“Lay Something Aside”
(1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
Mini-Series: The Grace of Giving
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
•Take your Bibles and join me in 1 Corinthians, chapter 16 (page 776; YouVersion).
We are briefly interrupting our regular series through 1 Corinthians in order to bring a short, mini-series on Christian giving. We’ll study just three passages in total, one today and then each of the next two Sundays of this the first month of the year.
And so that we do not veer to far from our regular study, we’ll remain in Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth. We’ll jump ahead this morning from chapter 6 to chapter 16. And then the next two weeks we’ll look at 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. So that’s where we’re headed next week and the following week, again just a short mini-series, three messages in total.
Now, why are we doing this? Why suddenly preach on giving? Is there some financial problem in the church? No. Thank the Lord, there is no financial problem in the church. As a whole, this is church is very generous, and I stress very generous. We finished last year in the black and for that we thank God, thanking Him for the way He blesses us that we may give.
So why preach on giving if there’s no pressing financial concern? Well, for one thing this is not new to us. I used to begin each year with a mini-series on giving and, quite frankly, a few years ago just really got out of the routine of this regular, annual focus.
But it is also helpful to begin the year with a short series on giving because it reminds us of our priorities living as Christians in the new year. Many of us make new year resolutions or we pause to take inventory of our lives and we seek to change things, and to live differently. Many Christians begin the year with the thought of being totally yielded to Christ. And worshiping the Lord through our giving is one way we demonstrate our total submission to following King Jesus.
So this is good for us. It’s biblical and so we don’t shy away from preaching things that may cause some to bristle. By the way, do you know who really likes sermons on giving? Those who give. Those who tithe and give regularly are those who really appreciate teachings on giving because it affirms what they know to be true. It’s just like hearing the Gospel every Sunday. Though a Christian is saved and his heart is regenerated and he’s walking in truth, he still loves to hear the Gospel because it affirms what he knows to be true.
So this morning we look at the first two verses of chapter 16, 1 Corinthians 16, verses 1-2.
•Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:
2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
The Superbowl will be taking place in just three weeks. I usually don’t see the game because I’m usually working that day. And in case that doesn’t register, remember the Superbowl is on a Sunday! Of course, I could record it and I do sometimes catch a little of it later on in the evening.
But to be totally truthful, more than the game itself I actually enjoy the commercials that air during the Superbowl. And so I’ll get on the internet later and Google “Superbowl Commercials” and I’ll watch them with my family and we’ll laugh together. They’re usually very good and they had better be, given just how much they cost.
Do you know how much a commercial costs, a commercial that airs during the Superbowl? For just a 30-second commercial, 30 seconds costs 4 million dollars.
I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wrap my brain around that. Four million dollars for a television commercial! A company is willing to pay four million dollars to persuade people to buy their product.
Now why do you suppose companies who are able to do so, will pay that exorbitant cost? The answer is simple: because they work. Americans spend a lot of money on stuff. We buy stuff all the time, food stuff, car stuff, home stuff, entertainment stuff. We are a prosperous people.
And one of the principles in our passage this morning concerns our giving relative to our prosperity. So we’re going to talk this morning about some principles that surface from our small passage, these two verses, principles of Christian giving.
If you’re taking notes, jot down these four principles of Christian giving. Number one:
1) Give Compassionately (1)
The specific context in chapter 16 concerns the church’s helping out impoverished believers in Jerusalem. You note that truth in the first part of verse 1 where Paul says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints…” The term “saints” is a term that refers to Christians. We’ve noted that previously in our studies in the New Testament. “Saint” does not describe an especially spiritually gifted superstar, it is simply the New Testament way of referring to the Christian.
“The saints” Paul has in mind in verse 1 are the saints in Jerusalem. This is clearer as we go on in verse 3 to read, “And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.” So Paul is telling the folks in Corinthian church that their giving will be used to bless other people, namely the “saints in Jerusalem (see also Acts 24:17; Romans: 15:25–31; 2 Corinthians 8-9).”
So when we give our tithes and offerings, we do not give not to some impersonal budget or program. Rather, we give to bless people. So giving is a matter of compassion. We give compassionately, knowing that our giving ultimately glorifies God by blessing people, real people.
The letter is silent as to why there was this need in Jerusalem. Most likely it was because of a famine that spread throughout Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30).
The point is that Christians give out of compassion, knowing that their giving will meet the needs of real people. Other believers are encouraged by such compassionate giving and their needs are met that they may better serve the Kingdom of God.
