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Our Financial Duty to Believers in Need (I Corinthians 16:1-4)

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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Introduction: God's Care for the Poor

An unknown author once wrote these words:

A young boy, on an errand for his mother, had just bought a dozen eggs. Walking out of the store, he tripped and dropped the sack. All the eggs broke, and the sidewalk was a mess. The boy tried not to cry.

A few people gathered to see if he was okay and to tell him how sorry they were. In the midst of the words of pity, one man handed the boy a quarter.

Then he turned to the group and said, “I care twenty-five cents worth. How much do the rest of you care?”

Throughout the Bible God lets His people know that He cares for the poor and needy. As John D. Barry said on the website biblestudytool.com:

"You simply cannot have the gospel of Jesus and neglect the call to care for impoverished, marginalized, and outcast — those on the underside of power."

Love of God and love of your neighbor go hand in hand. Serving God means caring for those whom God loves and being His hands and feet in this world in which we have been placed.

That is especially true of those who, like us, call on the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In Galatians 6:10 Paul says this:

"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."

Today we come to the end of Paul's epistle of I Corinthians in which he spent most of his time addressing and correcting the immorality and divisions that had arisen among them. In I Corinthians 15 we just got finished studying Paul's correction of some false teachers who wrongly said that there is no resurrection of the dead.

Now, in chapter 16, the apostle begins to turn to some practical business matters. The first of which, found in verses 1-4, is instructions to them on how to prepare a special contribution for needy Christians in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem saints were suffering through persecution for their faith in Christ, as well as extreme poverty. Paul was collecting donations from many of the Gentile churches he had helped to establish, including the church in Corinth.

From this passage and some others in Scripture, we can begin to find out a biblical policy concerning a Christian's financial duty to our fellow believers in need, both in our own church and throughout the world.

Before we begin, let us read the first four verses of I Corinthians 16 and see exactly what the apostle told the believers at Corinth. He wrote this:

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me."

I. We Are to Give Deliberately and Regularly (1-2)

The first thing that we can learn from Paul's instructions to the Corinthians is that our giving to those who are in need in the church should be done deliberately and regularly. In 16:1 Paul begins talking about the collection for the saints who, as we have said, were being persecuted and were destitute in Jerusalem. The city was both overpopulated and famine stricken so the people were in bad shape. Paul had previously solicited funds from the churches of Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia. Now he instructs the Corinthians to do the same. He begins by telling them in verse 2 that they should put aside and save money for the express purpose of giving to these poor saints.

From the very beginning the early church met on Sunday, the first day of the week, because that is the day that Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 20:7). It is on this meeting day every week that the people were to set aside the money for the saints and not wait until the last moment before Paul arrived at Corinth.

The whole point of doing this is to let them know that giving must occur regularly and not just when a person felt generous. Giving is to be a part of the life of the saint. They shouldn't have to be instructed to give. God loved this world and gave His Son to die for it. We are to love our neighbor, not only as ourselves but as God loves them. That means caring for the financial welfare of those who are unable to care for themselves.

We must also specify that this isn't some kind of socialistic redistribution of wealth that the Scriptures are advocating. The Church doesn't take from the rich and give to the poor like Robin Hood. Socialism takes money by force from the earner and gives to one who didn't earn it. This biblical giving is a voluntary love offering for someone genuinely in need. And it is not for someone who refuses to work either. The Scripture doesn't advocate laziness. As a matter of fact, Paul says in II Thessalonians 3:10 that one who doesn't work should not eat. These being given to are people who are genuinely in need and can't help themselves.

II. We Are to Give in Keeping with Our Income Level (2)

The next thing that we can glean from this passage is the fact that giving should be in keeping with how the Lord has prospered the person who gives. That means that there is no required amount or percentage for giving to the Lord's work specified in the New Testament. However, that doesn't mean that God isn't concerned about our giving.

Also, in giving to the work of the Lord's church, we must not confuse what we are to give today with the Old Testament requirement of giving three tithes. This giving by national Israel totaled around 23 percent annually. The money was used to fund the national government of Israel. It also took care of public festivals as well as provided for welfare. The modern equivalent of all of these tithes is the taxation system that many countries have today.

