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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 The collection

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 8, 2023

In this final chapter of the letter, Paul brings up several quick points about the congregation’s life and work as well as some of the plans he and his co-workers have made.

16 Now about the collection for the saints: follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to set something aside in keeping with your income, so that collections will not need to be taken when I come.

First: the collection. This is a specific collection concerning the Christians in Jerusalem. In his letter to the Romans, written at about the same time, Paul said, “I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (Romans 15:25-26). He does not really say anything more about the reason they needed help, but instead he describes the method the Corinthians should use. This is the model for our own method of taking offerings today, as opposed to desperate fundraisers.

On the first day of every week, “Sunday after Sunday,” they were to set something aside for the collection. This would be in addition to whatever offering they made to the church. The ancient church and the modern North American church have this in common: they were and are not supported by the state. Ancient Jews were supported by offerings to the synagogues and even to the temple if they were in or near Jerusalem. But the Jews would not give aid to the Christians, and since there was no sort of welfare from the government, the churches helped one another. So to support the work of the church and of any full-time workers, offerings were given. God commanded Moses about worship: “No one is to appear before me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15, 34:20).

Since Paul says, “in keeping with your income,” he permits each Christian and each family to give what they are able. There is no longer a command to tithe or to give ten percent. That is part of the law of Moses (Leviticus 27:30) and it was already the pattern that Abraham set (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:2). But we are free to give from the heart. Paul is simply using Moses’ own guideline, since Moses also said: “Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 16:17). If a family wants to set aside fifteen percent instead of ten, they are free to do so. If a young person making very little money decides to give a set amount (ten or twenty dollars a week) instead of a percent, he or she is free to do that, too. If a widow on a fixed income is struggling to make ends meet, he or she will be free to decide how to give out of their poverty (Mark 12:44). Parents can encourage their children to set aside something, but to always have something to bring before the Lord. “No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed” (Deuteronomy 16:16). But Luther explains the freedom of the amount of our giving this way: “He wants to incite them that they, induced by the example of others rather than by a demand, do of their own free will, and without any coercion” (Commentary on Romans [15:26]).

Why does a Christian do any good work? Whether it is giving an offering, volunteering his time, doing his job to the best of his ability, raising a child and keeping the home, or whatever it is? “Good works should be done (1) because God has commanded them, (2) to exercise our faith, (3) to give testimony (to our faith), (4) and to give thanks. For these reasons good works must necessarily be done” (Apology to the Augsburg Confession). And through our good works, Christ shows his victory over the devil: “Behold my people, loving one another and keeping the Second Table of the Law, instead of following your highways to destruction, O Satan” (cp. Job 1:8). The devil is determined that nothing should ever be done to praise God. He wants all the praise for himself (Matthew 4:9). So the giving of offerings is pleasing to God in the same way that the Christian’s daily battle against temptation is a good and pleasing work, or the confession of correct doctrine, bearing up under pain and afflictions, works of charity, raising our children in a godly home, prayer, worship, singing hymns, and other things.

“Faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and it is necessary to do the good works commanded by God. We must do so because it is God’s will and not because we rely on such works to merit justification before God, for forgiveness of sins and justification are apprehended by faith (not by good works), as Christ himself testifies: ‘When you have done all these things, say, “We are unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10).’” (Augsburg Confession).

What, in the Psalms, is our response to the God of heaven, who freed us from our enemies and who gives food to every creature, who is good and whose mercy endures forever (Psalm 136:24-26)?

We give thanks.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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