How Religious Expenses Are Met
“ALL religions are pretty much the same.” Have you heard people say that? True, most religions share many things in common. But not all religions do. To appreciate just how great the difference can be, consider the matter of how religious expenses are met.
Today, although Christendom’s churches have a wide variety of ways to finance their activities, there is, nevertheless, a basic similarity. Among the most common methods is that of passing the collection plate or basket—sometimes more than once during the services. Some churches send out letters with self-addressed return envelopes, asking for donations. Others get financial support from paid advertising in their church bulletins and papers. Many organizations send out religious trinkets and ask the receiver to contribute for these unsolicited “gifts.” Still other churches resort to dinners and card parties to raise money. An advertisement appearing in religious magazines states: “A Proven Money Maker for Churches and Clubs. Make $82 with Happy Home Dish Cloths.”
A very common method is the use of personal envelopes for Sunday contributions, as, for example, those of the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York. Its members get a set of fifty-two envelopes at the beginning of the year, each set having an identifying number. When the collection basket is passed, members drop in their envelopes. These envelopes being numbered, the church officials are able to tell just how regularly and how much each member contributes in the course of a year.
Certain clergymen in the New York area are very businesslike about the matter. They send out monthly statements to their parishioners reminding them of the amount they owe their church. And one Congregational preacher in Vermont was reported in the press as having installed a credit-card machine inside the front door for those who would prefer to contribute by this means. Ever so many churches either require or encourage their members to tithe, that is, to give to their church a tenth of their income.
There are also the professional fund raisers for special purposes, such as the renovating or the building of church structures. As the book The Church as Employer, Money Raiser and Investor says, “The work of helping churches raise money has become a specialized job.” Among the foremost of the fund-raising agencies is Ketchum, Inc. It and others like it belong to the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel.
A very popular method used to collect money for a church is the use of bingo and like games of chance. Among the latest of these are what are called “Las Vegas Nights.” Under the heading: “Bingo’s Sun Is Setting in Glow of Vegas Nites,” the New York Daily News, of March 2, 1971, told how these Las Vegas Nights are replacing bingo as a source of church revenue. The report said: “Last Saturday night more than 500 persons showed up at the Holliswood Jewish Center in Holliswood, Queens, to try their luck at cards, dice, luck bucks and a wheel spinning creakily on the wall. Our Lady of Lourdes in Queens Village, Queens, is presenting a Las Vegas Night replete with poker, black jack, big six, over and under and you name it. Admission is $1 and the refreshments are gratis.” One Catholic church reported an income of $26,000 from just one Las Vegas Night staged recently.
From your own experience, have you not found various ones of these methods to be used by Protestant, Catholic and Jewish religions to meet their expenses? Note, too, that they all have a basic similarity. Rather than encourage spontaneous giving, they employ pressure, subtle or otherwise, and even appeal to selfishness, as through gambling.
What about the Christian witnesses of Jehovah? Which of these methods do they use? Actually, they use none of them, not even the very common passing of a collection plate. How, then, do they gain the needed funds to pay for the expenses incurred in carrying on their religious activities on a local, national and international scale?
The emphasis in all giving among the Witnesses is that it must be voluntary and spontaneous, from the heart. In fact, ever since the earliest days of the modern witnesses of Jehovah it has been their policy that never should there be any passing of collection plates or similar solicitations for money. It was their conviction that this is Jehovah’s work and that he would open the hearts of his people to make the necessary contributions so that necessary funds would always be available for the expansion of the preaching of the Gospel.
At all of their meeting places there is a contribution box. Those who want to contribute to the support of the worship by the Witnesses may go to that box and give to the extent that they are able. There are no envelopes, no identification. So that those contributing might know the total amount contributed and what was done with the contributions received, once each month a statement is read to the congregation, giving those details. Additionally, many feel moved to send donations to the national and international headquarters for use in furthering the missionary work in other parts of the world. This, too, is voluntary.
Which of these methods do you think most closely resembles those used by Jesus and his apostles, who instituted Christianity? Have you ever read in the Bible of Jesus or any of his disciples asking for the tithe, or passing a collection basket or plate or operating games of chance? No, when Jesus sent forth his twelve apostles he specifically commanded them: “You received free, give free.” (Matt. 10:8) But did not Jesus and his band of apostles have expenses that needed to be met? Indeed they did, and so we read that they had a “money box” for their funds. (John 12:6) Where did this money come from? Doubtless from voluntary contributions. Indicating the source of some of this, Luke’s account says that traveling from city to city with Jesus and his apostles were a number of women “who were ministering to them from their belongings.” (Luke 8:3) The apostle Paul later set a fine example as a true minister of Christ Jesus in that he worked with his own hands “so as not to put an expensive burden upon any one of you.” Likewise among Jehovah’s witnesses today there is no paid clergy class burdening the congregations.—1 Thess. 2:9; Acts 20:34.
Newcomers at the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s witnesses are struck with this difference between the way their churches finance their worship and the way Jehovah’s witnesses do. As one woman once put it: “In my church I felt like a dollar sign; we have been very large contributors. But here at the Kingdom Hall I was not made to feel that way at all.” The principle governing such matters among Jehovah’s witnesses is expressed by the apostle Paul at 2 Corinthians 8:12: “For if the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.”
Does the place of worship that you attend adhere to these Bible standards regarding religious expenses? If it does not, do you believe that God is pleased with your associating with an organization that disregards the standards of his Word?