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How transparent should church finances be?

When money is involved, it can be hard to talk about, and the same is true for church money. Some of this is easy to figure out. If someone is giving a lot of money to a church, it is good for them to be interested in how the money is spent. In some churches, almost every financial choice is put to a vote by the congregation. In some churches, only the pastor and/or a small group of leaders know how the church's money is being spent. The biblical balance is somewhere in between.

The Bible doesn't say that the early church did expense reports or had meetings to talk about money. The pattern seems to be that the church gave the money to a leader (or leaders), and those leaders took care of the money. In Romans 15:25–28 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, it says that churches collected money and gave it to Paul and a group of other people to give out. What does this mean for a church today? Since the Bible doesn't tell us exactly what to do, it seems that God wants us to have some freedom in this area. Can a church have a group of elders, deacons, or trustees who make decisions about the money? Yes. Can a church congregation have a say in and keep an eye on big financial decisions? Yes. Can a church put all of its money in the hands of one person, like a treasurer or senior pastor? Even though this method isn't accountable, the Bible doesn't say it can't be done, so the answer is still "yes."

How a church pays its bills is much more important than who pays them. How are the church's money matters taken care of? If a church's money is being handled with honesty, integrity, good stewardship, and openness, it doesn't matter who is in charge of the money. A committee can waste money just like a single person can. A church should be very careful about the person or people it gives control of the money to. "Not a lover of money" and "takes care of his own household well" (1 Timothy 3:3-5) should both be requirements.

Whoever the person or people are, they must be held responsible. The way a church handles its money should be completely open to everyone. A church should always be able to show that the money God has given them is being used well. Many churches have been destroyed or hurt by financial scandals. Most of these problems have been caused by a lack of accountability and openness. It might be too much for a church to keep receipts for every staple and paperclip, but it should keep track of how much it spends on salaries, benefits, utilities, maintenance, etc. A church's members should have complete faith in their leaders' ability to handle the church's money wisely. May the Master's words, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" inspire and guide us. You've been good with a few things, so I'll put many things in your charge. Come and be happy with your master!" (Matt. 25.21)


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