Should Churches Sell Stuff?

Question from a Site Viewer
I was wondering if churches that sell books and cds (or whatever) are similar to the synagogues that were selling stuff when Jesus was angered? In other words, should churches sell stuff?

Tim’s Answer
You ask a good question as to whether churches should be selling books, cds, and other items. Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple stating: “My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). Some have taken this verse to mean that there should be no buying and selling in the church building. However, if one reads what Jesus said, He attacked the moneychangers for being thieves. They were stealing from the people. He did not attack the practice of selling sheep to those who traveled to Jerusalem. In fact, we find the opposite in Scripture. In Deuteronomy 14:22-26, God tells his people that if the place where He chooses to place His name is too far for them to bring their tithes, then they could sell the firstfruits of their crops, covert the goods into money, go to the place and there buy lambs (or other things).

It was not practical for people to bring their tithes in terms of wheat, animals, etc., from long distances to Jerusalem. So God told them to convert their tithes and firstfruits to money and travel to Jerusalem and there buy their offerings. God was not against people buying animals for their sacrifices in Jerusalem. He was against those selling blemished animals as if they were good animals. He was against the thieves.

I know of no Scriptural passage that would condemn a church for selling merchandize at the church, as long as the merchandize is honoring to God, at a fair price, and is not in violation of other laws (e.g., copyright laws). Some churches have bookstores in their buildings. Others have schools and they may sell textbooks or curricula to students. These can be good things.

Nevertheless, I am not a fan of using the church building for selling things. The sin of our culture seems to be covetousness. I think it is helpful for the culture to have church be a place where one is not tempted to buy things. The church building can become a true sanctuary from the consumerism that is taught in our culture. For me, it is nice to go someplace where buying and selling is not present.

I also think those outside the church often see churches as simply wanting people’s money. They see it on television, on the Internet, and hear of it on radio constantly–send money! For such people, if they are invited to church and in the church they see people selling merchandise, such may be a stumbling block to them. I would like them, along with all others, to come to know that the church follows Christ in being a giving rather than a taking organization.

Ultimately, however, the issue is not about whether a church sells or does not sell merchandise. The issue is whether the church leads people to be Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus Christ. I have been in many churches that sell merchandise and do not represent Christ well. I have been in churches that sell merchandise and do represent Christ well. And I have been in churches that do not sell merchandise; some of them are making a difference in the God’s kingdom and some of them are not. The big issue is not how a church uses its building, but rather whether the church represents Christ well. Arguing much about this issue would play only into the enemy’s hand in causing division within Christ’s body.

I hope this helps. May the Lord Jesus give you the wisdom to find His will in this matter and the grace to love others who may believe differently.

a fellow pilgrim,

tim

11 thoughts on “Should Churches Sell Stuff?

  1. Justin

    The church is not a place to make or exchange money. The church is to be a place to praise God in song; in prayer; in preaching and teaching God’s Word; in free will offerings and tithes, etc.

    NOTHING SHOULD EVER BE SOLD IN GOD’S HOUSE — not food; not tapes; not gospel literature; not Bibles; not garage sale items; and not services rendered for people. If a church cannot support a ministry off of the tithes and free will offerings of God’s people, then that local church needs to stay out of that matter. When Jesus came along to the Temple, and people were buying and selling in it, He drove them all out of there. If He came along to many churches today, He would have to do the same thing.

    Some people justify their selling of things in God’s house by saying that Jesus did not drive them out for selling things, but for robbing or cheating the people (Jesus referred to them as thieves). “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of THIEVES.” That is a faulty interpretation (that Jesus only drove them out because they were cheating people), because notice who Jesus drove out of the Temple. “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that SOLD and BOUGHT in the temple.” Why would Jesus drive out the poor people who were being cheated? That was not the point. The point was selling and buying merchandise in God’s house. John 2:16 says, “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of MERCHANDISE.”

