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1 Corinthians 16

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1 Corinthians 16:1… Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.

 

Commentary

            The purpose of giving to the church… Now that Paul has given sufficient information regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he moves on to the next question the Corinthians obviously asked them: that of giving. In 15:58 Paul instructed the Corinthians to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord,” and one of the ways a person can put this command into practice is to give financially to the church. The “collection for the saints” in 16:1 concerns the money the Corinthians needed to raise, and term itself, in the secular society, denoted taxation and/or funds gathered for pagan temples. Paul used the term only on this occasion, but he used it specifically in reference to money given for the “saints” (living Christians) for their needs and for the furthering of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The purpose for giving money in the NT is for the support of the church and its people, and this act serves as godly worship. It is the Christian’s financial duty to give first to his/her church. Then it is the responsibility of the elders of the church to invest the money in the life of the church and her people (2 Cor. 8:1-5; 9:12-15; Phil. 4:14-16). According to the text Paul had already preached on this same topic to the churches of Galatia (Acts 13-14). The collection he spoke of was a collection by the Gentile Christians in Corinth (cf. Rom. 15:26) to the less fortunate Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

            As in modern times poverty in the ancient world was widespread. Jerusalem at the time of Paul’s writing was basically a very poor city. As the religious epicenter for the Jews it had become overpopulated – especially during the great Jewish feasts which occurred annually. The feasts demanded the slaughter of many animals, and were it not for some of the faithful wealthy non-residents of Jerusalem the Jewish feasts might not have continued. Furthermore, Jerusalem was still feeling the effects from a severe famine just years before (Acts 11:28). But for the Christians in Jerusalem, in addition to the famine and the general poverty of the city, their economic situation was even worse due to the persecutions they endured. Many had been expelled from their homes, had their belongings seized, lost their jobs, and some had even been imprisoned (Acts 8:1-3; 1 Thes. 2:14). Though Christians had practiced having all things in common early on (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34), their resources had apparently dwindled to nothing.

            Not only did Paul want to have a monetary collection taken up for the poorer Christians in Jerusalem, he also required it for the spiritual unity of the church. Not only does giving of one’s resources to a common cause bring unity to those who give, but it also shows thankfulness to those the gift goes to. Salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22), and because of this Gentiles have a special gratitude to them. Paul says in Romans 15:27, “For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.” Paul felt so strongly about the sharing of gifts and in the fellowship of other Christians that on three occasions he uses a Greek term that is normally translated as “fellowship” to represent the giving of financial gifts (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13). In other words, in Paul’s mind true fellowship among Christians comes as a result of sharing in one’s wealth with the church.

Food for Thought

            Giving money to the church is rarely an easy topic of discussion (especially for a preacher!). But the next time the topic comes up and you get angry or uncomfortable, ask yourself why that is. I’ve never heard one person who gives faithfully to their church get angry when the topic of money comes up. It’s only those who choose not to give who tend to gripe.

1 Corinthians 16:2… On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.

Commentary

            The first principle of giving answers the question “When should we give?” The answer is literally “on the first day of the seven” (Sunday). This was the traditional day of worship in the first century (cf. Acts 20:7) because it represented the day Christ rose from the dead. Jewish Christians actually abandoned their reverence for the Sabbath (Saturday) and moved their worship day because of this. So the day of corporate worship was the appropriate time to give.

Giving in itself is an act of worship. The Apostle Peter said, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). In the OT blood sacrifices were offered, but in the NT the sacrifice was spiritual, stemming from one’s talents, time, and finances. Giving to the church should not be based upon the pastor’s sporadic pleas or one’s economic stability but from a willing heart that strives to worship God for what He did at the cross. All that anyone possesses is God’s, and He grants us these for pleasure – His and ours. A thankful believer acknowledges God’s provisions by giving back to Him a portion of his/her earnings.

            The second principle of giving answers the question, “Who should give?” The answer is “each one of you.” No one is exempt. “Each of you” denotes everyone who calls upon Christ for salvation. God is not interested in the excuses of the poor for not having enough – illustrated in the story of the destitute woman who gave what amounted to one cent in the Bible (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus did not discourage her giving but held her up as an example of one who gave all she had. A person’s true character is revealed through what he/she gives when they have little. The rich can afford to give large amounts without ever feeling the hit, but the poor must give of himself to help someone else – possibly one more fortunate than him financially. Those who are faithful with a small amounts will be faithful with larger amounts; those who are unrighteous with a little will also be unrighteous with much (Luke 16:10). Since all believers are called to give all believers must strive to be faithful with what they have if they choose to pray for more.

