I’d like to begin with a question that might seem at first to be unrelated to our text today: “What did the Lord teach you through the COVID Pandemic?” What did the Lord teach you?
He was certainly doing a million things through the last few years, but I doubt many have taken the time to consider, “What was the Lord trying to teach his church, his people, throughout a global pandemic and shut down?”
I think that the Lord very clearly revealed deficiencies in the thinking and practice of the church, particularly in two of the areas addressed in our text this morning. And those two areas are persistent idols in the heart of man: our time and our money.
Our time and our money, particularly our freedom and autonomy in those areas, autonomy which is sacred to Americans. Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with my stuff. Don’t constrict my freedom. Don’t limit my autonomy. That’s our very me-centric disposition.
But God’s word would have us to reverse the thinking. Freedom in Christ is never given for the sake of bare personal autonomy. Freedom for Freedom’s sake. Rather, Freedom in Christ is a gift of the Lord that ought to be stewarded for the good of others, and the glory of God.
That means that Christians ought to be prioritizing things rightly, spending our time and money well, in order to bless others and honor the Lord. That’s where we are heading, and to get there, let’s read our text in 1 Corinthians 16. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4:
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 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. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
Let me begin with a little context for us. Paul’s just finished in chapter 15 taking us up to the mountain tops of doctrine. He spent 58 verses talking about the doctrine of the resurrection. How death will be defeated, how the dead will be raised, how the mortal will put on the imperishable. Really glorious stuff.
And now he transitions to another topic, as he’s done several other times in this letter. He’s addressing things that the Corinthians had brought up in a previous letter that they wrote to him. And the next topic is money. The collection.
We should note that connection. Paul can seamlessly transition from glorious doctrine and a theology of the resurrection, to talking about money. Paul wouldn’t see a discussion of money as taboo, as crass or worldly, and it certainly wasn’t off limits.
Money reveals our hearts, as our Lord taught, and if our hearts are informed by the biblical doctrine of the resurrection, if we know for certain that Christ will return and reward us at his glorious appearing, then of course we can use our money and time for good.
Now, what prompts Paul to talk about money? He’s continuing a discussion about a need in Jerusalem. Believers in Jerusalem were in great need, and so Paul is making the churches aware of it, so they can help.
He doesn’t spell out exactly what caused the need. Perhaps it was the huge number of Jewish converts, who were being persecuted by the Jews in Jerusalem. Perhaps it was the large number of widows, mentioned in Acts 6. All of that was certainly made worse by a big famine in the land, mentioned in Acts 24:17.
Whatever the exact causes were, believers were in need, and so Paul is arranging for other believers to be able to alleviate their suffering in Jerusalem. That’s the context of what is going on.
What will be instructive for us today is to spend a little time sifting through Paul’s instructions, in order to see what principles are operating in his mind. How might Paul’s instruction, which was addressing a particular need, teach us principles that we can apply today?
And as we will see, his instructions teach us principles regarding our TIME and our MONEY. Let’s look at verses 1-2, and see what Paul says regarding our time:
The Lord’s Day.
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up
On the first day of the week. That’s Sunday. Paul specifically points out that the collection was to take place on Sunday.
Let me ask you a question: does it really matter when the church meets? Could we meet on Saturday night? Or Tuesday afternoon?
It’s not uncommon to see churches today shifting around the day of worship in order to cater to a church membership that is just too busy.
Don’t have time to worship on Sunday, that’s OK. Try our Tuesday night service. Swing by on your way home and check that box.
Let me give us a hypothetical scenario, which would really test our understanding of the Lord’s day: If America were to be in invaded and conquered by a Muslim nation, and Sunday becomes a regular work day, and Friday becomes the only day off, would you still think we should worship on Sunday? Or would you say that we should just move the worship services to Friday?
Is the day and time of worship simply a matter of convenience? Or is it a matter of theological conviction?
Previous generations of Christians would say that the day of worship was a matter of theological conviction.
In fact, we have an interesting letter from history to prove the point. A Roman Govenor named Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to the Roman Emperor Trajan around 110 AD, so not long after the completion of the New Testament. And this Governor mentions that there is this group of Christians in his region that are puzzling to him.
These Christians are persecuted, and put on trial, and yet they gather together. In fact, Pliny says that they meet weekly, before dawn. He specifically mentions they’d meet together, worship the Lord, then depart and go to work. Then they’d gather AGAIN and enjoy a fellowship meal together.
Now, could you imagine waking up before dawn to go to church, then spending a day at work as a slave, then coming back together after work in order to fellowship? How important was the Lord’s day to early Christians? It was important enough to sacrifice sleep and rest in order to worship on the Lord’s Day.
And yet we have churches today that don’t want to interrupt your busy weekend with worship, so we just shift it to something more convenient, like Tuesday night after soccer practice.
