1 Corinthians 16:1-3 Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.
These three verses provide a valuable insight into the pattern laid down for the approach to giving by Christians in the Early Church. As a Pharisee, Paul’s earlier approach would have been based on the Mosaic law concerning tithing – ie that the first tenth of every blessing a man received in the course of his life automatically belonged to God, and after that he could give a freewill offering to God.
That this ‘law’ (like many others, such as ‘Sabbath Observance’) lost its real significance in Jewish life in general is obvious from Malachi 3:7-12 as well as Jesus’ condemnation of its abuse (Matthew 23:23). So Paul wants to set a pattern that avoided this error while at the same time recognising the value of the Mosaic Law. We see from his instruction, “Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.”, that he considered it a pattern that Christians everywhere should adopt for themselves. We see from it that the ‘collection’ was to benefit God’s people in general, especially those in need, and to enable Gospel work to flourish (cf 2 Corinthians 8 & 9).
It was to be a regular weekly commitment, and his mention of the ‘first day of the week’ points to ‘Sunday’ being the day they met in contrast with the Jewish Sabbath – or Seventh Day (our ‘Saturday’). This is why Sunday, the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, became known as the ‘Lord’s Day’.
Paul’s use of the phrase ‘in keeping with his income’ suggests that there should be some mathematical formula to determine an appropriate level of giving, and many of us find that the Mosaic ‘tithe’ (tenth) is not a bad place to start! But to avoid the danger of Pharisaical legalism that Jesus exposed, it seems a good idea to allocate this tenth ‘automatically’, without making a big deal of it (ie ‘without letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing’ – Matthew 6:3), and then to consider what might be an appropriate freewill offering in addition to it to support Gospel work. Perhaps if more of us followed this pattern there would be less need for our churches to be involved in special ‘fundraising’ campaigns and activities.
– Bruce Christian