“It Ain’t That Complicated” — Applied Theological Hermeneutics III

Fortunately for us, Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 do not stand alone. In another letter to the Corinthians, chapters 8 & 9 of what we call 2 Corinthians, Paul felt compelled to further encourage the Corinthians to follow through on their commitment to the poor saints in Jerusalem.

This is fortunate because we have a wonderful opportunity to observe how Paul attempts to persuade the Corinthians to contribute to the needs of a group of people unlike themselves–the potential recipients are economically deprived (poor), ethnically Jewish (racial bias), geographically distant (why should we help people way over there?), and politically distinct (Jerusalem was synonmous with Jewish nationalism). Paul attempts to persuade wealthy Gentiles in Achaia to help poor Jews in Jerusalem. There is tremendous ethnic and nationalistic prejudice lying beneath the surface of this venture. There is much to overcome here.

We have the privildege to overhear how Paul theologically grounds the collection for the saints. We see the inner workings of Paul’s theology as he provides a theological-biblical rationale for the collection itself. We see Paul’s own hermeneutic at work–its biblical base, theological grounding and specific application.  Perhaps it provides some guidelines (even model?) for how we should do our own hermeneutical work.

What He Does Not Do

He does not command the Corinthians to give.  He explicitly states: “I am not commanding you…” (2 Corinthians 8:8).  It is not a command, but a “test” of the “sincerity of their love.”   I think I would rather have a command myself!  Give me a command; give me some specificity; tell me how much.  I can do that.  But to act out of the authenticity of my love is much more demanding.  It calls me to imitate God, to be like God, to share like God.  My selfish heart would rather have a command to tithe.

He does not demand they obey the pattern some think is in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.  Paul does not remind them of the “prescription” (as some would call it) of his previous letter.  He does not illuminate the pattern.  He does not give details about how this is a pattern within the new covenant, that it is necessary to obey to be a faithful church, and he does not describe the pattern or itemize its particulars. He does not specify the laws that govern this “act of worship” and remind them of the dire consequences of neglecting it. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Paul to explain to the Corinthians (if he had not previously) how their congregation must follow the pattern that God showed Paul just as God showed Moses the pattern for the tabernacle. Perhaps he does not do this because there is no such thing like what God showed Moses.

He does not draw a line in the “fellowship” sand concerning the collection. Paul does not make their contribution a matter of fellowship or communion with him.  Their lack of participation would be an embarrassment, it would be a failing, it would be a lack of grace on their part, but it would not be a violation of some legal pattern.  The failure would be the failure to imitate Jesus and not the failure to practice the pattern many have envisioned.

In other words, Paul does not do what many CEI patternists tend to do and have done on countless Sundays over the past century.  Paul does not say, “you are commanded to give every first day of the week, and if you don’t you are not faithful to the pattern God established.”  How often have we heard every Sunday, “We are commanded to give on the first day of the week.” Historically, Churches of Christ have been concerned to outline the “laws” that govern or regulate the practice of giving; to insist on everyone giving every frist day of the week as part of the assembly because it is part of the pattern for the church. We isolate 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 in order to fit it into the puzzle we are trying to solve, that is, the pattern we are seeking to construct (the patternistic temple we are building).  We treat 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 as a legal prescription that belongs to the exclusive pattern of “five acts of worship” instead of recognizing that it is actually one among many embodiments of the grace of God overflowing through us into the lives of others. The latter is how Paul viewed it, but the former is what Enlightenment Baconian Regulative Constitutional Patternism has created.

What He Does Do

So, what does Paul do hermeneutically to encourage the Corinthians to contribute to the fund for the poor saints in Jerusalem?  This deserves much more attention than I can give in a single post.  Nevertheless, below is a brief outline of Paul’s thoughts.

Ultimately, Paul does not use a two-step method such as “This is the legal pattern; do it.”  Rather, he calls us to the grace of God, embracing its meaning and embodying its practice.  It is the theology that calls us, not a legal pattern.  Paul’s theological exposition, I think, reflects the (1) theological substance of God’s own life; (2) the redemptive-historical practice of that life among God’s covenant people; and (3) the metanarrative (or symbolic world) that is the story of God among his people.  For a fuller picture of these three categories, read my post that summarizes them.

