By Connie W. Adams
That the churches described in the New Testament had a treasury made up of freewill offerings from the members is evident from several passages. Paul gave the same order to the churches of Galatia that he gave to the church at Corinth. “As I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also. On the first day of the week let each of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
This is the only passage which deals with a time when such a collection was to be made “on the first day of the week.” This regular practice would prevent having to suddenly gather what was needed when Paul arrived. What was “stored up” or “laid by” in store (KJV) constituted a treasury. From this fund the needs of saints at Jerusalem would be supplied. But while this passage is the only one which states a time for such storing up, it is not the only passage which instructs us as to how collected funds were used. Paul said he “took wages” of “other churches” to minister at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:8). Churches could not provide wages to Paul unless they had funds from which to do that. The church at Philippi “sent once and again” to supply Paul’s needs while he preached at Thessalonica (Phil. 4:15-16). Members of the church at Jerusalem sold property and laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles for the care of those among them who were in need (Acts 4:32-37).
Does God Need Our Money?
The truth of the matter is that God does not need money. He owns the universe. But whatever God has required his people to do is for their own good. Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Giving, properly done, indicates a generous spirit which parallels the character of God. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” (John 3:16). Paul called giving a “grace bestowed” by God on those who practiced it. “Moreover brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia” (2 Cor. 8:1, 6). Unselfish giving shows the depth of our affection. It springs not from compulsion but from the free will of the heart. In the case of relieving the afflicted it shows compassion. Liberality is the opposite of stinginess. God was not miserly in showering his blessings upon the human family, nor should we be in our giving. No, God does not need our money, but we need to give for our own good. In so doing we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
Giving Self First
Jesus said that in order to be his disciples we have to learn to “deny self” (Matt. 16:24). “Self-esteem” is the current rage. “I’m worth it” or “I’m number one” is heard again and again. Jesus emptied himself for us (Phil. 2:7). “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus taught that the way to greatness in the kingdom was to become the servant of all. When a person surrenders all to the Lord, body, soul, spirit, talent, time, and wealth, then he fulfills what is meant by denying self. God accepts what we give only to the extent that he accepts us.
The Macedonians had learned this. “That in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing. Imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we had hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:1-5). Here were poor brethren who had so given themselves to the Lord that their giving was described as liberality and far beyond what anyone would have expected.
Notice that it was the grace of God when they gave. But it was also the grace of God when the Corinthians gave (vv. 6-7).
How much do I have to give? That is the wrong question. Remember it is called liberality. It is grace. Was God’s grace generous or stingy? It is called “freely” giving. If we “sow sparingly we shall also reap sparingly” while sowing “bountifully” results in reaping bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6). Giving must be according to purpose of heart and not grudgingly or of necessity (2 Cor. 9:7). It is the “cheerful giver that God loves. Do I have to give this? No, you don’t have to do it. You can refuse to give yourself to the Lord, shut up your heart against the needs of the saints and the lost who need to hear the gospel, spend all you have on yourself, and go on to Hell with the rest of the wicked. I have heard some say we ought to give until it hurts. I don’t believe it. Where is the grace, liberality, and freewill in that? No, what we need to do is give until it feels good.
All are not prospered equally. The Macedonians were poor. But they taught a great lesson and set a grand ex- ample, not only for the Corinthians, for all of us. If that won’t help us to decide how much to give, then the case is beyond help.