Our main text is 1 Corinthians 16:1-4:
Sometime later, Paul wrote a second letter to the Corinthians.
Apparently, some of them had grow lax in their giving and Paul wants to urge them to complete what they started:
May God add His blessing to this the reading of His holy and infallible Word.
Financial stewardship is a touchy issue in the church.
Part of this is because the church has always been plagued by those who use religion for financial gain.
The health, wealth and prosperity preachers of our day are notorious for this.
Part of it is because we are naturally private when it comes to finances and we do not like people telling us what we are to do with our money.
Thankfully, I do not have to tell you what to do with your money, we can leave that to God.
Taken together, these three passages, sum up God’s Rules for Giving.
The first thing we see in this text is that...
Giving Should Be Systematic
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, Peter boldly proclaimed that even if everyone else fled from Jesus side, he would stand by Jesus and defend Him.
Jesus gently rebukes Peter by saying, “The flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.”
Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves.
This is why through the Holy Spirit, Jesus inspired Paul to write, "On the first day of each week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up…so that there will be no collecting when I come.”
The fact is no matter how good our intentions are, if we fail to give on a regular systematic basis, we will fail to give the amount we intend to give.
Good intentions are worthless without a plan.
Have you ever noticed that money is like water—it evaporates!
If we do not budget and set aside money for a vacation, when the time comes we will not have enough.
If we do not set aside money for our retirement, when retirement comes, we will not have enough.
The same is true of giving.
The first rule that God has given us concerning giving is to give systematically, the second is to give proportionally.
Giving Should Be Proportional
This is also found in 1 Cor 16:2, where Paul says that each person should give, “as he may prosper”.
What Paul means by this is that each person should give according to their income.
This is confirmed in 2 Cor 8, where we read:
Too many people think in terms of dollar amounts when it comes to giving, rather than according to their means.
This is because we tend to be impressed by dollar amounts.
We hear of people like Bill Gates giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a charity and we are impressed, but God is not.
Jesus spoke of this in Mark’s gospel:
Jesus’ point is that her monetarily insignificant gift of just one penny was in fact more significant to God, because she gave proportionally more than the others did!
So, what portion of our income is a good starting place?
Thankfully, we do not have to guess about this, because God tells us—ten percent.
In the Old Testament, this is called a tithe.
The Old Testament tithe was the means by which God established to support the ministry of the Old Covenant Church.
The tribe of Levi, which included the priests, was given the task of doing this ministry.
They received no land as an inheritance, the rest of Israel was to give 10% of their income to support the tribe of Levi, this was to be their inheritance.
Under the New Covenant, all of God’s people have been made priests and the local congregation, not the temple, is the focus of ministry.
Consequently, the tithe is to go to the local church.
Some have pointed out that there is not a specific commandment in the New Testament that believers are to give a tithe.
This is true, but would us want to give less than ten percent in light of the greatness of grace shown to us under the New Covenant?
Before we leave the topic of proportionality, Scripture also demands that we consider the fact that ten percent for a poor person is much more than ten percent for a rich person.
Moreover, the trajectory of Scripture is moving from the lesser to the greater.
The Old Covenant was but a shadow, the New Covenant is the reality.
The Law of letter has become the Law of love.
When Paul write, “each should give as he has determined in his heart to give”, he is not giving us an excuse to give less than ten percent, but the reason we should give more than ten percent!
Consequently, we must plan not only when we give, but how much.
The New Year is a great time to do this.
Sit down and make a plan!
This is the third rule God gives us:
Giving Should Be Corporate
In our texts, the Corinthians were instructed to bring their offerings to the local church and there their offerings were to be administered by the officers of the church.
This does not mean that there can be no private acts of charity.
Private giving is not only encouraged in Scripture, but also commanded.
However, the bulk of our giving should be through the local church.
There are several reasons this is so:
First, it safeguards us against pride and envy.
Earlier I spoke of how we tend to be impressed by dollar amounts.
Charitable organizations are aware of this and typically give special recognition and perks to their biggest donors.
By collecting their relief aid for the Jerusalem church corporately, the identity of each donor was hidden.
Praise and thanksgiving were given to the whole church, not just individuals.
More important, praise and thanksgiving is given to God.
Second, it guards against abuse.
Did you notice in our text that offerings were to be entrusted to more than one trustworthy man, with Paul himself offered to accompany the offering to Jerusalem?
This is because theft is an age-old sin, and even the best person can fall to this temptation.
The final rule God gives us is, ...
Giving Should Be Cheerful
This is found in 2 Corinthians 9:7:
Our cheerfulness is born out of gratitude and love:
It is also born out of our faith.
Faith that God will provide for not only our needs, but also that He will give us an abundance to share with others.
This is not a promise that God will make you rich, it is a promise that God will always provide us with the means to be obedient to Him.
That poor widow whom Jesus spoke of remained a poor widow and because of her exceeding generosity she probably missed a meal or two; but we can know with certainty that God was faithful to her by providing for her abundantly in order that in the future she could give generously.
Someone once said, “You cannot out give God!”
It is true, our text says it is.
In our offertory text God challenged Israel:
Brothers and sisters, give systematically!
Give through the local church!
Most importantly, give cheerfully and confidently!