            The third principle of giving answers the question “Where do we give?” The answer is simply to the church. Some folks attempt to sidestep giving to their church by giving to the homeless on the streets or to some poverty-stricken child in another country. Though such giving is noble, that kind of giving should be done in addition to their contributions to the church. This fact is revealed through Paul’s reference to “the first day of the week” for that is when Christians worship. Sunday as the day of corporate worship was the time when believers would pool their resources to help all those in need (Acts 2:44-45), and as time passed believers would bring their gifts to the apostles to distribute accordingly (Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2). Thus, it was the church where the gifts were brought to be disbursed as the apostles and elders deemed necessary.

Food for Thought

            Paul commanded Christians to “put aside and save.” This phrase comes from “thesaurus” – a collection or a treasury of words. It represents a treasure chest that holds things of great value. The church should be a storehouse for gifts to be given to those in need, specifically other Christians. Each one of us is called upon to keep it full from our own God-given earnings. The very fact that Paul follows this statement with, “that no collections be made when I come” clearly shows that he is not referring to money saved at home for retirement or the like. He is speaking directly to all believers, telling them to contribute to the treasure chest in the church.

1 Corinthians 16:2… On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come (Part 2).

Commentary

The fourth principle of giving answers the question, “How much?” Paul answers that giving is to be done as you “may prosper.” In the Bible prosperity has to do with being successful in reaching one’s goal, being healthy, and in obtaining wealth. In v. 2 this is clearly a reference to financial prosperity. So how much a person gives should be based upon one’s salary.

In the OT the act of tithing (giving a tenth) from the time of Abraham to Moses was common but not commanded by God. It was the pagan custom to give 10% of their wealth to the gods mainly because the number 10 was a symbol of completeness. Cain and Abel gave to God but not a tenth (Gen. 4). Noah sacrificed to God but not a tenth (Gen. 8). In Gen. 12:7 Abraham built an altar and worshipped God with no mention of a tenth. Genesis 14:17-20 is the first mention of the tithe in the Bible, but this refers to Abraham’s giving only a tenth of the spoil he received in battle to Melchizedek – not of his possessions. Abraham never again gave 10%.

In Gen. 28:20-22 Jacob vowed to give God 10% if God would bless him. In essence, he was following in the footsteps of the pagans of his day by attempting to bribe God. Even Joseph knew of no 10% requirement, for he exacted 20% from the people to sustain Egypt (Gen. 41:34).

The Mosaic Law (OT) did require tithes and offerings from Israel. First, Israel was to tithe of their earnings and their livestock to support the Levites. This tithe worked as a tax. In turn, the Levites were to tithe back from what they themselves received (Num. 18:25-30) so as to feed those belonging to the priesthood. Failure to tithe constituted robbing God (Mal. 3:8).

The second tithe was annual – the festival tithe (Deut. 12:10-11, 17-18). It supported the national feasts (Passover, Booths, Weeks, etc.) where Jews and Jewish converts slaughtered countless animals in celebration of various events in Israel’s history. This tithe contributed to the worship of the people, and if it were neglected then the celebratory feasts would suffer.

The third tithe required from the Jews was the welfare tithe for orphans and widows (Deut. 14:28-29). This tithe was God’s way of providing for widows and orphans in Israel who could not provide for themselves. He commanded Israel to care for them through this. This tithe averaged out to an additional 3.33% per year of their required giving.

All three tithes amounted to about 23% of one’s income. They all functioned as taxes in support of their government which was the Jewish priesthood. The tithes were no more voluntary than modern-day taxes. However, this 23% mandatory tax base was not the grand total of tithes required under the Mosaic Law. They had a profit-sharing tax (Lev. 19:9-10), a temple tax, and the seventh year Sabbath tax – all of which totals to about 25% of their income to the priesthood.

On top of the tithes the Jews were to give freewill offerings. The “first-fruits” offering demanded the first fruits from one’s harvest (Lev. 23:10; Num. 18:12; Prov. 3:9-10; 11:24). It was a representative sample of one’s crops to the priest as an offering to the Lord. The full harvest was not full until the first-fruits had been offered. God also commanded a “freewill” offering (Ex. 35:4-5, 21-22, 29; 36:5-6). This offering was given to God from a joyful heart.

 

Food for Thought

            How much do we give to God? It’s up to you to figure that out. But 10% giving, though a noble figure to give, is never commanded in the NT. Christians must pay their taxes because government is given by God (Rom. 13), and our tax money pays His workers. But we are also to give to God our “first-fruits” – from a heart filled with joy for what He’s given to us.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2… Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come (Part 3).

