By Mike Willis
Another item of New Testament worship is that of giving back to God a portion of the many good things which He has given to us. Many of our denominational friends have a misconception about the manner in which the funds which the church spends are to be raised. Hence, we need to study the New Testament pattern of worship which we refer to as “giving.”
The Early Church Practiced Giving
There are some among us who have doubts in their minds regarding whether giving was a part of New Testament worship or not. We can demonstrate that the early church practiced giving. Notice the following evidences:
(1) The early church had resources to spend. The fact that the early church had resources to spend shows that money was raised in some way. We see them spending resources in the support of gospel preachers (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 9:1-14) and in benevolence (Acts 11:27-30; 2:45; 6:1-6; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8-9). The fact that the early church had resources to spend shows that they had some kind of plan for raising those resources. We need to study the manner in which they raised money to understanding scriptural giving.
(2) A specific example of first-day-of-the-week giving. Paul gave the following instructions to the church at Corinth: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Some of the newer translations and some of the writings of brethren circulated among us deny that this passage refers to a weekly collection. Hence, let us carefully consider what 1 Cor. 16:1-4 teaches.
First of all, notice that the word collection (logeia) was “used chiefly of religious collections for a god, a temple, etc., just as St. Paul uses it of his collection of money for the `saints’ at Jerusalem” (Adolf Diessmann, Light From The Ancient East, p. 105; cf. T.D.M.T., Vol. IV, pp. 282-283). Hence, the word itself refers to a religious collection.
Secondly, notice that the orders given to the church at well. local situation but to the church in general. The church had uniformity in a first-day-of-the-week giving. Corinth were given to the churches of Galatia as well. Hence, Paul’s commandment did not pertain to a local situation but to a church in general. The church had uniformity in a first-day-of-the-week giving.
Thirdly, the giving was done upon the first day of every week (cf. NASB). Kata is used distributively in 1 Cor. 16:1-2. MacKnight said, “And as kata polin signifies every city; and kata mena, every month; and, Acts xiv:23, kat’ ekklesian, in every church: So kata mian sabbaton signifies the first day of every week” (James MacKnight, Apostolical Epistles, Vol. 1, p. 290).
Fourthly, some have misunderstood “by him” (par’ heauto) to refer to “lay by himself at home” and have interpreted this passage to refer to something done at home each Lord’s day. “Every one was to lay by himself, i.e., most modern commentators say, at home par’ heauto. Compare pros heauton, in Lk. 24:12; see also John 20:10. The direction then is that every one should, on the first day of the week, lay aside at home whatever he was able to give, thus treasuring up his contribution. To this interpretation it may be objected that the whole expression is thus obscure and awkward. `Let every one at home place, treasuring up what he has to give.’ The words do not mean to lay by at home, but to lay by himself, i.e., let him take to himself what he means to give” (Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 363-364).
Fifthly, this passage commands that a weekly collection be taken to avoid a gathering when Paul came. If the interpretation which suggests that each individual save up his own money at home be accepted, the very kind of gathering which Paul wanted to avoid would be necessary. The very kind of collection (v. 1 – logeia) which Paul commanded on the first day of the week was what Paul intended to avoid when he came (v. 2 logeia, there translated “gathering”).
Consequently, we draw the necessary conclusion from this example that the early church regularly gave of their means upon the first day of the week.
(3) Other examples of New Testament giving. The other examples of giving in the New Testament church demonstrate that the early church gave, although those examples do not tell us when they gave (only 1 Cor. 16:1-2 does that). Here are some other examples of giving in the early church: Acts 2:45; 11:27-30. These show that the early church practiced giving. No one can honestly examine these evidences without reaching the conclusion that the early church practiced giving as a part of their first day of the week worship.
Unscriptural Methods of Raising Funds
As we compare the giving of the New Testament to learn how the early church raised its funds, we are startled by some of the things which we do not read therein. Many of the practices which are found in twentieth century denominationalism as means of raising church funds are not even remotely hinted at as means of raising church funds today. Here are some things not mentioned in the Bible as means of raising church funds but which are practiced by many churches of today:
(1) Bingo games. Some churches actually resort to using Bingo games – a form of gambling (which is sinful in and of itself) – as a means of raising church funds.
(2) Business enterprises. Some churches are involved in operating businesses for profit as a means of raising church funds. They operate such things as garment and cloth factories, wineries, lingerie factories, shopping centers, etc. Some of these businesses are sinful businesses (such as the making and selling of alcoholic beverages).
