There are a number of issues which are wrapped up in this question.
1. Is it Scriptural for a church to save money? The instructions in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 show us not only that the church is commanded to “lay something aside” (i.e. take up a collection) on the first day of the week, but it tells us some things about the specific need Paul is addressing which help answer this question. He was taking a “gift” to the saints in Jerusalem (16:3). This was probably of the nature mentioned in Romans 15:26-27, a contribution to the needy saints there. Whatever its nature, it is clear that the brethren were to make such collections “that there be no collections when” Paul came to them (16:2). This clearly shows that the church is authorized to save the contribution collected for some period of time until its use. No time is set, but authorization is given to save the collection for a time until its scriptural use.
2. Can the church draw interest on money collected? The issue here is that the only means by which the church is authorized to raise money for its work is through the voluntary contribution made by the saints (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). The church is not authorized to have a bake sale, a car wash, a raffle, or to do business to generate money in order to do its work. Some brethren feel conscientiously that to draw interest off of the collection would be generating money through a means other than the voluntary contribution. Others feel that it is good stewardship of money that was raised through the voluntary contribution to hold it in an account that will yield some small interest (cf. Matthew 25:27; Luke 19:23). Given that the Bible has given no explicit instruction regarding the treatment of the collection from the time it is taken up until it is scripturally used, it is ultimately a matter of the judgment of the elders of a local church.
Now then, if a church has saved up the collection for a period of time, our initial question raises two other points:
1. Can a church save up a large amount such as $100,000.00? What is considered a large amount in proportion to a church’s weekly contribution naturally differs depending on the size of the congregation. A small congregation might consider $100,000.00 a very large amount, while a larger congregation would not. In addition, the obligations that a congregation makes will differ depending on its size and ability. One congregation might have men it supports, utilities to maintain, or even zoning mandates which demand a larger reserve on hand. However, if a congregation simply refuses to use money that has been set aside for the Lord’s work out of greed, pride, or excessive worry about the future, that is not right. Given that the Bible offers no explicit instructions regarding the percentage of the collection that may be held in reserve until it is scripturally used, it is also a matter of the judgment of the elders of a local church regarding how much to save.
2. Can a church support preaching of the gospel from interest drawn on a large amount saved? We noted above that some brethren see interest drawn on the collection as an unauthorized means of generating money into the collection while others see it as good stewardship of the money drawn through the voluntary collection. While this issue might be a matter of conscience and judgment, once money is a part of the collection it is authorized for this money to be used for the scriptural work of support in preaching (1 Cor. 9:14; Phil. 4:15). The New Testament never refers to the collection as the “Lord’s money,” but the inference is made that the contribution is dedicated unto His purposes. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 Paul says that “God loves a cheerful giver” going on to say in the next verse that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you” (9:8). Paul told the Philippians that the support they had given to him was “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18). This shows that the use of the collection is offered to God in the sense that it fulfills God’s work. It is, therefore, the Lord’s money and therefore appropriate for us to use it as in accordance with biblical authority.
Kyle Pope, April 2010