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Tithing

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1 Corinthians 16:1… Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.

 

Commentary

            The purpose of giving to the church… Now that Paul has given sufficient information regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he moves on to the next question the Corinthians obviously asked them: that of giving. In 15:58 Paul instructed the Corinthians to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord,” and one of the ways a person can put this command into practice is to give financially to the church. The “collection for the saints” in 16:1 concerns the money the Corinthians needed to raise, and term itself, in the secular society, denoted taxation and/or funds gathered for pagan temples. Paul used the term only on this occasion, but he used it specifically in reference to money given for the “saints” (living Christians) for their needs and for the furthering of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The purpose for giving money in the NT is for the support of the church and its people, and this act serves as godly worship. It is the Christian’s financial duty to give first to his/her church. Then it is the responsibility of the elders of the church to invest the money in the life of the church and her people (2 Cor. 8:1-5; 9:12-15; Phil. 4:14-16). According to the text Paul had already preached on this same topic to the churches of Galatia (Acts 13-14). The collection he spoke of was a collection by the Gentile Christians in Corinth (cf. Rom. 15:26) to the less fortunate Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

            As in modern times poverty in the ancient world was widespread. Jerusalem at the time of Paul’s writing was basically a very poor city. As the religious epicenter for the Jews it had become overpopulated – especially during the great Jewish feasts which occurred annually. The feasts demanded the slaughter of many animals, and were it not for some of the faithful wealthy non-residents of Jerusalem the Jewish feasts might not have continued. Furthermore, Jerusalem was still feeling the effects from a severe famine just years before (Acts 11:28). But for the Christians in Jerusalem, in addition to the famine and the general poverty of the city, their economic situation was even worse due to the persecutions they endured. Many had been expelled from their homes, had their belongings seized, lost their jobs, and some had even been imprisoned (Acts 8:1-3; 1 Thes. 2:14). Though Christians had practiced having all things in common early on (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34), their resources had apparently dwindled to nothing.

            Not only did Paul want to have a monetary collection taken up for the poorer Christians in Jerusalem, he also required it for the spiritual unity of the church. Not only does giving of one’s resources to a common cause bring unity to those who give, but it also shows thankfulness to those the gift goes to. Salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22), and because of this Gentiles have a special gratitude to them. Paul says in Romans 15:27, “For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.” Paul felt so strongly about the sharing of gifts and in the fellowship of other Christians that on three occasions he uses a Greek term that is normally translated as “fellowship” to represent the giving of financial gifts (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13). In other words, in Paul’s mind true fellowship among Christians comes as a result of sharing in one’s wealth with the church.

Food for Thought

            Giving money to the church is rarely an easy topic of discussion (especially for a preacher!). But the next time the topic comes up and you get angry or uncomfortable, ask yourself why that is. I’ve never heard one person who gives faithfully to their church get angry when the topic of money comes up. It’s only those who choose not to give who tend to gripe.

1 Corinthians 16:2… On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.

Commentary

            The first principle of giving answers the question “When should we give?” The answer is literally “on the first day of the seven” (Sunday). This was the traditional day of worship in the first century (cf. Acts 20:7) because it represented the day Christ rose from the dead. Jewish Christians actually abandoned their reverence for the Sabbath (Saturday) and moved their worship day because of this. So the day of corporate worship was the appropriate time to give.

Giving in itself is an act of worship. The Apostle Peter said, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). In the OT blood sacrifices were offered, but in the NT the sacrifice was spiritual, stemming from one’s talents, time, and finances. Giving to the church should not be based upon the pastor’s sporadic pleas or one’s economic stability but from a willing heart that strives to worship God for what He did at the cross. All that anyone possesses is God’s, and He grants us these for pleasure – His and ours. A thankful believer acknowledges God’s provisions by giving back to Him a portion of his/her earnings.

            The second principle of giving answers the question, “Who should give?” The answer is “each one of you.” No one is exempt. “Each of you” denotes everyone who calls upon Christ for salvation. God is not interested in the excuses of the poor for not having enough – illustrated in the story of the destitute woman who gave what amounted to one cent in the Bible (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus did not discourage her giving but held her up as an example of one who gave all she had. A person’s true character is revealed through what he/she gives when they have little. The rich can afford to give large amounts without ever feeling the hit, but the poor must give of himself to help someone else – possibly one more fortunate than him financially. Those who are faithful with a small amounts will be faithful with larger amounts; those who are unrighteous with a little will also be unrighteous with much (Luke 16:10). Since all believers are called to give all believers must strive to be faithful with what they have if they choose to pray for more.