Commentary

Giving of one’s possessions in the OT consisted of tithing to the temple and priests to keep the priestly government running, the festival tithe which supplied the animals needed to furnish the many annual feasts and celebrations, and the welfare tithe for orphans and widows. In addition to those there was the profit-sharing tax, the temple tax, and the seventh year Sabbath tax. After all the tithes, which acted as taxes, were paid the Jews gave a first-fruits offering that represented the best of their crops and a freewill offering from the overflow of their hearts. The tax-tithe totaled about 25% of their income and possessions, and the other two offerings were in proportion to what people made. Hence, they gave both tithes (taxes) and offerings (worship).

In the NT there is nothing regarding a mandatory giving of 10% for Christians. Tithing is mentioned in Matt. 23:23 and in Luke 18:12, but both are in reference to taxation. Believers are commanded to pay their taxes (Rom. 13) and to give out of their overflow of their hearts (2 Cor. 9:6-7). The two types of giving in the NT are just like those in the OT: required and voluntary. In Jesus’ day the OT tax system was still in practice because the government was run by the religious leaders, priests, and Levites. But they were also under the control of Rome, who also taxed them. Tax-collectors (publicans) often exacted more than their due (i.e. Zacchaeus), but Jesus adhered to the Mosaic system (Matt. 17:24-27) and paid his taxes. After all, the government was established by God to uphold His laws (cf. Matt. 22:15-22; Rom. 13).

Today giving money to the church under Christ’s New Covenant is to flow from the heart of the believer and is to be determined by the believer. Paul says in 2 Cor. 9:6-7, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Cheerful giving is cheerful worship, and cheerful worship is worship indeed!

         

Food for Thought

One who makes one million dollars per year and who gives 50% of their income is still able to live on $500,000 per year. In contrast, one who makes $50,000 per year who gives 10% is living on $45,000 per year – a far cry from the 50% giver who lives on 11 times more money. Since the Bible doesn’t command a specific figure we are to give as we decide. But giving in and of itself is not optional. As James 4:17 says, “Therefore the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Those who only feel led to give a little will reap a little – if at all; those who feel led to give much will also reap much. It’s like physical fitness. Five minute workouts three times a week benefit little, but 45 minute workouts 4 days a week benefit much. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Those who give little amounts are obviously thankful for little. As one man said, “How believers handle their money is inextricably related to the depth of their worship. If we do not give properly we do not worship properly.”

In the end financial giving to the church is about worship, and it is those who worship in spirit and truth that the Father vigorously seeks (John 4:23-24). So make no mistake, a church that brings in money each week during the worship hour is a church that truly worships. Many churches sing and play music, but anyone can do that. Not all are thankful enough to give.

1 Corinthians 16:3-4… And when I arrive, whomever you may approve, I shall send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.

Commentary

            Upon Paul’s arrival to Corinth in v. 3 he wanted to send the offerings that had been collected to the poor in Jerusalem. He expected the collection raised to be substantial, and he wanted the ones who would deliver the money to be “approved.” In Classical Greek this word is used in reference to metals being burned in the fire to test their purity. In the Bible it has the same connotation except it’s about people being tested to gauge if they are worthy of some task. After taking a collection of money to help the poor the last thing Paul wanted was one who couldn’t be trusted to be given the task of delivering the money. It was only those who had been tested (Christians who had a solid reputation for diligence in their faith) who could be counted worthy to deliver the monetary gift to the poverty-stricken Christians in Jerusalem.

            Notice that the gift would be delivered by more than one person (“I shall send them…”). There was obviously safety in numbers as they would be traveling a good distance carrying mostly coins in a bag. But there is also the sense here that a group of people who delivered such a gift would show unity in the effort. For just one person to deliver such a gift might imply that there was indifference in the rest of the Gentile churches toward the poor in Jerusalem. A larger number of people to deliver the gift would speak volumes to the Jerusalem Christians about the high regard that the Gentile believers had for them. As such Paul wanted a group of mature believers to have the privileged task of delivering the money. This is the task of the “bean-counters” in our churches today. There have been far too many financial scandals in churches from pastors and laypeople alike who steal from the church treasury. Some don’t steal, but they can make unwise decisions with God’s money. The Lord’s servants must be able to handle their own money wisely so that they can be trusted with the church’s money – all of which belongs to God in the first place. So it is the task of the church elders to appoint “approved” men of God to manage the church finances. No one person should be in charge but those “approved.”