1.  Fundamental Theological Substance:  Grace.  There are ten occurrences of the term “grace” in these two chapters (8:1,4,6,7,9,16,19; 9:8,14,15)–the highest concentration in the New Testament.  Giving is a “grace” God gives which rebounds to God’s own praise and thanksgiving.  Literally, the text affirms that God gives “grace” to us so that we might “grace” others with the result that “grace” is given to God–God graces us to grace others who, in response, grace God.  It flows from God’s own life and character to his people so that it might flow through them to others and thus back to God. The purpose of ministry (8:4; 9:13) to the poor is to glorify God.  Whether the poor are known or unknown, Jew or Gentile, is unimportant, the primary motive is the glory of God in mutual fellowship. We do not give to the poor out of mere compassion for the poor as if it were some humanistic duty, but that God might be glorified and that we might participate in God’s own life and ministry. God’s own grace (creation, providence, redemption; cf. 8:9, 9:8-11,15), and the glory that will rebound to him, are the theological values which motivate gifts to the poor.  Giving to the poor embodies a commitment to the grace of the gospel itself (9:13).

2.  Redemptive-historical application:  Reading the Christian story through the lens of Israel. Paul draws on redemptive history in at least three ways in this text.  (1) God’s gift of manna in the wilderness exhibits the principle of equity: the needy will be supplied out of the abundance of the wealthy so that all may have what they need (8:13-15).  (2) He quotes Psalm 112:9 (2 Corinthians 9:9)–the paradigm of the “blessed person”–as a model for the wealthy sharing with the poor, that is, God has given us seed (wealth) to be scattered. The redeemed community should imitate God’s own scattering of his gifts to the poor (Psalm 111 blesses God and the righteous person of Psalm 112 is a mirror image of God’s attributes described in Psalm 111). (3) Deuteronomy 15 lurks in the background as the language is very similar. Just as God had blessed Israel so that there should be no poor among them, Israel should give generously without a grudging heart (Deuteronomy 15:10; 2 Corinthians 9:7). Paul uses the language of Deuteronomy 15 to encourage the Corinthians.

The redemptive story continues among the churches of God. Paul draws on the model of the Macedonian disciples in order to convict the Corinthians and wants the Corinthians to be an example to others (8:24). The on-going story of God among the Macedonians teaches the Corinthians too!

3.  Theological Center: The Christ Event. The incarnation itself, however, is Paul’s primary paradigm–Christ became poor that we might become rich (8:9) which is God’s indescribable gift (9:15).  He does not command in this text but tests their love because they should know the love of Christ who became poor for their sakes.  If Christ did this for the Corinthians, then they should do this for the saints in Jerusalem. We follow Jesus into poverty in order that the needs of others might be supplied.

Conclusion

We see Paul’s hermeneutic at work here.  He does not lay down a pattern–“This is the way the church ought to do ‘X’ as a legal pattern; so, do it this way.”  Rather, he seeks to instill in his readers a theological dynamic–a way of looking at the world through the eyes of God–which moves them to give as God gives.  No pattern is offered except what God himself has done. This is what we emulate; this is what we imitate.  We imitate God; we imitate Jesus who is the image of God.

Paul calls the Corinthians to imitate the theology embedded in the Moasic law and redemptive history. God has always been the same–he loves the poor, calls his people to care for the poor, and share their resources with the poor so that there are no poor among the people of God. Paul calls the Corinthians to imitate the Macedonians because they display that theological dynamic.  We are not called to reproduce or duplicate the churches of the New Testament. Rather, we are called to imitate them as they imitate Jesus who is the image of God. That, to me, is the essence of a more simple hermeneutic.

How do we follow Paul’s hermeneutic or use it as a guideline for our own thinking?  What does that look like? More to come…..stay tuned.



