Is giving to the church optional?




One of our members mentioned that he was not contributing monetarily to help support the local work.  Upon hearing him make that statement I informed him that he was wrong, that his first responsibility is to help support the local work.  As an individual, if he wanted to help provide support elsewhere that would be his personal business as long as that work does not teach error.  The following are his arguments:  
1- "I give monetarily to the church, not to help support the work of this particular congregation but to a missionary work".  When I mentioned he was wrong and why the following are his replies. 
2- Oh, you mean I have to “pay” to be a member of this congregation?  If so, how much? 
3- Giving is to provide for a need.  This congregation has no need, all the bills are being paid. 
4- I give where souls are being saved.  For example, helping support a missionary in a foreign field where souls are being converted.  This congregation isn’t converting anyone.  The missionary work I help support is!

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come" (I Corinthians 16:1-2).

A famine had occurred that greatly affect the Judea region which lasted several years. "Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:28-30).

As various congregations determined to help their fellow brethren, Paul sent word that the funds were not to be gathered in a haphazard or last minute way. "Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation" (II Corinthians 9:5). Each congregation was to set aside money that Paul would collect as he traveled through their region.

Though this was started because of a specific need, the principle laid down for how the church was to finance it's work. For example, the church has an obligation to support its preachers. "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (I Corinthians 9:14). And it is to help support preachers teaching in other locations. "Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities" (Philippians 4:15-16). These funds had to come from some where, and since I Corinthians 16:1-2 is the only passage that discusses the method for collecting funds, we must restrict ourselves to that example.

In essence, the person you were talking to is claiming that giving to a local congregation is optional. But notice that having the collection was not an option. Paul had "given orders" that the collection be taken up. Nor was participation optional. Paul command "let each one of you lay something aside." Each, individually was to give. The only part that varied was the amount. The givers gave "as he may prosper." Other verses tell us that someone who had nothing to give was not expected to give. "For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack--that there may be equality" (II Corinthians 8:12-14). The giving was to be on purpose because a person decided in advance that was what he wanted to give. "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (II Corinthians 9:7).

What this person has done was turn the command of God on its ear by claiming that if he must give to the local congregation, then it would be by force (i.e. "paying for membership") and he would begrudge the amount given. Such an attitude toward the congregation of which he is a member is unworthy of the calling of Christ. It is not a badge of honor that he refuses to give, but a demonstration that he is miserly. The sad thing is that he is not ashamed of his miserable attitude. He is not sharing with his brethren the burden of the cost of the local work.

When he charges that the congregation is not converting anyone, then he is condemning himself along with his brethren, since he is a member of the congregation. The answer to the problem is not found in sending money elsewhere. It is found by getting out and doing the Lord's work as was commanded of him.

See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Contributions