Financial accountability in the message
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. (Lord Acton)
William Branham created a very dangerous situation for the local church when he provided that 100% of the tithes was to go to the pastor. In most message churches this means that the pastor has complete control of the tithes and there is no financial accountability as to how the pastor spends the money. Unfortunately, this almost guarantees that financial abuse will take place and, in larger message churches (based on our experience), financial abuse is quite common.
Paul provides an example of financial accountability. If Paul took pains to ensure that his handling of money was above reproach, church leaders ensure accountability structures exist as well. This is important to protect the pastors and elders and deacons from unwanted criticism.
Church leadership should ensure that there is transparency to anyone who gives funds to the church and structures are in place that prevent potential abuse.
What the Bible teaches
Somewhere in the mid-fifties A.D., Paul organized a collection of money from the Gentile churches for the impoverished Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul elaborates the procedure for collecting the funds. Large sums of money were involved.
Paul tells us:
- But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.
Money is a sensitive issue and frequently sparks controversy. The administration of an effort like the Jerusalem collection could easily give rise to allegations of mishandling of funds. 2 Cor. 8:16–23 show the kind of precautions Paul took to ensure the responsible handling and transportation of a considerable sum of money.
We are taking pains, Paul says, to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men (v. 21). Taking pains translates a verb that means to “think about beforehand, plan ahead of time”. Such advance planning was needed to avoid any criticism of the way the offering was being administered (v. 20). Paul tries to have as little to do with the collection process as possible. In this way he hopes to eliminate any possibility of criticism (v. 20).
The extra care that Paul takes is understandable. His critics were quick enough to suggest that the collection was merely a covert way of receiving financial support (2 Cor 12:16–18). Moreover, the money involved is a liberal amount (v. 20). Paul is anticipating a very large offering indeed, which is all the more reason for him to do whatever has to be done to guarantee its safe handling.
Paul recognizes that the power of one’s witness corresponds directly to one’s reputation for integrity. He cannot allow the project to become shrouded in malicious rumors that all is not above board. Paul's motives and actions are an open book to God, who scrutinizes him. Still, he also wants to be completely open and accountable to those donating the money. Too often Christians have brought discredit to themselves and to the Christian faith in the eyes of the world by mishandling donations through fraud or by receiving disproportionately high salaries for their “service” in the gospel. Paul is sensitive to any charges that he might be guilty of corruption (see 2 Cor 2:17; 4:2; 7:2; 11:7–12; 12:14–18). He therefore bends over backwards to keep everything open and public and to avoid the slightest impression of any self-seeking in all of his ministry (6:3), especially with regard to a collection of a substantial sum of money.
The steps that Paul had already taken to avoid criticism are spelled out in 1 Corinthians. For one, he had insisted that the collection occur prior to his coming, so that he not be involved in the actual handling of the monies (1 Cor 16:2). Moreover, he had instructed the Corinthians to appoint their own representatives to accompany the collection, thereby exempting himself from any criticism regarding the transportation of the funds (1 Cor 16:3). Now, in 2 Corinthians Paul adds an additional precaution: he sends a trusted colleague to finish the collection effort, rather than going himself: Titus … is coming to you (2 Cor 8:17). This trusted colleague is well respected by the Corinthians and has already established a good working relationship with the church in the matter of giving (8:6).
In addition to Titus, Paul sends two church representatives of proven worth and recognized stature to help Titus with the collection effort (v. 23). The first is merely referred to in the text as the brother (v. 18); no name is provided. But where a name is lacking, credentials are not. To the brother’s credit is the fact that he was chosen by the churches to accompany the offering (v. 19). This brother is also someone who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel (v. 18). The second church representative is unnamed as well. This individual, unlike the first, is well known to the congregation: our brother (v. 22). This raises the total that Paul sends in advance of his arrival to three persons.
What is clear is that Paul does not simply hold himself accountable to God. He also holds himself accountable to "men," those that have donated the funds. If Paul held himself accountable to men, how do message ministers )or anyone that deals with church funds for that matter) think they can get away without being accountable to those that donate to the church??