            In v. 4 Paul said that if it was “fitting” for him to go with the ones delivering the gift then he himself would go with them. What Paul probably means is that he would go with the ones delivering the money if they felt he needed to go. Since he was the go-between and knew the people of the Jerusalem church (for the Corinthians likely didn’t) then this could be his meaning. Of course Paul would only have gone if the gift was substantial. Since generous giving is sign of spiritual maturity and regeneration, Paul likely would not have accompanied a meager gift.

Food for Thought

            Aristides said of 2nd century Christians: “They walk in humility and kindness, falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another. They despise not the widow and they grieve not the orphan. He that has, distributes liberally to him that has not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and they rejoice over him as if he were their brother. For they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh but after the Spirit and in God. But when one of their poor passes away from the world and any of them see him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability. And if they hear that any of their number is in prison or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs. And if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and they have not an abundance of necessity, they will fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with his necessary food.” Now that’s what the world is supposed to see in Christ’s church!

The Church Collection Plate (1 Cor. 16:1-4)

I)            The Purpose of Giving (1)

A)    For the saints

B)    Work of the church

II)         The Principles of Giving (2)

A)    When? The day of worship

B)    Who? Each one of us

C)    Where? The church

D)    How Much? In proportion w/his income

1)      Old Testament Tithe

·         Levite tithe (Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 18:21-32)

·         Festival tithe (Deut. 12)

·         Welfare tithe – additional 3.33% (Deut. 14:27-28)

·         Profit-sharing tithe (Lev. 19:9)

·         Temple tithe (Ex. 30:13-14; Neh. 10:32-33)

·         Sabbath year tithe (Lev. 25:4-7)

·         First-fruit offerings (Lev. 23:10; Prov. 3:9-10)

·         Freewill offerings (Ex. 35:4-5, 21-22, 29; 36:5-6)

·         TOTAL: 25-39%

2)      New Testament Tithe

·         Tithe used 8 times, but never commanded

·         Pay taxes (Rom. 13)

·         Cheerful giving (2 Cor. 9)

E)     Why? To worship

III)      The Protection of Giving (3)

A)    Those approved

B)    Those united

IV)      The Perspective of Giving (4)

A)    Adequate giving

B)    Share in joy of giving

Thoughts on Giving:

  1. All believers expected to give; not optional
  2. How much does it take to make you happy?
  3. No giving equates to no blessing
  4. Lost job? Giving grants confidence
  5. Giving is a barometer of spiritual maturity
  6. Those who get angry don’t give; those who give never get angry at sermons on giving.
  7. Pay taxes; pay your church
  8. One man gives 50%, another gives 10%
  9. 10% is a good number but not commanded
  10. Giving won’t make you wealthy, only obedient
  11. What you sow you also reap

1 Corinthians 16:1…

 

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.

            THE PURPOSE OF GIVING… Now that Paul has given sufficient information regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ and those who place their faith in Him alone for salvation, he moves on to another topic – one that is closely related to believing in the resurrection and also a topic that was among the many in which the Corinthians had written to Paul for answers. In 15:58 Paul instructed the Corinthians to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” One of the ways a person can put this command into practice is to give consistently through tithes and offerings in one’s church. In 16:1 Paul speaks of a “collection for the saints” – better translated, “the money you need to raise.” The word “collection” in secular Greek refers to the collection of taxes or funds for pagan temples. Paul uses the term only once in the Bible, and he uses it in reference specifically to money given to the “saints” – a term that always refers to Christians. The “collection” in this context is simply about money given for other Christians, their needs, and for the furthering of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The whole purpose of giving in the NT is simply to support the church. And because of this it is the Christian’s first responsibility to give to his/her church individually and as a whole. Then it is the responsibility of the elders of the church to invest the money given in the life of the church and her people (2 Cor. 8:1-5; 9:12-15; Phil. 4:14-16). This will be his next topic, and it is a topic that isn’t new to Paul, for he had previously directed the churches in Galatia in the same manner (Acts 13-14). Now he gives the same command to the Corinthians. The collection he speaks of here was one to be given by the Gentile Christians in Corinth (cf. Rom. 15:26) to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. This financial gift was going to be delivered to the Jews there.

            As in modern times poverty in the ancient world was widespread. Jerusalem at the time of Paul’s writing was basically a very poor city. As the religious epicenter for the Jews it was overpopulated – especially during the great feasts which occurred regularly. The feasts demanded the slaughter of many animals, and were it not for some of the faithful wealthy non-residents of Jerusalem the Jewish feasts might not have continued. Another problem that contributed to the poverty of Jerusalem in the first century was the severe famine they endured from which the people of the city were still suffering (Acts 11:28). But for the Christians in Jerusalem, in addition to the famine a few years before and the general poverty of the city, their economic situation was even worse due to the persecutions they endured. Many had been thrown out of their homes, had their possessions confiscated, lost their jobs, and some had even been thrown into prison (Acts 8:1-3; 1 Thes. 2:14). Even though the practice among Christians early on had been to share all in things in common (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34) apparently the resources had dwindled and were no longer available to all.

