3 John 7—Should money be taken from unbelievers to do God’s work?

Problem: John claims here that the brethren took no support for their ministry from unbelievers. Yet when Solomon built the temple he accepted gifts from Gentiles (1 Kings 5:10; 2 Chron. 2:13–16). Is it always wrong to take money from unbelievers for God’s work?

Solution: As a rule, God’s work should be supported by God’s people. For those who benefit spiritually should share materially with their teachers (1 Cor. 9:1–14). On the other hand, it may offend an unbeliever to turn down his gift and place an obstacle in the way of his becoming a believer. Moses did not reject gifts from Egypt (Ex. 12:25–36). Nor did Solomon reject the gifts and help of the Gentile King Hiram (2 Chron. 2:13–16) or from the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:10). So, while money should not be sought from unbelievers, neither should it be rejected, unless of course there are strings attached. Under no conditions should spiritual or other favors be bought by anyone.

Furthermore, it should be noted that this passage in 3 John is not prescriptive, but descriptive. It does not say “Never take money from unbelievers.” It simply notes that these believers on this journey did not accept help from the heathen. No doubt they wanted to refrain from any appearance of selling the truth (cf. 2 Cor. 11:7; 1 Thes. 2:9). Rather, as it should have been, they depended on other believers to “send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God” (v. 6). We should not expect unbelievers to support the cause of faith.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.