Money. It is one of the things pastors are uncomfortable talking about. A number of years ago, Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the U.S. Senate, made these comments: “Jesus Christ said more about money than about any other single thing because, when it comes to a man’s real nature, money is of first importance. Money is an exact index to a man’s true character. All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’s character and how he handles his money.”
In many ways, it reflects what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” In other words, what your money goes after is a signal of what your heart goes after. And Jesus cares about what your heart is going after.
What we do with our money shows what our hearts are doing with God. Actually, what we do with our money shows what we believe God is doing with us. What money is to us shows what God is to us. Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Life is about our relationship to God. John 17:3, “This is eternal life—true life — to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. ” What we do with our money shows where we believe life—and joy and love and hope and security and meaning and freedom—is found.
Paul preached to many, but he also taught the churches to give money regularly—and to support at least three things by their giving.
Firstly, Paul called on his readers to help take care of the poor. When Paul began his ministry to the Gentiles, Peter reminded Paul that in all his ministry he remember the poor. Romans 15:25–26 he wrote, “But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem.” And 2 Corinthians 8–9 is an example of how he tried to motivate the churches to give to support the poor Christians.
Secondly, Paul taught that churches should support missionaries. Those are people who go from place to place and plant churches. For example, in 1 Corinthians 9, he says that “those who proclaim the gospel be supported by those who benefit from it” (v 14).
Lastly and I might add of first priority, Paul taught that the churches should give to support the ministries of the local church. Too often Christians are more apt to support a cause or project rather than give to their local body. But to do so means we are denying ourselves as well. For example, In 1 Timothy 5:18 he said, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!”” And he was referring to the elders of the church who make the preaching and teaching of the Word their vocation. If we don’t support the church, we limit the ministry and are not providing for the family we claim to be a part of.
But Paul also taught them to give regularly—in a systematic way week by week. 1 Corinthians 16:1–2 says, “Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.”
I want us to notice several things. First, this instruction is not unique to one church. It is the way he was teaching other churches besides the one in Corinth. Verse 1, “You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches of Galatia.” This has relevance for all Christian churches.
Secondly, he calls for weekly setting aside of money for the purpose of this ministry. Verse 2: “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned.” This is a call for regular giving and not sporadic, occasional giving.
Third, the setting aside is to be on the first day of the week. Already in Acts 20:7 the Christians were beginning to meet on Sunday as their special worship day. Revelation 1:10 calls it “the Lord’s day” because it was the day he triumphed over death. Paul is saying: make this setting aside part of what makes this day holy to the Lord. It is the Lord’s Day. Show it with an act of worship in the setting aside of some money for the cause that he died for.
Finally, notice that it doesn’t say that the money is brought to the church gathering each week, but that there is a setting aside each week. Giving is an act of worship to God, but the act of worship begins at home between you and God as you write the check. In fact, that’s the decisive point, isn’t it? When the Lord prospers you, week by week will you do what this text says and set aside an amount to show where your heart is—to show what your life is?