Handling disputes in the church (esp. financial)

Does your church have a policy regarding disputes, especially financial disputes, amongst members? I’m thinking of this passage:

1Co 6:1  Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
1Co 6:2  Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
1Co 6:3  Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
1Co 6:4  If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
1Co 6:5  I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?
1Co 6:6  But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.
1Co 6:7  Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
1Co 6:8  Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

  • Do you believe it is ever appropriate for Christians to sue for damages or unpaid debt in court, or should it be settled in the church?
  • What about verbal agreements vs. those with supportive documentation? Where does the law fit in?
  • If the church does decide to handle the matter in house between two people who made a verbal agreement, and those members decide later not to comply with the church’s decision, does this become a matter of church discipline?
  • At what point should the member to whom the debt is owed be encouraged or expected to allow themselves to ‘take the wrong’? What if they refuse and want to pursue the matter?
  • If either of these members has a position in the church (teacher, deacon…) should they recuse themselves or be removed until the dispute is settled?
  • Does your church have any guidelines with regards to members lending money or selling goods/services to one another?

I’ve seen problems arise again and again over the years in this area… folks who sell cars to each other but the buyer doesn’t meet the payment arrangement, or ladies who are involved with Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Tupperware… and other members buying ‘on credit’ but not paying what they owe… landlord/tenant issues between members… I’d like to see a discussion of all the principles that would help a church handle these matters, both pro-actively and after the horse got out of the corral and has gone charging through the strawberry patch and the church is trying to deal with the havoc.


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Aaron Blumer's picture


We don't have a specific policy for that. I know that what some do is pursue the discipline process and then, if the disciplined one is removed from the body, they go ahead and sue.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Daniel's picture

I am with Jim on this. Although, personally, if I was to lend money to another believer (or for that matter any friend), I would just give it to them with no strings attached. They could pay it back if they want to, but they don't have to.
RE: church policy, I am unsure if our church has one.

Susan R's picture


So when should a Christian take another Christian to court, if ever? Obviously we should report someone who breaks the law, but the Bible seems to indicate that in some matters we should not go to the law- how do we figure out where the line is on this?