Congregations, Banks and Interest

“We have a member in the congregation who thinks we cannot scripturally accept interest from the bank on money in the church bank (checking) account. Can you comment on this matter, please?” (Tennessee)
Money DOES NOT retain it value. If you have one hundred dollars at the beginning of the year, by the end of the year that one hundred dollars, in value, will be worth about ninety-seven dollars, as the inflation rate in our country’s economic system, at present, is three percent (3%)..
The only way that money we have can keep/retain its value is to USE it in the economic system, i.e., by buying and selling to make a profit, by receiving interest on the money by lending it, etc. Money has to be invested, used, in order to retain its value.
A church collects a weekly contribution from the members (I Cor. 16:1-2).  This “common fund” (“in store” – “Thesaurizo – to lay up, store up, is rendered ‘in store’…See LAY, No. 17 -‘Treasure'” (W.E. Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words) is subject to the Lord’s will and teaching.  When these funds of a church are collected, then they must be safely kept.
A bank is in business to accept funds from individuals, businesses, churches, etc. and  to keep the funds safely for the depositors. The bank then, in turn, uses these deposited funds to conduct the bank’s business – lending money – loans of all kinds (cars, houses, individuals, businesses, etc.). The bank charges interest on the money they lend, and, in turn, from their profits,  build bank buildings, pay their bank officers and employees, pay interest to the depositors, etc.
A church deposits the “common fund(s)” of the church into the bank. There the money is safe. The church “checks” on this money, writing checks to pay the church’s bills and obligations. A church pays for these services which the bank offers when they deposit church funds into the bank, and the bank uses the church funds to make money. This is how our economic system works.
Some forty – thirty years ago  banks began paying interest on “checking accounts” (banks already did so on “savings accounts”). This was in a time (during the Jimmy Carter administration in Washington, D.C.) when the “inflation rate” on money got to be about 18% to 21%, and interest rates on loans got to be about 13% to 15%. This was a disasterous period to money, property values, and to our economic system. Interest rates, back then, that banks began to pay on “checking accounts” were 3% to 5%. (Now, on “individual checking accounts,”  banks only pay 0.25% to 0.50%, in reality, nothing.)  I do not know what interest rates banks now pay on “church checking accounts.”
If a church DOES NOT accept the interest a bank pays for using the funds in the “church checking account,” then this means that the church is simply making A DONATION to the bank every time a deposit is made into the church’s checking account in that bank – the bank uses the money, makes money, pays the church nothing, the church loses money – and a brother or sister in the church THINKS that this is good stewardship in the use of money given for the Lord’s work in this sinful world.
Jesus, our Master, forever spoke clearly and definitely regarding this matter. In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus told the “wicked and slothful servant,” – who had hidden  the talent of money his master had intrusted to him, to invest and to increase, “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers (‘bankers’), and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury (‘interest’)” (Matthew 25:14-30). This lazy, wicked man lost his soul over this matter and was consigned to “outer darkness” (hell).
This unscriptural and misguided opinion can be very costly and hurtful. I have known of several churches over the years who have saved funds for some years to buy property, build a meetinghouse, furnish it, etc. In several instances, when interest rates on money were high, and thousands of dollars were in savings for a future definite purpose(s), a brother, sometimes an elder, would refuse to accept interest a bank would pay on the deposited funds. Thousands of dollars in interest would be lost to the cause of Christ. The bank had a field day and a holiday using the church’s money free, without cost, with the church making the donations to the bank.
A church sometimes sells a piece of property, making a profit,  the value of the property having increased since the property was first purchased years before. The church no longer has use of the property, so they sell it. They did not originally buy the property to hold it, then to sell it forty, fifty years later to make a profit. They were not in “the buying and selling business.” Yet, in time, in the normal course of economic events in the country, the property increased in value. Therefore it was sold and a profit received. Yet I have known unthinking brethren who think the property must be sold for the original amount paid for the property years before. How ridiculous! The value of the money paid for the property years before IS NOT the value of the money received in the sale of the property.
I do not know, nor have I ever heard of, a brother or sister in Christ who will not take interest paid by a bank to them on their “personal checking account.”  Yet, those same people will hold the foolish, unscriptural opinion that a church cannot receive interest paid by the bank on the “church checking account.” Truly, as the old adage and observation says, “The legs of the lame are not equal!”
– Bill Cavender

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