23 Responses to ““It Ain’t That Complicated” — Applied Theological Hermeneutics III”

  1.   Tim Archer Says:

    What I see, regarding this topic and so many others, is a fear that if we give up the “Thou shalt?” aspect of giving, people will stop giving. Because our motivation for doing so many things has been a law-based one, we fear chaos and anarchy should we approach the Bible in any other way.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    It is interesting to note that not only does Paul refuse to persuade giving on the basis of a legalistic pattern, he also refuses to remind the Corinthians of the responsibility to tithing (a practice that for many church fellowship is part of their pattern). That does not mean we should be opposed to giving or giving the first 10%. But I believe there is a reason why. As you pointed out, there is a high concentration of the word “grace.” When Christians give, will they do so simply because they must obey a command or be doomed or instead will they do so out of a recipricol relationship of love (God loves us and so we return our love). This is what we all want for our children (will they only obey for fear of punishment or will they mature enough to do right because of their love) and it is ultimately what God wants for his people. That is, God wants people who are mature enough that they will reciprocate the love shown to them without needing a “command/punishment” to motivate them.

    At the risk of being over simplistic, this hermeneutic hinges on our interpretation of God’s redemptive act. If we interpret God redeptive act as a humble, self-sacrificial service motivated by love (which I believe is correct), then we are called to ask how we can demonstrate that same redemptive activity to others (the church, the world). The reciprocation of redemptive love is the “function. The “form” of the function may appear as giving (1 Cor 16.1-4), as washing feet (1 Tim 4.10 – an example the patternist interestingly forget), or it may appear as something not even mentioned specifically in scripture (i.e., using a church building to teach conversational English to non-Eglish speaking people, forsaking the assembly for the purpose of ministering to a mother whose child just passed away — something that was lovingly done for my wife after our son died).

    That’s all! Thanks for the wonderful post!

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  3. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Yes, at the core is the redemptive loving act of God. This is what grounds and drives our giving. I give on the first day of the week (and other days too!) because God has first loved me and his love flows through me to others. It is rooted in what God has done rather than in a pattern he has scattered throughout the NT documents that we must collate, analyze, isolate the data and construct the pattern. We have to construct because it is not explicitly there. But what is explicitly there–and pervasive–is the love of God who gives to his people.

  4. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    I would agree that fear drives some opposition to any other hermeneutical approach than one that can absolutely (supposedly) nail down the “five laws” of “X”. Thus, we read Scripture like a constitution to precisely obey at the point of the sword rather than as an epic story of his love into which we have been invited to participate.

    Thanks for the thought, Tim.

  5.   richard constant Says:

    the point is ATTITUDE?
    a. because i think YOU are a meat head.
    AND
    b.you think that i am a meat head.
    DOES
    C.does THAT GIVE US THE RIGHT TO TALK and act LIKE MEAT HEADS TO EACH OTHER by way of doctrine at any time?which shame the teaching of the Spirit of god WHICH EACH OF CLAIM IS” tryING TO WORK THROUGH US”… MEATHEADS.

    i will DRAW all men to me:
    the method is the WAR of the Spirit of life.

    the grace of god,
    the Love of Christ, and EACH of US DOING the will of god as Christ did with out compromising doctrine.
    also which is the prescription from the doctor (prevevtive medicine) to keep te body well if adminestated in a prudent fashion,
    TAKE AS DIRECTED… by way OF THE the SPIRIT OF GOD and prayer faithful CHRISTLIKE PEOPLE.
    tending to the the body through love.(apostials
    COMMON SENCE???

    and that isn’t an easy task. Knowing in an “intimante way the passion of meatheads”, my brothers.
    NO WONDER I HAVE WALKING PNUMONIA
    john mark

    so far so good…
    do you know the joke behind those words?

    thanks john mark

  6.   Gardner Says:

    Thanks as always for your thought provoking blogs that sometimes I fear I must read too hastily. There is no doubt that you are right about many known brethren who have been quick to build overly simplistic models (?five acts of worship,? ?one official name,? etc.). And yet, even as we try to avoid such, and seek instead the original heart and soul behind the passage, the redemptive element (as you?ve so well laid it out here), can?t we still see some practical limitations in what 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Cor. 8 and 9 don?t say, if we are truly seeking the old paths?

