Money is one of the most powerful tools in the hands of men for both good and evil. It can be used to heal and to destroy. To build up and to tear down. It can bless others and it can be an unsuspecting curse on the one who has much.
The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, knew this to be true in the communities and the churches he was starting along the routes of his missionary journeys. He said in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Part of his role as a church planter was to warn those he served of the traps he saw ahead of them.
However, Paul also knew how much money could help those who did not have as much. He had been travelling for many, many months preaching the gospel, declaring the word of the Lord and encouraging the saints along the way. We also know from Acts 24:17 that Paul collected money from the churches, not for himself, but to bring to the poor Jewish people in Jerusalem.
We know this was a pattern of Paul’s at many of the towns he visited because we read in 1 Corinthians 16:1 that Paul collected money from the Galatian churches and he was now asking the churches in Corinth for the same gifts. He said in verse 2, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.”
What are some principles we can glean from Paul?
First, Paul encourages giving as a regular pattern. “On the first day of every week” signals a consistent practice of setting aside a portion from their regular income. He knew this was a practical way that people were able to follow through with what they would like to do and that is to contribute to help their brothers and sisters in Christ in Jerusalem.
Second, Paul instructs them to give “in keeping with his income”. He does not specify an amount nor does he indicate he is keeping tabs on people. Paul knew that people make different amounts of money and not everyone is going to be able to give the same nor should they.
Third, Paul suggests saving in order to give generously to others when the opportunity comes. Most likely Paul did not know exactly when he would arrive in Corinth. He also knew that to take a collection without the people setting aside the money could result in potential hardship for them and that was not his desire. The reasonable and practical solution was to encourage consistent, steady saving over time – even a little bit – that would result in a generous gift he could take to Jerusalem.
How can you apply Paul’s instruction in your own life? Maybe you need to set aside even a few dollars a week on top of your regular church giving so that when an opportunity arises, you will be ready to respond to a need and give generously to it.