Should all of the tithes go to the pastor?
William Branham stated:
- But a tenth of that went—a tenth of the tithings—all the tithings went to their priests, their pastors. Yes, tithings are to go for nothing else.
Based on scripture, William Branham's statement is completely false.
The tithe funded the Levites (Num. 18:20–32). The Levites were scattered all over the country and were not just in Jerusalem at the temple. The Levites also included everyone in the tribe of Levi that worked in the temple - the priest, the song leaders and musicians, even the doormen and the janitors. In Num 18:21–32 it is laid down that the tithe must be paid to the entire tribe of Levi, not just to the priests:
- And the LORD said to Aaron, “You priests will receive no allotment of land or share of property among the people of Israel. I am your share and your allotment. As for the tribe of Levi, your relatives, I will compensate them for their service in the Tabernacle. Instead of an allotment of land, I will give them the tithes from the entire land of Israel.
According to Numbers 18:26-28, the Levites paid ten percent of the tithe to the priests (who were also part of the tribe of Levi). Therefore, if the pastor is the New Testament equivalent of the Levitical priest, they should receive only got a small portion of the total tithe (ten percent of the tithe).
Based on the above, William Branham's statement is clearly false. If you buy his argument (which we do not) that priest in the OT were the equivalent of pastors in the NT, then you could make a case that pastors should received 10% of the tithes. There is no case that can be made from scripture that pastors should receive 100% of the tithes.
Do pastors = Levitical priests?
Peter talks about who priests are in the new covenant:
- Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
- But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, fa peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light...
The book of Revelation states the same thing:
- And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
The Levites have not been replaced by pastors, but the Levitical priesthood has been fulfilled by Christians.
Quotes of William Branham
In the following statement, William Branham states that his views are "scriptural", but he offers no biblical support for his opinion:
- Would it be wrong to use tithes on church building funds?
- Well now, here—here’s a touchy little thing for the church now. No, correctly tithes is to go to the minister. That’s right! In the Bible they had a box they’d set at the door in the Old Testament when the—building. This box was a fund where the people put in there for the repairing…You’ve read it many times in the Old Testament. They kept up the buildings and things like that…All the repairs on the building was taken care out of that fund. But a tenth of that went—a tenth of the tithings—all the tithings went to their priests, their pastors. Yes, tithings are to go for nothing else.
- I know people take their tithes and give them to a widow woman. That’s wrong. If you’ve got anything to give the widow woman, give her, but don’t give her God’s money. That’s not yours in the first place. That’s God’s!
- If you sent me downtown to get a loaf of bread, and you give me twenty-five cents to get the loaf of bread, and I met somebody on the street wanted it…something else, and I’d give him the twenty-five cents, see, I give them your money. If they asked me for something, let them get it over here in this pocket and give them my money; but this is your money. And a tenth of it is the Lord’s. And Levi, the priesthood, lived by the tenth.
- The tenth is to be a tithing that’s to be brought into the storehouse with a promise of God to bless it. And a proof, He said, “If you don’t believe it, come and prove Me and see if I won’t do it.” See? That’s right!
- The tithings goes into the church for the pastor and so forth like that to live on. And then the—the—the building funds and things like that is a separate fund altogether. Now, that—that is Scriptural. 
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Cor 8:16–23.
- David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, vol. 29, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 393–394.
- Linda L. Belleville, 2 Corinthians, vol. 8, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1996), 2 Co 8:16–24.
- William Branham, 61-1015M - Questions And Answers, para. 176
- Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015), Nu 18:20–21.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 1 Pe 2:5.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 1 Pe 2:9–10.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 5:10.
- Andreas J. Köstenberger and David A. Croteau, “‘Will a Man Rob God?’ (Malachi 3:8): A Study of Tithing in the Old and New Testaments,” ed. Craig A. Evans, Bulletin for Biblical Research, Vol. 16, 2006, 77.
- William Branham, 61-1015M - Questions And Answers, para. 176-180