FEATURE ARTICLE

Saturday, June 18, 2022
ibelemedo@yahoo.com
St. Ann's, Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies
THE CHURCH AND "PROFITABLE" BUSINESSES

Rom. 14:19; 1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23; 14:3; 2 Cor. 12:4.

odliness Is Profitable - 1 Tim. 4:8-9.

  • The church is called and set by God to represent Him.

  • Hence, the church is designed to walk in godliness.

  • Godliness is profitable.

  • Hence, the church is ALL about that which brings profit.

  • However, the Greek word "Ophelimos" translated here as "profitable" does not speak to being profitable in the sense of a business transaction resulting in the enriching of the business proprietor, but rather to simply being "helpful, serviceable or advantageous".

  • In essence, it deals with that which is useful in living a spiritual life, and invariably having the edge or advantage irrespective of the situation or circumstance that one is faced with - 1 Tim. 4:8; 2 Tim. 3:16; Tit. 3:8.

Profitable And Non-Profitable Businesses

  • In the context of the secular business world, there are profitable and non-profitable business.

  • Non-profitable is a misnomer because all businesses are profitable.

  • However, it is used in this context to speak to that which is not established with the intention of enriching the proprietor(s).

  • Hence, it is also called a not-for-profit business or organization.

  • This really speaks to taxation, hence, these businesses are tax exempt, because they are not designed not to make profits or taxable incomes.

  • The shareholders or trustees do not benefit from the business financially.

  • Churches are legally registered as Non-Profitable Organizations (NPOs) or Charitable Organizations, to ensure that they do not pay taxes.

  • This is why you can reduce your taxable income through your gifts to charities like churches (using the "deed of covenant" in Trinidad & Tobago).

  • Unlike in the case of a profitable business which is primarily established to enrich the proprietor(s).

  • This "profitable" type business is designed to make "profitable or taxable" income.

  • Every profitable business is hinged on some kind of trade that directly speaks to buying and selling.

  • Buying and selling is generally discouraged in the temple of God - Matt. 21:12-13; Mk. 11:15-17.

  • Though, it was allowed when the focus was to facilitate worship and not to enrich anyone - Lev. 27:22-34; Deut. 14:22-27.

Church - The Individuals And The Organization - 1 Cor. 3:9, 16(Amp.); Col. 1:12-14; 1 Tim. 3:14-15.

  • Once you're talking about business, you are talking about financial enrichment.

  • Question - Is the church an organization set up by God primarily for financial enrichment?

  • Question - is the church an organization set up by God primarily for financial impoverishment?

  • The Church is a blessed organization - Eph. 1:3ff; Prov. 10:22.

  • It is a graced organization - Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 8:2ff; 9:8ff.

  • Neither the concept of grace or blessing speak to impoverishment, so the church was not designed for the impoverishment of either the individuals or the organization.

  • However, in the context of a financially enriching business, who is encouraged by the Bible to engage in this; the church as individuals or as an organization or as both?

  • Scriptures are laden with evidence that individuals are allowed and encouraged to get into financially enriching businesses - Ecc. 11:1-6.

  • This is primarily for the meeting of personal needs, ministering to others and also the general worship of God - Acts 4:33ff; Eph. 4:28; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:2ff; 9:7-16.

  • The individuals are however, also warned NEVER to trust in riches - 1 Tim. 6:17; Mk. 10:23-27.

  • How about the Church as an organization?

  • There is no scriptural precedence either in the context of temple in Old Testament Israel or the New Testament church, for the church as an organization engaging in financially enriching or "profitable" businesses.

  • There is also no direct scriptural precedence or explicit scriptures that says the church cannot do it.

  • Though one can say that this is implied in the incidence where Jesus Christ, chased people out of the temple - Matt. 21:12-13; Mk. 11:15-17ff.

  • Note, also that there are no explicit scriptures that prevent the church as an organization from supporting individuals in their business ventures.

Doctrinal Rules Of The Westminster Convention - Ps. 119:89; 128; 2 Tim. 3:15-17.

  • The Scriptures are to judge all things - decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, private spirits.

  • The Scriptures are to settle all "controversies of religion" as was done in Lk. 20:27-40 (Jesus Re: Resurrections); Acts 15:13-18 (James Re: Gentile Believers situation).

  • Hence, anything "confirmed" in scriptures is to be regarded as true and consequently binding.

  • Anything contrary to Scriptures is to be rejected as not being the truth.

  • Anything not stated in scriptures but not contrary to the scriptures is not binding: these are areas where the scriptures are silent.

