1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Instructions about How to Give
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he speaks of a collection which he is gathering from the largely Gentile churches across the empire to take to Jerusalem for the relief of the Jewish Christians there (15:25-28). Here at the beginning of chapter sixteen, he speaks of that same collection. So we see that in the earliest churches, there was a concern among them for their mutual well-being. Churches are not competitors; we are all working in the same field (the world) praying for an abundant harvest (souls).
Significant about this passage are the instructions Paul gives concerning the collection of the gift. He tells the Corinthians that “on the first day of the 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.” So, 1) The fact that this was to be done on the first day of the week indicates that Sunday was the day that the earliest Christians met for worship, as the overwhelming majority of churches do to this day. Sunday was the day in which our Lord rose from the dead thus inaugurating the new era in which we live: “the [time] of the Lord’s favor,” announced by Isaiah (61:1-4), and fulfilled in our Lord’s ministry (Luke 4:16-21). But please bear in mind, though our Lord’s resurrection “tweaked” the fourth commandment (changed the day from Saturday to Sunday), it did not abolish it. 2) We are to lay something aside each Sunday. Giving is a regular spiritual discipline. I am aware that there are some professions for which that might be harder to do, for instance, farming, in which income might be more sporadic. Still, like prayer and good deeds, giving should be as regular as income permits. 3) “As he may prosper,” reminds us that we are to give as the Lord has prospered us and not as He has prospered someone else. We cannot all give equal gifts, but we can make equal sacrifices. 4) In the ancient world, giving and receiving were personal matters; hence, the Corinthians were to send representatives along with the gift. It is a pity that today such gifts must be given anonymously to protect the dignity of the receiver and the embarrassment of the giver. To whom does the receiver render thanks? Before whom may the giver shed his embarrassment and treat like a man such as himself? This is a major problem with the modern welfare state. How does one thank a massive impersonal bureaucracy for governmental aid sent by mail or electronically transferred to an account? And how would such a bureaucracy even receive such thanks—by voting for that candidate who promised to increase it? Ugh! The Church is called to charity and generosity, and that on a personal level.