Two different receipts for one computer purchase? Something was amiss.
Robert—the Congolese man God had called to serve as the Director of our efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—had rented a small office, bought a simple computer and printer, and set up shop to launch and grow the ministry.
Shortly after purchasing the computer, though, Robert contacted our regional office to say he had two receipts for that transaction, one $90 more than the other.
Our East Africa Coordinator, Emmanuel Manishimwe, investigated the discrepancy and found a serious problem. The first receipt for $300 was correct; the second receipt for $390 was counterfeit. What had happened?
Shortly after Robert began serving, two officers of the DRC board of directors came to the new office and instructed Robert to submit a false receipt for reimbursement in the amount of $390.
The three of them would split the extra $90. One of the officers was the board’s treasurer. Robert was their employee, and they were ordering him to steal money from the ministry. They didn’t know that Robert had already submitted the proper receipt for $300.
Brand-new to the ministry, Robert had found himself in a very awkward position: his superiors wanted him to join them in embezzling money. What kind of organization had he joined?
You Flew Almost Eighteen Hours for This?
Immediately after Robert and Emmanuel reported the situation to me, I contacted several EGM board members serving in the United States, and we determined it would be best for me to travel from Poland to East Africa to address the situation in person.
I flew to Kigali, Rwanda. Emmanuel met me at the airport. We headed to the DRC the next morning, and we met with Robert and the two board officers the next day.
The early part of the day we reviewed the ministry’s progress, and then we turned to the matter of the two receipts. As we went over the facts as we knew them, Emmanuel and I noticed a fair amount of posturing, defending, and deflecting.
At one point, the treasurer of the board asked if I had flown all the way to Africa for $90. He believed that my decision was not only foolish but also poor stewardship of God’s resources.
Before I could answer, Emmanuel stated, “Daniel didn’t fly here for $90. He flew here for the good name of Jesus Christ, which is worth far more than $90. In fact, it is priceless.” Crickets!
Emmanuel went on to say how proud he was to serve with a ministry that took financial integrity so seriously. More silence followed. I was proud of Emmanuel and thought it was awesome that an African had made the statement! I was so honored to be serving with him.
Shortly after that, the two board officers asked that we take a break so they could take a walk with Robert. When they returned, the two board officers agreed to resign. The two officers—we learned later—had confronted Robert and asked him why he’d spoken to the white people about the receipts.
In Africa, they explained, matters like these are handled internally. You never, ever tell the white people. After all, they have money, and $90 is nothing to them. Robert had violated an unwritten rule.
I felt such gratitude to God for Emmanuel, Robert, and the many other African leaders I’ve met who live according to the highest standards of personal integrity and godliness.
Preparing the Team
Too often on the well-traveled road, an economic discrepancy—sometimes enormous—arises between the amount of money given and the amount that gets to the receiving church or ministry.
No wonder Paul addressed administration, stewardship, and the good name of Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:16-21, and Titus shared this same concern.
Paul then addressed issues related to the collection and delivery of the gift, a task that would require a team rather than an individual.
First, Titus had a traveling companion, but Paul didn’t give his name. When someone—possibly Titus—read Paul’s letter to the church, Titus would have introduced that brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel (2 Corinthians 8:18 NIV).
Paul was very aware that the important task of collecting funds and taking the large offering to Jerusalem could give rise to allegations that the funds were mishandled. Large amounts of cash could tempt even the godliest of men!
Being above reproach before men was of the utmost importance to Paul, as it should be to each of us. Being above reproach was also one way Paul honored the Lord: We are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man (vv. 20-21 NIV).
A first-century fundraiser, Paul wisely took several precautions to ensure the responsible handling and transportation of a considerable sum of money.
The Value of Teamwork
A qualified team was ready to transport the Corinthians’ financial gift to the church in Jerusalem.
Having a team was important for several reasons—and it still is today. In Paul’s day, the existence of a team protected everyone from false accusations that the money was mishandled and reduced both the temptation and the opportunities to misuse the funds.
In addition, traveling in a group provided security on the sometimes-dangerous Roman roads.
Appreciating the value of a team, Paul sent a third brother (2 Corinthians 8:22) and planned for Corinthian representatives to join the team in taking the offering to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:32).
According to Paul, these respected leaders met the following qualifications:
- Proven worth, recognized stature, and zeal
- Reflecting Christ’s glory
Paul’s infectious love for the Corinthians had apparently rubbed off on Titus, so he was enthusiastic about a return visit to Corinth (2 Corinthians 8:17).
Ultimately, though, such love is the result of a divine work in the human heart: the Holy Spirit brings about affection for God's people that God Himself possesses (v. 16).
