The Bible’s Viewpoint

Should You Be Charged for Religious Services?

IN MANY lands, leaders of professed Christian religions and non-Christian religions charge a fee for religious services. These services may include baptisms, weddings, or funerals. The charge can run into hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Some clergy are on government payrolls for performing ceremonial and pastoral duties and for opening daily legislative sessions with prayer. Such functions may be appreciated, and churches have operating expenses to meet. But does the Bible support such customs of charging for religious services or even of making people feel obligated to pay?

“A House of Merchandise”?

When Jesus Christ was on earth, Jewish religious officials and others used religious occasions as opportunities for profit, particularly during Passover. Did Jesus view this practice favorably? No! In fact, the Bible tells us that “he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” He said: “Stop making the house of my Father a house of merchandise!”​—John 2:14-16.

A similar situation occurred in the time of the prophet Micah, who lived during the eighth century B.C.E. Israel’s religious leaders, the Bible reports, ‘detested justice,’ and the priests ‘instructed just for a price.’ Yet, at the same time, they professed divine backing, saying: “Is not Jehovah in the midst of us?” (Micah 3:9, 11) But Jehovah God was not in their midst as a supporter. Instead, he detested their conduct and made that abundantly clear through his prophet.

Today many religious leaders resort to the same greedy tactics, thus making their places of worship ‘houses of merchandise.’ In fact, religious organizations as a whole engage in commerce, often doing a booming trade selling icons and countless other forms of religious paraphernalia. *​—1 John 5:21.

“You Received Free, Give Free”

When commissioning his apostles to preach the good news, cure the sick, and even raise up the dead, Jesus stated: “You received  free, give free.” (Matthew 10:7, 8) Yes, his true followers were not to charge for their services. Moreover, Jesus himself set the example by ministering to others for no financial return.

Following the pattern set by Jesus, the apostle Paul performed his ministry “without cost.” (1 Corinthians 9:18) When he needed funds, he did secular work as a tentmaker. (Acts 18:1-3) Hence, he could say of himself and his missionary companions: “We are not peddlers of the word of God as many men are.” (2 Corinthians 2:17) But what about obtaining funds for congregation use, perhaps for purchasing or renting a place of worship?

“God Loves a Cheerful Giver”

Jehovah’s Witnesses obtain needed funds through voluntary donations. They apply the principle: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) Accordingly, the Witnesses do not charge for their literature or religious services, such as for performing baptisms, weddings, or funerals. Nor do they tithe or pass a collection plate at their meetings. Anyone who wants to contribute toward their international preaching work can do so by means of discreetly placed contribution boxes in their places of worship.

Worldwide, Jehovah’s Witnesses fund their Kingdom Halls, Assembly Halls, branch offices, and printeries, as well as their relief efforts, by means of voluntary contributions. Some, like the needy widow whom Jesus commended, can give only a little. (Luke 21:2) Others can give much. Whatever the case, those who adhere to the principles set down in the Bible and give according to their means enjoy inner contentment, God’s rich blessing, and genuine happiness.​—Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 8:12.

[Footnote]

^ par. 8 See the article “The Bible’s Viewpoint: Should God Be Worshipped Through Images?” in the August 2008 issue of Awake!

HAVE YOU WONDERED?

● What did Jesus say to those who were doing business in the temple?​—John 2:14-16.

● Did the Christian apostle Paul accept payment for religious services?​—2 Corinthians 2:17.

● What kind of giving pleases Jehovah?​—2 Corinthians 9:7.

[Blurb on page 23]

“Stop making the house of my Father a house of merchandise!”​—John 2:14-16