            The third principle of giving answers the question “Where do we give?” The answer is simply to the church. Some folks attempt to sidestep giving to their church by giving to the homeless on the streets or to some poverty-stricken child in another country. Though such giving is noble, that kind of giving should be done in addition to their contributions to the church. This fact is revealed through Paul’s reference to “the first day of the week” for that is when Christians worship. Sunday as the day of corporate worship was the time when believers would pool their resources to help all those in need (Acts 2:44-45), and as time passed believers would bring their gifts to the apostles to distribute accordingly (Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2). Thus, it was the church where the gifts were brought to be disbursed as the apostles and elders deemed necessary.

Food for Thought

            Paul commanded Christians to “put aside and save.” This phrase comes from “thesaurus” – a collection or a treasury of words. It represents a treasure chest that holds things of great value. The church should be a storehouse for gifts to be given to those in need, specifically other Christians. Each one of us is called upon to keep it full from our own God-given earnings. The very fact that Paul follows this statement with, “that no collections be made when I come” clearly shows that he is not referring to money saved at home for retirement or the like. He is speaking directly to all believers, telling them to contribute to the treasure chest in the church.

1 Corinthians 16:2… On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come (Part 2).

Commentary

The fourth principle of giving answers the question, “How much?” Paul answers that giving is to be done as you “may prosper.” In the Bible prosperity has to do with being successful in reaching one’s goal, being healthy, and in obtaining wealth. In v. 2 this is clearly a reference to financial prosperity. So how much a person gives should be based upon one’s salary.

In the OT the act of tithing (giving a tenth) from the time of Abraham to Moses was common but not commanded by God. It was the pagan custom to give 10% of their wealth to the gods mainly because the number 10 was a symbol of completeness. Cain and Abel gave to God but not a tenth (Gen. 4). Noah sacrificed to God but not a tenth (Gen. 8). In Gen. 12:7 Abraham built an altar and worshipped God with no mention of a tenth. Genesis 14:17-20 is the first mention of the tithe in the Bible, but this refers to Abraham’s giving only a tenth of the spoil he received in battle to Melchizedek – not of his possessions. Abraham never again gave 10%.

In Gen. 28:20-22 Jacob vowed to give God 10% if God would bless him. In essence, he was following in the footsteps of the pagans of his day by attempting to bribe God. Even Joseph knew of no 10% requirement, for he exacted 20% from the people to sustain Egypt (Gen. 41:34).

The Mosaic Law (OT) did require tithes and offerings from Israel. First, Israel was to tithe of their earnings and their livestock to support the Levites. This tithe worked as a tax. In turn, the Levites were to tithe back from what they themselves received (Num. 18:25-30) so as to feed those belonging to the priesthood. Failure to tithe constituted robbing God (Mal. 3:8).

The second tithe was annual – the festival tithe (Deut. 12:10-11, 17-18). It supported the national feasts (Passover, Booths, Weeks, etc.) where Jews and Jewish converts slaughtered countless animals in celebration of various events in Israel’s history. This tithe contributed to the worship of the people, and if it were neglected then the celebratory feasts would suffer.

The third tithe required from the Jews was the welfare tithe for orphans and widows (Deut. 14:28-29). This tithe was God’s way of providing for widows and orphans in Israel who could not provide for themselves. He commanded Israel to care for them through this. This tithe averaged out to an additional 3.33% per year of their required giving.

All three tithes amounted to about 23% of one’s income. They all functioned as taxes in support of their government which was the Jewish priesthood. The tithes were no more voluntary than modern-day taxes. However, this 23% mandatory tax base was not the grand total of tithes required under the Mosaic Law. They had a profit-sharing tax (Lev. 19:9-10), a temple tax, and the seventh year Sabbath tax – all of which totals to about 25% of their income to the priesthood.

On top of the tithes the Jews were to give freewill offerings. The “first-fruits” offering demanded the first fruits from one’s harvest (Lev. 23:10; Num. 18:12; Prov. 3:9-10; 11:24). It was a representative sample of one’s crops to the priest as an offering to the Lord. The full harvest was not full until the first-fruits had been offered. God also commanded a “freewill” offering (Ex. 35:4-5, 21-22, 29; 36:5-6). This offering was given to God from a joyful heart.

 

Food for Thought

            How much do we give to God? It’s up to you to figure that out. But 10% giving, though a noble figure to give, is never commanded in the NT. Christians must pay their taxes because government is given by God (Rom. 13), and our tax money pays His workers. But we are also to give to God our “first-fruits” – from a heart filled with joy for what He’s given to us.

1 Corinthians 16:1-2… Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come (Part 3).

Commentary

Giving of one’s possessions in the OT consisted of tithing to the temple and priests to keep the priestly government running, the festival tithe which supplied the animals needed to furnish the many annual feasts and celebrations, and the welfare tithe for orphans and widows. In addition to those there was the profit-sharing tax, the temple tax, and the seventh year Sabbath tax. After all the tithes, which acted as taxes, were paid the Jews gave a first-fruits offering that represented the best of their crops and a freewill offering from the overflow of their hearts. The tax-tithe totaled about 25% of their income and possessions, and the other two offerings were in proportion to what people made. Hence, they gave both tithes (taxes) and offerings (worship).

In the NT there is nothing regarding a mandatory giving of 10% for Christians. Tithing is mentioned in Matt. 23:23 and in Luke 18:12, but both are in reference to taxation. Believers are commanded to pay their taxes (Rom. 13) and to give out of their overflow of their hearts (2 Cor. 9:6-7). The two types of giving in the NT are just like those in the OT: required and voluntary. In Jesus’ day the OT tax system was still in practice because the government was run by the religious leaders, priests, and Levites. But they were also under the control of Rome, who also taxed them. Tax-collectors (publicans) often exacted more than their due (i.e. Zacchaeus), but Jesus adhered to the Mosaic system (Matt. 17:24-27) and paid his taxes. After all, the government was established by God to uphold His laws (cf. Matt. 22:15-22; Rom. 13).

Today giving money to the church under Christ’s New Covenant is to flow from the heart of the believer and is to be determined by the believer. Paul says in 2 Cor. 9:6-7, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Cheerful giving is cheerful worship, and cheerful worship is worship indeed!

         

Food for Thought

One who makes one million dollars per year and who gives 50% of their income is still able to live on $500,000 per year. In contrast, one who makes $50,000 per year who gives 10% is living on $45,000 per year – a far cry from the 50% giver who lives on 11 times more money. Since the Bible doesn’t command a specific figure we are to give as we decide. But giving in and of itself is not optional. As James 4:17 says, “Therefore the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Those who only feel led to give a little will reap a little – if at all; those who feel led to give much will also reap much. It’s like physical fitness. Five minute workouts three times a week benefit little, but 45 minute workouts 4 days a week benefit much. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Those who give little amounts are obviously thankful for little. As one man said, “How believers handle their money is inextricably related to the depth of their worship. If we do not give properly we do not worship properly.”

In the end financial giving to the church is about worship, and it is those who worship in spirit and truth that the Father vigorously seeks (John 4:23-24). So make no mistake, a church that brings in money each week during the worship hour is a church that truly worships. Many churches sing and play music, but anyone can do that. Not all are thankful enough to give.

The Church Collection Plate (1 Cor. 16:1-4)

I)            The Purpose of Giving (1)

A)    For the saints

B)    Work of the church

II)         The Principles of Giving (2)

A)    When? The day of worship

B)    Who? Each one of us

C)    Where? The church

D)    How Much? In proportion w/his income

1)      Old Testament Tithe

·         Levite tithe (Lev. 27:30-33; Num. 18:21-32)

·         Festival tithe (Deut. 12)

·         Welfare tithe – additional 3.33% (Deut. 14:27-28)

·         Profit-sharing tithe (Lev. 19:9)

·         Temple tithe (Ex. 30:13-14; Neh. 10:32-33)

·         Sabbath year tithe (Lev. 25:4-7)

·         First-fruit offerings (Lev. 23:10; Prov. 3:9-10)

·         Freewill offerings (Ex. 35:4-5, 21-22, 29; 36:5-6)

·         TOTAL: 25-39%

2)      New Testament Tithe

·         Tithe used 8 times, but never commanded

·         Pay taxes (Rom. 13)

·         Cheerful giving (2 Cor. 9)

E)     Why? To worship

III)      The Protection of Giving (3)

A)    Those approved

B)    Those united

IV)      The Perspective of Giving (4)

A)    Adequate giving

B)    Share in joy of giving

Thoughts on Giving:

  1. All believers expected to give; not optional
  2. How much does it take to make you happy?
  3. No giving equates to no blessing
  4. Lost job? Giving grants confidence
  5. Giving is a barometer of spiritual maturity
  6. Those who get angry don’t give; those who give never get angry at sermons on giving.
  7. Pay taxes; pay your church
  8. One man gives 50%, another gives 10%
  9. 10% is a good number but not commanded
  10. Giving won’t make you wealthy, only obedient
  11. What you sow you also reap

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