Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Looking After the Finances

 1 Cor 16:2

What Paul says about the particular situation he was discussing - the collection for the saints in Jerusalem - contains some very wise and practical directions which provide a sound general guide from the apostle for financial practice in stewardship in the church for our day as well as his.

The principles he sets out are:

(a) “On the first day”: This reference (with the others which we find in the New Testament) indicates that the Christians made a practice of meeting together on the first day of every week (i.e., on the Sunday). Their giving is thus to be systematic, not sporadic, and it is tied in with the regular Christian worship, which would provide an ongoing reminder and motivation and stimulus for such systematic giving.

(b) “Of every week”: Their giving is not only to be systematic but regular, and not occasional, or a matter of whim or impulse. The carrying out of this instruction will require planning and preparation, and will mean the incorporation of this Christian stewardship within the framework of a household’s regular outgoings.

(c) “Each of you is to put something aside”: Everyone is to be committed to this program of giving. It is not just for those who feel like it, or who are richer than the rest, or who believe themselves called to be liberal, as if there are others who may consider themselves excused from participation. Whether the sum of money set aside is small or large, each of them is to be involved in this project. The responsibility of giving aid to the saints was an obligation which every one of the brothers in the churches is to acknowledge and accept. So also today the same principle applies: all the people of God have a responsibility of Christian stewardship and as stewards should set an amount aside on a systematic and regular basis.

(d) “As he may prosper”: Their giving is to be proportional to their means. The principle of proportional giving goes back into the Old Testament, where people gave a tenth of their increase (the tithe) to God. This principle of tithing is confirmed in the New Testament. That Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek is mentioned in Hebrews (7:2) in a context that indicates that this is viewed favorably. Their tithing is the only thing for which Jesus ever commended the Pharisees: “These you ought to have done”, Jesus tells them, “without neglecting the other, weightier, matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23, cf. ESV and others). The Jews in the church would recognize the tithe as their minimum obligation in giving to God’s service under the Old Cov­enant, after which one could make an offering (Malachi 3:8), and they would not think that under the New Covenant they could please God by doing less as stewards of what he had given them. The New Testament exhortations to generosity only make sense if seen as exhorting Christians to do more than they would have done as the people of God under the Old Covenant. Proportional giving exemplifies in the material sphere the general principle that “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

(e) “So that there will be no collecting when I come”: Paul’s instructions will ensure that the matter is handled in the best possible way, so that the congregation’s contributions will all be built up and put aside pending Paul’s coming, rather than there being need for a quick unplanned and unprepared-for collection when he arrives. Translated into the circumstances of stewardship for today, this would indicate a putting aside on a regular basis of a suitable proportion of our income so that we have our tithe, our “Christian stewardship reserve”, available to expend in whatever way in Christ’s service the Spirit brings to our notice. Some part will indeed go on a weekly basis for the support of ministry in our usual congregation, and some in regular support of evangelism, outreach, and relief of need and missionary work around the world, and some will remain “set aside” against the “arrival” of some Christian need to which we can then apply what we have saved up for this purpose.

(This is one of the “Practical and Pastoral Reflections” upon Paul’s Epistle, taken from


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