Patterns for Our Giving
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul spends most of his time soaring among the glories of the resurrection and then ends with the wonderful reminder that our labor in the Lord is not in vain. What would you expect to come next? What would you predict would be a practical application of the resurrection’s life-changing reality?
I imagine your answers would not include “financial stewardship.” And yet this is precisely where Paul takes his readers: “Now concerning the collection for the saints…” Our financial stewardship is not, it turns out, an “unspiritual” part of life, disconnected from things that really matter. Rather, stewardship is an aspect of the work we do in the name of our risen Lord on this side of our own resurrection.
While Paul’s instructions here were given specifically for a collection for the believers in Jerusalem, they are instructive for us in our own contexts. There are three principles that he lays out, and each should shape our own giving.
First, Paul wants giving to be regular and deliberate: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper.” This was to take place on the first day of every week. For many of us, regular giving keeps us disciplined and prevents us from waiting until we “feel like” giving. Whether it’s weekly, monthly, or at other set times, regular giving is Paul’s wise instruction.
Second, giving should be proportionate. Funds were to be set aside by each person “as he may prosper”—or, as the NIV puts it, “in keeping with your income.” That leaves the details very much with the individual. God is the one with whom we need to deal, because He’s the one who searches our hearts, and He knows whether our giving is in keeping with what He has given into our care.
Third, we are to give to our family of faith first and foremost. The collection to which Paul refers is being made in churches and for churches. Where we are spiritually fed is where we contribute first (1 Timothy 5:17-18). The local church and then the wider church are not necessarily the only places that should receive our giving, but they are the primary places.
Your task now is to consider whether your own giving patterns need to be changed according to these principles. Ultimately, this is a personal matter, but it is also a profoundly spiritual matter, flowing out of our love and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ, who has risen, is reigning, and shall return. Be assured, therefore, that as you strive for faithfulness in your giving, that striving will not be in vain.
10I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
14Yet it was kind of you to share3 my trouble. 15And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.4 18I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
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