    I could go several directions here, but will focus on one. You mention forms of congregational fund raising other than voluntary contributions: car washes, yard sale?s etc. But if voluntary contributions are the only indicated method of fund raising by the congregations taught by Christ?s inspired apostles, why not be satisfied with that? I don?t think it takes a complicated and legalistic CENI ?Zwinglian hermeneutic to come to that simple conclusion. It seems that being dissatisfied with voluntary contributions for congregational fund raising can quickly lead congregations into areas that God never intended for them ? church owned businesses (such as in the Roman church), distasteful public ?begging?, etc. How should we dissuade congregations from such? They think their businesses and public pleas for funds are compatible with the gospel of Christ (and yes, that concept can be frustratingly subjective.) What is wrong with simply telling them that the only way we see churches instructed by Christ?s inspired apostles raising money in the Bible was by voluntary contributions and that if we want to be like them we should do the same?

    Of course, I acknowledge that such teaching isn?t the heart and soul of the gospel, that God?s grace will undoubtedly be extended to many who don?t understand it, that giving shouldn?t be treated as part of some kind of liturgical formula and that in other areas it is a little more difficult to know how to apply this type of an approach. But, having acknowledged all that, I see no reason for congregations to go beyond what we know first century churches did in this area, raise their funds through voluntary offerings.

    Thanks again, and I hope I can check what I know will be a good response on Monday.

  7.   Johnny Says:

    If Barnabas and others could sell land and give the proceeds, could they have given the land directly? Many congregations have received gifts of land and I’m not aware of any that have refused such gifts because the land was not sold first. If land can be given directly, then can a pie be given directly? Can a service (such as washing a car) be given directly? Does the fact that a church sells a farm that has been voluntarily given mean that it is no longer rasing funds through voluntary contributions? Should the church sell the pie that was voluntarily donated, has it abandoned the principle of raising funds through voluntary offerings? Should young people raise funds through voluntarily offering their strength and energy to wash cars, how can it be argued that the principle of voluntary offerings has been violated? It seems to me that the issue that so many get tangeled up with is money. Is money the only voluntary contribution I can make to the church? If I voluntarily contribute what I have (a pie, a plot of land, elbow grease for a washing cars) why does that violate the principle of raising funds through voluntary offerings?

  8. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks, Gardner, for your kind inquiry and for raising the points you did.

    I think Johnny has a good point in response and I would see “voluntary contribution” as a broad category inclusive of car washes, etc. This gets us into the whole generic/specific concern–what specific excludes other coordinates? This is where the complicated CEI method attempts to do its work. Does the specific contribution of 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 exclude other coordinates? How do we know that Paul intends this to be an exclusive specific? And just how specific is 1 Corinthians 16:1-4? Does it include only money itself. As another suggested to me, could 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 include commodities as well? Maybe, probably not, but who knows? So, I think Johnny has a point.

    Another way to go at this is whether the apostle Paul ever had the intention to limit the nature of the contribution through his Corinthian letters or whether he was simply talking about the case at hand (which was probably monetary in nature) and involved a collection of free gifts of that sort? It seems to me that there is a underlying presupposition that reads 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 as an exclusionary specific because we have a grid that is looking for exclusionary specifics. But I would question whether the grid is faithful to the nature and intention of the apostolic writings themselves. The grid assumes more than the writers claim and this is where a radical Zwiniglianism has affected how we have read this text even when we did not know the historical connections.

    I think you need both the CEI complications and the Zwinglian assumptions to get to an exclusionary specific from 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 which produces a governing law for contributions to a faith community’s common fund.

    I think we could also ask if we are willing to simply tell others that the only examples we have of the Lord’s Supper in the apostolic writings are at night and we should be satisfied with that. Etc., etc., as we have perhaps heard that storyline on many occasions about many different items. I think it is a good question.

    In other words, perhaps it is not the intent of Paul to say “we are doing it this way, and this the only way to do it,” but he is saying “we are doing this because of God’s redemptive love, and this is a way of doing it that brings glory to God in this situation” (combining 1 Cor 16 and 2 Cor 8 & 9). I don’t see any intent in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 for legislating for all congregations and limiting the nature of contributions.

    I, too, would have concerns about perceptions, abuses, etc. I prefer “voluntary contributions,” but churches also profit from banking, selling houses, CDs in the bank, etc. With you, however, I prefer the emphasis be laid on “grace”–the grace of giving from one’s own resources (inclusive of what Johnny described).

    I appreciate your kind approach and probing questions. It is important to dialogue in love, and I thank you for your sensitivity to the importance of that attitude.