            Not only did Paul want to have a monetary collection taken up for the poorer Christians in Jerusalem, he also demanded it for the spiritual unity of the church. Not only does giving of one’s resources to a common cause bring unity to those who give, but it also shows thankfulness to those the gift goes to. Salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22), and because of this Gentiles have a special indebtedness to them. Paul says in Romans 15:27, “For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.” Paul felt so strongly about the sharing of gifts and in the fellowship of other Christians that on three occasions he uses a Greek term that is normally translated as “fellowship” to represent the giving of financial gifts (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13).

2 On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.

            THE PRINCIPLES OF GIVING… According to v. 2 the first principle of giving answers the question “When should we give?” And the most appropriate time of giving is to be “on the first day of the week.” This was the traditional day of worship in the first century because it represented the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead (Sunday). The Jewish Christians even went so far as to relegate their Sabbath Day (Saturday) to the first day of the week, Sunday. Of course many churches today worship at others times during the week, so even though there is a great deal of theology in worshipping on Sunday, the point here is that because giving is an act of worship it should be done primarily in the corporate gathering of worship – whatever day that may be. A strict literal interpretation here is unfounded and usually becomes legalistic, but first-day-of-the-week-giving mitigates against the notions of some people who refuse to worship on Sunday in favor of Saturday.

Giving, whether from one’s pocketbook or from one’s talents, is what true worship is about. In 1 Peter 2:5 Peter says, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Whereas in the OT blood sacrifices were offered continually, in the NT the sacrifice is spiritual, coming from our gifts, talents, and our time. Our own giving to the church should not be based upon the pastor’s sermon topic, his periodic pleas, our economic stability and bonuses but on a voluntary and willing heart that strives to worship God for all that He has done and continues to do for us. After all, we are only passing through this life. We are but a vapor of water that appears for a time and then vanishes. All that we possess is God’s, and He puts it into our lives for our own enjoyment. None of it is ours, so giving it back to God in worship of Him is the least we can do in light of all that He’s given to us.

            The second principle of giving answers the question, “Who should give?” The answer is that no one is exempted from giving to the church. Paul says, “each of you” in reference to everyone who calls upon Christ for salvation. It is all-inclusive. God is not interested in the excuses of the poor for not having enough, and this is illustrated in the story of the destitute woman who gave what amounted to one cent in the Bible (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus did not discourage her giving but held her up as an example of one who gave all she had. A person’s true character is revealed through what he/she gives when they have little. The rich can afford to give large amounts without ever feeling the hit, but the poor must give of himself to help someone else. Those who are faithful with a small amount of money will be faithful with larger amounts; those who are unrighteous with a little will also be unrighteous with a lot (Luke 16:10). Since each of us is called to give, each of us can then determine how faithful we are with what we have and if we can expect to be blessed with more.

            The third principle of giving answers the question “Where do we give?” The answer is that giving is for the church and to be done through the church. Some folks attempt to sidestep giving to their church by giving to the homeless on the streets or to some poverty-stricken child in another country. Though such giving is noble that kind of giving should be done in addition to their contributions to the church. This fact is revealed through Paul’s reference to “the first day of the week” for that is when Christians worship. Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance came on a Sunday (John 20:19-20), and the early church came to worship together on that day (Acts 20:7). Sunday is also called “the Lord’s day” in Revelation 1:10. Sunday as the day of corporate worship was the time when believers would pool their resources to help all those in need (Acts 2:44-45), and as time passed believers would bring their gifts to the apostles to distribute accordingly (Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2). Thus, it was the church where the gifts were brought to be disbursed as the leaders deemed necessary.

            When Paul says, “Let each one of you put aside and save” he literally says, “each one of you by himself store up.” The Greek word for “put up and save” is thesaurizo from whence we get thesaurus. It refers to a collection or treasury of words. It represents a stockroom or a treasure chest where things of great value are stored. What the apostle is saying is that the church was to be a storehouse of gifts to be given to those in need, specifically Christians. And “each one” was called upon to keep it full from his own God-given earnings. “Each one” (by himself) was to give of his own initiative. The very fact that Paul follows this statement with, “that no collections be made when I come” clearly shows that he is not referring to money saved at home for retirement or the like. He is speaking directly to everyone telling them to contribute to the treasure chest in the church.

