1, 2. (a) How did Brother Russell answer a minister who wanted to know how the activities of the Bible Students were managed? (b) What will we consider in this chapter?
ON ONE occasion, Brother Charles T. Russell was approached by a minister of the Reformed Church who wanted to know how the activities of the Bible Students were managed.
“We never take up a collection,” explained Brother Russell.
“How do you get the money?” asked the minister.
“If I tell you what is the simplest truth you will hardly be able to believe it,” replied Russell. “When people get interested in this way, they find no basket placed under their nose. But they see there are expenses. They say to themselves, ‘This hall costs something . . . How can I get a little money into this thing?’”
The minister looked at Brother Russell in disbelief.
“I am telling you the plain truth,” continued Russell. “They do ask me this very question, ‘How can I get a little money into this cause?’ When one gets a blessing and has any means, he wants to use it for the Lord. If he has no means, why should we prod him for it?” *
2 Brother Russell was indeed telling “the plain truth.” God’s people have a long history of making voluntary contributions to support true worship. In this chapter, we will examine some Scriptural examples of this along with our modern-day history. As we consider how Kingdom activities are being financed today, each of us would do well to ask, ‘How can I show my support for the Kingdom?’
“Let Everyone With a Willing Heart Bring a Contribution”
3, 4. (a) What confidence does Jehovah have in his worshippers? (b) How did the Israelites show their support for the building of the tabernacle?
3 Jehovah has confidence in his true worshippers. He knows that if they are given the opportunity, they will gladly show their devotion by their voluntary giving. Consider two examples from Israel’s history.
4 After leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Jehovah told them to build a portable tent, or tabernacle, for worship. The structure and its furnishings would require considerable resources. Jehovah instructed Moses to give the people the opportunity to support the project, saying: “Let everyone with a willing heart bring a contribution for Jehovah.” (Ex. 35:5) How did the people, who not long before had toiled “in harsh conditions in every form of slavery,” respond? (Ex. 1:14) They showed unqualified support, willingly parting with gold, silver, and other valuables—most of which they had likely obtained from their former masters, the Egyptians. (Ex. 12:35, 36) The Israelites gave more than was needed and had to be “restrained from bringing in anything else.”—Ex. 36:4-7.
5. How did the Israelites respond when David gave them the opportunity to contribute to the building of the temple?
5 Some 475 years later, David contributed out of his “private treasure” to finance the building of the temple, the first permanent center of true worship on earth. Then he gave his fellow Israelites the opportunity to give, asking: “Who volunteers to come forward today with a gift in hand for Jehovah?” In response, the people made “voluntary offerings to Jehovah with a complete heart.” (1 Chron. 29:3-9) Recognizing the true source of the contributions, David said in prayer to Jehovah: “Everything is from you, and we have given to you what comes from your own hand.”—1 Chron. 29:14.
6. Why is money needed to carry out Kingdom work today, and what questions arise?
6 Neither Moses nor David had to pressure God’s people to give. Rather, the people gave with willing hearts. What about today? We are well-aware that the work God’s Kingdom is doing requires money. It takes considerable resources to publish and distribute Bibles and Bible literature, to build and maintain meeting places and branch facilities, and to provide emergency relief aid to fellow believers in times of disaster. Therefore, important questions arise: How are the necessary funds obtained? Do the King’s followers need to be prodded to give?
“It Will Never Beg nor Petition Men for Support”
7, 8. Why do Jehovah’s people not beg or petition others for money?
7 Brother Russell and his associates refused to imitate the money-raising schemes so common in the churches of Christendom. In the second issue of the Watch Tower, under the heading “Do You Want ‘Zion’s Watch Tower’?” Russell stated: “‘Zion’s Watch Tower’ has, we believe, JEHOVAH for its backer, and while this is the case it will never beg nor petition men for support. When He who says: ‘All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,’ fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend the publication.” (Hag. 2:7-9) Over 130 years later, The Watchtower and the organization that publishes it are still going strong!
8 Jehovah’s people do not beg for money. They do not pass collection plates or send out letters of solicitation. Neither do they use bingo, bazaars, or raffles to raise money. They hold to what the Watch Tower long ago said: “We have never considered it proper to solicit money for the Lord’s cause, after the common custom . . . It is our judgment that money raised by the various begging devices in the name of our Lord is offensive, unacceptable to him, and does not bring his blessing either upon the givers or the work accomplished.” *
“Let Each One Do Just as He Has Resolved in His Heart”
9, 10. What is one reason why we make voluntary contributions?
9 As Kingdom subjects today, we do not need to be coerced into giving. Quite the contrary, we gladly use our money and other resources to support Kingdom activities. Why are we so willing to give? Consider three reasons.
10 First, we make voluntary contributions because we love Jehovah and want to do “what is pleasing in his eyes.” (1 John 3:22) Jehovah is indeed pleased with a worshipper who gives freely from his heart. Let us examine the apostle Paul’s words about Christian giving. (Read 2 Corinthians 9:7.) A true Christian is not a reluctant or forced giver. Rather, he gives because he has “resolved in his heart” to do so. * That is, he gives after he has considered a need and how he can fill it. Such a giver is dear to Jehovah, for “God loves a cheerful giver.” Another translation reads: “God loves people who love to give.”
