The Scriptures teach there is a difference between an individual's money and money that belongs to the local church. Peter's rebuke to Ananias makes this clear: "But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God'" (Acts 5:3-4). Before the money was laid at the apostles' feet (given to the church) it belonged to Ananias and was under his control. However, once it was given to the church, it became the church's money to be used in accordance with the instructions given to the church (to carry out the work of evangelism, edification and benevolence for needy saints).
Great care must be given to the handling of the Lord's money. The apostle Paul had ordered the churches of Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia to take up a collection for the needy saints in Judea (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Knowing his opponents were looking for reasons to accuse him and discredit his work, Paul took safeguards in the handling and transporting of these funds. Men would be chosen by the local congregations to travel with him to Jerusalem to deliver these funds (1 Cor. 16:3; 2 Cor. 8:19-20). Paul explained the purpose for these safeguards: "providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (v. 21). If it was important for Paul to be open and "above board" about the way he handled the Lord's money, shouldn't we likewise be careful in the way we handle the Lord's money?
Many gospel preachers make their living from the Lord's money. Such is Scriptural and honorable (1 Cor. 9:14). However, gospel preachers should be open and honest about their income. An easy accusation that can be made against a preacher are questions regarding his income, especially if he is receiving support from numerous congregations for his work. Churches who support a preacher have every right to know how much he is receiving for his work. With this knowledge, they can know if there is a real need, especially if the preacher lives a considerable distance from the supporting congregation. In the past I have worked with two different local congregations in which it was necessary for me to receive additional support from other churches. I included the total amount of money I received from every congregation in my monthly report letters, as well as to the local church with which I was laboring. Some may say this was none of their business, but I disagree. If a man is not willing to be open and honest about how much of the Lord's money he is accepting, he should not be laboring in the gospel!
From time to time, local congregations have gotten themselves into trouble by trusting one person to count the weekly contribution and keep track of the church's treasury. It is good that a congregation feels they can trust a man to handle the money, but it is better to avoid any potential problems and use numerous men in the counting of the collection and depositing of these funds. "Full disclosure" and "transparency" are important terms which indicate a desire to be open and honest about important matters. A monthly financial statement made available to the congregation will allow the members to continue to trust those who are involved in the handling of the Lord's money. Just as with Paul's efforts to encourage men to accompany him with the collection to Jerusalem, these are safeguards that protect both the Lord's money as well as the church's reputation in the community.
The devil is the tireless enemy of God and His people. He will use any means possible to destroy preachers, elders and entire congregations. "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6:10). Satan used this avenue of temptation as an effort to harm the church in Jerusalem (Acts 5:1-11). He continues to use it today. Therefore, it is important for God's people to take every precaution to handle His money in an open and honorable manner.