            The fourth principle of giving answers the question, “How much?” Paul answers that giving is to be done as you “may prosper.” In the Bible prosperity has to do with being successful in reaching one’s goal, being healthy, and in obtaining wealth. In 16:2 is clearly refers to financial prosperity. How much to give is subjective and based upon an individual’s own financial prosperity. There is no one sum of money all Christians are to give and neither is there a standard percentage taught in the NT. We are simply to give as we prosper. One who makes one million dollars per year, for instance, and who gives 50% of their income is still able to live on $500,000 per year. In contrast, one who makes $50,000 per year who gives 10% is living on $45,000 per year – a far cry from the one who gives 50% but who lives on 11 times more money. Since the Bible doesn’t give us a cold hard figure in which to base our giving we are therefore to give from our hearts. As 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The passage just prior to that in 2 Cor. 9:6 says, “He who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Also, Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” With this in mind, suffice it to say that our giving should come from our heart. Those who give little are obviously thankful for little. As one man said, “How believers handle their money is inextricably related to the depth of their worship. If we do not give properly we do not worship properly.” And it is those who worship in spirit and truth that the Father seeks (John 4:23-24).

          Old Testament Giving… Giving 10% of one’s income to a pagan god was a common custom in the ancient world mainly because the number “10” was a symbol of completeness. However, a tenth (literally, a “tithe”) is never required by God in the Bible.

            Consider the following… In Gen. 4 Cain and Abel gave to God, but there is nothing about 10% giving. Noah worshipped God in Gen. 8 with a sacrifice, but there’s no mention of a  tithe. From the time of Abraham to Moses God never once commanded a tenth from His people. In Gen. 12:7 Abraham built and altar and worshipped God with no mention of a tithe. As a matter of fact, Gen. 14:17-20 is the first mention of the tithe in the Bible, but Abraham didn’t give him a tenth of everything he owned, only a tenth from what he took from battle. He is never again said to have given 10%.

Genesis 28:20-22 speaks of Jacob making a deal with God for which he would pay God 10% if God gave him what he wanted. In essence, Jacob was following in the footsteps of the pagans of his day by attempting to purchase God’s blessings. Even Joseph knew of no 10% requirement for giving. In fact, in Gen. 41:34 he required his subjects to pay the Egyptian government 20% of the produce they gathered.

During the days of Moses God gave Moses His Law – the Mosaic Law which demanded tithes and offerings from the people of Israel. This was the first of the tithes they were to give. The twelve tribes of Israel were to pay a tax of 10% of their earnings and their livestock for the work of the Tent of Meeting and for the benefit of the Levites and priests who worked there. In turn, the Levites were to tithe back from what they themselves received as a tithe. Numbers 18:25-30 explains how the Levites (the keepers of the Tent of Meeting) were to use their tithe. The first tithe was a mandatory 10% of the people’s produce and animals. If the Jews didn’t give this they robbed God (Malachi 3:8).

Deuteronomy 12:10-11, 17-18 refers to the second annual tithe the Jews had to pay. This was to raise support for all the national feasts (i.e., Passover, Booths, Weeks, etc.) where Jews and Jewish converts slaughtered countless animals in celebration of various events in Israel’s history. This tithe contributed to the worship of the people, and if it were neglected then the celebratory feasts would suffer.

The third tithe the Jews were required to give is found in Deuteronomy 14:28-29. This was the welfare tithe for widows and orphans. God was mindful of the inevitability of widows and orphans, so it was in His sovereign plan to have them taken care of by His covenant people. The money to be given to them averages out to an additional 3.33% per year of required giving.

When the three tithes are combined together they amount to about 23% of one’s annual income. Basically, they were nothing more than taxes for the Jewish priesthood which was their government. These tithes were not voluntary any more so than paying taxes today are. They were mandatory gifts used to fund Israel’s priestly government. However, this mandatory tax base of about 23% was not the grand total of taxes required under the Mosaic Law. The Jews had at least three other taxes to pay (much like our gasoline taxes, sales taxes, etc.). First, they had a profit-sharing tax (Leviticus 19:9-10) where they would not reap the edges of their fields or gather all the gleanings of the harvest. This is illustrated in the story of Ruth who gleaned sheaves during the harvest because she was poor. Second, the Jews also had to allow their land to rest every 7th year (Sabbath year rest) which caused them to forgo an entire year’s salary from the soil so that it could rejuvenate itself. Finally, there was the third of a temple-tax used to furnish and maintain the temple. In total, the Jews were required to pay the Levites, pay a festivals tithe, a welfare tithe, a profit-sharing tithe, the Sabbath year tithe, and the temple tax. Altogether this totals no less than about 25% of their income – all to the government of Israel. So, when someone tells you that the Bible teaches that 10% is the standard measurement of giving, you can know that though the Bible does use the 10% figure, in total it was more along the lines of 25%.

