Our Giving to the Lord… according to Scripture
16 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. – I Corinthians. 16:1-3
Our giving to the Lord – is to the Lord. We give to Him. Our giving may be tithes, or it may be offerings. In an agrarian society, for the early church it was “firstfruits” – but, whatever your income situation – it is all our giving to the Lord. Our obligation before the Lord is to give of what we are blessed with.
What we give — does not belong to the local church, but rather to His body on earth, the Church. Our giving may be given through our local church, or through some other work of His Church (commonly misnomered as “para-church” ministry) – but all giving is to be directed to the Lord. It is all the Lord’s.
Paul said to collect “on the first day of every week” …so that when he arrived, he would carry those gifts to another place, Jerusalem. No mention is made here (1 Corinthians 16:1-3) of keeping any part of those gifts for the local church! The implication made is that each person was to give as the Lord had prospered him or her. And the offerings were to be collected prior to Paul´s arrival. That giving was given to meet the needs of those in Jerusalem.
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?
9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”
Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?… 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. – I Corinthians 9:7-23
Paul taught that ministry workers should “get their living from the gospel” (also: I Timothy 5:17, 18). Jesus said, “The worker is worthy of his support” (Matthew 10:10). It is as natural as for the soldier, the vineyard worker, the shepherd, or the ox – as these illustrations from the Apostle Paul show us (I Corinthians 9:7-9):
- the soldier does not serve at his own expense
- the vineyard worker eats his own grapes
- the shepherd drinks the milk of his flock
- the ox eats freely from the grain he is treading (also: I Timothy 5:18)
A “spirit of partiality”. 1 Corinthians 4:3-13
Paul says there are elders, some of whom “who work hard at preaching and teaching.”
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. – 1 Timothy 5:17
Many churches say Paul here is referring only to pastors. Many churches do not even call pastors one of their “elders”, but instead regard them as a class apart. How is that!?
The Apostle Paul is actually referring to many types of “elders” in the church, not just those who have been selected to be “pastor”. The church could also refer to missionaries as “elders”, “those who work hard at preaching and teaching”. Paul said these elders “are worthy of double honor”… worthy of his wages” (I Timothy 5:17,18,21).
Churches nowadays have created a separate classification for those who work hard at teaching in a non-local setting, calling them “missionaries”.
How well are we supporting our elders who serve as missionaries? With “double honor” or with greatly inferior wages? How do their support levels compare – with the “salary package” of your paid church staff locally? Is there, in your local church, what Paul warned against: a “a spirit of partiality”? Are local church staff worthy of higher wages than missionaries serving “outside” the local church? Do denominations have “a spirit of partiality” towards their denominational missionaries, with a resultant neglect of “para-church” missionaries?
Many missionaries serve under a “faith support” system. They were accepted by a mission agency, sent-out from our local church, and went to serve in ministry. Their monthly income as a family was the sum of contributions from those who responded to appeals for support. Believers in churches give out of their tithes and offerings in order to enable others to serve as missionaries. That giving is biblical giving. Giving of tithes and offerings applies to all believers.
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul admonishes the local churches.
6b “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.
7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not [receive it]?
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! – 1 Corinthians 4:6-8
He says “you have all you want”, whereas we in ministry ” don’t have enough. With a bit of irony, sarcastic even, in his rebuke, he points-out how they keep so much and give so little to those who are sacrificing their ability to earn money (by living on the support of the church which gives towards their ministry).
41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
– Matthew 10: 41-42 (Mark 9:41; Matthew 25:34-46; Luke 10:7)
Jesus Himself said that the one who provides for or gives to a prophet or a disciple “shall not loose his reward”. Givers “shall receive a righteous man´s reward”. Any believer who “gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple” – “will certainly not lose their reward.”
Those who give of their tithes and offerings to support God´s Kingdom work will be rewarded by God – whether it be given to the local church, or to so-called “para-church” workers, or to other workers in missions of the Kingdom.
“This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.” – I Corinthians 4:1-2
“Our” wealth (actually His stuff entrusted to us) makes us all the more obligated to be good stewards for God. The more we have, the more we have been entrusted with. And God is expecting us to wisely manage it all. It is not our own to keep, but remains His – under our management.
We, though rich by worldly standards, are yet but servants… servants to Christ who bought us with His blood, bound for hell except for His grace. The servant heart gives generously.
7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? – I Corinthians 4:7
All we have …we have received. How can one be boastful of having been the recipient of something?! Smarts, looks, size, stature, strength, athleticism, personality, business acumen, wealth, power…. “What do you have that you did not receive?” On what basis are you arrogant and/or proud of yourself?
“…Learn not to exceed that which is written…” We should examine ourselves regularly to make sure an attitude has not sneaked-in. Our wealth and the richness of our possessions do not lend us any superiority whatsoever over those who have not received as much as we have.
Our wealth actually increases our indebtedness to God – and makes us all the more under obligation to be good stewards of what has been given us.
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” – Luke 12:48
What are we doing extra – because we have “extra”? Are we going beyond the ordinary requirements of stewardship, because we have much, or are we just toeing the line, so to speak?
6. Guard against judging others in how they live their life before their Lord, our ultimate Judge. – I Corinthians 4:3-14
5 Therefore do not go on [Lit judging anything] passing judgment before [I.e. the appointed time of judgment]the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become [Lit puffed up]arrogant in behalf of one against the other. – 1 Corinthians 4:5-6
Our perspective of others cannot see the hidden motives of their heart. God can, and He will, judge, but only in his appointed time of judgment. We should not condemn that which we cannot even see, that which is “hidden in the darkness” (I Corinthians 4:verse 5).
Judging leads to arrogance (I Corinthians 4:verse 6). Judging means to condemn someone. How they manage their life or what they do with their wealth – is not for us to condemn. Leave that to God.
Paul concludes by appropriately saying,
14 I am writing this
not to shame you
but to warn you
as my dear children.
– I Corinthians 4:14