Nana Yaw Aidoo
What a blessing and a privilege it is to worship God. What a wonderful blessing and a high privilege it is to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). So enamored was the Psalmist with this exalted privilege that he wrote:
O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (Psa. 95:1-7).
While it is a privilege to worship God, what some have failed to realize however is that in addition to this privilege, worship is a great responsibility. Man’s responsibility in worship is to worship God just as He has prescribed. As a result of a failure of some Bible characters to realize this awesome truth they offered to God worship that was not after the “due order” (1 Chr. 15:13), with some even paying for this error with their lives (cf. Lev. 10:1-3).
Human pride resents the idea that “the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Nonetheless it is still the case that just as God expected those of old to do “according to” His word on all issues so He commands that everything we teach and practice today be authorized by Jesus Christ (Col. 3:17). Jesus Christ told the woman at the well that the kind of worshippers the Father seeks and will continue to seek is those who worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). To worship in spirit is to worship in sincerity of heart and spirit (cf. Josh. 24:14; Rom. 1:9) and to worship in truth is to worship according to God’s word, which is truth (John 17:17).
While Satan and his change agents would have us believe that merely being relevant in this world is God’s desire for His children today irrespective of whether or not such relevance comes at the expense of God’s word, we say with no doubt at all in our minds that whether or not we achieve relevance, the only way forward in religion is to return to “the old paths” of God’s inspired word (Jer. 6:16). This is the way that is right and cannot be wrong. That being the case, we will now turn our attention to what God’s word says concerning freewill giving in worship.
Did the Apostolic Church “Give” as an Expression of Worship?
There is no doubt that the early church gave of their means as an act of worship. The inspired historian wrote:
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need (Acts 4:34-35).
While we are not obligated to sell all our property (many in the early church owned property they did not sell cf. Rom. 16:3-5; Phm. 2, 22) and bring the proceeds to the church, this account establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that giving was a part of the worship of the early church.
Moreover, we see in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians evidence of giving as an expression of the worship of the early church:
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).
Why else would Paul devote two chapters in the second epistle to the Corinthians to the subject if giving was not a part of their worship? Due to the fact that the early church gave as an expression of worship, when Johann Lorenz von Mosheim a man who has been described as an “ecclesiastical historian of great merit” studied the matter of the early church’s worship he observed that, “Every Christian, who was in an opulent condition, and indeed every one, according to their circumstances, brought with them gifts, and offered them, as it were, unto the Lord” (as cited by Jackson).
There is no helping anyone who in spite of the abundance of biblical evidence and testimony of church historians contends that giving was not a part of the worship of the early church.
Giving as an Inspired Order
Having established that giving was a part of the early church’s worship, let us now look at what we learn about giving from Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians.
The first lesson is that giving is an order. Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
The collection was an inspired order given not just to the Corinthians but also to the Galatians. In fact, to “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2). The early saints could no more dispense with this directive than they could with the directive to partake of the communion in remembrance of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:23-30). This order also impresses on our mind the fact that giving was the only means by which the church was authorized to finance its activities. I am aware that some have used 2 Corinthians 8:8 as “proof” that giving is not a command. However, far from saying that giving isn’t a command, what the apostle is actually saying is that he is not commanding them to abound in the same manner as the Macedonian churches who gave beyond their ability (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1-7). I cannot improve on these comments by Matthew Poole on 2 Corinthian 8:8:
I do not speak in an imperious way, as one that commandeth you; or rather, God hath no where given an express command as to the quantum of what you should give; but the forwardness of others makes me thus speak to you, as not being willing you should in good works come behind any churches; and that I might prove the sincerity of your love, to God, to me, and to the poor afflicted saints that are in Judea. Though God hath not directed the particular sums we should give to those that are in need, yet he hath given us general rules; That we should give as God hath prospered us, 1 Cor. 16:2; and so as there may be some equality, as the apostle speaketh, 2 Cor. 8:14. So, as the sincerity of our love to God dependeth in some measure upon the proportion of what we give at his command, so doth also the sincerity of our love to those poor members of Christ that are in want; that there may be a moderate supply for their want, from our abundance.
The “When” of Giving
Not only do we learn that we cannot do away with giving as an element of worship, we also learn how frequently we are to give. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.
The inspired order Paul gave to the churches was that they were to ensure they gave of their means on the first day of every week. Yes, the KJV says first day of the week. However, inasmuch as every week has got a first day, then the faithful Christian should not waste their time arguing about whether or not Paul meant every week. When God told the Jews to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Exo. 20:8), I doubt there was any Jew foolish enough to ask Moses whether or not he meant every Sabbath day.
One should budget his finances, therefore, so as to be able to give each Lord’s day. If one is ill, or away, thus unable to contribute at his local congregation, he should make provisions to leave his contribution behind or else make it up when he returns (Jackson).
The “Who” of Giving
The third lesson is that the command to give on the first day of every week was directed to the individual members of the church. Notice carefully what the apostle wrote: let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him. It is therefore the responsibility of each and every individual Christian to give as he or she has received from God. Every Christian in the local congregation must do his or her part. It is neither fair nor right to let the burden of the church’s finances rest on just a few men and women (2 Cor. 8:13-15). Jackson offers some helpful thoughts in this regard:
For each family income, there must be a gift. If the husband is the sole wage earner, he obviously will be the only source for a gift. If the wife has a separate income, she must contribute from that as well. When Christian teens have a job, they must give from their income. If they receive an allowance, a portion of that belongs to the Lord. If older folks are on social security, they are not exempt from this act of worship. “Each one” means “everyone” who prospers to any degree—rich or poor, young or old, male or female.