11. What moves us to give Jehovah our best possible gift?
11 Second, we make material contributions as a way of thanking Jehovah for our many blessings. Consider a heart-searching principle in the Mosaic Law. (Read Deuteronomy 16:16, 17.) When attending the three annual festivals, each Israelite man was to give a gift “in proportion to the blessing that Jehovah” had given him. Hence, before attending a festival, each man had to count his blessings and search his heart, deciding on the best possible gift he could bring. In a similar way, when we contemplate the many ways that Jehovah has blessed us, we feel moved to give him our best possible gift. Our wholehearted gift, which includes our material contributions, is a reflection of how much we appreciate the blessings Jehovah has showered upon us.—2 Cor. 8:12-15.
12, 13. How do our voluntary contributions show our love for the King, and how much does each one give?
12 Third, by our voluntary contributions, we show our love for the King Jesus Christ. How so? Note what Jesus told his disciples on the final night of his earthly life. (Read John 14:23.) “If anyone loves me,” Jesus said, “he will observe my word.” Jesus’ “word” includes his command to preach the Kingdom good news in all the earth. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) We observe that “word” by doing all within our power—expending our time, energy, and material resources—to promote the Kingdom-preaching work. We thereby show our love for the Messianic King.
13 Yes, as loyal Kingdom subjects, we want with all our heart to show our support for the Kingdom by making financial contributions. How do we do so? That is a personal decision. Each one gives to the best of his ability. Many of our fellow believers, however, have few of this world’s goods. (Matt. 19:23, 24; Jas. 2:5) But such ones can take comfort in knowing that Jehovah and his Son value even small contributions made from a willing heart.—Mark 12:41-44.
How Is Money Received?
14. For many years, Jehovah’s Witnesses offered their literature on what basis?
14 For many years, Jehovah’s Witnesses offered Bible literature on a contribution basis. The suggested contribution was kept as low as possible so that people of even modest means could receive the literature. Of course, if a householder seemed interested but could not afford to contribute, Kingdom publishers were more than willing to leave the literature. Their heartfelt desire was to get the literature into the hands of sincere people who could read it and benefit from it.
15, 16. (a) What adjustment in the way we offer our literature was started by the Governing Body in 1990? (b) How are voluntary donations made? (See also the box “Where Do Our Donations Go?”)
15 In 1990, the Governing Body began to adjust the way we offer our literature. Starting that year in the United States, all literature began to be offered completely on a donation basis. A letter to all congregations in that land explained: “Magazines and literature will be provided to publishers and to the interested public without asking or even suggesting that a specific contribution be made as a precondition to receiving an item. . . . Any who wish to make a donation to defray the expenses of our educational work may do so, but they may receive the literature whether or not a donation is made.” That arrangement served to clarify the voluntary and religious nature of our work and to make clear that “we are not peddlers of the word of God.” (2 Cor. 2:17) In time, the voluntary donation arrangement was implemented in branches around the world.
16 How are voluntary donations made? In Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are discreetly-placed contribution boxes. Individuals may use them or send donations directly to one of the legal entities used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each year an article in The Watchtower outlines how such willing donations can be made.
How Is the Money Used?
17-19. Explain how donated funds are used for (a) the worldwide work, (b) Kingdom Hall construction worldwide, and (c) local congregation expenses.
17 Worldwide work. Funds are used to cover the expenses incurred in carrying out the worldwide preaching work. These expenses include the cost of producing literature for global distribution, constructing and maintaining branch offices and Bethel homes, and operating various theocratic schools. In addition, funds are used to care for missionaries, traveling overseers, and special pioneers. Our donations are also used to provide emergency relief aid to fellow believers in times of disaster. *
18 Kingdom Hall construction worldwide. Funds are used to help congregations to build or remodel a Kingdom Hall. As contributions are received, still more funds can be made available to assist other congregations. *
19 Local congregation expenses. Funds are used to pay for the operation and upkeep of the Kingdom Hall. The elders might recommend that some funds be sent to the local branch office for use in furthering the worldwide work. In such cases, the elders would present a resolution to the congregation. If approved, the recommended funds would be sent. Each month, the brother who cares for the congregation’s accounts prepares a financial report, which is read to the congregation.
20. How can you honor Jehovah with your “valuable things”?
20 When we consider all that is involved in carrying out the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work earth wide, we are moved to “honor Jehovah with [our] valuable things.” (Prov. 3:9, 10) Our valuable things include our physical, mental, and spiritual assets. We certainly want to use these to the full in Kingdom work. Remember, though, that our valuable things also include our material assets. Let us be resolved to give what we can, when we can. Our voluntary donations bring honor to Jehovah and show our support for the Messianic Kingdom.
^ par. 1 The Watch Tower, July 15, 1915, pages 218-219.
^ par. 8 The Watch Tower, August 1, 1899, page 201.
^ par. 10 One scholar says that the Greek term rendered “resolved” “has the idea of predetermination.” He adds: “Though there is spontaneous joy in giving, it is still to be planned and systematic.”—1 Cor. 16:2.