  9.   Keith Brenton Says:

    What escaped me in my early years of hearing it now strikes me as hilarious absurdity:

    “God commands us to give … and to give from the heart.”

    That’s right. So, to be like God, I should tell my kids, “I order you to buy each other a gift out of your own earned chore money and love doing it – and while you’re at it, buy me one, too.”

    Or, how about, “Eat that ice cream – and you’d better enjoy it or I’ll knock your block off!”

    Yeah, “God orders us to give.” Because it isn’t enough to inspire gratitude in us that He gave His Son to be ostracized, arrested, tried, convicted unjustly, condemned, tortured and murdered to un-do the injustices we perpetuate.

    And, of course, we’re ordered to give cash, and on one day a week only, and to support all kinds of church costs beyond benevolence.

    Am I allowed to call for a BCV for all that?

  10.   richard constant Says:

    let’s
    see
    what could this possiably mean from a cutrual perspective
    on the Sabbath we have Jesus standing with the established religious theologians of his day the Pharisees.
    And he was going to heal someone the Pharisees said you’re not supposed to do anything on the Sabbath.
    Jesus asked him a question is it better to do good or evil on a Sabbath day.
    Been put it another way.
    Which of you having a sheep that fell into a pit on this Sabbath Day, would not reach down and get it out.

    John Mark what is so regulative principle behind this remark.
    What I’m asking is how much surrounds the hermeneutic of the first century Jewish lawyers concerning this Sabbath Day and what good could not be done and what did I our Lord say to his people.
    If there is a regulative principle in Scripture,
    it would seem to me that it would demand that each and every elder in each and every congregation, do good from a purer and sincere heart for the edification of the congregation.

    In a long of ways I would think what we’d done to the Lord’s church by way of our cultural hermeneutics, is just giving a bicycle that is too big for the fish.
    But we all know the fish doesn’t need a bicycle!

    Blessings rich in California

  11. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Keith,

    At one level, you make a significant point; especially if we restrict this to the Sunday collection.

    At another level, we do have commands for the rich to share such as 2 Timothy 6:17 and Luke 12:33. But these are offered in the contexts of theological reasoning rather than abstract legal injunctions. I think the contextualization makes a difference.

    In any event, the indescribable gift should be sufficient to motivate us to give, as you point out.

  12.   richard constant Says:

    I’m sorry John Mark,
    it seems to me most of the time, every time someone gets into a serious discussion, someone comes up with polarizing comments, extreme left extreme right which are not really pertinent to the way that we as being members of the church are supposed to be.

    I’m just talking about age balanced discussion.
    And my comment that I just made might be considered as being polarizing to a degree with the fish comment from a sarcastic point of view.
    I will try to use a a little common sense, even if I that it’s not common.

    Excuse me my brother.
    I’m sorry rich in California

    keith

    Am I allowed to call for a BCV for all that?

    you guys are using that forign lingo again.

  13.   Keith Brenton Says:

    Book, chapter and verse. Sorry.

    (I might quibble with John Mark about whether Luke 12:33 is a command or a prescription for a blessing!)

  14.   richard constant Says:

    thanks Keith I needed that
    i like I personally like what Paul said in these verses concerning the situation that the Corinthians were dealing with and he makes mention of a man’s situation or a woman’s situation regarding service to the Lord, and how they must, it seems, compromise their feelings, he understands how he is but he did not condemn or in any way try to alter the situation to comply with the verse that you are speaking of.
    because of their responsibility, each man has his own gift, even though,, he might wish that he was like Paul.

    But thanks for the book chapter and verse heads up. I’ve heard that before I just can’t remember it I think I’m too old. if i don’t use something i lose it much quicker.
    1cor.7:7
    cor7:31-33

    blessings all
    rich in ca

  15.   richard constant Says:

    Go-ahead quibble with him, I have an ongoing quibble with him he used A word one-time and I don’t think that was the proper way to use the word.
    I remind him of it every once in awhile the word is, reversed, one of these days if see him and I don’t die first of old-age, I intend to quibble with him over that word.
    I for one would never attempt to quibble with John Mark, unless my voice activation software gets updated and my computer also, so that it doesn’t make the mistakes that it seems to make. but it’s much better than my typing skills and or spelling.
    I’ve I know that John Mark loves Luke, quibble away.
    If John Mark hadn’t had so many quibbles with himself we probably wouldn’t be reading all of his resolved quibbleness answered
    he is one articulate guy isn’t he.
    Blessings Keith
    Rich in California

