Message # 58 | 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 | October 8, 2017

Introduction

“As the offering plates were being passed during worship, a little boy seated with his father whispered loudly: “Don’t pay for me, daddy. I’m under five.”[1] And with that, we enter into the last of Paul’s awkward conversations in this letter to the Corinthians. This morning we take a look at financial giving within the church.

Purpose Statement. Motivated by Christ’s giving of himself, let us regularly, generously, proportionally, and joyfully give as part of our worship.

Context of the offering. In Galatians 2, Paul tells us of an interaction he had with the church leadership in Jerusalem (probably corresponding to the events in Acts 15). At that time, Paul and Barnabas agreed with the Jerusalem leadership to remember the poor. “Only they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” Paul followed through on this promise and collected money from many of the Gentile churches during his missionary journeys. These included churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Galatia. In 2 Corinthians 8-9 Paul writes to the Corinthian church and tells them about the giving of the Macedonian church, “for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Cor 8:1–2 ESV). As well, in Romans, Paul writes the following:

At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. (Romans 15:25–28 ESV).

In this passage we realize that the churches were pleased to give for the physical needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem because they considered the church in Jerusalem their founding church. They felt spiritually indebted to them. The third passage in which this offering for the poor in Jerusalem is mentioned is in our passage for this morning, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. It comes, chronologically before the other two I just mentioned.

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. (1 Cor 16:1–4 ESV).

Therefore, this offering, that provided for the many needy in Jerusalem, also united the Gentiles and Jews in this fledgling new entity – the church. Paul was evidencing that there really was no distinction between Jew or Greek.

for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:26–28 ESV).

While these few passages involve an offering made by multiple churches for the need of other needy saints, we find within these passages some helpful guidelines or principles that ought to be taken into consideration as one thinks through how to give financially to the church.

Principles of Giving

We are to give motivated by Christ’s example. We will primarily be looking at the passage in 1 Corinthians 16, but let’s start by establishing a foundational truth in this area of giving. Our giving should always be motivated by our appreciation for Christ’s incarnation and redemptive work. Paul writes two chapters in 2 Corinthians (chapters 8 and 9) that deal with giving generously. In chapter 8, verse 9, he writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9 ESV). Christ was willing to give himself so that we may greatly benefit. This reality ought to result in two things. (1) We ought to be motivated to give out of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice. (2) We can see his willingness to sacrifice himself for others as a model for us to follow. In other words, “Christ sacrificed himself for me. I want to sacrifice myself for others. Christ gave himself for me. I want to give myself to others.” This must be the foundational principle guiding our discussion on giving, otherwise this discussion can easily become a legalistic discussion about how often, how much, where, to whom, etc.  All of our giving should be done out of appreciation for what Christ has done for us.

We are to give regularly. Now that our foundational principle is established, let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 16. Here we find a few key phrases that offer some direction in how to best give. “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come” (1 Cor 16:2 ESV). There are a number of potentially really fun rabbit trails we could run down in this verse. Two of them can be found in the first phrase, “on the first day of every week.” We could run down “rabbit trail A” and discuss whether or not this is referring to Sunday or not. We could as well run down “rabbit trail B” and discuss whether or not we should give every week.

Instead of running down “rabbit trail A” let’s just acknowledge it for a moment. Nearly every version acknowledges that the best translation in this verse is “the first day of the week.” This would be referring to Sunday. The problem is that the word for week is sabbatou and is often translated as sabbath but can as well be translated week. With that said, it appears to always be translated as “first day of the week” when it is accompanied by the number one (or first) preceding it. For instance, in Matthew 28, the two Mary’s went to see the tomb following Christ’s death. Matthew writes, “Now after the Sabbath [σαββάτων], toward the dawn of the first day of the week [μίαν σαββάτων], Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb” (Matt 28:1 ESV).[2]  It seems most likely that Paul is instructing them to set something aside so that they could give it as an offering when they gathered on Sunday for their time of corporate worship. It is possible that this direction by Paul is a little pragmatic. After all, they couldn’t get online or give through their phone app at their convenience throughout the week. But it’s also just as possible that Paul saw this offering as part of their worship and not simply an administrative detail or obligation.

Rabbit trail B would lead us into a discussion on whether or not this offering was to be done each or every Sunday.[3] While some translations don’t include either of these words, there is enough evidence within the verse[4] to draw a safe conclusion that Paul’s intent was that this offering would occur every Sunday when the church came together. Simply put, an offering was taken on a regular basis, that basis being each and every Sunday.