Proven Worth, Recognized Stature, and Zeal
Paul referred to the first additional administrator as the brother (v. 18). Although the person’s name is lacking, his credentials were not.
To the brother's credit, the churches had chosen him to accompany the offering (v. 19), praising him for his service to the gospel. There is no end of speculation as to who this individual could be.
Perhaps he was an evangelist of some renown. Luke, Barnabas, Aristarchus, and Apollos have all been proposed at one time or another.
The second church representative—our brother (v. 22)—is also unnamed. But the Greek language reflects that testing had proved his faith genuine.
Paul didn’t specify the nature of the testing except to say it occurred many times (pollakis) and in a wide range of situations (en pollois). Each time, the brother was found zealous (spoudaion) in his kingdom work. Clues are too scant to allow us to speculate about who this individual may be.
Reflection of Christ’s Glory
Paul distinguished Titus as his partner and co-worker (v. 23) and referred to the unnamed brothers as apostles (apostoloi).
In the Gospels, apostles normally refers to the Twelve, those men Jesus commissioned as His representatives in the world. In the epistles the term apostles includes individuals involved in church planting.
In a few cases the term appears to refer to a wider circle of people (Acts 14:4; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25; etc.)—like the men accompanying Titus—whom the local church appoints to carry out a specific task on its behalf.
The two brothers were also uniquely described as an honor to Christ. Paul may have meant that their life and ministry were a credit to Christ or that, as church representatives, they reflected Christ's glory.
A team of respected Christian leaders will exemplify integrity and model propriety. Simply stated, even a qualified Christian leader handling cash by himself could be accused of misappropriating funds and then have little or no means of defending himself.
It’s merely one person’s word against another’s. When the cash is handled by a group of qualified Christian leaders, however, accountability is built in. Few, if any, would question the integrity of this kind of group.
Honesty and Integrity
My in-laws were godly Christians who introduced me to their wonderful church. Whenever Marla and I visited, I enjoyed being with them in their worship service.
On one visit, though, they were heartbroken. Their large sister church had discovered that the bookkeeper/controller had embezzled more than $2 million.
Apparently, on Sundays, after the deacons collected the offerings, the cash was counted, and then the envelopes, checks, and cash were placed in the church safe—and all these steps were done by a team.
On Monday, the bookkeeper deposited the funds—after falsifying deposit records. After many years she was finally caught, prosecuted, and sent to prison.
Sometimes people have all the accounting and financial management qualifications they need, but they lack the other qualities—like honesty and integrity—that characterized the team Paul sent to Corinth.
Although Paul was concerned about doing what was right in the eyes of the Christian community, his primary concern was doing what was right in God’s eyes. In this offering for the Jerusalem church, he was concerned about both (2 Corinthians 8:21).
Paul wanted everything the team did to be above reproach in the eyes of the Lord as well as in the eyes of people. Why? Because life and ministry are inseparable. There will always be people who judge the claims of Christ by the lives of those who claim to be His followers.
The Christian leader/fundraiser who has the appearance of evil or who acts in a way that is not above reproach reflects poorly on the gospel (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7).
In addition, if the fundraiser’s conduct can be faulted, God's reputation can be damaged. Remember, the ultimate purpose of the collection was to honor the Lord (literally, "to advance the glory of the Lord," v. 20)—an aim that could hardly be accomplished if the collection process seemed at all suspect.
So, it’s reasonable to think that Paul consistently stayed at least an arm’s length away from the actual cash. Not every Christian believer is as wise.
Paul was seeking to avoid even a hint of impropriety. He didn’t want any dishonest practices or even the slightest appearance of any dishonesty.
Paul’s motive for godly financial management was, I believe, rooted in his conviction that—after all—the offering was being given to God Himself.
Aware of Jerusalem church’s poverty—Paul acted on his belief that other church communities should give financially to meet the needs of their Christian brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.
Paul may also have seen in these circumstances an opportunity to demonstrate the reconciling power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This offering from primarily Gentile churches (Macedonia, Galatia, and Corinth) to the primarily Jewish Jerusalem church was an opportunity to show the reconciling power of the gospel.
For Paul, the godly supervision and administration of the funds was crucial to this message of Jesus’ love. Conversely, any impropriety would weaken, if not completely negate, any testimony to unity in Jesus. This reality continues to be an issue today on the road less traveled.
Our primary stewardship concern isn’t satisfying the donors, ECFA, or auditors. As important and essential as that accountability is, our primary and greatest concern by far is honoring the gospel of Christ.
Poor stewardship besmirches our Lord’s name and undermines the Good News. Excellence in stewardship honors God and draws attention to the power of the gospel!