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The term tithe literally means tenth. Here is what Easton's Bible dictionary has to say about this Old Testament word. It tells us it is:

"a tenth of the produce of the earth consecrated and set apart for special purposes. The dedication of a tenth to God was recognized as a duty before the time of Moses. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis14:20; Hebrews 7:6); and Jacob vowed unto the Lord and said, "Of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee."

There is nowhere in the New Testament that proves that the Old Testament law of tithes is binding on the church today. However, the principle of giving out of service to God and love for ones' neighbor and for our fellow believer certainly is there.

Since the idea of giving as the Lord prospers one is the standard here, then that means that some are able to give more than others without causing any hardship to their budget.

But there is also room for sacrificial giving as well. We see in II Corinthians 8:3 that The Macedonian believers both gave according to their means and then even beyond their means. Paul is quick to add that they did so willingly and not under any kind of command or obligation or pressure from him or others. The Macedonian Christians wanted to give as much as they could.

III. We Are to Give in a Manner that is Above Reproach (3-4)

We can glean another principle on giving from this passage as well. That is that we are to give in a manner that is above reproach, or that cannot be questioned by others. Notice that Paul didn't say he would get the money from them and deliver it himself. If he had, he might have been accused of gathering the money for his own greedy desires. Instead, he said in verses 3-4 that:

"When I arrive, whomever, you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me."

The men that the Corinthians chose would be those whom they trusted with a large sum of money. They would be men that wouldn't steal or be careless with it but would get it to where it was intended to go. And if it was necessary for Paul to go, they would be there to verify his honesty as well.

Unfortunately, it is easy to have an appearance of evil when it comes to dealing with someone else's money. There should always be measures taken to assure to everyone involved that everything is being done with honesty and integrity.

IV. We should Give Willingly (II Corinthians 9:1-7)

The next principle that we learn from the apostle Paul can be found in his second epistle to the Corinthians. He is still talking about the offering that they were collecting for the believers in Jerusalem here. And the principle that we see from these verses is that one should give willingly and not by force. In II Corinthians 9:1-7 he says:

"Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. Therefore, I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."

The bottom line is that love for God, love of your brother and the desire to see the gospel advanced should be the motivational factors behind your giving habits. It should not be for self-promotion that you do it. Nor should it be merely because you feel pressured. It should rather be done out of a heart that overflows with a desire to help and to minister to a someone in need.

V. We Are to Give Knowing that God Provides All Our Needs (II Corinthians 9:8-12)

Paul goes on in this same passage of II Corinthians to tell the believers that the God who asks you to give will also supply your needs as well. He tells them:

"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written:

“He has dispersed abroad,

He has given to the poor;

His righteousness endures forever.”

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God." (9:8-12).

John Macarthur says this regarding these verses:

"God possesses an infinite amount of grace and He gives it lavishly, without holding back. Here "grace" does not refer to spiritual graces but to money and material needs. When the believer generously and wisely gives of his material resources God graciously replenishes them so he always has plenty and will not need."

The apostle said something similar to the Philippians who had given him a gift while he was in prison. In Philippians 4:19 he said:

"And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Conclusion

As we conclude this section on Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, I am reminded of another Scripture that talks about poor and needy brothers. James, in chapter 2 of his epistle, is talking about the fruit that should be demonstrated by someone who claims to have faith in Jesus Christ. Just like a living tree has fruit, so a living faith produces fruit as well. Works don't bring salvation. But they do demonstrate to the world that a person is truly a new creature in Christ. And that is just the point James is making when he says this:

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus, also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Obviously, none of us alone can help everyone in the world that is in need. We don't even have the resources to help all the Christians in the world that are poor. But we can help some. And, together, we can help a lot more.

If we truly belong to our Heavenly Father through faith in Jesus Christ, then God expects us to be giving deliberately and regularly. In keeping with our income. In a manner that is above reproach. It should be willingly, while at the same time, realizing that God will provide for our every need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

May the world look at us and see the loving and generous God that we serve, as we reflect Him by the way we treat the needy that are all around us. God cares for the poor. And so should we!

© 2022 Jeff Shirley

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