(3) Rummage sales. The members are sometimes asked to donate used clothing and other items for sale to raise money.
(4) Carnivals. Some churches have invited carnivals to set up on their lot as a means of raising money.
(5) Begging. A number of churches go around to the businesses in their vicinity or to the houses of members in order to beg for non-Christians to support their Christian works.
(6) Tithing. A number of churches not only teach that the Christian should tithe in obedience to the Old Testament commandments, they actually go to members and assess their tithing in a similar fashion to the manner in which taxes are assessed. One of the members in the church where I attend was converted from Catholicism. Nearly two years after his conversion, a representative from the Catholic: Church came around and requested that he give his tithe. They had not even missed him prior to the time when they noticed that he had not been tithing.
These unscriptural methods of raising church funds stand in direct violation to the revealed commandments of the Lord. The only scriptural authority which Christians have for raising church funds is through giving upon the first day of the week. There is no authority for raising money through involvement in business, begging, carnivals, pie suppers or rummage sales. There is no authority for collections to be taken on any other day than upon the first day of the week (hence, denominational practices of taking up a collection every time they meet is also sinful).
Why Should We Give?
Having noticed that the early church raised its funds through a first day of the week contribution and having contrasted that with the manner in which some churches are raising their funds, we are now prepared to raise a question regarding our motives for giving. Why should we give? We suggest the following reasons for giving:
(1) Because it is commanded. The New Testament example gives Bible authority for the church to take up a collection upon the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Christians are commanded to give as they have been prospered. Paul said, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give . . .” (2 Cor. 9:7). Hence, God has commanded that Christians give of their prosperity. The Christian has a responsibility to be obedient to these commandments (Jn. 14:15; 1 Jn. 5:2-3).
(2j Because of what God has done for us. God loved us enough to give His Son to die for our sins (Jn. 3:16). In addition to that, every good thing which we enjoy comes from His bountiful hand (Jas. 1:17). God is simply allowing us to use His things. Even what we return to God is His. “For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chron. 29:14). We should want to give back to God because of the great things which He has given to us.
(3) Because the giver is blessed. Paul related a saying of Jesus Christ when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The Bible teaches that a blessing comes to the giver. First of all, he will be one who is loved by God; Paul wrote, “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Secondly, God will bless him (cf. 2 Cor. 9:8-10). Thirdly, giving abounds to the account of the giver (Phil. 4:15-17). Fourthly, one heaps up rewards in heaven (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
(4) Because this is the wisest use of our money. We must learn to look upon the money which we have as a stewardship from God. To spend money upon unneeded luxuries and selfish wants is a mismanagement of our stewardship. We need to be laying treasures up in heaven with the money which we have given to us from God (Matt. 6:19-20). Whatever we spend upon ourselves shall perish with us. What we spend in the service of God will endure forever.
(5) Because the gospel needs to be spread. The church funds of the New Testament were used to support men who carried the gospel into various parts of the world. The same use is being made of our church funds today. The gospel needs to be spread that souls may be saved and churches established. We should give because of our desire to see the gospel taken into other parts of the world (Rom. 1:16; 2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15-17).
We Christians should look upon our giving as a means of expressing our love to God and of helping to spread the gospel throughout the world. As we grow into a better understanding of the purpose of giving, we should grow in the grace of the Lord through the stage in which we begrudgingly give a pittance of what we should give, until we reach that stage in which we give as God has commanded us. Even in this giving, it should be giving that comes cheerfully from the heart and not mere dutiful giving.
When we come to fully realize the blessings which come to the giver, we should learn to give more acceptably. Too often, we only look at the cash flowing away from our pocketbooks without thinking about the rich spiritual benefits which come to us as a result of our giving as we should. May we grow up to be mature Christians in our giving even as we grow in other graces.
Next week, we shall look at the Scriptures to determine the biblical principles which govern how we are to give.
Questions – Lesson X
- What are some evidences that the early church practiced giving?
- Give evidences to show that 1 Car. 16:1-2 refers to a congregational collection.
- Name some unscriptural means being used to raise church funds.
- Name as many scriptures as possible which indicate how Christians can raise money for the congregational treasury.
- As a Christian, how should one feel toward the money he gives to God?
- Why should we give?
- Would it be scriptural to take up a collection on Wednesday? Give scripture.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 44, pp. 715-717
November 8, 1979