A good example of this is our giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We’ve noted that every penny given to this special offering goes directly to support Christians serving through the International Mission Board, Christians are on the global mission field sharing the Gospel. These folks are needy, arguably not as needy as the saints in Jerusalem in Paul’s day, but nonetheless they need our gifts so that they may continue the work. So we give compassionately, knowing that our giving touches real people.
Our budget for this year includes the giving right off the top of 15% to the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Cooperative Program is the means by which all Southern Baptist Churches cooperate, pooling together our resources in a collective offering to bless real people. 15% of our church’s budget touches the lives of real people serving in and through the various agencies of our denomination throughout the world. And the remainder of our budget is likewise about meeting the needs of real people.
So we should never think of our giving as giving to an impersonal budget or some bland program. We are giving to bless real people, the further the cause of Christ by reaching lost people and discipling saved people.
The first giving principle in our passage is the principle to Give Compassionately. The send principle for Christian giving is that the Christian should:
2) Give Regularly (2a)
Verse 2 says, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside.” When should this giving be done? Answer, “On the first day of the week.”
That phrase, “on the first day of the week,” is a Jewish saying for Sunday. It is similar to the phrase used in the Gospels to tell us which day Christ rose from the dead (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).
This is the first known reference in the New Testament to a weekly offering as part of the weekly gathering for worship. Christians come together on the Lord’s Day, on Sunday, to worship. And when we worship, we have an offering. We give as we worship. Or, one of the ways we worship is by giving.
Our Lord Jesus assumed Christians would give regularly. He says in the Sermon on the Mount, “When you give, don’t sound a trumpet as the hypocrites do,” but note: when you give, not if you give (Matthew 6:2).
We give regularly because giving is part of worship and we worship regularly. Worship is something we enjoy. That’s why we have music during the offertory, it’s a reminder that giving is worship.
So giving is never to be thought of in the way we think of paying a fine or paying our taxes. How many of you, by show of hand, enjoy paying taxes?! We don’t enjoy that!
But we enjoy worship. We worship regularly. And so we give regularly. The verb translated, “Lay something aside” is in the present tense which suggests a regular, ongoing, activity. It is ongoing, never-ending. We give regularly.
Now, who is to participate in regular giving? Who? Just certain Christians? Just moms and dads? Or is it something every Christian should do?
Well, look again at verse 2, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside,” Who? Each one of you.
Parents, teach your children at an early age to lay something aside each week. Don’t just give them money to put into the offering plate. Teach them at home to lay something aside.
Students, young moms and dads, start today the practice of laying something aside, regular giving, each week. Start today and God will honor your giving. He will never fail to meet your needs. Trust Him to do so.
Give compassionately and give regularly. Thirdly:
3) Give Purposefully (2b)
That is, plan to give before you enter the sanctuary. Be purposeful about it. Verse 2 says, “Lay something aside,” and the sense is that you have already done this, you have already taken care of this. You have purposefully determined in advance what to give.
“Lay something aside,” says Paul, last part of verse 2, “that there be no collections when I come.”
Paul is saying, “If you will purpose in your heart to give each week, then there will be no need for a special offering when I come.” And the same is true for us. If each of us gives purposefully, planning in advance to give each week, then we’ll never have to have some special campaign for people to give. It will be unnecessary because each person is giving regularly and purposefully.
When you give purposefully, you come to worship with your tithe and offering ready. You come prepared to give. That truth is implied by the statement to, “Lay something aside.” Do it ahead of time.
Don’t wait until the offering prayer and the ushers are moving around and beginning to pass the plates. You reach into your wallet to see what’s in it so you can give something, the way most of us tip a server: “Well, I wonder what I’ve got in my wallet to give!” Rather, be purposeful in your giving. Plan it out ahead of time.
Give compassionately, give regularly, give purposefully, number four:
4) Give Proportionately (2c)
Paul says each Christian should give, verse 2, “as he may prosper.” Give as you have prospered. To whatever extent one has prospered, he or she is to give.
See this is where questions about tithing are answered. I personally believe the principle of the Old Testament tithe continues into the New Testament. At the same time, however, I believe the tithe is a principle that provides the Christian with a starting point of giving.
The word tithe means “tenth.” The Old Testament believer gave to the Lord a tenth of all his possessions. In fact, there were actually several tithes that amounted eventually to over 20%, but the law of the tithe was the minimal expectation of every follower of the One True God.