The above tithes are very similar to the taxes people pay today for the operation of their respective governments. But God also spoke of other types of giving. In Numbers 18:12 (see also Prov. 3:9-10; 11:24) there is the principle of “first-fruits” in that we are to give the best of what we have to God. Before the Jews would harvest their crops they would bring a representative sample of their crops to the priest as an offering to the Lord (Lev. 23:10). The full harvest was not full until the first-fruits had been offered. And in Exodus 35:4-5, 21-22, 29; 36:5-6) God speaks of a “freewill” offering where the worshipper gives to God with the proper attitude toward worshipping God.

TITHE

In the Pentateuch we find legislation as to tithes in three places. (1) According to Lev 27:30-33, a tithe had to be given of the seed of the land, i.e. of the crops, of the fruit of the tree, e.g. oil and wine, and of the herd or the flock (cf. Deut 14:22-23; 2 Chron 31:5-6). As the herds and flocks passed out to pasture they were counted (cf Jer 33:13; Ezek 20:37), and every 10 th animal that came out was reckoned holy to the Lord. The owner was not allowed to search among them to find whether they were bad or good, nor could he change any of them; if he did, both the one chosen and the one for which it was changed were holy. Tithes of the herds and flocks could not be redeemed for money, but tithes of the seed of the land and of fruit could be, but a 5 th part of the value of the tithe had to be added. (2) In Num 18:21-32 it is laid down that the tithe must be paid to the Levites.

(It should be noted that according to Heb 7:5, 'they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood .... take tithes of the people.' Westcott's explanation is that the priests, who received from the Levites a tithe of the tithe, thus symbolically received the whole tithe. In the time of the second temple the priests did actually receive the tithes. In the Talmud (Yebhamoth 86 a et passim) it is said that this alteration frer to return to Jerusalem, but had to be persuaded to do so by Ezra (Ezra 8:15).) The Levites were to receive the tithes offered by Israel to Yahweh, because they had no other inheritance, and in return for their service of the tabernacle (Num 18:21,24). The tithe was to consist of corn of the threshing-floor and the fulness of the wine press (verse 27), which coincides with seed of the land and fruit of the trees in Lev 27. The Levites, who stood in the same relation to the priests as the people did to themselves, were to offer from this their inheritance a heave offering, a tithe of a tithe, to the priests (compare Neh 10:39), and for this tithe they were to choose of the best part of what they received.

(3) In Deut 12:5-6,11,18 (compare Amos 4:4) it is said that the tithe is to be brought "unto the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there," i.e. to Jerusalem; and in verses 7,12,18, that the tithe should be used there as a sacred meal by the offerer and his household, including the Levite within his gates. Nothing is said here about tithing cattle, only grain, wine and oil being mentioned (compare Neh 10:36-38; 13:5,12). In Deut 14:22-29 it is laid down that if the way was too long to carry the tithe to Jerusalem it could be exchanged for money, and the money taken there instead, where it was to be spent in anything the owner chose; and whatever was bought was to be eaten by him and his household and the Levites at Jerusalem. In the third year the tithe was to be reserved and eaten at home by the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. In 26:12-15 it is laid down that in the 3 rd year, after this feast had been given, the landowner should go up himself before the Lord his God, i.e. to Jerusalem, and ask God's blessing on his deed. (According to the Mishna, CoTah 9:10; Ma`aser Sheni 5:65, the high priest Johanan abolished this custom.) In this passage this 3 rd year is called "the year of tithing."

There is thus an obvious apparent discrepancy between the legislation in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. It is harmonized in Jewish tradition, not only theoretically but in practice, by considering the tithes as three different tithes, which are named the First Tithe, the Second Tithe, and the Poor Tithe, which is called also the Third Tithe (Pe'ah, Ma`aseroth, Ma`ser Sheni, Dema'i, Ro'sh ha-shanah; compare Tob 1:7,8; Ant, IV, iv, 3; viii, 8; viii, 22). According to this explanation, after the tithe (the First Tithe) was given to the Levites (of which they had to give the tithe to the priests), a Second Tithe of the remaining nine-tenths had to be set apart and consumed in Jerusalem. Those who lived far from Jerusalem could change this Second Tithe into money with the addition of a 5 th part of its value. Only food, drink or ointment could be bought for the money (Ma`aser Sheni 2:1; compare Deut 14:26). The tithe of cattle belonged to the Second Tithe, and was to be used for the feast in Jerusalem (Zebhachim 5:8). In the 3 rd year the Second Tithe was to be given entirely to the Levites and the poor. But according to Josephus (Ant, IV, viii, 22) the "Poor Tithe" was actually a third one. The priests and the Levites, if landowners, were also obliged to give the Poor Tithe (Pe'ah 1:6).

