Studies in First Corinthiansby Bob Burridge ©2019
Lesson 48: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Management isn’t easy.
As a college student I worked in a commercial laundry where we had huge machines. We cleaned linens, uniforms, and towels for some of the largest hotels and motels in the area. It was hard hot work in a steamy building with dangerously toxic chemicals.
While we burned our hands on the hot washer and dryer doors loading tons of laundry all day, the bosses seemed to have it easy in their air-conditioned office and comfortable chairs. A few times every day they’d walk through the plant with their coffee and clipboards checking up on things before disappearing back into their office to make phone calls. The laborers used to complain that the managers had it easy, while they did all the real work.
However, from the other side of the glass wall that separated the offices from the machines, things weren’t as easy as they seemed. There was a lot of pressure on the managers to keep all the bills paid, to collect what customers owed them, to keep all the jobs filled with trained and faithful workers, to see that government papers were all filed, to keep the machines operating well, to order all the chemicals, keep a fleet of trucks on the road, and to be sure the sales department kept us busy with clients so they could pay all the workers. In the laundry room we went home when our shift ended, and didn’t think about work until the next day. But the managers lived with the pressure of how to keep the company running.
God calls us to manage our important responsibilities. We need to realize how serious they are.
God gives us all a lot to look after as his representatives on earth. We each need to be sure we take care of our bodies with enough rest, good nutrition, regular physical activity, and to make sure we avoid unhealthy habits and foods.
We each have 24 hours every day to manage for God’s honor. We need to budget some of it for providing for our needs, for worship, for sleep, for giving encouragement to our families and friends, and other things.
We have to manage all the belongings we own so they’re used wisely in godly ways. We also have to manage our talents and skills well. What we earn is usually in the form of money, a temporary thing that represents our work. That money can be exchanged for things other people make or do. All of what we have needs to be managed responsibly for God’s glory.
The first century Christians faced a serious problem in Jerusalem.
They were being persecuted by the religious leaders that dominated the city. The Jews who didn’t recognized Jesus as God’s Messiah became cruel. They excommunicated any followers of Jesus. They threw them out of the synagogues, and wouldn’t let them come to worship. The Priests nationally disinherited believers and their entire families. So some rejected their own family members who became Christians. The community even refused to do business with them leaving many Christians without income.
The synagogues were the way the needy were cared for in the community. Part of the tithes and offerings went to supporting the widows and orphans and disabled. Those who became Christians had their loved ones cut off.
When famines came to Jerusalem, the Christians were hit the hardest. There was no community help available to them. It’s hard to imagine being isolated like that in a society that hates you, and that’s run by an elite council with ties to a dictatorial empire like Rome. There were no real freedoms and everything was controlled by corrupt men. Extreme poverty became a way of life for the believers in Jerusalem.
In this time before the resurrection there are material needs that have to be met.
We have to work to get what we need. But that’s not a bad thing. God told Adam that he and the whole race should labor for 6 days every week. That was commanded before there was sin in human hearts.
After the fall in Eden the problem of sin had to be contended with. The fallen human nature tends to be greedy and self-centered. That’s why we have so many distorted ideas about how the world’s economy should work.
When biblical principles of managing things are taken out of the picture things get confused.
To some the answer is Materialism. In materialism people believe that everything they make, grow, or earn is 100% their own. They get to decide what’s right and wrong about how they use their own things. To the materialist, everything is just here for their own personal goals and gratification.
Some try to manage things in a different way. They turn to various forms of Socialism. In that basic system, everything everybody makes, grows should be managed for the community’s good, but somebody has to decide what’s good. In Pure Communism the people collectively decide how to manage what they have and do. That’s Democratic Socialism and it never worked for long anywhere. Sinful hearts can’t agree to remove their greed and selfishness from their choices. In State Socialism a panel of the supposedly wise and benevolent decides about everything for everybody. But of course the powerful get to decide what’s wise, and what they see as benevolent. State Socialism usually ends up being a harsh and oppressive dictatorship.
The Bible teaches a very distinct kind of economics. I call it Biblical Covenantalism. It’s the way God made things to work. In the Biblical system, God is King over everything. He made it all, so it’s all his. He also graciously includes us in his plan. By a special covenant we are children of the King. He tells us in his word what should be done with all we make, grow, and earn. It’s up to us individually to be sure it’s used to serve God in the way he made us to live.