    Reply
    1. fun team Post author

      As stated, I am not a fan of selling in the church. But I am not ready to state that such is always wrong or sin. I think one of the sins of the Pharisees was to take God’s statements and then expand them into hard and fast rules that placed people under burdens. God knows how to command things when He wants something to be a rule. We should be careful when we make descriptive passages, such as Jesus driving the thieves out of the temple, into commands for us to follow today. The fact that the early believers sold everything and held everything in common does not mean that this is what we should do. God gives no such command. What I would say is that if you believe that no money should be exchanged within the church building, then be sure not to do so, as such would be a sin for you (Romans 14:23). But it may not be a sin for someone else. I would not want to make a burden on others what God has not commanded. Some churches have bookstores in their buildings, schools where parents purchase schools supplies for their children, ministries where handmade goods made by poor people around the world can be sold and provide wages for the poor, sell coffee supporting third-world efforts to raise people out of poverty and other similar activities. All of these things are matters that I think reflect the heart of Christ in care for the poor, or providing safe places for teaching and education. Thus, while I appreciate your viewpoint, I would encourage charity towards those who are fellow servants of the God who is the ultimate judge of these and all similar things.

      Reply
  2. Bryan Allen

    2 Peter 2:3 warns us that wolves would through greed merchandise or make money of the people of God. Jesus told His disciples as freely as you receive freely give. Meaning if God doesn’t charge us to Hear His word we shouldn’t. Finally Romans 8:32 says God gives us all things freely

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    1. Nicole Robyn

      I’m troubled by commerce at church. I’m currently going to a church that has a cafe and ATM inside. I think that having the cafe be the congregation point after church excludes less financial people from staying to participate in the after church social time & makes staying expensive for families (church finishes at lunch time & they have a group of hungry kids who are going to play up until they are brought lunch from the cafe). Most churches I have previously been to either have people bring a plate to share or have a hospitality roster where people take turns in catering. My point is that no one is excluded or subjected to any financial strain to fellowship. I have been praying on it and reading His word but still don’t have clarity.

      Reply
  3. Lana

    My spirit does not sit well with churches selling goods. I am currently going to a church that sells food, books and clothes and their goods are not even reasonably priced. I remember a time when I didn’t have much money at a ladies conference that I attended and I couldn’t afford to buy food, it was not nice watching people buy food and other things around you. I don’t think it is a good environment for the poor to feel comfortable to worship. I feels like such churches only cater to the rich, and I believe that is not God’s plan. I am contemplating on leaving the church but I might just end up in another similar church. I am prayin about it and hopefully God will give me an answer soon.

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  4. Aaron

    I believe this is a heart issue. What is the heart behind it? Where is the money going? Is it being used to further the Gospel or deepening the pockets of the seller? Making a blanket statement about the church with out knowing these type of facts can be detrimental to the churches effectiveness to share the Gospel. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus knew the heart behind the people trying to sell stuff in the temple. Do you?

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  5. BPF

    I say no to churches becoming places of commerce. I was going to a church until they opened a coffee shop that is open 7 days a week. I felt that this was a bad practice. As a local business person, I also saw this as “competition” against small, local business owners who depend on their small coffee shops to make a living. This could end up driving a wedge between the church and a person who feels as if they were put out of business by a church coffee shop. Especially if there is already alot of competition in the area. I would recommend that a church have a coffee shop and take donations and not act like a business.

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  6. m

    I find it deplorable that many tv churches have a “love gift” for x amount of dollars to buy each month or week.. If the preachers would just preach straight out of the word of God and stop taking credit for their own versions of every topic in the bible for their own personal gain…that would be nice

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  7. Avi

    It bothers me that churches charge money to attend big conferences in their facility. Since when does it cost money to grow in the Lord? Jesus is free, salvation is free, healing is free!

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  8. Emmanuel James

    Selling in his house is 100% WRONG. It is a deception to say “Don’t say it is wrong.” Jesus has given us specific commandments. Not obeying his commandments is 100% wrong. Can one who claims the name of Christ say “Don’t say fornication is wrong” and still be approved as a brother in The Lord? Certainly Not!! The Spirit of God will never lose to the spirit of error. Pharisees and Scribes “thought” they bought Jesus life… & Judas thought he sold him. Jesus is the living gospel. Do not buy him, nor sell him. Grace was freely given, so we BETTER freely give! This LIfe isn’t about gain! It’s about Christ!

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