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

New Testament giving… There is nothing in the NT regarding the mandatory giving of 10% for Christians. The two types of giving in the NT are just like the OT types of giving: required and voluntary. In Jesus’ day the Mosaic tax system was still in practice because the government was run by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Levites. They were under the domination of Rome, who further accentuated those taxes for their own government, and they collected their taxes through the “publicans” or tax-collectors (i.e. Matthew and Zacchaeus). Jesus even adhered to the Mosaic system in Matthew 17:24-27 and paid his own taxes. After all, the government was established by God to uphold His laws (cf. Matt. 22:15-22; Rom. 13). Tithing is mentioned in Matt. 23:23 and in Luke 18:12, but both are in reference to taxation.

Although Hebrews 7:4-9 mentions tithing it is only in reference to Abraham’s giving a tenth of his spoil to Melchizedek. It has nothing to do with required giving to God.

New Covenant giving… This flows from the heart of the believer and is determined by the believer. But 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 sums up the matter of Christians and how much they should give to their church. They should first of all pay their government taxes, but in reference to giving to the Lord the passage reads, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

3 And when I arrive, whomever you may approve, I shall send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.

            In v. 3 Paul shows his intention to come to Corinth from Ephesus in Asia, and when he gets there he wanted to send the offerings that had been collected to the poor in Jerusalem. It is clear that Paul expected the collection raised to be substantial because he wanted the one’s who would deliver the money to be “approved.” In Classical Greek this word is used in reference to metals being burned in the fire to test their purity. In the Bible it has the same connotation except it’s about people being tested to gauge if they are worthy of some task. It has to do with examining someone to see if they can be regarded as worthwhile. Money in the wrong hands is money that might never be seen again, and Paul shows his knowledge of that fact. After taking a collection of money to help the poor the last thing he wanted was for unapproved men or women to be given the task of delivering the money. It was only those who had been tested (Christians who had a stellar reputation for holding tightly to the faith) who could be counted worthy to deliver the monetary gift to the poverty-stricken Christians in Jerusalem.

            Notice also that the gift would be delivered by more than one person as evidenced by Paul saying, “…I shall send them…” There was obviously safety in numbers as they would be traveling a good distance carrying mostly coins in a bag. But there is also the sense here that a group of people who delivered such a gift would show unity in the effort. For just one person to deliver such a gift might imply that there was indifference in the rest of the Corinthian congregation toward the poor in Jerusalem. A larger number of people to deliver the gift would speak volumes to the Jerusalem Christians about the high regard that the Corinthian Gentile Christians had for them. As such Paul wanted a group of tried and tested believers to have the privileged task of delivering the money. This is the task of the “bean-counters” in our churches today. There have been far too many financial scandals in churches from pastors and laypeople alike who steal from the church treasury. Some don’t steal, but they tend to make unwise decisions with God’s money, and many have left the ministry altogether because of their errors. The Lord’s servants must be able to handle their own money wisely so that they can be trusted with the church’s money. All of it belongs to the Lord to begin with, so it is the task of the church elders to appoint “approved” men of God to manage the church finances. No one person can be in charge of it without checks and balances from other approved Christians.

            In v. 4 Paul said that if it was “fitting” for him to go with the ones delivering the money then he himself would go with them. His meaning here is not altogether clear, but what he might mean here is that he would go with the ones delivering the money if they felt he needed to go. Since he was the go-between and knew the people of the Jerusalem church (and the Corinthians didn’t) then this could be his meaning. It’s also possible that he would only go with them if the gift itself was truly generous. He would have wanted no part in taking a small gift from a church that could afford a large one. Since generous giving is sign of spiritual maturity and regeneration Paul likely would have only wanted to accompany a substantial gift from the Corinthians.

            Aristides said of Christians in the 2nd century: “They walk in humility and kindness, falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another. They despise not the widow and they grieve not the orphan. He that has, distributes liberally to him that has not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and they rejoice over him as if he were their brother. For they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh but after the Spirit and in God. But when one of their poor passes away from the world and any of them see him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability. And if they hear than any of their number is in prison or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs. And if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and they have not an abundance of necessity, they will fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with his necessary food.” Can this be said of you or of your church? It must be!

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