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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
Pastor Emeritus

A lesson taught at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, August 8, 2021

“The love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:10; p. 1277 Scofield).

My long-time pastor at the Chinese Baptist church was Dr. Timothy Lin. Under his leadership, the church experienced true revival and grew from 80 people to over 2,000. Dr. Lin taught me most of what I know about the ministry. In his book, The Secret of Church Growth (click the title to read it), Dr. Lin said that a church must have God’s presence to have His blessings. To have God’s presence, the church must be holy, consecrated to God and separated from sin.

Many pastors say that the church should be holy, but in practice they deny that holiness by accepting money from unbelievers, from unrepentant sinners. Dr. Lin called this “dirty money” (The Secret of Church Growth, chapter 5, p. 30). Many pastors today are so hungry for money that they will take it from anyone, anywhere, without thinking of where it comes from or why it is given. Dr. Lin said,

It is true that a hungry man cannot be too choosy of his food. Likewise, due to financial pressure, some churches are apathetic towards right and wrong. Their attitude of “the more money the better,” and their disregard for the intention of the giver or the source of the money, have opened a gate for unrighteous, dirty money to sneak into the holy treasury of God's Church. God has commanded us, “You shall be holy for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). When a church's treasury is defiled, how can the church expect our holy God to be with her? (Ibid., p. 30).

Why do unbelievers give money to a church? Simon the Sorcerer tried to buy the power of God by paying money (Acts 8:18-19). But the Apostle Peter refused his dirty money and said, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God” (Acts 8:20-21; p. 1159).

In the Middle Ages, some people gave because they thought it would make up for their sins and buy their way into Heaven. But the Bible says that only “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7; p. 1321).

Today, many people give money to calm their own conscience. They know they have done wrong. They have refused to trust Jesus and be converted. They have committed terrible sin. They have refused to submit to the authority of God’s Word. They have hurt the local church, leaving it and even attacking it.

Instead of repenting and turning to Christ, these people give money to a church or a mission project. They think, “If I give money, I will feel better about myself. I can think, ‘Yes, I did wrong, but I gave money, so now I feel better.’” But their gifts do not honor God. Their hearts remain rebellious, hardened against God. Their motives are wrong. They selfishly want to feel better about themselves. Their money is not given with love for God, but with evil intent. The Bible says,

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 15:8; p. 682).

The gifts of the wicked are a horrible offense to God. Again, the Bible says,

“The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind [wicked intent]?” (Proverbs 21:27; p. 687).

Dr. Lin said,

Who are the “wicked” ones? According to the definition in the Bible, they are not the unforgivable, heinous criminals, but “those who forget God” (Ps. 9:17; 50:16, 18). To God they are abominable and wicked because they forget God. They forget His love, His righteousness, and His holiness! It is true that they bring forth their offerings to God, yet there is no fear of God in their heart, but evil intent.

What does “evil intent” mean? “Evil intent” is an intention to bribe God and to defraud one's own conscience. For instance, a man who has knowingly accepted some unrighteous money, is bothered by his own conscience afterwards. Although no one else has any knowledge of his evil deed, yet it is clear to him that God knows about it and his own conscience knows about it as well. This deed keeps coming up in his thoughts in the quiet of the night. Burdened with guilt and shame, and overwhelmed with feelings of unworthiness, he still does not want to, nor dare to, face the reality. Instead, he fantasizes that, perhaps, with a large contribution to a church, God may be pleased (or should we say “bribed”), and therefore disregard his evil deed. (Ibid., p. 31).

Their gifts do not bring God’s blessing to a church. Instead, they defile it. They contaminate it with their wickedness, and drive God’s presence away. Dr. Lin said,

The Old Testament records that God's glory (which is God's presence) departed from the Israelites when His holy temple was filled with idols (Ezek. 8). And the New Testament explains that a “...covetous an idolator...” (Eph. 5:5). When a church's treasury is defiled, the church is not only covetous (which is equivalent to idolatrous), but also covetous of unrighteous money. What can God do but depart from her? (Dr. Lin, ibid., p. 30).

Even the unconverted priests and Pharisees refused gifts of filthy money. Dr. Lin said,

After Judas “threw...into the sanctuary” the thirty pieces of silver which he obtained from betraying Jesus, the chief priests picked up all thirty pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood” (Matt. 27:5-6). Even these priests and Pharisees who used piety as a means for material gain, could distinguish the sacrilegious from the holy. The Church of the last days, however, purposely ignores the distinction between right and wrong, and thus knowingly permits unrighteous money to defile the holiness of God. It comes as no surprise, then, that God's presence will depart from her (Ref. Ezek. 8-10). (Ibid., p. 31).

Churches and evangelistic ministries that take money from unbelievers soon become dependent on that money. They can’t get along without it. To keep that money and get more money, they weaken their message and lower their standards. Dr. Lin said,

Then, the vicious cycle begins. Without God's presence, the apathetic church will surely face financial difficulties. The more difficult her financial situation, the more ways her leaders will try to raise funds. The more they try to raise funds, the more they fall into the trap of being unrighteous. The more unrighteous they become, the greater the possibility of God departing from them. This kind of cause and effect relationship often drives a church into a hopeless situation. (Ibid., p. 30).

A church that takes “dirty money” becomes unrighteous. Because the church is unholy and unrighteous, God withdraws His presence. The church becomes the same as any other organization, whose main emphasis is to raise money and pay its expenses. The church goes on to be more unrighteous, and God’s presence is gone.

God’s work must be done in the right way. The Bible warns us not to think, “Let us do evil, that good may come” (Romans 3:8; p. 1194). You cannot build a house for God on a foundation of sin. You cannot feed the church, the body of Christ, with poisoned food. And you cannot have a God-blessed church with dirty money from unrepentant lost people! Dr. Lin said,

“A man of virtue loves money, but gets it in the right way.” This is an ancient Chinese teaching. Some churches of the last days basically are not concerned about whether it is “the right way” or “the wrong way” as long as there is a way to obtain money. (Some missionary organizations are so depraved that they use piety as a means for material gain. Brothers and sisters who love our Lord should be aware of this.) When a holy organization degenerates to such a depravity, how can it expect to have the presence of our God? (Dr. Lin, ibid., p. 30).

God will bless a church if it is holy, undefiled, separated from sin. God will bless a church if it is not made dirty by dirty money. Dr. Lin said,

As a remedy to such a bad reputation, one church in North America determined not to accept offerings from unbelievers. Of course, there were leaders who did not agree to this decision in the beginning, thinking that when people had the willingness to offer to God, it must be good. Nevertheless, after a careful study on the warnings in the book of Proverbs, they not only refused to accept any unrighteous money, but also announced clearly before the collection of offerings, that unbelievers were not to participate in the worship with offerings. The total offering in that church is now over twenty-five thousand dollars each Lord's day! We can truly say that with God's presence, everything is blessed.
In short, “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10)! This warning is not only for individuals but also for the Church as well. If a church does not heed this warning, but longs for money and defiles her finances, not only will she subsequently lose God's presence, but she will also wander away from the faith as well as pierce her pastors, elders, deacons and congregation with many a pang of guilt (1 Tim. 6:10). (Ibid., p. 32).

The Apostle Peter said, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:15, 16; p. 1312). Because God is holy, you are commanded to be holy. The word “conversation” refers to how you live. Verse 15 could be translated, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (NASB). It could also be translated, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (NIV).

Never surrender to greed by taking dirty money! Obey God’s Word. Be holy, separated from sin! Amen.