  16.   Gardner Says:

    A quick Monday morning response to some old posts here.
    Johnny?s examples (such as Barnabas giving money from sold land) don?t have so much to do with congregational fund raising as individuals working in different ways to earn money and then giving the resources to the congregation. To illustrate the difference: Would Barnabas? selling of his land authorize churches to go into the Real Estate business? (?Main Street Church of Christ Real Estate?). Or, would kids washing cars authorize a church to go into the Car Wash business (?Northside Church of Christ Carwash?). To say that we ?prefer? voluntary contributions isn?t a very strong deterrent to this type of concept. I have no problem in saying that churches shouldn?t go into secular business because the only indication we have from the New Testament is that congregations raised funds by voluntary contributions. Is that really wrong?

  17.   Gardner Says:

    Here’s another belated response about the broader point your making. I agree very much with what you are saying about the correct emphasis in our spiritual lives and the primary emphasis of the scripture: redemption, imitation of Christ, grace and holiness in and that such a focus has often been lost in prideful wrangling about externals. I find myself quoting some of the things you?ve said in your writings and using some of your terminology in my own teaching as I try to make sure I emphasize that primary Biblical focus.

    I also admit that when it comes to determining whether to exclude certain practices we have to reason things out as to what may be essential elements in examples of early communities of believers (Is an ?upper room? an essential or exclusive element to worship? Evening participation of the Lord?s Supper? Collections only on Sunday? Etc.) You do a good job of bringing out some complicating factors that confront us when analyzing such issues. However, I think that rather than implying that such matters are of little importance because of ungodly bickering about them in the past, it is better to simply address the root of the real problem ? a lack of love and mercy in discussing such questions, rather than asking the questions themselves.

    I don?t think that a redirection of thought back to the primary Biblical thrusts of redemption and renewal, excludes seeking scriptural models to determine how to organize and work as communities of believers (local congregations.) In fact it has been neglect of the latter type of concern that brought us the embryonic stages (at least) of the Roman Church, the Disciples of Christ denomination and I?m afraid now of a ?Church of Christ denomination? with all of its denominational machinery and traditions. I think that it was Rex that mentioned fear as a motive for wanting to hold on to the old ?hermeneutic.? I have no loyalty to any codified hermeneutic and you have vividly shown the error of trying to construct some kind of an official liturgical or ecclesiastical system with such, especially when doing so without due emphasis on grace and mercy. However, I?ll confess that I do fear what happens when there is a lessening of concern about seeking precedent for our own activities as communities of believers from the apostles and prophets what gave Christ?s message in the first century. Yes, I fear presiding bishops, regional bishops, dioceses, ecclesiastical councils, missionary societies, councils of churches, national church officials, national bylaws, etc. etc. In our justified concern for the carnal overreactions (pride and lack of emphasis on grace) against such, let?s not throw out the baby with the bathwater!

  18. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Gardner,

    I am happy that we can agree on the redirection of thought to redemption and renewal themes as well as the central plot of the story.

    The disagreement between us, as I understand it at this point, is that you expect (given your theological presuppositions) to find binding precedents in Scripture with such a nature as to exclude other alternatives. I don’t have that kind of expectation (given my own theological presuppositions). There seems to be a different hermeneutic for renewal and the broad themes of the plot than there is for the searching for limiting prededents.

    My point is that we utilize the same hermeneutic for both broad themes and precedents whereas the historic CEI utilizes a different hermeneutic for the discerning binding precedents or examples in the text.

    I appreciate your response, my friend.

    John Mark

  19. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    Gardner,

    I would suggest that there is no difference between Barnabas acting as an individual to sell property for the sake of the poor and a church selling property for the sake of the poor. I don’t find the individual/church distinction valid. Instead, I would suggest that Jesus is our example for both individual and community (church). We act both individually and communally out of the Christ Event, embody the values of the gospel and pursue the ministry of Jesus.