Basically: Everything is God’s, and what’s ours is our responsibility to manage in his way for his glory.
The redeemed in Christ know that
part of good management
is to care for the needy.
1 Corinthians 16:1. Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.
There have always been two categories for giving to and through the church.
First is the Tithe.
God is the ultimate provider of everything. He created all things so they’re first of all his. He provides us with health, skills, and opportunities to labor to earn our provisions.
The first 10th of what we earn is for the work of God through his covenant ministries. That’s what the word “tithe” means: “the tenth”. This principle was clear even before there were Jews, before the time of Moses, For example, Abraham brought a tithe of everything to the High Priest Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:2).
The tithe is to provide for the regular organized ministries of God’s Earthly Kingdom. The duties of the organized kingdom aren’t classified as labor in God’s law. The ministries of the Old and New Testament churches are to be supported by the tithes, not by church sales, raffles, or business enterprises.
Jesus didn’t cancel the tithing principle when he corrected the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” He said, “These you ought to have done”, but they were neglecting the ministries they should be carrying out.
The churches are to care for the spiritual needs of their members, conduct faithful and sound worship every Sabbath, teach new members, train Christian leaders, and show the people how to live for Christ. The churches have to administer the Sacraments, and the ordinances such as marriage, counsel people when they need advice from God’s word, and they need to influence society toward godliness.
Beyond the tithes there are the offerings.
When special material needs come along, it’s our duty to try to meet them without taking from the tithes. These are the gifts given by individuals after their tithe is fully paid. There’s no set amount. They are free thank-offerings brought to the church.
These offerings aren’t used for the usual operations of the church. They enable the church to reach out to care for special needs. Hearts changed by Christ ought to have real compassion for others, specially for others in the spiritual family, the church of Jesus Christ.
This wasn’t just aimed at the Corinthians.
Paul gave the same advice to Galatian churches. It’s a general principle that should always stir us to joyfully give for things that honor Christ.
This thank-offering shouldn’t come out of the tithe. That’s not yours to give away. The tithe belongs to the Lord, and it’s for the work of the local church alone. To give part of the tithe as if it was your own, or to misrepresent your offerings is to reject God’s principles. That’s a very serious offense. It was that kind of sin that caused God to strike Ananias and Sapphira dead in Acts 5.
The tithe and offerings are both part of the God’s economic system.. Together they make the church able to carry out its mission to believers and to the world. God expects you to tithe from all you earn, and to give more for God’s glory what you’re reasonably able to give.
There was a particular way this collection was to be taken.
1 Corinthians 16:2. 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.
Each person was asked to lay aside what he was going to give. Your charitable giving should be what you can afford, depending on how God prospers you. But this giving comes from your own money — what’s left after tithing.
This doesn’t mean you gave away what you need to feed your family or to pay your bills. That would end up making you needy and dependent on others. But don’t be selfish either. It’s morally wrong to extravagantly pamper yourself when some of it could be used to help those truly in need.
You’re free to decide on your own what you can reasonably give. But don’t try to see how little you can get away with giving. Try to figure out how much you’re able to give as part of the family of Christ.
The first day of the week is when this amount should be set aside. That was Sunday on the Roman calendar. It was the day Jesus rose from the dead. The Apostles, under God’s direction, set this as the Christian Sabbath Day. It became their day for weekly worship, and the day for ceasing from their labor.
That wasn’t easy in the culture then. Then, Sunday was like our Monday: the first big day of business for the new week. The Creation Sabbath Law was given even before sin came into the human race. We’re to work 6 days, then cease working on the 7th. There was no calendar then, so the day wasn’t attached to one day as we know it now.
In the time of Moses God gave Israel a special calendar. But there was a double Sabbath each year, so the days of the work week shifted each year. The idea that Jews celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday in the Old Testament is simply wrong. There was no such day then. The Roman Calendar wasn’t invented until after the Old Testament was completed.
Under Rome, the Jews rejected the calendar of Moses. They made the Sabbath to always fall on the week day dedicated to the god Saturn. He was the deity of agriculture and harvest, it was Saturn’s Day — or “Saturday”.