Paul wouldn’t have stood for that. The Lord’s day has been the Christian day of worship ever since Christ was raised on that first Easter Morning. His Resurrection on Sunday marks the transfer of the day of worship, the fulfillment of the old patter of worshipping on the Jewish Sabbath, what we call Saturday.
Why can I say that? That the day of worship has been transferred? Why should we affirm this transfer, unlike people like the 7th Day Adventists, who claim we should still worship on Saturday? Let me give us some reasons:
The first reason to affirm the transfer of the day of Sabbath observance from Saturday to Sunday is because of the honor given to it by the Lord. It should be noted that every recorded post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples happens on Sunday. Jesus appears on the evening of the resurrection day (e.g., Jn 20:19). Likewise, eight days later (counting inclusively, as the Jews did) Jesus came to the disciples again on a Sunday (Jn 20:26). Jesus’s recorded appearances to the disciples all appear on Sunday.
Another reason to affirm the change of day, and perhaps the most important, is the apostolic example found in the New Testament. It is clear from this text and others that the apostolic-era church did gather on Sundays. This passage assumes that the church would be meeting regularly on the Lord’s Day, a command that Paul taught in all the churches (cf. 1 Cor 4:17; 7:17).
For example, another passage indicating Lord’s Day worship is Acts 20:7a: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread.” The breaking of bread reference is often seen as a reference to the partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Thus, the transfer of Saturday to Sunday was set at early as pre-Pentecost and was affirmed by apostolic example.
Also, we should note that the title given to the Day of worship in the New Testament is significant. The title, “the Lord’s Day,” affirms the honor given to the day as the appointed time for the church to meet. The term is used by John in Revelation 1:10 without remark or explanation, showing that the term must have been in general use and well understood by his audience. The very term demonstrates something special about the day.
Further, when the Roman Emperor of the day was known as a demi-god called “THE KYRIOS” “THE LORD”, to call Sunday the Day of the Lord or the Lord’s Day was not only a statement about a day of the week, but was also a theological and political statement of who is the true Lord. Christ is Lord over all, even the Roman Emperor, the most powerful man in the World.
So the phrase, “the day of the Lord” is significant. The title of “Lord’s Day” affirms that God is the owner of the day in special distinction from the rest of the days. Yes, God owns all days, but
He owns Sunday in a special way. Just like a man is called to love all people around him, but he’s to love his own wife in a special way. Those two loves don’t compete, but complement one another.
So I ask you, where does the Lord’s day fit into your priorities? Do you squeeze in church when there’s room? Or do you plan ahead, making sure to give to the Lord the time that is due him, and then let everything else fill in the rest of the week?
If we’re not intentional, the Lord’s day will get squeezed out. Work will squeeze in. Sports will crowd out the Lord. Americans almost universally see Sunday as a second Saturday, another day of recreation, a day to catch up on sleep. A day to watch 12 hours of football. A day for Yardwork and golf.
How deficient a view. This is the day that our Lord was raised from the dead. He’s given us a pattern of gathering 1 day in 7, to spend special time with the Lord and with His people. Sunday’s the most important day of the week. Everything else must orbit around it.
Not because we’re slaves to the 4th commandment. But because I’ve been freed from Sin, like the Hebrews were freed from their Egyptian taskmasters. I’ve been liberated from bondage in Egypt, baptized in the red sea, and am headed toward the promised land in Heaven.
But unlike the Jews, who always had to look forward to their day of rest at the end of the week on Saturday. I get to start my week from a position of rest. My first day of the week is restful, because it looks backwards to the one who rested in the grave in my place.
And because he died in my place, taking my death to the grave and rising out with my life, I can worship him freely, I can sacrifice my time and effort, I can freely gather with God’s people.
On the First day of the week.
Next, moving back to our text. The rest of this section of text is about money. I want to pull some principles from this text, and a few from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in order to clarify our thinking about money and priorities. I’ve got for us 8 short principles to guide our thinking about our money.
First, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, we can see a first principle that should guide our giving: Christian giving should be regular. Christian giving should be regular. Paul says to the Corinthians, “On the first day of every week,” they are to take up a collection.
As we’ve already seen, by this time in the New Testament church’s short history, Christians had a regular pattern of meeting on the Lord’s day, that is Sunday, for worship and fellowship. It was the expected and natural time that a collection would take place, when they met together.
And this collection needed to be regular because the needs were regular. The poor and the widows and the orphans needed to be feed daily, and so the collection needed to be regular so that the regular needs could be met.
The same is true for us today. Local churches in every part of the world and in every culture have regular needs that need to be met. It could be the poor that needs to be fed, or the light bill that needs to be taken care of, or salaries that need to be paid. Paul talks about that in 1 Timothy 5:17-18:
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.””
