Give with a plan
It has been a while since we talked about giving here at Gather Little by Little. The Bible speaks about the subject of money on many, many occasions. Each time that the subject is mentioned we learn a bit more of how God wants us to order our finances. It is a little bit funny, because almost every bit of advice that comes from the personal finance bloggers of today has root in Scripture. Even one of the most revolutionary personal finance ideas of the last ten years, the so-called “latte factor” is just a repackaging of an idea first proposed in the verse that inspired the name of this blog: “He who gathers money, little by little makes it grow.” Proverbs 13:11
Another key passage that contains some principles for giving is found in I Corinthians 16. Paul was planning to visit the Corinthian church soon. In the meantime, he asked them to gather money that he could collect and then transport to the church at Jerusalem. The Jerusalem church was experiencing a huge amount of persecution and as a result, they had become a poor church in terms of worldly wealth. Paul writes:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me. But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go.
Here are some biblical principles regarding giving that we find in this passage:
Give where there is a need
The plight of the Jerusalem church was well-known throughout the other churches of that day. Those believers had a great need. In contrast, when this request was made, the Corinthian church was fairly well off. Paul was challenging the wealthier believers at Corinth to give to their needier brethren in Jerusalem.
Paul suggests that those who desire to contribute give on the first day of the week. It is interesting that he did not say “bring a big gift when I arrive,” instead, he challenged them to give a small gift every week. He understood human nature and the temptation of that pile of money as well as the danger of procrastination. He knew that if he did not ask for a small, regular gift, some church members would have nothing to give when he arrived.
Have a plan
Paul encourages the church members to set an amount and a time when they could contribute to this cause. Our giving is not to be random and based on feelings, but rather it should be based on planning and knowledge. It is interesting also that Paul does not want the collection to be made after he arrives. I think that he did not want anyone to give out of a desire to impress the apostle. Also, he probably did not want his own personal ministry with the Corinthians to be affected by the size of any particular church member’s gift. He wanted to treat them all with the same respect and concern.
Paul did not specify an amount – not even a percentage! He simply left it up to each individual to give a gift that was proportional to how God had prospered him. The size of your income should affect the amount of your giving. Again, the onus is on you to decide how much you should give. Comparisons to the gifts of others are irrelevant. Each believer was to consider his gift based on his own unique circumstance.
This point is a little obscure, but Paul is careful to recognize the autonomy of the local church at Corinth in this matter. And while he was a man of great standing and great authority as an Apostle, he suggests that the Corinthians were free to send their own ambassador with the gift of money. There were many reasons for him to do this. For instance, the Corinthians might be afraid that they might not get “credit” for the gift from the Jerusalem chruch. Or Paul was recognizing that it was prudent to have several people in charge of the money both for safety’s sake and to stay above reproach. If more people were involved in the transfer, no one could accuse him of skimming. Another reason might have been that if a member of the Corinthian church made the journey with him, that person could return to Corinth with a first-hand account of how the money was spent and the blessing that it was to those in need.
How does your giving “measure up” to the principles in this passage?