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Stewardship and Tithing (3)

M Browne, Bath

Giving is part of our Christian worship (1 Cor 16.1-2)

Giving to God is part of our worship as is suggested by the phrase, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him" (1 Cor 16.2). This links the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread with the act of giving a portion of their income through the local assembly for spiritual work. In this particular instance it was in order that the assembly at Corinth would hold their accumulated sacrificial gifts against Paul's arrival when he would take their collection to the poor saints in Jerusalem.

Collections taken at the Breaking of Bread Meeting

This associates the local gathering of the assembly on the first day of the week as the time when their collections were taken. While there is no specific rule as to how exactly these gifts were to be collected, if we allow that the actual giving is part of our worship, the gift being counted as a sacrifice, then a time associated with the service itself would be most appropriate when corporate worship is offered and after the elements are passed around. This would incorporate the act of giving into the actual remembrance service. It is this writer's belief it would be more appropriate than putting individual gifts in boxes at the rear of the congregation unrelated to any part of the remembrance meeting. It is neither more nor less "spiritual" to place gifts in boxes apart from the remembrance gathering, although over the centuries and generations gifts have mainly been collected during the service itself being thus included in the general act of worship. This writer believes it is the most appropriate way to collect the believers' offerings and the manner in which it was most probably done by the early church. However, this is a personal opinion and not intended to be controversial.

So we emphasise again that giving to God is part of our worship, and that it is a principle rooted in Scripture. David, who composed the sacred song with which he brought the Ark into the Sanctuary, encouraged Israel to "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts" (Ps 96.8). And again, when Israel kept their feasts God commanded them that "none shall appear before me empty" (Ex 23.15). Should Israel worship God with full hands and we of this more favoured Church dispensation not show the same spirit of grateful worship as we keep our "feast" with full hearts and equally full hands?

Specific instruction on New Testament stewardship of the disciples' income

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come" (1 Cor 16.1-2).

We are to give regularly  "Upon the first day of the week"

As we remember the Lord's sacrifice we present our own sacrifices. To present their offerings on the first day of the week would seem to have been the universal custom of the apostolic assemblies as Paul had directed the Galatian assemblies in precisely the same manner (v.1). How fitting it was that the early churches were led to remember their Lord and bring their offerings on that particular day! The "first day of the week" was the resurrection day when Christ broke the power of death and the grave and rose triumphant over Satan and all his evil hosts (Lk 24.1). It was the "day" when the Spirit was poured out from on high by the ascended Lord, and when the Church, the Body and Bride of Christ, was born and first came into being (Acts 2.1). It was thus the "day" in which the early disciples "came together to break bread" (Acts 20.7). It was the "day" when the disciples assembled themselves and celebrated "the Lord's supper" (1 Cor 11.20), and will do so in perpetuity "till he come" to call His people home to heaven at the Rapture (1 Cor 11.26). It was a very special "day" indeed and added both gratitude and meaning to their offering!

We are to give individually  "let every one of you"

Both rich and poor, old and young, new convert as well as mature saint, all have the privilege of giving and should have a part in the assembly offering. As the Lord, during the days of His flesh, sat over against the treasury in the temple at Jerusalem scrutinising the giving of the people (Mk 12.41), so today we may be assured He still has His eye upon how His people give! He noted how the more affluent gave out of their abundance, and how the poor widow came and cast in everything that she had, even all her living! In the balances of divine reckoning He knew she had given more than all the others for she had sacrificed, whereas they had simply made a token offering! She certainly gave more than the "tithe" of her available wealth! What a challenge for us today!

Remarking on this passage in his commentary, William MacDonald says, "Many Christians today would criticize her for not providing for her future. Did this show a lack of foresight and prudence? So men would argue. But this is the life of faith - plunging all into the work of God now and trusting Him for the future. Did He not promise to provide for those who seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt 6.33)? Radical? Revolutionary? Unless we see that the teachings of Christ are radical and revolutionary, we have missed the emphasis of His ministry".

We are to give systematically "lay by him in store"

The word "store" suggests in our case something extra to the actual assembly gift on Lord's Day. The meaning is that each individual believer or family should lay by them a store of funds from their weekly (or monthly) income or profit to be used for the work of God as the occasion arises. Emphasising this meaning, one modern translation expresses it, "each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper" (English Standard Version). In the Corinthian believers' case it meant that there would be an adequate amount available with no need for a rushed and special offering to meet the need when Paul arrived.

This weekly storing process can be kept as available cash in a box or bag in the home so that when a servant of God visits, or some social necessity such as a widow or poor believer needs support, or some need in the work of God becomes known and we have an exercise, there is money to hand to make a contribution. Additionally, one can keep a special fund-account of the Lord's portion in a separate bank account, and administer it through a PC spreadsheet. It is amazing how such a fund grows as the weeks pass, and there is great satisfaction felt as we draw upon this fund to support some aspect of the work of God. If all the believers adopted this method there would seldom be a financial lack for any particular need. Assembly needs such as hall repairs, furniture requirements, vehicle maintenance, hymnbooks, Bibles, and general ministry needs would all be covered by the "store" of funds to be had from assembly members! Such a systematic method of giving must however be the result of spiritually exercised hearts and a disciplined and sacrificial approach to the whole question of our individual giving. 

To be continued.


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