The men that labor in preaching and teaching have often in the history of the church been financially supported by the local congregation, and their needs and their families’ needs are regular, and so should our giving be regular.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that you must give something every week. Some people aren’t paid regularly, and they have to give when they can. Some farmers may only get paid once or twice a year when they take crops to the market, so they give when they can. But by in large, most of us are paid regularly, and when we’re able, we should also give regularly.
Next, second principle, Christian giving should be comprehensive. Christian giving should be comprehensive.
On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside.
Each of you. Not just the rich. Not just the empty nesters or the singles or the upper class. Nor is the duty to be given simply to those who have the spiritual gift of generosity. Some people may be better at giving than others, but no group is to be excluded. We might say, No child of God left behind.
Everyone is to be included. It doesn’t say you start giving once you get above the poverty line, or once you get above a certain pay grade. In fact, I’d argue very strongly, if you don’t begin to faithfully give when you make very little, you are unlikely to give faithfully when you start making more.
Everyone is duty bound to participate in the giving, no matter how small the gift, and that means that everyone is likewise able to patriciate in the spiritual blessings that come with giving. The point is not the size of the gift, but the heart behind it.
More on that in a moment.
Third principle: Christian giving should be purposeful. It should be purposeful.
On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up. Put something aside and store it up
You need to think ahead, bring it with you, put forethought and intentionality into your giving. You don’t simply grab your wallet and make a donation of whatever happens to be in there. You should have thought in advance.
Ideally, you’ve got some sort of regularity in your salary, and so you can contribute regularly. But even if not, when you get paid, you intentionally set some aside. You plan ahead. You give from the first fruits, not the left overs. Our giving should be purposeful, not haphazard or thoughtless.
Next, 4th principle for guiding our giving: Christian Giving should be proportionate.
2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper,
As he may prosper. That means each of us should give according to what we make.
Christian Giving should be proportionate. We could flip over a few pages to 2nd Corinthians 8, where Paul gives extended attention to the topic of giving and generosity. And in chapter 8 he holds up the church in Macedonia, which was much less wealthy than the church at Corinth, and makes mention in chapter 8 verse 3 that they “gave according to their means.”
That is a significant statement for us, and in it I think we see a glimpse of the wisdom of God in not explicitly commanding a 10% tithe in the New Covenant.
If we were still bound to give 10%, like portions of the Old Testament, then some Chrisitians might just be able to stroke that check and move on with life as if nothing happened. Some might not even feel the loss of it. But when we are called to give according to our means, that both changes things for those with more money, and it liberates those with less, and it enables God to get to the heart of the matter.
Let me put it another way. Some Christians would be in sin if they only gave 10%, while others would be in sin if they went up to 10%. This is important, so I will say it again: Some Christians would be in sin if they only gave 10%, while others would be in sin if they went up to 10%.
I say some might be in sin if they only gave 10% because they make enough that giving 10% wouldn’t change their life in any way. Our giving is supposed to be sacrificial, as I will explain in a moment, and for some, merely giving 10% is not a sacrifice. They could comfortably live off of the 90% and not even miss the 10.
Conversely, some people are not at a position financially to give 10%, and if they did so, they might be neglecting weightier matters of the law, like managing their household, or feeding or clothing their own children.
Thus, we can see the wisdom of God in not explicitly retaining the tithe principle. He is more concerned with the heart behind your giving, and by exhorting the Corinthian believers to give according to their means, he is at the same time increasing the obligation upon those with more resources, and liberating those who have fewer financial resources from a burden of which they could not bear.
Our giving should be proportionate to our income. The more we have, the more we ought to be able to give.
Principle 5: Christian Giving should be administered properly. Christian Giving should be administered properly.
Verse 3: “3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.”
Paul’s not demanding that they give him the money. He’s not going to be the one carrying the money bag to Jerusalem. He makes clear that THEY will pick the money handler.
Likewise, Paul says at the end of chapter 8 in 2nd Corinthians that the brothers ought to be sent ahead, to arrange for the gift to be handled properly.
The lesson for us is clear. We should likewise make sure the giving is handled properly. That’s why we have money counters, and deacons, and a finance team to make sure that the money you give actually ends up at its intended destination. Redundancy, transparency, and accountability.
None of us staff makes any purchase without submitting receipts. Each receipt is checked and filed. The finance team oversees reports and statements and checks and bills.
Too many pastors have disqualified themselves and tarnished the reputation of the church by getting into financial trouble. Reaching into the church’s pockets. That should never be a possibility. Transparency and accountability. Proper administration. Because none of us is beyond temptation in these matters.
Next, moving onto a few more lessons from Paul’s 2nd Letter to Corinth. Turn with me to Second Corinthians chapter 9, and we can see Principle #6: Giving is to be personal. Christian giving should be personal. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
We must each decide in our heart how much to give, which is important. Christian giving is not a tax on church member; Christian giving is not forced wealth redistribution. The church should not be out twisting people’s arms or manipulating them into giving.
