Teaching series from 1 Corinthians

Principles of Christian Financial Giving

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Teaching t05418


Immediately after challenging the Corinthians to "abound in the work of the Lord" (15:58), Paul calls on them to give financially to an important cause (read vs 1-4).

Explain Jerusalem collection: 2 factors for it (famine; Pentecost remainers) and witness of Christianity's power to break racial/cultural barriers; a year in advance.

The Corinthians made a commitment, but later they started to renege on it. So Paul wrote them to motivate them to make good on it. This passage and its sequel (2 Cor. 8,9) contain key principles of Christian financial giving. Let's look at these two passages and study some of these principles.

Under Grace (2 Cor. 8:1-4,9)

Read vs 1-4. Paul obviously sees the Macedonians as an example for the Corinthians and us. What an example of loving generosity! What motivated this kind of giving? Paul mentions it in vs 1a, and spells it out in vs 9—the grace of God. Christian giving begins under grace.

"Grace" refers to the free gift of spiritual blessings God extends to us through Jesus Christ (LIST KEY BLESSINGS). When it comes home to you what you really deserve from God, and when you understand and receive God's grace, the result is the motivation to say "Thank you" to God by giving freely and sacrificially to others (Lk. 7; SCROOGE)—in all kinds of ways, including financially.

This passage suggests several differences between giving under grace and giving under law:

UNDER LAW: "I give in order to be accepted by God." This motive is distinctive from other religions. They usually make giving one of the good works by which we earn God's acceptance (ISLAM: alms as one of 5 PILLARS). In other words, we give in order to be accepted by God. But in Christianity, we give because we have been accepted by God (UNDER GRACE).

GOSPEL: Maybe you've never received God's grace. You won't be motivated to give in this way then. The first step in Christian financial giving, as in all areas of Christian giving, is to receive God's gift. This is why, when we take a collection in this meeting, we make it clear that we aren't asking non-Christians to give . . .

UNDER LAW: "My giving is a duty which I resent." This is the natural consequence of a works-righteousness mentality.

UNDER GRACE: "My giving is a privilege which I enjoy."

UNDER LAW: "I give the least I can to keep God/others off my back." Stinginess always flows from law-living.

UNDER GRACE: "I give as much I can to express my gratitude to God for his love."

Many Christians misinterpret or misapply 2 Cor. 9:7 to mean that it is wrong for us to call on or remind each other as Christians to make giving commitments. This isn't Paul's point—he called on them to give in 1 Cor. 16 and he reminds them to give in this very passage! Nor is it that we shouldn't give if we feel grudging or like we have to. My sin-nature frequently generates such feelings. His point is that God wants us to give with the right attitude. We should give voluntarily and cheerfully because we are the recipients of God's lavish grace. If I find that I am viewing giving as a distasteful duty which I do only grudgingly, the answer isn't to stop giving. It is to change my perspective and attitude by prayerfully reflecting on how much God has blessed me, and then to step out in faith (sometimes in spite of lingering negative feelings) and give in response.

As Stewards (2 Cor. 8:5)

Read vs 5. The key point here is that we give to Christian works because we have first given ourselves to God, or acknowledged God's rightful ownership of our whole lives. Giving should be an expression of our identity as God's stewards.

Most Americans regard themselves as owners and their money as exclusively their own property to be used to advance their own interests. While on a sociological level this may be true, it is completely false on a theological level. God says he is the Owner of all that we have (Ps. 24:1). We are his stewards, entrusted with the privilege and responsibility to manage his resources to advance his purposes (1 Cor. 6:19b,20). And we will one day give an account to him for how we did in this (Matt. 25). When this sinks into our thinking, it really changes the way we look at this area.

OWNERS ask "How much of my money will I give to God?" STEWARDS ask "How much of God's money will I keep for myself?" It is appropriate for the steward to have enough to live on and provide for his family—but never to live luxuriously while the owner's affairs are neglected. Yet statistics reveal that as most Christians' income goes up, their percentage of giving goes down.

OWNERS ask "Will I enjoy this?" and (sometimes) "Can I afford it?" STEWARDS ask "How will this affect my ability to advance God's purposes?" Certainly, being able to afford something is a necessary but not sufficient reason for buying something. There are the needs of other Christians to consider, for example (see 8:13-15)—and of course the needs of those who don't know Christ.

