1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
As we boarded the boat and set sail across the Sea of Galilee our guide drew a contrast between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee draws its water from the mountains just north of it and it is filled with sweet clear water and an abundance of fish. It then flows south through the Jordan River and empties into the Dead Sea. There is no outlet in the Dead Sea. Toe only may for water to escape from it is by evaporation. As its name suggests the Dead Sea has no life in it at ail.
Our guide then said, “The Sea of Galilee takes and gives and so it lives. The Dead Sea only takes so it is dead.”
There is a parable for life in this. Giving is necessary for living life at its best. If we only receive and never give something vital and important dies inside of us. For that reason giving belongs at the very center of the Christian life. That’s where the apostle Paul puts it in this passage of scripture.
The context is that he has spoken about the exalted resurrected Christ and our own resurrection. Then before he closes this book he says, “Now concerning the collection.” The historical circumstance is that the saints in Jerusalem have fallen into privation. Perhaps due to persecution or famine. We know that the aged Hebrews when they were converted to Christianity lost the support of the synagogue. The Christians in Jerusalem were having a hard time.
Because of this Paul spent a good part of his later ministry taking a collection for the poor brethren in Jerusalem. The church at Corinth had written him asking many questions about many phases of the Christian life. Among them was the question, “How do we do it? How do we take the collection?”
It is interesting to note the kind of appeal that Paul makes. It is not based upon emotions. No doubt he could have painted a graphic picture of the starving saints in Jerusalem. He might even have offered to send them a picture if they would have sponsored one of them. But he didn’t do that.
He might have talked about the urgency of the need, saying that the church in Jerusalem would have to shut down if they didn’t give. You can turn on the television today and hear scores of preachers saying that if you don’t send in your tithes and offerings that they will have to go off of the air. Or he could have appealed to their conscience and laid a guilt trip on them.
He rather laid down some principles of Christian giving. Our giving is not to be a matter of impulse, a certain season of the year, or even necessity. We are to give upon the basis of principle.
What are the principles of Christian giving set out here?
1. The principle of planned regularity. The early Christian church observed the first day of the week as a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Jewish Sabbath ran from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. But the Christians did not observe that clay. They didn’t celebrate dark day that Jesus lay in the grave, they rather celebrated the fact of his resurrection. When they met in the corner of the Temple or the graveyard or a private home, a part of their celebration was giving. The prayed and sang hymns to Christ as God. They studied the word of God. And they gave.
We don’t often put giving in that hallowed context. We sometimes get our envelopes and feel that we are obligated to return them. We look upon giving as a preliminary to beginning the Sunday school hour. Or a time of recess in the worship service. Seldom do we think of it as a time of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
Paul puts the collection in the context of a celebration of the resurrection. He encourages us to make a holy habit of our giving. We are to have some good habits in our life like personal hygiene and paying our bills and taxes. This is to be one of the holy habits of life. We are to give with planned regularity.
2. The principle of personal responsibility. Paul says, “Let every one of you.” That literally means “each one” and encompasses us all. If I had been there I probably would not have said that. Earlier he had said that in the church at Corinth there were not many wise, noble, or mighty. They ware made up of the poorer class of people. They didn’t have much to give. I probably would not have encouraged everyone to do this. For sure if I had stood over against the treasurer that day when the poor widow dropped her mite, I would have discouraged her. In so doing, I would have cut her out of the New Testament. I would have shut up the windows of heaven for her.
We tend to take responsibility for other people. There are some churches that when they start running low on their budget call on the wealthy to make up the difference. That’s the sorriest kind of stewardship. Everybody is to shoulder his load.
One of the problems of today is that some of the people who stand up so vigorously for their rights fall down so miserably on their responsibilities.
Milton Cunningham and I were walking down the streets of Dallas and we came to a traffic light. Right in front of us were two homeless people. One turned to the other and said, “With the kind of luck I have, when my ship comes in I’ll be at the other port.” He was not willing to assume responsibility for his life. He had a tendency to blame everything on luck instead of taking responsibility for himself. Many of us do that when it comes to Christian giving.
The appeal is “Let every one of you” give. The father in the family is somebody. The mother in the family is somebody. The brittle girl is somebody. The little boy is somebody. The little baby is somebody. In the name of each one a commitment ought to be made to the church. You are a part “of every one of you.”
3. The principle of proportionate return. What is the proportion? Paul didn’t tell us because he didn’t need to. There has never been a time when man came before God with less than 10 percent. Trace it back through scripture from the time of Abraham through Moses through Malachi and through the Master and you will find it always the same. People have never given less than 10 percent to God if they were sincere and genuine. The emphasis then is on percent, not on the amount. The proportion is what counts. There is wisdom in that. It is both fair and it is flexible. There is to be a total stewardship of life—our health, talent, and time as well as our money.
The national average is that 20 percent of the people give 80 percent of the money to the church. That is a tragic shame. In the Old Testament men never gave less than a tithe. This kind of principled giving keeps the church from embarrassment—there will need to be no gatherings when I come. If we all give with planned regularity, out of personal responsibility, and by a proportionate return then we will have done what we need to do.