This section is from the "How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt" book, by Rev. Sylvanus Stall. Amazon: How To Pay Church Debts And How To Keep Churches Out Of Debt.
In paying a debt, some congregations have resorted to the assessor's book, or the amounts fixed in the tax list in order to secure an equitable division of the entire amount among the various parties who should contribute. At first thought this plan is likely to be regarded with favor, and we have known an instance or two in which it has really been used with success, but the difficulties which encompass it are so numerous, that it more generally gives place to some other system. If the town or city taxes are regarded as equitable and justly apportioned among the various residents, then it may not be difficult to secure the assent of the congregation, for the introduction of the plan, but if this is not felt to be the case, such assent will not readily be obtained. It will not do to adopt it unless it is received with unanimous favor.
The majority may not inflict this upon the minority without invading their rights. They may urge it as a standard of duty, but they have no right to enforce it as an inflexible law. God has made us free moral agents, and no body of men, either in church or state, have delegated to them the right to deprive us of that freedom. To this, however, there is a limit. In the sight of God covetousness is as great a crime as lying or theft, and when the church shall have washed her hands clean from, this great sin of "covetousness which is idolatry," then it may eject its members for this as well as for any other heresy.
Dr. Lansing, a missionary in Egypt, tells us that a native deacon at Stuft, sixty miles south of Cairo, suspended ten of his members for such things as bad dispositions, vanity, stinginess and not allowing their wives to go to weekly prayer meetings. What a thinning out there would be if such things were permitted to have weight here. And yet, why should not the church in some way take notice of bad tempers, biting tongues, stinginess and all the impish brood of vices and habits that are practically not considered incompatible with "professed" religion?
We have, however, known an instance in which this plan was adopted by an almost unanimous vote, but there were two members who dissented, and subsequently refused to pay the amounts apportioned to them. They were arraigned before the Church Council, tried, and their names stricken from the roll of membership. The case was appealed, carried up to the Synod, and the action reversed.
Advantages. - The tax-list plan is simple, easily comprehended, and if it can be adopted with unanimous consent, the labor of securing the amount necessary may be greatly reduced. But it is apt meet with various
Objections. - 1. That the tax-list itself is not equitable, and does not justly indicate the financial strength of the various persons enrolled.
2. There are many nominally poor people, who would give liberally, whose names do not appear at all upon the tax-list.
3. Many persons who are nominally rich, and are large tax-payers, are "property poor," and have little or no ready money.
4. It has the appearance of being, although it need not really be, less scriptural than various other plans. The contributions seem to have too little of the liberal, "willing mind" spirit which the Bible everywhere inculcates. The various contributors are apt to appear as though they were fearful lest they should, by any accident, contribute a single dollar more than equity, or absolute necessity demanded, and it is at least questionable whether the tendencies are not toward such a result. "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver."