Friday 28th February
I Corinthians 16: 1 – 11
Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia.
On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. I will visit you after passing through Macedonia—for I intend to pass 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 go. I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to fear among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord just as I am; therefore let no one despise him. Send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I am expecting him with the brothers.
Paul now turns to practical matters. As church treasurer, verse 2 is very familiar: although most giving is by standing order, I still see it weekly on our giving envelopes.
For Jewish Christians, giving was normal: the Law required tithing, storing a proportion of crops for the benefit of those in need, and ungrudging giving. God says ’Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land’ (Deut. 15). The believers shared all their possessions and held everything in common, distributing to those in need (Acts 4).
Paul asks them to share their surplus, a more practical approach but with the same expectation: they should use their wealth, great or small, to benefit the vulnerable and support the church’s mission.
Tithing in mediaeval Europe required a tenth of income to be given to the Church. Looking at richly decorated historic churches, was this at the expense of people living in poverty? Love of money is the root of all evil and we can all think of examples where this has corrupted principles and motives.
Today our weekly ‘collection for the saints’ funds MoM contributions, local church ministry and running buildings. Giving to others has become a personal rather than community act – apart from the requirement to pay our taxes to support state welfare provision.
Giving isn’t just about buying a raffle ticket for a good cause, sponsoring someone to do something amazing or anything else that has become the norm for giving today. These things have value – putting the FUN in fundraising, encouraging the idea that giving is good. However, stewardship is more: recognising all we have comes from God, that while it’s fine to provide for ourselves and our families, we also want to give from love and generosity to enable God’s work of compassion and justice.
Prayer based on 1 Timothy 6
Lord of all giving
All we have comes from you
We set our hopes not on our riches, but on you as the generous provider
May we always be ready to do good, be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, storing up treasure in heaven and enjoying life in abundance