Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.
Money. Whether we’ve got lots or little, we’re juggling it all the time. At the very least we’re constantly shelling it out for basic life-provisions (food, shelter, clothing), plus perhaps saving up reserves or expending on extras or scrambling to meet other commitments or investing to see growth.
How should followers of Jesus handle money? This letter to the Corinthians gives us very little input, but we get a fleeting glimpse right here in these four short verses, a glimpse that provides foundational perspective for Christian generosity.
Paul gives concise, simple instructions to the Corinthians with the full expectation that they will comply, just as the Galatians had, since they are all under the lordship of Christ. Regularly set aside an amount of money from your income, he says, in order to support the Lord’s people. Indeed, do it weekly, on the first day of the week – that’s resurrection day, the Lord’s day, the day of gathered worship.
Those Corinthians who came from a Jewish background would have had this kind of giving already built into their expectations, having lived under the Old Testament commandment of tithing, giving one tenth of their income right off the top. Those coming from a pagan culture often had similar expectations for giving that arose from their own religious communities.
But now this practice is motivated by a commitment to Christ and a love for “God’s people.” Since they are to set aside money on the first day of the week, their giving is intimately tied to worship – it’s part of their expression of devotion to the Risen Lord.
The giving is to be deliberate (“set aside”), regular (“on the first day”), consistent (“every week”), inclusive (“each one”), and proportional (“in keeping with his income”). Paul doesn’t make it a “law,” for he is adamant that we are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). But he clearly expects such giving to become a habitual practice. “God loves a cheerful giver,” as he will tell the Corinthians in a successive letter (2 Cor 9:7). Neither here nor there does he specify the amount that should be given, simply leaving it to each one to determine for themselves (“each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give” 2 Cor 9:7). But the background of Old Testament tithing gives a context within which to determine generosity.
So, how do you respond? Where do you find yourself on this issue? Love for the Lord and love for his people calls us into ongoing generosity. It’s never easy. It will always feel costly. Each time we’ll have to deny ourselves to some extent. It will always be a sacrifice.
But, of course, we’re following Jesus himself who gave his life as a ransom for many. It cost him everything. Giving is now part of our recreated DNA.
Lord Jesus, your example stands behind this calling to live generously. Help me to have eyes on you as I examine the wealth in my own hands, whether much or little. By your Spirit, strengthen me to follow you in this incredibly practical area of life, even when it hurts. For your name’s sake. Amen.
Reflect: What is your own habit of giving? Does it need to be adjusted based on these verses? Talk with the Lord about it.