  20.   Gardner Says:

    Thanks much. Don’t want to drag this on and on and will give you the last word on it, but I’m just curious as to how you would respond if your congregation proposed operating a “Church Real Estate Agency” or a “Church Car wash,” believing such to be compatible with the gospel? I still think you would feel that a congregation should “limit” itself regarding entanglement in such business ventures, but wonder on what basis?

  21. Profile photo of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

    No problem, Gardner. I appreciate the dialogue and appreciate your kindness and love in the manner in which you legitimately probe. I appreciate the point–let’s each say our piece and move on in love. Thanks. I welcome your response and will give you the “last word” since I had the “first word,” if you desire or think it profitable. :-)

    I suppose my main problem would be the fear that resources would be redirected toward the buisness rather than the kingdom ends, especially in the case of failure to make a profit. It is risky and places the focus on the wrong thing–the business rather then the goal. In principle, I don’t see a limitation, but it would be a matter of risk, impression (what message does this send in our culture?), emphases, etc.

    For example, in practice as well as principle, churches rent properties they own at a profit which they use to further kingdom ends, or rent land for use by farmers, etc. I see nothing improper or unbiblical about that. That is real estate of a sort, right?

    My limitations would arise when the business itself becomes the focus rather than the gospel, when it becomes a drain on the resources of God’s people, when means are used that deny the gospel, etc. My limitation would be derived from a hermeneutic that discerns a pattern in the text for church finances that limits it to specified items.

  22.   richard constant Says:

    john mark
    as I was reading this I was thinking about what you would gardener were saying, since we believe that we are members of a spiritual kingdom that is not of this world, and each and every one of us are members of the kingdom, which is the body of Christ, the Church.

    When three of us come together and John Mark says let’s start a hot dog stand and we will do this part time when we want to hand out flyers and talk to people about the kingdom.
    Also the only ones in the congregation are the three of our families.
    Now on Sunday we all come together for Sunday assembly. The building that we use for assembly happens to be on Main Street of downtown. On Sundays our practice is to hand out free hot dogs with all the fixes.
    We have one unspoken agenda amongst us all,
    to form relationships with people to the intent that we might draw them to God through our winning personalities and insightfulness.

    Is it the en tent of the heart that needs regulating needs regulating?
    or our conception due to the church building hermeneutic I could have church assembly at a Taco Bell. The way that I look at things.
    I know that there’s an organizational structure.
    Or there wouldn’t be elders and there wouldn’t be deacons in their sure wouldn’t be a preacher to remind the elders in the deacons what direction there’s post to be moving.
    But nonetheless what is simple simple Christianity what is church I think our perceptions are kind of screwed up.

    Oh and by the way John Mark.

    That was a wonderful exchange of ideas.
    Thanks Gardner.
    Blessings rich in California on 2…5

  23.   Johnny Says:

    Gardner,
    I, too, appreciate the spirit with which you write, and I am also concerned about precedent for what we do as the people of God. Where we differ is in your perception that the church selling a pie is the same thing as the church opening a bakery, or the church selling a piece of property is the same thing as opening a real estate business. Most of us have used illustrations about generosity such as the story of the young girl who puts a favorite ring in the collection plate. The deacon taking the collection, sees the girls sacrifice and attempts to return the ring the young lady, saying, “We can’t take your ring.” To which the child responds, “I wasn’t giving it to you!” Now, can the church accept that generous gift and turn it into money to fund the good work for which it was given? If the church does sell the ring, is that the same thing as setting up a “Church of Christ Jewelry Store”?

    Regarding Barnabas, I raised the question could he give the land without selling it? And then I suggested that I am aware of people giving land to the church without first selling it. My question is can the church sell the property without going into the real estate business? My next question is really one of degree. If a church can sell an expensive gift like a farm or a house or a diamond ring that has been voluntarily offered, why can that same church not sell a pie or a car wash that has been voluntarily offered?

    To be sure, we can learn from the Corinthian correspondence that a wise and spiritually sound method for funding good works that are either on-going or else that can be planned at least a year in advance is by weekly, purposeful, proportionate giving. (I would suggest that the Corinthian model does not address catastrophic situations that demand immediate attention.) But because it is right to give into a common treasury on the Lord’s Day, does not mean that all other forms of giving are excluded.

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