“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.” (1 Corinthians 16:1–4, KJV)
In the 1970-80’s there was a very prominent television evangelist preacher named Jim Baker. He cohosted the PTL Club with his wife for several years. They raised a lot of money and established a 2,200-acre resort called Heritage USA. Millions of people visited the park every year. The ministry was very successful. However, then something happened. It all began unravelling for Jim Baker.
The FCC had investigated Baker’s finances in 1979 for misappropriation of donations. Later, the issue was turned over to the Department of Justice. In 1985, the FBI discovered that the Bakers had used over a million dollars of ministry funds for personal use. Then there was a scandal concerning Baker and a female employee. Between 1984 and 1987, Baker began raising funds to build a luxury hotel in Heritage USA, by selling $1,000 lifetime memberships that guaranteed an annual three-night stay in the hotel. The only problem was that there were thousands of memberships sold, which vastly exceeded the number of available apartments. Moreover, it came to light that he had been funneling large portions (millions) of the money contributed to his ministry into his private bank accounts. The discovery of this resulted in Jim Baker being convicted in Federal Court and spending around five years of a longer sentence in jail. He and his ministry collapsed and were discredited.
Baker’s story is not an isolated one. Many a prosperous person has been ruined by the misuse of money. It happens in the secular world and also the ministry. We even have seen this at the time of Jesus. Jesus and the disciples had a treasurer named Judas Iscariot. When Jesus was anointed by Mary in Bethany, the disciple named Judas was upset because Mary used a very expensive perfume to do the anointing that could have been sold in order to give money to the poor. John wrote about the true reason that Judas Iscariot was upset. “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” (John 12:6, KJV) Judas had been pilfering money from the money bag.
Here in this section of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, we see an example of a man, Paul, who is very careful to ensure there is complete accountability in the area of finances. He had organized a collection for the poor in Jerusalem. The church in Corinth was to participate and Paul was planning to get their offering to Jerusalem. He tried to avoid handling the money himself, and preferred having reliable and vetted representatives from the local church transport the funds First he wanted the church to have vetted those who would carry the funds. If it was deemed best for him to travel to Jerusalem with the funds, he would not go alone. He required that those vetted by the church would go with him.
Today, many churches are loose with their management of funds. Accountability and proper controls of funds are essential. The reason is that money is an area of great temptation and also accusation by ungodly people. The church needs to have excellent accountability so that there can be no accusation that would bring discredit to the ministry. Checks and balances in this area are essential.