URS: Money matters

(Dan Zhao 翻译)


Money issues in church can be a hassle, but guess what the keys to understanding it are? Surprise! The keys are principles straight from within the pages of the greatest book! These money-related principles, if taught early in life to children and youth, are a great foundation for life. And the early church, 2000 years ago, composed mostly of young adults (Jesus was only 30 years old), is still a great model for church management and money issues, even for today! It was clearly a great guide to us when we started our Cincinnati church in 1970.


Startlingly, when we read about money issues in the early church, right away we are reminded that the one who betrayed Jesus was actually the treasurer of Jesus’ own church, the first church in the world. One of the twelve original disciples personally selected by Jesus in the very beginning of His ministry. The treasurer, a key member of any team, was the one who did the worst evil, by betraying his Master! Corruption (stealing from the money bag) and betrayal (by instigating the arrest and “sale” of Jesus), right in the bosom of Jesus! Lesson 1: We are indeed all sinners, even those chosen by God, even those chosen to handle His money, and may the mercy of God cover us.


In another unusual stroke, Jesus also brought in a tax collector, Matthew, a Jewish man experienced in handling money, to be another member of His core team. Today, “Jewish finance professionals” are reputedly adept at managing finances, but Jewish tax collectors of the time were generally not respected. So, Matthew’s selection might have seemed initially more like a bad idea, maybe even to the other disciples, but Jesus was (and is) in the business of changing sinners. He obviously knew that tax collectors, even like the evil Zaccheus, could be rehabilitated and transformed into great disciples. By the Lord. Lesson 2: We are sinners saved by grace, changed by His grace so that we can do great things.

在另外一个非同寻常的举动,耶稣也把一个税吏,马太,一个有管理钱财经验的犹太人,带进他的核心团队。今天,“犹太金融专家”在金融管理上应该是很有才能,可是犹太人税吏在那时一般不受尊重。所以,选择马太开始可能看起来,也许甚至在其他门徒看来,更像是一个坏主意, 可是耶稣那时(和现在)在做改变罪人的生意。他显然知道税吏,甚至像恶魔税吏撒该,也能被治愈并改造成伟大的门徒。被上帝改造。第二课:我们是被恩典拯救的罪人,被祂的恩典改变去做伟大工作。

In the handling of money, therefore, we must be forewarned at many levels. Our money skills are often learned from the secular world, so we need to be careful what we might unconsciously bring into church. For example, if “love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10), and yet the world’s operative driving force is often the love of money, what we learn from the world about money must be very suspect. I suggest that we actually learn to flip the logic. In other words, if “love of money is the root of all evil”, we as a church could deliberately live as a church that does not love money, to wither the root of evil! And we should faithfully teach this in both church and family, especially to the next generation. Now that would be refreshing! Lesson 3: The root of evil withers when the church lives a life that doesn’t love money.

在管理钱财时,因此,我们必须在很多层面被预先警告。通常我们的管理金钱的技巧是从世俗的世界学来的,所以我们需要小心我们可能不经意把它带去教会 。举个例子,如果“贪财是万恶之根,”提摩太一书6:10,可是世界操作的动力常常是爱钱财,我们从世界所学的关于金钱的知识,一定值得怀疑。我建议我们实际学习颠倒这个逻辑,如果“贪财是万恶之根,”那让我们整个教会特意地不爱钱财地生活,让这个根源枯萎。还有我们应该虔诚地教导教会和家庭,特别是下一代。这会很清新。第三课。

Emphases and priorities. How any church views money is seen in how it spends its money. Commonly, we spend a lot more on ourselves, compared with spending for others. “Where our money is, that’s where our hearts are,” (Matthew 6:21), was written down by Matthew, the Jewish finance man, who had originally learned his money skills from the secular world. But he had watched and listened as Jesus constantly preached about caring for the poor and wretched, the prisoner and the neglected, the sick and the disabled. Obviously, Jesus was very concerned about them, and Matthew took that to heart and relayed that to us all. One good question to ask ourselves, therefore, would be, “Are we similarly concerned?” One quick look at the actual expenses incurred by our church will quickly reveal the value and concern we place on each work and ministry.


In income categories, Asian Americans as a group are in the top 1% of the world, clearly fitting the description of the rich in the bible. And, we clearly worry more about money than Jesus did. Matthew sharply recorded Jesus in 6:26 as saying, “Even birds of the air do not have to worry about themselves, for the heavenly Father looks after them,”, reminding us of our usually unbiblical attitudes towards money. This verse likely applies especially to the rich, who clearly have more accounts to worry about! And to their next generation, who have grown up in luxury without even realizing it. Surely, in a counter-cultural way, one of the great financial reasons for missions is that the church and each one of us, younger or older, quickly realize that we should stop worrying about our own finances, and should seriously pray about what we should really do, biblically, with our vast resources. For others.

