THE PRINCIPLE OF RECEIVING GIFTS
It is not permissible to receive a definite salary from a church, and at times it is not even permissible to receive an indefinite gift. Paul was demonstrating this principle in not receiving anything from the Corinthian church. If anyone gives us a gift out of pity for us, then for the Lord’s sake we dare not accept it; or if gifts are offered, the reception of which would either bring us under obligation to the givers, or bring us under their control, we must refuse them too. All the servants of God must not only trust Him entirely for the supply of their needs, but when gifts are freely offered them, they must be able to discern clearly whether or not such gifts could be received by God.
In the Old Testament the tithes of the Israelites were handed over to the Levites. The Israelites made their offerings to God, not to the Levites, but the latter stood in the place of God to receive the offerings. Today we are standing in the position of the Levites, and the gifts that are proffered to us are really offered to God. We do not receive gifts from any man; therefore, we are under obligation to none. If anyone wants thanks, he must seek it from God, for God is the One who receives the offerings. Therefore, whenever a gift is given to us, it is essential for us to be clear whether or not God could receive that gift. If God could not receive it, neither dare we. We dare not accept gifts indiscriminately lest we put God into a false position. (I say this reverently.) There are many people whose lives are not well-pleasing to God; how then could God receive their offerings? If He cannot, then we dare not do so in His stead. We should only receive money when our doing so involves no obligation on our part, and on God’s part no misrepresentation of His nature.
It may happen at times that the gift is right, and also the attitude of the giver; but on the strength of his gift the giver may consider himself entitled to a say in the work. It is quite in order for the offerer to specify in what direction his offering be used, but it is not in order for him to decide how the work should be done. No servant of God should sacrifice his liberty to follow the divine leading by accepting any money which puts him under human control. A giver is at perfect liberty to stipulate to what use his gift should be put, but as soon as it is given, he should take hands off, and not seek to utilize it as a means of exercising indirect control over the work. If he can trust a servant of God, let him trust him; if not, then he need not give his money to him.
In secular work the man who supplies the means exercises authority in the realm to which his means are devoted, but not so in spiritual work. All authority in the work rests with the one who has been called of God to do it. In the spiritual realm it is the worker who controls the money, not the money the worker. The one to whom the call has come, and to whom the work has been entrusted by God, is the one to whom God will reveal the way the work must be carried out, and he dare not receive money from anyone who would use his gift to interfere with the Lord’s will as it is revealed to him concerning the work. If a giver is spiritual, we shall gladly seek his counsel, but his advice can be sought solely on the ground of his spirituality, not on the ground of his gift. If he can trust us, and if he is clear the Lord is leading him to give it to us, then we may receive his offering; otherwise, let him keep his money, and let us go on with God’s work in the way He has directed, looking to Him alone to supply its needs and ours.
In all our service for God we must maintain an attitude of utter dependence on Him. Whether funds are abundant or low, let us steadfastly pursue our work, recognizing it as a trust committed to us by God, and a matter for which we must answer to Him alone. “Am I seeking to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a slave of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). We must remain absolutely independent of men as regards the financial side of the work, but even in our independence we must preserve an attitude of true humility and willingness to accept advice from every member of the Body who is in close contact with the Head; and we should expect through them confirmation of the leading we have received direct from God. But all the counsel we seek and receive from others is on account of their spirituality, not on account of their financial position. We are willing to seek advice of the richest member of the Body, neither because of nor despite his money, and we are just as ready to seek the counsel of the poorest member, neither because of nor despite his poverty. In matters of finance we must maintain this ground, that it is God alone we have to do with. Let Paul’s boasting be ours too!
(The Normal Christian Church Life, Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)