  • "Do not shout where the scriptures are silent and do not be silent where the scriptures are speaking clearly and loudly" - Dr. David Ibeleme.

  • Our speech must be seasoned with salt, because we are called to edify not just to "speak our mind" or air our views - Col. 4:6.

  • Though we must always contend for the faith, we must do so with a pure conscience - 1 Pet. 3:15-17; Jude 1:3.

The Authority Of The Conscience - Rom. 9:1.

  • We are called to maintain a pure conscience in all matters - Acts 23:1ff; 24:16; Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; 4:2; 1 Tim. 1:5, 18ff; 3:9; 4:2; 2 Tim. 1:3; Tit. 1:15; Heb. 10:22; 13:18; 1 Pet. 2:19; 3:16.

  • This helps us to address issues where the scriptures are silent or not "clear".

  • The Bible was written with redemption of man as its central theme, hence, it does not address every issue explicitly eg. You can't learn how to cook your favorite meal, fly a plane, drive a car or perform an appendectomy from the Bible.

  • These are issues where there are no explicit directions in the Bible.

  • Dealing with these require the general mindset or the encouragements outlined in 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23.

  • Something being legal does not mean it ought to be done because being legal does not mean it edifies.

  • The church is not primarily called to legality, but to that which edifies.

  • The church as an organization is a prophetic entity, hence, called to bring comfort, exhortation and edification - 1 Cor. 14:3, 4b, 12, 26; Rom. 14:19; 1 Thess. 5:11.

  • We are also called not to injure any one's conscience by the things we permit or even disallow - 1 Cor. 8:7-12; 10:25-29.

The Ethical Functionality Test

I use the ethical functionality test, which I learned from David Gibbs III, to summarize the authority of the conscience. Before doing anything ask these three questions.

1) Is it effective (does it work).

2) Is it legal (will you be breaking any major laws that are especially in line with explicit scriptural positions).

  • Remember that Churches are generally registered legally as Non-Profit Organizations or Charitable Organizations; which ensures that we do not pay taxes.

  • We cannot therefore, do profitable business and still not pay taxes.

  • In some jurisdictions like the USA, UK etc. a church organization would lose its tax exempt status, and made to pay taxes to the State, if it is perceived to be engaging in any direct profit making venture.

  • In recent times, we have had a lot of scandals involving churches and church leaders where they have been deemed as breaking the law in this regard.

3) How will it be perceived (how it go look?) - Will it bring unnecessary persecution or even prosecution?.

I believe that we should satisfy the ethical functionality test generally in its entirety before engaging in any action where the scriptures are not clear.

In Summary;

1. I would encourage the church as an organization to support individual believers to establish financially enriching businesses.

2. I would encourage the church as an organization to only embrace "financially enriching" businesses which educate people either naturally or spiritually eg schools (including vocational schools), bookstores etc.

These can often pass as part of the Church's legal mandate to educate (disciple) the nations and the financial profits used for the remuneration of the staff, charitable activities and growing the business.

3. I would encourage the church as an organization to start financially enriching businesses by setting up a totally different entity or organization from the main church.

These institutions should be run by professionals and not by the church's spiritual leadership - Acts 6:3ff.

These could even include factories and grocery stores.

The aim here is to give the populace an excellent but affordable alternative.

This will also allow for the employment of people in the community (both believers and unbelievers).

It will also ensure that the church fulfills its legal obligation to the Government or State as a profitable business (earning taxable profits) by paying the taxes that are due to the State - Rom. 13:1-8.

4. I would not encourage the church as an organization to start or run financially enriching businesses that are not geared primarily towards the education of people either naturally or spiritually.

This can possibly go beyond the legal remit of the church as a NPO, and cause it to lose its tax exempt status.

5. The church as an organization can also start Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) that are able to deal with the social ills of the society and which are run by professionals and not primarily by the spiritual leadership of the church.

NB: History has shown that whenever the church engaged in secular things like politics as an organization, it has not benefited the church in accomplishing its ultimate commission - Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-20; Acts 1:8.

  • It has often derailed the church from focusing on its primary call and generally ended in disaster - the RC and EC churches are typical examples of this.

  • This does not and should not prevent individuals in the church organization from participating and holding positions in politics.

  • I believe we should follow the same rule regarding secular businesses as an organization.

  • Remember, that though we are in this world, we are not of this world.

  • We must stay focused on the fact the we are sojourners on this earth and that we long for and would eventually be in a new heaven and new earth - Heb. 9:27-28; Tit. 2:11-15.

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