It can be surprisingly easy to emotionally manipulate people into opening their pocketbooks, and the church should have nothing to do with that. We must each decide in our hearts how much we will give, and should do that without compulsion.
I’m tempted to say something here that Augustine said, even though it can be dangerous if it is misinterpreted, but I believe he is right on the money. Augustine said: “love God, and do what you want.” That’s the doctrine of Christian liberty, which I won’t dive into today. Another sermon perhaps. But the principle is biblical and sound.
If you love God, truly love God, then you will seek to avoid anything that he prohibits, and you will endeavor to pursue all that he commands. Within the bounds of that framework, you have freedom to do according to your conscience. If you want to give to this lawful charity, you have freedom. If you want to give anonymously, you have that freedom. If you want to give an extra amount this month, great.
If, providentially, you can’t give as much this month, that’s fine. Love God, and do what you want, because our giving should be personal, not coerced by someone else.
Next, Principle # 7: Christian Giving should be cheerful. Christian giving should be cheerful. Paul says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This is really the tough one.
Most of us know that God expects us to give, and to give regularly, and to give sacrificially. But cheerfully, that’s the hard one. Because of the sin remaining in our hearts, it can be difficult to give eagerly, with joy. We might even know that this is good for us, but it still is unpleasant, like the spiritual equivalent of eating our broccoli. I know I ought to do it, and I know it is good for me, but I still don’t like it.
We’re called instead to be overflowing with joy at the opportunities we have to give to others. Praising God that he has given us the means to be able to meet the needs that others have. He’s brought us into the mechanism of blessing that he uses to dispense his gracious gifts to others. We become the vehicle of his material blessings being passed along to others.
But what if we don’t feel this way? What if I am not as cheerful as I ought to be, in fact, I’m not cheerful at all? I find it hard to give regularly, to write that check, or to handover that money? I don’t like to forgo something I want so that others might be comforted. I like spending money on stuff for me. I worked hard for it, and I like to taste of the fruit of my hard work. Well that leads to my final principle:
Principle # 8: Christian Giving starts with grace and ends with thanksgiving. Christian Giving starts with grace and ends with thanksgiving. There is a chain in Paul’s arguments that I want you to see.
Paul sets the clear foundation for our giving in 8:9, when he says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Jesus knows that we are greedy and stingy people, who do not give cheerfully and don’t want to be sacrificial in any way.
We cling to our money and our comfort and our security, and we can’t stand it when somebody points any of that out. But Christ didn’t cling to his riches. In fact, he willingly came down and gave them up. He didn’t have a big house, in fact he didn’t have a house at all. He was dependent upon others for a place to lay his head.
He didn’t have a huge bank account or portfolio. In fact he worked as a lowly carpenter and was content with very little. And he didn’t have the security of great wealth, but instead gave it up, willingly sacrificed himself in the place of sinners like me and you, showing his poverty in the eyes of world.
But it is through his poverty that we can become rich. We have, by faith in Christ, access to every spiritual blessing that we need for life and godliness. Even more, we have security knowing that all things work together for our good. No rough patch, no hard time, no downsize, no layoffs can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
This is grace that is foundational to Paul’s arguments. And when we understand this grace, it produces within us a heart of gratitude. A heart overflowing with gratitude to God for his gracious gifts and provision in Jesus.
And it is from that position of gratitude, that we then can begin to give. Our heart of gratitude overflows into all the areas of our lives, including our finances. We’re not stingy with our money, because we know that Christ hasn’t been stingy with us. We’re not over-protective of our wealth, because Christ has not been over protective with his. We’re generous to others because Christ has first been generous to us. Grace leads to gratitude leads to giving.
But the chain doesn’t stop there. Christ’s graces, leads to our gratitude, which motivates our giving, and results in Thanksgiving to God.
Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 9:10-12, “ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”
It all starts with God and it all returns to God. God shows us grace, fills our heart with gratitude, motivates our giving, which results in the thanksgiving of others to God for his gracious provision.
So in closing, I’ll end where I began. How are you doing with your time and your money? Are you giving the Lord from your first fruits, from the best of your time? Or does God get your leftovers.
Know this. Jesus died for the sin of greed, and he died for people who get their priorities all out of whack. If you’ve found that you’re not where you need to be, know that Jesus will forgive. Confess your sin to him, and he will delight to cleanse you, restore you, and help you grow.
But also know this. If you’re not trusting in Christ, if you’re not showing your allegiance to him by giving of your time and your money, then know that he will return. He will make every knee bow in submission, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
The choice is before you. You can bow the knee and confess his Lordship now, by honoring his day and giving to him, or you can bow and confess him as Lord when he comes to judge. Don’t wait until that day. Embrace him now as savior and Lord, and he will gladly receive you.
That’s the good news of scripture: “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Amen. Let’s Pray.