The “How Much” of Giving
In addition to what we have already learned, the apostle teaches us how much to give in order to please God. He says the Christian is to give, as God hath prospered him. This is what some have termed proportionate giving. What this phrase means is that the more money one makes the more he is to give. Pilgrim was right in saying that “if you are still giving what you did before your last raise(s), and if you were properly giving then, you cannot now be giving according to your prosperity” (52). The Christian who desires much blessings from God should match that energy by sowing bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6).
Concerning how much to give Brownlow makes this apt suggestion for our consideration: “Since we are stewards, perhaps each should ask, “How much shall I keep?” instead of, “How much shall I give?” (30). The reason why God couched how much the Christian is to give in this kind of language is so that whether the Christian is rich or poor, he can still obey God. It is not how much money you give but whether it is proportionate with how much you receive.
The Attitude of Giving
What should be the Christian’s attitude as far as giving of his or her means to the church is concerned? According to God’s word it should be one of thoughtfulness or purpose and cheer. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
Not only does the faithful Christian think of the church first when he or she receives his or her income (Matt. 6:33) but also he or she gives not out of grief or because he or she feels forced to give but out of joy. The Christian who appreciates that all he or she has belongs to the Lord (1 Chr. 29:14) should be glad rather than sad to give a part back to Him. Dear Christian, give until it hurts and continue to give until it no longer does.
Does 1 Cor. 16:1-2 Constitute a Pattern?
Some have suggested that Paul’s charge to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16 does not constitute a pattern. Some years ago, due to work I moved from home to the central region of Ghana and consequently worshipped with the church in the town I lived in. Upon arriving I noticed among other things that these brethren were accustomed to taking a collection not only on the first day of the week but also during their midweek Bible classes. When I confronted the preacher on this issue his argument was that 1 Corinthians 16 could not be binding on the church today because there was no such order prior to 1 Corinthians 16.
This brother manifested an unfortunate ignorance of the progressive nature of Biblical revelation. We might as well argue that since we are not given qualities a man must possess before he can become an elder until 1 Timothy 3, then Paul’s charge to appoint certain kind of men to the eldership isn’t binding. We read of elders in Acts 11:30 but not until Paul’s letter to Timothy do we see anything like qualifications for appointment to the eldership. Instead of breaking the Scriptures (John 10:35) by tearing them apart, we should seek to harmonize them.
Some have also suggested that since it was Paul’s original intention to collect money for the needy saints in Jerusalem, 1 Corinthians 16 does not constitute a pattern. While it is true that helping the needy saints in Jerusalem was Paul’s original intention, this was not the only reason why Paul gave this order. Giving did not begin with the Corinthian letter. Right from the beginning, the church gave as an expression of worship. “Fellowship” in Acts 2:42, includes giving (Php. 4:15) and the steadfastness with which the church engaged in fellowship is an indication of the regularity of this act of worship.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 teaches us two things. First, it teaches us what Paul was going to use the money for and also it reveals fully God’s will on the issue of giving. The phrase in store in the KJV means treasury. Macknight renders 1 Corinthians 16:2 this way: “On the first day of the week, let each one of you lay somewhat by itself, putting it into the treasury.” The church already had a treasury. It did not create one as a result of Paul’s letter. It is as if the apostle were saying, “you already contribute to the treasury but now I order you to do it every first day of every week so that you do not make any special contributions when I come.” Therefore, while it was indeed Paul’s desire to collect money for the needy saints, this was not the only reason why he gave this order. From this particular situation God through the apostle revealed His will for giving for all time (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 1:2; 4:17).
Jackson was right in asking, “If the Lord prescribed a pattern for what we do in other acts of worship, is it reasonable to think that he left the matter of giving entirely optional or ambiguous?” The answer to this question is a great, big no. God has given His church a pattern for giving and 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 is that pattern.
In Palestine the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea both have the Jordan river for a tributary. However, the Sea of Galilee is a fresh water lake with blue water, is home to about twenty different types of fishes and has trees along its banks. It is full of life, if you please. The Dead Sea on the other hand has a salt concentration that is ten times more than ocean water and thus no plants and animals can live in and around the water. It is indeed a water body that is worthy of its name.
How could these water bodies receive water from the same source, essentially be in the same region and yet have such contrasting fates? The answer is that when the Sea of Galilee receives water from the Jordan, it does not keep the water but also gives it out. The Sea of Galilee has got outlets through which the water it receives from the Jordan, goes out. It gives as much as it receives. If it receives one drop from the Jordan, it gives out one drop and if it receives two drops from the Jordan, it gives out two drops. This arrangement means the Jordan River simply passes through the Sea of Galilee. The result is that, the Sea of Galilee is healthy, vibrant, full of animal and plant life and full of beauty.
The Dead Sea on the other hand receives water from the Jordan and does not give it out but keeps it all, because it has no outlet or means to give out. The Dead Sea is basically a container. It receives a lot of water from the Jordan but because it has no outlet to give out water, the water in the Dead Sea ends up evaporating, leaving the water body full of salt and full of minerals making it unfit for plant and animal life. Because the Dead Sea receives but does not give the result is that it cannot sustain any life and is therefore dead.
Dear Christian, think carefully about this. This phenomenon of nature is proof that if we want to enjoy the greatest blessings of a fulfilled and a fulfilling life, we must learn to abound in the grace of liberal giving. May we remember at all times the words of our Lord when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Brownlow, Leroy. Do’s and Dont’s for the Christian. Fort Worth, Texas, Brownlow Publishing Company, 1951.
Jackson, Wayne. “The New Testament Pattern of Giving.” Christian Courier, https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1361-the-new-testament-pattern-of-giving. Accessed 4 Sept. 2022.
Pilgrim, James. “Lays by in Store.” Introducing the Church of Christ, edited by Alvin Jennings, Fort Worth, Texas, Star Bible Publications, Inc., 1981, pp. 51-54.