April 13, 2016 — 1 Corinthians 16:1–11
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 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. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.
One of the most uncomfortable topics for a pastor to talk about in front of his congregation is about money. Sure, it’s one thing to give people financial tips for wise living, but I find it ironic that we have replaced worship through giving with worship through stewardship.
Of course I’m not saying that we should only have one or the other, but the reality is that when it comes to living out the life of walking by faith the way that we spend our money should be pretty shocking to the ways of the world. I thank God that Christians use money management books, classes, and conferences to spread the gospel, but ultimately the results of good money management are a result of wisdom. Giving is about compassion and love.
The uncomfortable fact of the matter is that pastors are funded by donations from the congregation, at times even needing a second job to support the work that they are doing. Paul stated earlier in his letter that a worker is due their wages, but as anyone who has ever had to approach someone who owes them money knows, it is awkward to ask people to pay up. So we cloud the provision of our leaders with gilt fueled language that passes the buck (sorry) to God’s commands. We say that if God expected the Israelites to give ten percent of all they made to the temple, then Christians should be at least starting there!
Even I have pondered what it would be like if Christians gave 10% of everything that they made to the church. The long and short of it is that it would be a lot of money. I have gotten frustrated working on my Church’s financial team in the past knowing that we weren’t bringing in anywhere close to what 10% of the combined incomes of the church was. My indignant heart was being fueled by thoughts of change that could have been made with more money. Unfortunately that motivation was one that was ultimately built from pride and not trust.
No where in the New Testament is there any sort of language about tithing. Just like other spiritual disciplines it was pretty much a given that those who were in Christ would be motivated to give to their own body. Yet we have moved so far away from the idea that our faith is driven by union with God that we have to come up with ways to just keep the lights on in some churches.
The early church basically just lived out the reality of who they were. They really believed that in a fundamental way they were a family of brothers and sisters and for goodness sake you don’t let your brothers and sisters go hungry. That is why Paul was so mad about the rich eating all the food at the gatherings before the poorer Corinthians came back to work. He wasn’t mad because they broke some rule, but because they were living contrary to who they were.
By mandating that Christians give 10% of their earnings to the church we are more or less instituting a tax with absolutely no enforcement. It should be no surprise that people aren’t super thrilled about giving. Add to that the fact that our churches are structured like businesses causing congregants to act like they are shareholders with power based on the amount they give, and you can see that we are pretty far away from the idea of what our giving is supposed to be.
We are to give because we can. It is with freedom that we lovingly give in order to care for the body. Yes, sometimes it can hurt — exercising and eating healthy isn’t always fun, but it is good for you. We ought to care for our leaders and congregants by lovingly and lavishly giving without worry or fear. Our giving should be out of a joyful and worshipful spirit, and not out of obligation. When we start living like a family our leaders won’t be afraid of coming to their brothers and sisters and explaining that they need to be taken care of. And we ought to desire that they are.