This is seen to be all the more remarkable when we note that Jesus sent them forth with the power to “cure sick people, raise up dead persons, make lepers clean, expel demons.” How easily they could have taken up collections after performing such miracles! But they did not. Nor do we read of any tithing being practiced among the early Christians. There were sufficient voluntary contributions.—Matt. 10:8; Luke 8:3.
Certainly all this is a far cry from the method described in the Scottish Daily Express, November 30, 1960. It told of a church with some 1,400 members having “sacked” 235 members for failing to make contributions and sending warnings to 239 others that they too would be taken off the church rolls unless they increased their contributions in the future.
WHY NOT NEEDED
To pressure members of a congregation in a gentle way to contribute by resorting to devices without Scriptural precedent or support, such as passing a collection plate in front of them or operating bingo games, holding church suppers, bazaars and rummage sales or soliciting pledges, is to admit a weakness. There is something wrong. There is a lack. A lack of what? A lack of appreciation. No such coaxing or pressuring devices are needed where there is genuine appreciation. Could this lack of appreciation be related to the kind of spiritual food offered to the people in these churches?
The fact is that when persons are fed the right kind of spiritual food, that based squarely on the Word of God, the Bible, they learn to appreciate what Jehovah God has done for them and so they respond by volunteering both their services and money contributions. As they learn of God’s goodness they are moved to imitate him, even as Jesus taught: “Prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous. You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—Matt. 5:45, 48.
More than that, as men of honest heart are helped to set their personal lives straight, as they experience the joys of associating with other sincere men and women desirous of serving God, and as they have their faith in God and in his Word increased and their hope strengthened in God’s kingdom and its coming new order of righteousness, they feel compelled to express their appreciation in a material way, even as the early Christians did right after Pentecost.—Acts 4:32-35.
Not to be overlooked is also the example set by those taking the lead in Christian worship. Doubtless the fine examples of Moses, David, Jesus Christ and his apostles had a good effect upon those over whom they were set or to whom they ministered. In the early Christian congregation there was no salaried clergy, in fact, no clergy-laity distinction; all preached as they had opportunity and to the extent of their abilities. Far from being served and paid, those who took the lead bore the greatest burdens, even as Jesus showed it should be: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister [diákonos, “servant”], and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” When due to immaturity the Corinthian Christians did not appreciate their privilege of contributing voluntarily to defray Paul’s expenses, he did not take up a collection but provided for himself by making tents!—Matt. 20:25-27; Acts 18:3; 1 Cor. 4:11, 12; 9:11, 12.
BIBLE PRINCIPLES GOVERNING GIVING
Also helping to make collections unnecessary is an understanding of Bible principles governing giving. One of these is that, to be pleasing to God, giving must be done unselfishly. Jesus condemned those who advertised their charities and counseled: “When making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.” Paul made the same point, that unless giving is prompted by love one is “not profited at all.” Only unselfish giving counts with God, for it is not primarily concerned with self but with others and asks not, How much must I give, but, How much can I give?—Matt. 6:2-4; 1 Cor. 13:3.
Another Bible principle that governs giving is that God judges the gift, not by its size, but by its relation to what one has. Yes, a gift is “acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.” How just! How reasonable! How considerate! Jesus illustrated this principle when calling attention to the widow who put two coins of very little value into the temple treasury chest. He said that she had given more than any of the rest, for they gave out of their surplus but she “out of her want dropped in all the means of living she had.” This principle is of great encouragement to all who can give but little, since in God’s eyes it is much, and at the same time it encourages generous giving on the part of those who have much, so as to bear some resemblance to what they have!—2 Cor. 8:12; Luke 21:1-4.
Still another Bible principle pertinent here is that “God loves a cheerful giver”; a principle, it might be added, that is not at all limited to the giving of money but applies to all kinds of giving, including the giving of forgiveness to those who sin against us: “He that shows mercy, let him do it with cheerfulness.” Cheerful giving makes for generous giving!—2 Cor. 9:7; Rom. 12:8.
Because the Christian witnesses of Jehovah let Scriptural principles govern their giving, their legal instrument, the Watch Tower Society, is able to finance a worldwide preaching and missionary work, the cost of which runs into the millions of dollars annually. Those who are interested in having the good news of God’s kingdom preached worldwide in fulfillment of Matthew 24:14, not only contribute locally at their Kingdom Hall, where a contribution box is provided for the purpose, but also, as they have the means, they make contributions to the head offices of the Society in their country. That this Society may efficiently plan its work, it encourages all who intend to make regular contributions to write in once a year during May, advising how much they hope to be able to contribute during the coming year. This is in no sense of the word a pledge but merely a “contribution prospect,” since no one is ever reminded of the amount he stated or checked on to see if he contributes. Just send a letter or card simply stating you hope to be able to contribute during the coming year. Those living in the mainland of the United States may send such contribution prospects to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201.
This is not a request for contributions nor does it obligate those willing to give. In addition to enabling the Society to plan its work efficiently, it reminds those who wish to support it to give some thought to just how much they feel that they can give and then endeavor to follow through in keeping with the apostolic injunction: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion,” but as one’s love of God and neighbor prompts one and as one’s circumstances permit. And this practical plan has good Scriptural backing, for early Christians were advised: “Every first day of the week let each of you at his own house set something aside in store as he may be prospering, so that when I arrive collections will not take place then.” The apostle Paul, too, was not in favor of taking collections!—2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Cor. 16:2.