With the resurrection of Jesus and his completed atonement, the already abandoned calendar of Moses didn’t apply anymore. So the Apostles directed the church to honor the Sabbath on Sundays. That’s when they met for worship, and refused to work on Sunday, the first day of the week.
From the beginning of time it was a day to cease working because God ceased from creating. It’s sinful to labor on the Sabbath or to pay others to labor for you or to serve you on that day. It was a perfect day to give your tithe in worship, to set aside money as a thank offering to God, and to build up a fund for God’s needy people who were being persecuted.
Paul wanted them to be busy with this before he arrived in Corinth. When he was there, he would have other things to deal with. He wouldn’t want his time taken up with fund-raising. The giving for the Jerusalem Christians was supposed to be finished by the time he got there.
Then Paul explained how their gifts
would be delivered to the needy.
1 Corinthians 16
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.
God holds each local church responsible to see that what it gives is used responsibly. Paul told them that they would have a say in who would go along to make sure their gifts got to the needy saints in Jerusalem.
It’s the local Elders and Deacons who oversee the use of the tithes and offerings of the church. They might get help from bookkeepers or others in the church, but they bear the responsibility. Pray for your church officers and support them in any way you can, even volunteering to help out. They have many serious jobs to carry out and they need to take them seriously.
There needs to be some kind of oversight because there is still sin in our lives. The officers of the church report at regular meetings, and act as a check against one another. In this case in Corinth, Paul said he might even go along with them if it was fitting for him to do so. Maybe he meant that it might fit in with how the Lord was sending him to take his word to other places. Or maybe he was just leaving it up to them so they would know he had no personal financial interests. In either case, Paul was letting them know that if it worked out and it was appropriate, he would go along to Jerusalem with them.
Sadly, some take advantage of the charity of others. There are dishonest people trying to get money without working.
I remember when I was a Pastor a man came to the church asking for money. I got in a conversation with him and he bragged about only working 3 days a week. He went from church to church asking for money – that was his “work”. And he told me he got a pretty good income from it. He didn’t get any from me. I prayed with him and told him I had to be careful about how I distributed the Lord’s money. He didn’t have any real need, just a lot of lazy greed.
A while ago a news report showed a woman in a wheelchair with a cardboard sign. She was sitting on a street corner begging for money. At the end of the day she stood up, put the wheelchair in the trunk of her car, and drove home to her apartment.
Some believe that society owes them for some reason. So they expect others to do all the real work instead of them
We shouldn’t let the con artists keep us from helping out where it’s really needed. Paul’s concern here was for those who are truly unable to provide for their own needs. Believers should care about those who are unable to work, struggling single mothers, children without parents, people disabled physically, those being persecuted, and those in communities struggling to overcome massive natural disasters. This is why churches support natural disaster relief. It’s why believers support local pregnancy centers. It enables them to counsel, help, and provide supplies for women with crisis pregnancies. This is why churches maintain a Deacon’s Fund or Benevolence Fund. The Deacons can use these funds to help out when there are real needs.
There are many kinds of stewardship. God’s given each of us a lot of things to manage for him.
We have 24 hours every day to budget for God’s glory. We should use every minute wisely. We ought to see if we can budget some time to help those in need. God’s given each of us special interests and abilities. We need to think about how we can best use what we have, know, and can do. We should think of how we might be able to use what we own to help out.
One thing we can always give to those in need is our love, prayer, encouragement, and friendship. We can help them through their struggles and comfort them. We should ask God to help us wisely manage all we have in ways that honor him.
This personal duty should be done
with the right attitude.
Later Paul wrote back to the Corinthians in his Second Epistle. He reminded them about this need and encouraged them to give. He wanted to be sure they knew how important it is to give with the right attitude. He said in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
When things are understood the right way our values begin to change. When we know that we’re going to spend a whole eternity with God in heaven, and when we remember the awesome work Jesus completed when he paid for our sins, and we understand the undeserved grace that gives us our life and blessings, our belongings take on a different set of values. We remember that they are God’s things. He trusts us with them to manage them for his glory. That’s a high honor and a wonderful privilege!
When we earn something, it makes us immediately glad to have something to use responsibly. We become thankful we can tithe to provide for Christ’s church, and thankful for any extra we can get together to help the church help the needy.
That’s a different attitude than the way the world looks on charitable giving. But it makes all the difference in the world — when God is the center of all our thoughts.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)