OWNERS say "My finances and giving are my private business." They tend to resent questions or challenges from others in this area as intrusive. But STEWARDS say "I will seek wise counsel so I can be faithful with God's resources." Instead of viewing our finances and giving as our private business, we will begin (as with all important decisions) to see what God's Word says about it, and ask counsel from other more mature Christians (light from Word; unforeseen implications). Since we will answer to God, we must make the final decision and not let others make it for us, nor make others give the money entrusted to them as we say. But we will begin to approach such decisions with this kind of sobriety.

How do you view yourself in this area—as an OWNER or a STEWARD???

An Essential Component Of Spirituality (2 Cor. 8:7)

The Corinthian Christians had some things going for them spiritually, but they were deficient in their discipleship in this area. So Paul calls on them to see this area as an essential component of spirituality (read vs 7).

Most of us would reject the notion that someone is spiritual if they rarely pray, or study the Bible, or serve other Christians, or share their faith—and we would be right in rejecting it. But for some reason, many in Corinth (& Xenos) thought they could be spiritual as long as they did these other things even if they didn't give.

Maybe it's because we view money as something from the world and therefore divorced from spiritual things. But money is a symbol of our time and effort, and God says how we handle it is a key indicator of our spirituality.

This is why we unapologetically require a record of significant giving to be a deacon in our church (Servant Team & Fiscal Support Team). We have knowledge requirements, ministry experience requirements, other character requirements—and we have this requirement.

NEW CHRISTIANS: Get started early in this area. The longer you wait, the harder it gets . . .

I long to see our church excel in this area like we do in so many other areas . . .

Sowing & Reaping (2 Cor. 9:6-11)

Of course, the POSITIVE CONFESSIONALISTS have perverted this passage to bilk suckers. It also turns God's promise into something crassly materialistic. But we don't help ourselves by bouncing off the other wall. The fact is that God abundantly blesses generous givers.

This is the secret we discover about this whole area of life. If we live selfishly and self-protectively, we will "lose our lives," but if we're willing to give ourselves away in love for others and out of trust in Christ, we will discover that God enriches our lives more than we give (Jn. 12:24,25; Mk. 8:34,35). Among the blessings we reap from giving financially are:

The financial blessing of God to enable us to give even more to his work (vs 10). Paul indicates that God is looking for people who can become BIGGER CONDUITS.

The excitement of seeing God come through materially when we remain faithful in financial giving to the point where it brings us into unexpected need (Phil. 4:18,19), and the security of a proven track-record of God's faithfulness in this area (Mk. 10).

The joy of seeing God work through your giving to help others come to Christ, and get a chance at a new way of life (Acts 20:35 >> URBAN CONCERN).

"How much should I give?" How much do you want to be blessed?

Commitment & Consistency (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:5)

It is clear from both of these passages that we should make giving commitments and fulfill them by giving consistently. After prayerful consideration, we should be willing to go on record for what we will give to God's work in a given area, and then we should diligently lay aside the portion of our paychecks needed to meet that commitment.

I used to think that this was legalistic and Spirit-quenching—we ought to not plan in this area, but just follow the Spirit's leading . . . But in Paul's mind, there is clearly no contradiction between giving under grace and this principle.

This principle is important for a number of reasons:

Many of the church's needs are consistent. The rent and utility bills, for example, come with remarkable regularity! Our missionaries have regular food needs . . .

Big needs require financial preparation in order to meet them. The best way to do this is to lay it aside little by little before the time comes (JERUSALEM COLLECTION >> SERVICE MINISTRY WAR-CHEST; MISSIONS GIVING; BUILDING FUND).

The church leaders need to plan its ministry, and since ministry costs money, we can do a better job of this if we have an idea of what the giving will be.

Covetousness will erode the contribution of inconsistent givers. I sure have seen this in my own life. If I wait to give from what is left over, it seems like there are rarely anything left over because I found ways to spend it on myself out of greed. But when I give it off the top, I don't feel any more pinched than I did before, but I derive the benefits described above.

This is why we urge Xenos members to get involved in the Pledge Program and give you a reminder at these meetings through the collections.