在收入方面,亚裔美国人作为一个群体,是世界上顶尖的1%,清楚地符合圣经所指的富人。而且,我们也很明白地比耶稣更担心钱财。马太犀利地记载了耶稣所言,6:26,“甚至那天上的飞鸟也不需要担心它们自己,你们的天父尚且养活它们”, 提醒我们通常对待金钱的非圣经的态度。这个经句可能很实用,特别是对那些明显有很多户头需要担心的富人而言。对他们的下一代,成长在奢侈的环境里甚至不觉得, 更有意义。确实,以一个反文化的方式,宣道中一个非常好的财政建议,就是它很快地让教会和我们每一个人,不论年少或年长,意识到我们应该停止担心我们自己的经济状况,郑重地祷告我们所应该做的,符合圣经地,用我们的浩瀚的资源,为他人做事。

Concern for others opens up the window of true/realistic/practical/immediate/authentic/touching compassion for all. Few individuals, or even churches, have developed the good habit of regular giving to those who are disadvantaged. Nor have they carefully taught their children and youth. The inspiration derived from the act of regular giving, as opposed to “money hoarding”, especially in the lives of rich Asians, is usually far better than long pulpit sermons! Open our own windows, our children’s windows, and the church’s windows, and heaven promises to open its windows of blessings on us! (See Malachi 3:10.) Personally, my wife and I learned that lesson early in childhood, and undoubtedly it has been a wonderful lifelong blessing for us. It works the same great way for a church, and each new generation needs to learn that, especially from early life.

关心他人打开了一扇真实的/现实的/实际的/立刻的/真诚的/感动的同情的窗。很少有人,或者是教会,已经养成好习惯去惯常地给予那些弱势群体。他们也不仔细地教导他们的孩子和 少年。激励来自于惯常地给予,和“占有钱”截然相反,特别是富有的亚洲人,通常远远比台上长长的讲道要好得多!打开我们自己的,我们孩子的,和教会的窗,天堂应允(看玛拉基书3:10)打开窗子降福给我们!个人体会,我太太和我在年幼就学了这一课,毫无疑问地它成为了我们一生的祝福。它也同样对一个教会很有用,每一个新的世代的人都需要从小就学。

The church finance committee functions illustrate many church money issues, and the principles guiding the committee apply in general to all use of church money. Remember first, whenever we set up any church committee, it needs a spiritual focus, not just a functional one. The real focus and reason is Jesus, so those handling finances should learn to encourage and pray for each other, for wisdom, and for Jesus’ love to be pre-eminent in all local and mission money needs.


As with most church committees, the finance committee helps the church and its leaders, but not as a governing body. It should not set financial policy; that is an elders and/or deacons function. Having an elder or deacon on the committee provides experience and biblical wisdom, to help guide its spiritual functions. As an elder, I often led money-related devotionals or told relevant missionary stories to set a good frame for committee discussions. And I reminded the group to pray during complex discussions, to seek God’s will, and not just have ritualistic blessing prayers at the beginning and end.


Note that finance team members should not be brought on board just because they are experienced accountants or secular finance people. The true character of servants is best found through their actual work in ministries. Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Finance members definitely need to have been “tested.” There was a McDonald’s story going around in Asia that one of the first steps for promotion in the Company was to pass the test of cleaning its restaurant toilets well. This makes sense, when you think about how important cleanliness is in this industry. And in church finances.

请注意财务委员会成员不应该只因为他们有会计师或世俗财务的经验就吸收他们。真正的仆人的品性在他们教会的侍奉上有最好的体现。路加福音16:10 “人在最小的事上忠心,在大事上也忠心;在最小的事上不义,在大事上也不义。” 财务委员会成员一定应该是被“测试过”的。在亚洲流传着一个关于麦当劳的故事就是公司晋升的标准是最先通过清洁店里的马桶的测试,这很正常,当你想想清洁对这个行业有多重要。教会的财务也是如此。

Finance committee members should also personally support church financial needs, since “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew again, 6:21. Involve them in prayer meetings, so they will know the needs of less visible ministries, such as poverty or overseas missions areas, to bring prayer for these ministries into finance committee discussions, to give a spiritual, rather than purely technical perspective.

财务委员会成员应该自身帮助教会的财务需要,因为“你的财宝在哪里,你的心也在那里”马太福音 6:21。带他们参加祷告会,让他们知道不太显眼的宣道需要,比如关注穷人和国际的宣道地区,把这种祷告带进财务委员会的讨论中,为了一个属灵的,而不是单纯的技术层面。

It’s best to stay away from excessive fund raising in church, however well intentioned, because of the potential for coercion and blowback. More prayer is biblical, and leaders should simply show the financial needs, since tithing is still the best biblical time-tested “mechanism” for raising support. Which is clearly something that should be taught from early childhood, weekly, through the act of offerings at church. This extremely powerful and meaningful discipline has been a guiding principle all through our own lives, and is attested by many as truly valuable for all walks of life.