8 “Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say,
‘In what way have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse,
For you have robbed Me,
Even this whole nation.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
So the Old Testament believer was expected to bring minimally a tithe, a tenth of his possessions into the storehouse, into the temple during the collection. An “offering” is that which exceeded the 10%, but again note that this was part of the Old Testament law.
This principle is nowhere set aside in the New Testament. We never read in the New Testament anything like, “Tithing applies only to those living under the Old Covenant and it no longer applies to believers living under the New Covenant.” We don’t ever read that.
At the same time, however, we do not read anywhere in the New Testament where tithing is stressed or emphasized. Why is that? Let me share with you the view of John Piper, whose view I share:
I think God took the focus off giving a tithe in the early church because He wants his people to ask themselves a new question. The question that Jesus drives us to ask again and again is not, “How much should I give?” but rather, “How much dare I keep?” One of the differences between the Old Testament and New Testament is the Great Commission. By and large the Old Testament people of God were not a missionary people. But the New Testament Church is fundamentally a missionary people. The spiritual hope and the physical and emotional sustenance that Jesus brought to earth is to be extended by his church to the whole world. The task He gave us is so immense and requires such a stupendous investment of commitment and money that the thought of settling the issue of what we give by a fixed percentage (like a tenth) is simply out of the question. My own conviction is that most middle and upper class Americans who merely tithe are robbing God. In a world where 10,000 people a day starve to death and many more than that are perishing in unbelief the question is not, what percentage must I give?, but how much dare I spend on myself?—[Sermon: “I Seek Not What is Yours, but You”].
The question is not, “What percentage must I give.” The question is, “How much dare I spend on myself.”
This seems to be why Paul teaches that Christians are to give according to one’s prosperity. If we give relative to our prosperity, then giving a tithe, a tenth, 10%, is the place to start in our Christian giving. It is not, however, the place to end.
How have you prospered financially? Give to the extent you have prospered. Listen to New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg here:
The amount of money required annually to relieve the worst suffering of the two-thirds of the world that is desperately poor is far exceeded by the amount Americans spend each year on sports, leisure, recreation, surplus food and clothing, and so on…Sadly, however, American Christians give on average about three percent of their income to all charitable causes put together.
The question is not, “What percentage must I give.” The question is, “How much dare I spend on myself.” If we gave relative to our prosperity, giving proportionately, we would find that giving the tithe, 10%, would be merely the place to begin in Christian giving, especially as we understand what the Bible teaches about living under Christ’s lordship.
To quote Piper again:
To commend tithing as the ideal simply does not capture the New Testament view of discipleship. “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none. And he who has food, let him do likewise (Luke 3:11).” That’s 50% not 10%. Zacchaeus stood and said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor (Luke 19:8).” Again 50%. Jesus said to the rich young man, “If you would be perfect, go sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me (Matthew 19:21).” That’s 100%. “So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).” Again 100%.
The question is not, “What percentage must I give.” The question is, “How much dare I spend on myself.”
How have you prospered financially? Give accordingly.
How have you prospered spiritually? Give accordingly. Have you prospered spiritually. Are you saved? Has God imputed the righteousness of Christ to your account and taken the punishment for your sins upon Himself? Then give accordingly.
I know I’ve shared with some of you before about something I heard Dr. Danny Akin say years ago while I was studying systematic theology in his class. He was talking about this matter of tithing being merely the place to begin, merely the starting point of our Christian giving, and to make the point, he simply said this: “When it comes to what amount you should give, get on your knees, look at the cross, and give accordingly.”
Amen. It’s a matter of worship. Have you prospered spiritually? Give accordingly.
Maxey Jarman was the longtime president of the Genesco Shoe Company. Before his death in 1976, Maxey Jarman was the well-known Christian layman who loved to give money to support God’s work around the world. He served for a time on the board of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and was known as a generous giver. After the first service, Mack Shults, 30-year missionary to Brazil, told me that Jarman used to offer special discounts on shoes for missionaries, just another example of his generous spirit. At one point in his career, however, Jarman suffered a series of financial reversals that cost him nearly everything he had. And as he struggled to put his life back together, a friend asked him if he ever regretted all the money he had given away over the years. He said, “Oh no. I only lost what I kept…(only what I kept) for myself.”
The question is not, “What percentage must I give.” The question is, “How much dare I keep and spend for myself.”
•Stand for prayer.
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