“I get so tired of the church always wanting my money! Why can’t they take someone else’s money, and leave me alone to worship?” I remember when I was much younger that my sentiments were not too far off these. Since that time, learning from God in Scripture, I have come to understand what it means to give. Paul felt compelled to encourage and instruct the Corinthians concerning a great collection he was gathering for those in poverty in another location. Thus, he wrote to the church in Corinth: “For by experience you know the unmerited favor shown by our Lord Jesus Christ; that although He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, in order that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, Williams New Testament). When one gives, that giving should be to the Lord, in order for the Lord to make use of that so others can benefit. Don’t lose sight of what is important.
The other day I was sitting in front of the box-fan cooling down after exercising. As I was sitting I looked up at the table (in the Cain Room) and took down the Bible beside the bed, opened it up, and look at the inside front cover. Inside the front cover were notes Wilma Cain made concerning what makes a pure church. Let me share those with you.
1. Let every member be consecrated to God—1 Peter 2:9-10
2. Let every disciple separate from all sin—2 Timothy 2:19
3. Let every evangelist condemn sin wherever found—2 Timothy 4:1-2
4. Let elders exercise discipline against all who sin—2 Thessalonians 3:6
5. Let every congregation correct all wrongs—1 Corinthians 5:7
6. Let all study to gain better understanding of the Word—Ephesians 4:17-18
7. Let Christians remember that all sin is excluded from heaven—Revelation 22:15
8. [The] Bible contains all things desirable for man—Abe Lincoln.
I do not know how old the writing is inside the front cover of the Bible is, but I do know the date that Bert (her husband) gave her this particular Bible (12.25.1943).
Many of you remember Wilma for the great lady she was (in my biased opinion), and it was the case that every now and again she would give me her opinion on some varied thing—even when I did not ask! If she lived in accordance with the words above—and there is no reason to think she did not—then she would have made a great contribution to the Lord’s church, and the sermon (or Bible class) from which she learned this is a good sermon for her to preach to us today. RT
Each year, about Christmas time, we see in front of various buildings a person with a little bell ringing it to prompt people to contribute to the needs of the community. In fact, however, this ringing is a prompting of the community to contribute to the Salvation Army church. This is not very well known, but it deserves our attention.
In our local paper (Mattoon Journal-Gazette, A-3, July 20, 2010) there is an article of a new leader (and his family) having come to town to serve the local Salvation Army chapter (church). Speaking about their recent arrival they said the, “‘Salvation Army is very flexible in its mission for helping people. We like to let people know we’re a church that does social services. That is why we have a chapel here. We are ordained ministers and we do all this because we are a church,’ said Jeff” (complete paragraph).
Each year, about Christmas time, we do our Christmas shopping and many of us find it difficult to walk past the commendable effort of the Salvation Army’s charitable work. However, in order to encourage and remind you, keep in mind that when you contribute to the “pot” you are contributing to a church. Yes, it might be a contribution to some one’s need, but you are also contributing to a local church that uses that money to serve the Lord as a religious institution in a way that has not the Lord’s approval/authorization.
Has not the Lord’s approval, how can this be said? Consider along these line: it is not the charitable effort that I speak of, but the organization of a man-made institution callings itself a church. Here is the mission statement of the Salvation Army: “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination” (salvationarmyusa.org). Moreover, as a church, they believe in the “standard” Christian positions, but it is as a church that they set forth these positions.
Thus, each year we see one standing before a kettle ringing a bell; each year some who walk past struggle with whether something should be put in the kettle or not; each year, those who struggle, talk to themselves about it.
Speaking for myself (obviously), I will not speak against the Salvation Army and the charitable good accomplished by them. However, I cannot conscientiously support a church that has not the Lord’s approval to exist. Do I talk to myself when I walk past the “kettle”? Sometimes, I do, but I walk past it just the same knowing that the charitable contributions we (my wife and I) make to other organizations (mostly the Lord’s church) should not be relegated to something inferior to the work of the Salvation Army.
The Scriptures teach, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:7-10, ESV).