因为潜在的强制和反弹,教会最好不要过度进行募捐,不管初始意愿有多好 。更多的祷告更符合圣经的教导,带头人应该直接表明财政的需要,因为什一奉献仍是圣经中被时间检验过的筹集资金的“方式”,也明确地是每周通过在教会奉献时应该教导儿童的。这个极为有力和有意义的操守是我们一生的指导原则,也被无数的人验证为每一个人应用在生命旅程中的真正有价值的原则。

Pastors and money. It’s important for the church to strongly support the ministers in their financial needs. It is a travesty to impoverish the ministers while the congregation has abundant resources. The best practical principle is the principle of averages. Elders prayerfully meet to set the level of ministerial support at around an estimated average, considering the average incomes of ministers in the state, of high school teachers, and of state residents. This is based on biblical verses like Proverbs 30:8, expressing the reasonable expectation of believers “not to be rich or poor”. Important needs such as health care and retirement funds should be fully covered, just like any citizen. The next generation especially needs to learn how and why decisions are made in church, and finance decisions such as support for ministers and missionaries are good learning areas. They can apply these lessons when they become future deacons and leaders of many churches.

牧师和金钱。对教会而言,慷慨支持牧者很重要。当会众有着丰富资源的时候让牧师们活在贫穷中是可笑的。最好的实用原则是平均主义。长老们敬虔地一起根据估计的平均,州内的牧师们的,高中教师的,州内居民的平均薪酬来设定给牧师的薪水。根据经文箴言30:8,表达出信众的合理的期望 “不富不贫”。重要的需要譬如健康保险和退休金应该完全含括,就像任何公民所需要的。下一代特别需要学习教会里的决定是怎么和为什么做出来的,财务上的决定包括资助宣道士和事工是很值得学习的,这样他们可以在成长为多个教会的未来的执事和带头人时应用。

We learned by experience that it was best if ministers were not directly involved with church finances. The finance committee should help protect the minister from such worries, and especially any unfair accusations from disgruntled members, such as for apparent financial “conflict of interest”. For example, special donations can create awkward scenarios, for example, wills naming the church as recipient, but disputed by family members. Make sure ministers do not get “sucked into” these messes. An elder or finance committee person can better deal with such awkward issues.


Photo 1A and 1B: One of the greatest opportunities to encourage many modern-day believers, “functional millionaires” by historical and worldwide standards, is to support, visit and pray for, missionaries in far-away places, among poverty-stricken children, just like village children of Jesus’ time.

Mission needs. Encouraging church members in free-will offerings for, say, short-term missions, is a sensible way to raise missions support, instead of “sales” of any kind. The young mission team learns to be involved in love, for example, by giving out gifts of baked goods or tribal bags, bracelets and necklaces, while church members should simply be encouraged to give, and not feel coerced. Stay away from directly selling things or trying to “make money in the church” or anything like the historic temple money changers, who encountered the angry Jesus! Remember that the Reformation, now 500 years ago, was precipitated by the “worst money-making project” in church history, selling indulgences to help build St. Peter’s Church, possibly a noble goal, but certainly an unbiblical practice, amazingly directed from top church leadership.


Mission needs often pose great challenges to any church, since we always have to also cope with pressing local needs. The proper response is truly more prayer, both for God’s will and His touching of church members’ hearts. As a consequence, we learn a lot each time about our own attitudes of “hoarding” versus “giving”. Pray that we are not the “one-Talent man” who refused to use the Talent the Master gave him, on the erroneous assumption that his “harsh master” wanted him to hoard it, instead of using it… no! Our loving Master definitely wants us to use the Talents (money) He gave us for His kingdom!! He even severely punished the “one-Talent man” as “evil.”


Finally, in working with missionaries, beware of stressing them out with onerous bureaucratic western rules, based on the misconception that the IRS is demanding it. Our unique country has solid church/state separation principles, so unless we are stealing money, we have a lot of leeway in decisions regarding how we manage missionary finances, just like in our normal local operations. After all, the main function of churches is the Great Commission, exactly what missionaries are normally doing. The best approach is to love the missionaries, be generous, and help them to set up a local on-site board for accountability. Frontline workers with limited or no resources should not have to waste their time on excessive paperwork.


Photo 2A: We are all sinners: we remind ourselves of a core team member, the first church treasurer, Judas, the handler of the money bag for the first Fellowship of believers, but who betrayed Jesus. Photo 2B: Calling of Matthew, the finance man, to join the team. Even though Matthew had been involved in a hated money-driven profession, he was changed to serve God with his technical skills to write his detailed and famous gospel. God can change us also.

Now, wasn’t that fun? Money issues are challenging, but when money is wisely spent, there can be hugely good impact and joy for generations to come.


Footnote: For a detailed discussion on money matters, please see Reggietales.org URS “Money, money, money”, chapters 1, 2 and 3.

编注:欲知金钱事宜的详情,请参阅Reggietales.org URS “Money, money, money”, chapters 1, 2 and 3.”