It is a sad commentary on human nature that, when a person is dreaming of what he would do if he was a millionaire, he almost always begins by thinking what he would buy for himself, seldom on what he would give away.
Yet, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to think of others. The collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem was near to Paul’s heart (Gal. 2:10; 2 Cor. 8& 9; Rom. 15:25; Acts 24:17).
This is what Paul said: “Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.” (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)
Paul wanted to achieve several purposes in this offering:
- Pay back a debt. Gentiles owed material help to the Jews in return for the spiritual blessings the Jews had given them (Rom. 15:25-27).
- Keep a promise. At the Jerusalem Conference years before, Paul had agreed to ‘remember the poor’ so he was keeping his pledge (Gal. 2:10).
- Meet real needs. It was a way of putting into effect the practical teaching of Christianity. Paul not only preached the Gospel, but he also tried to assist those who had physical and material needs.
- Promote unity. It was a way of demonstrating and encouraging the unity Jewish and Gentile believers.
Giving is an act of worship. Paul encouraged each Christian to come to the Lord’s Day gathering (Sunday) prepared to give his share for that week. “The first day of every week” (v. 2a) refers to Sunday. It is natural, therefore, to take this verse as the first known reference to a weekly offering as part of Christian worship.
Though Paul’s instructions are for a special collection for a particular purpose, we can discover some practical lessons on giving.
Giving should be Planned.
Paul urges the Corinthians to set aside money for this offering each week (1 Cor. 16:2). This may refer to the weekly gathering for Sunday worship (Acts 20:7), but it also indicates thoughtful planning—setting aside some of one’s earnings at the beginning of the week. This was not “spare change” or a last-minute offering. He urges careful, conscious, and deliberate giving. This is why Paul tells them to systematically “put aside and save” (1 Cor. 16:2).
Giving should be Personal.
Paul expected each member to share the offering, the rich and poor alike. Anyone who had an income was privileged to share and to help those in need. He wanted all to share in the blessing. We can all give some thing.
Giving should be Proportionate.
Everybody was to get involved in giving a portion of their offering to that need far away. Yet this didn’t mean that each member of the congregation was expected to give the same amount. Instead, Paul says that each should give “as he may prosper” (16:2). The amount of their weekly wages might differ drastically, but all of them should have the same attitude toward giving. Giving is an expression of thankfulness for whatever the amount of the Lord’s blessing.
What about tithing? Abraham tithed before the law. Jacob tithed before the law. Should we give less under grace?. A Christian ought to be able to do just as much as an Old Testament Jew. The trick is to give as much above a tithe as you possibly can.
Giving should be Private.
Giving should be a private matter, not a public spectacle. Paul did not want to employ marketing gimmicks, tacky fundraising stunts, or strong-arm tactics. He did not do anything that would compromise each believer’s personal decision about giving. In fact, he made it a point that “no collections be made” when he arrived in Corinth (16:2). Paul was particularly discreet when it came to handling the Corinthian church’s offering. He wanted no personal part in collecting it, counting it, or delivering it. He would, however, put his seal of approval on whomever they chose to deliver it, accompanying them himself if the gift were large enough (16:3-4).
If most of us are honest, we could afford and would be able to give far more without substantial sacrifice of what we own. With a little creativity, we might be able to give more to help more people. Here are some ideas: living in smaller homes, buying less expensive cars, eating less, eating out less, buying fewer clothes, utilizing garage sales, car pooling, conserving water, recycling, watching videos rather than going to movies, avoiding cable television, buying in bulk or wholesale, traveling less by car when bicycling is possible, traveling less by jet when driving is possible, sharing rarely-used household tools and equipment among families on the same block or in the same housing complex, setting up baby-sitting cooperatives, gardening for food, spending less money on pets, conserving energy in our homes and buildings, planning more modest weddings and funerals, giving donations to Christian ministries as birthday or Christmas presents, avoiding disposable diapers, regularly giving away unused clothes, books, toys and other possessions, and on and on.
When we are inwardly focused (like the Corinthians were), we lose sight of our outward mission. Our problems and concerns take center stage. But when we begin looking up from our problems to see the great needs in the world around us, we gain some perspective on our own pettiness. As the urgent needs of those around us become the focus of attention rather than our own selfish concerns, we will begin to see the world through God’s eyes. We will see the world as God sees it.