Contributions That Make the Heart Happy
IN THE box below are two typical fund-raising letters sent out by religions in Christendom. Do you find them heartwarming? Hardly! Yet, funds are necessary in many ways today to assist in promoting the worship that God approves. So how does a Christian organization get the needed funds in order to do God’s will?
An answer can be found by examining the customs of the first-century Christian congregation and the words of its Founder, Jesus Christ. “Practice giving, and people will give to you,” Jesus advises at Luke 6:38. “They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.” How apt that illustration sounded to the ears of Jesus’ audience then. Their Oriental garments had a built-in pocket for carrying or keeping things. The word “laps,” or literally “bosom” (Greek, kolʹpos), refers to the hollow formed by the fold of a loose robe just above the belt, and into this pocket vendors would pour the measured goods bought.
How many merchants would first press down and then shake the goods to get as much as possible into the hollow of a customer’s garment, even to the point of overflow? Very few, if any! Christians, though, by freely contributing acts of compassion to those in need would be repaid liberally in mercy. The measure of our own treatment of others, whether generous or stingy, is used to measure what we will reap in return, not just from men but, more importantly, from Jehovah God.—Compare 2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7.
Jesus, by freely contributing of himself and his resources, experienced the outworking of this principle. He was the personification of generosity. Zealously and unselfishly he preached the good news of God’s Kingdom to the poor. He neither charged for his services nor expected a certain salary to be paid him. Yet he never wanted for anything. People generously, voluntarily, supported him in his ministry.—Luke 7:22; 8:1-3.
Jesus’ giving inspired others—Simon Peter, James, John, and the rest of the 12—to show like generosity in leaving all things to share in the ministry. (Luke 5:10, 11; 9:1-6) That type of contribution yields the same results today. Jehovah’s Witnesses give of their time, energy, and means to let others hear the good news of God’s Kingdom. In turn, as they manifest generosity by preaching, still others are stimulated to express generosity by sharing with them in spreading the good news.—Proverbs 11:25.
There is, however, something in addition to our contribution by preaching that warms the heart. Contributing funds with the right motive and for the right reasons is part of true worship too. (2 Corinthians 9:9-14) How was this done by first-century Christians?
How the Early Christians Did It
On the first day of the birth of the Christian congregation in the year 33 C.E., a ‘sharing with one another, taking of meals, and prayers’ were practiced by the 3,000 newly baptized converts. For what good reason? To make it possible for them to bolster their fledgling faith by ‘continuing to devote themselves to the teaching of the apostles.’—Acts 2:41, 42.
Jews and proselytes had come to Jerusalem planning to stay only for the period of the Pentecost Festival. But those that became Christians desired to remain longer and learn more to strengthen their new faith. This created an emergency food and housing problem. Some of the visitors did not have sufficient funds with them, while others had a surplus. So there was a temporary pooling and a distribution of material things to those in need.—Acts 2:43-47.
How was their feeding and housing managed? The apostles, acting as a governing body, orchestrated the collecting and distributing of contributed goods. Thus, the first pictures of the Christian congregation show members not regarding their material things as their own but as something to be used for the benefit of the whole congregation. (Acts 2:44; 4:32) In addition, “all those who were possessors of fields or houses would sell them and bring the values of the things sold and they would deposit them at the feet of the apostles. In turn distribution would be made to each one, just as he would have the need.”—Acts 4:34, 35.
The sale of real estate and the common sharing of all things was strictly voluntary. No one was obligated to sell or donate; neither was this a promotion of poverty. The idea expressed is not that the richer members sold all their property and thus became poor. Rather, out of compassion for fellow believers under the circumstances at that time, they sold property and contributed all the proceeds in order to provide what was needed to advance Kingdom interests.—Compare 2 Corinthians 8:12-15.
Likewise today, individuals have deeded property to the Watch Tower Society or named this organization in their wills, thereby placing at the disposal of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses funds to be used where the Kingdom need is the greatest. All such giving assists in spreading spiritual enlightenment as at Pentecost. None of it is ever mandatory.
Regularity Is the Key
Some 20 years after Pentecost of 33 C.E., the apostle Paul reminds the Corinth congregation about the need for a certain contribution. “Now concerning the collection that is for the holy ones, just as I gave orders to the congregations of Galatia, do that way also yourselves,” he writes. Then he adds a piece of advice: “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. But when I get there, whatever men you approve of by letters, these I shall send to carry your kind gift to Jerusalem.” The resolving of how much to give appears to have included the whole family, whether rich or poor, because it was to take place at their “own house.”—1 Corinthians 16:1-3.
Paul’s suggestion on the manner of contributing can be applied by congregation members today. How? Regularity is the key. If your congregation is to pay the monthly rent and maintenance expenses of your meeting place or Kingdom Hall, it will take “contributing, not so much the amount, but the regularity of setting something aside each week or month for Kingdom interests,” writes the branch office in Peru. Does this idea appeal to you? Even children can be taught to appreciate how regularity in contributing is part of their worship.
Therefore, when contributions are made with the right motive and for the right reason, they warm the heart of both God and man. States 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
[Box on page 28]
Methods Used by Christendom
“The Lord spoke to me to write you this letter . . . I wouldn’t write you a letter like this for anything in the world if God hadn’t spoken to me to write you this letter and tell you that if you would rush $20.00 to help me now he would bless you like you have never been blessed before.”—Form letter from a Canadian clergyman signed, “Your minister and Partner.”
“Open this Holy Anointing Oil, (don’t waste a drop). Jesus is in this oil of faith. Make a cross on your forehead with it, then by faith go into a room by yourself and take out any money you have and make a cross on each bill for God to heal your money problems, and to multiply your money like in Luke 6:38 . . . When you anoint the money you have with this holy anointing oil, anoint every bill you have. Make a cross on each bill, then, the largest bill you have, if it’s a $20.00, $10.00 or $5.00, make a cross of anointing oil on it and mail it to God’s work.”—Form letter from a “reverend” in the United States signed, “A Prophet of God for 30 years.”
[Box on page 30]
How Some Contribute to the Kingdom Work
◆ GIFTS: Donations of money may be sent directly to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or to the Society’s local branch office. Property can also be donated. A brief letter stating that such is a voluntary donation should accompany these contributions.
◆ CONDITIONAL DONATION ARRANGEMENT: Money, stocks, bonds, and property may be given to the Watch Tower Society with the provision that in case of personal need, returns be made to the donor. This method avoids the expense and uncertainties of probate of will, while ensuring that the Society receives the property in event of death.
◆ INSURANCE: The Watch Tower Society may be named as the beneficiary of a life-insurance policy. Bank savings accounts can also be placed in trust for the Society. In either case, the Society should be informed.
◆ WILLS: Property or money may be bequeathed to the Watch Tower Society by means of a legally executed will. A copy should be sent to the Society.
More information or advice regarding such matters may be obtained by writing to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or to the Society’s local branch office.
[Pictures on page 31]
Ways in which the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has distributed your contributions to advance Kingdom interests in the last two years:
Financing more than 12,700 missionaries and special pioneers
Constructing or expanding 40 branch facilities
Aiding more than 5,000 traveling overseers and their wives
Purchase of eight new high-speed rotary presses
Providing for more than 8,400 Bethelites
Aiding victims of disasters