The principle of consistency and priority. “On the first day of the week” not only provides evidence that first-century Christians worshipped on the first day of the week as a celebration of the resurrection of the Lord, it further indicates that giving was a critical aspect of their worship experience. Our giving should flow from theological convictions that enable us to give as an act of worship. Consistency requires thought, planning, and preparation that allow us to have a greater sense of worship as we give.[5]

I don’t want to take this point too far, but I would like to leave you with something to consider. Consider whether there is value in consistently giving each week as part of your worship. I understand that this might not be as convenient for you, and it may even require wiping the dust from your checkbook – after all who uses checks anymore? Maybe it would require purposefully setting aside some cash throughout the week for Sunday morning. But if we see giving as part of our worship, is their value in allowing it to be part of worship each time we come together.

We are all to give generously yet proportionally. Paul continues in verse two and writes, “each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper” (1 Cor 16:2 ESV). There are three elements in this particular principle. First, every individual was to be part of the offering. This offering was not confined to the rich. It was not confined to the old and not the young or the men and not the women. Each individual was given the privilege and the responsibility to participate. The poor, alongside the rich, were expected to contribute, but that does not mean that everyone gave the same amount or even the same percentage. The verse tells us that they gave as they “may prosper.” So secondly, everyone is to give, but they are to give proportionally. It’s notable that Paul doesn’t allude to the Old Testament manner of tithing 10%. Instead he tells them to give proportionally. In essence they are to follow a new principle. Instead of someone sensing their obligation is fulfilled once they give 10%, Paul calls them to give in proportion to what they have. This would likely be challenging for many of us. It would require that we set down a simple math formula and instead rely on the work of the Holy Spirit to lead us as we consider what we possess and what we can give out of that. We are to give in light of what we have. The most obvious and dramatic example of this kind of giving can be found in Luke.

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1–4 ESV).

And it is this widow that exemplifies for us the third element of this principle. We are to give generously. She didn’t give a lot, but she gave generously and proportionally to what she had. This is the same type of generous giving that characterized the churches in Macedonia during this same offering.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord” (2 Cor 8:1–3 ESV).

So what about 10%? Answering this question would require “rabbit trail C.” Both the Hebrew and Greek words for tithe include the idea of 10%. Simply put, tithe is giving 10%. There are a lot of questions as to what kinds of things were tithed in the Old Testament. There is also a lot of discussion surrounding the multiple times the Israelites tithed. Most estimates place Israelite giving to be around 23% of someone’s produce due to the multiple times a year they tithed.

Are we to follow the pattern of tithing given in the law? Should each of us be giving 10% of what we make? Let me cautiously answer that question. There is much debate on this topic and there are a lot of dimensions to the discussion. With that said, let me offer a few thoughts. (1) The tithe is primarily an Old Testament concept tied to the law. (2) Christ only mentions tithing a couple of times in the Gospels, and it is always as a chastisement to religious leaders who were giving their tithe in a legalistic manner.[6] (3) Grace-giving seems to be the corresponding idea within the New Testament to the Old Testament tithe.

Therefore, I don’t think we should approach giving within the church by dutifully giving our 10% and concluding that we are done with our giving. You may be struggling with how much to give. First, rest in the direction the Holy Spirit offers. Secondly, if you just need some help landing on a number, 10% is probably an appropriate number to start with. You may not end there. You may give more. You may give less. But whatever you give, give out of appreciation for what Christ has done for you.

We are to give joyfully and lovingly, not out of obligation. Consider the way Paul describes the giving of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Their giving was characterized by an abundance of joy that overflowed in a wealth of generosity (8:2). They gave beyond their means, even begging for the favor of giving (8:3-4). Paul says that it benefits them not only when they do this work but when they desire to do it (8:9). Chapter 9 tells us that they gave cheerfully and not under compulsion (9:7).

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Cor 9:6–8 ESV).

We are to give personally. We find this final principle in the verses we just read. “Each one must give as he had decided in his heart” (2 Cor 9:7). The primary drive in this verse is that giving should be done voluntarily and joyfully. It is not to be driven by the expectations or manipulations of others. Instead it is given from the heart – the seat of our affections. Often our mind or our logic will keep us from giving. After all, we will always be able to rationalize not giving. But God desires that it is our affections that motivate our giving. Of course our affections can be selfish and miserly, but God desires that our affections are transformed by the knowledge of Christ and his glorious work. It is in this reality, that our heart bursts with delight in giving back to not only our Creator but our Redeemer.

 

 

[1] G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986), 176.

[2] Cross reference Mark 16:2, 9, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1, 19. In each of these instances when sabbatou is accompanied by a form of eis it is always translated as “first day of the week.”

[3] ESV On the first day of every week KJV 1900 Upon the first day of the week NASB95 On the first day of every week NET On the first day of the week NLT On the first day of each week NIV On the first day of every week

[4] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1321. κατά “occurs in its distributive sense to denote every”

[5] Croteau, David A.. Perspectives on Tithing (Kindle Locations 751-762). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[6] Tithe in N.T. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23 ESV).42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Luke 11:42 ESV).12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ (Luke 18:12 ESV).5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. (Hebrews 7:5 ESV).

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