Summary: This is the first of four messages "about the collection" in which we examine some principles of financial stewardship. This sermon examines the purpose of giving to the church.
For the next four Sundays I would like to preach on the subject of financial stewardship. Although stewardship has to do with every facet of life, such as stewardship of the gospel, stewardship of creation, stewardship of work, stewardship of time, etc., I am going to be focusing exclusively on the stewardship of our finances.
Now some of you are saying to yourselves right now, “Oh no! I knew I shouldn’t have come to the Tampa Bay Presbyterian Church today!” Or, “Oh dear! Not another sermon on money!” Or, “I don’t have any money to spare. These messages are not going to be for me!” Let me address you for a moment.
First, I want you to know that my teaching over the next four weeks is primarily intended for those of you who are Christians, and particularly for those of you who are members of the Tampa Bay Presbyterian Church.
If you are not a Christian, you need to know that God does not want your money; he wants your heart. If you are not a Christian, you need the new birth before you learn to walk the Christian life.
My comments in the next four weeks are intended to help those of you who are already Christians grow stronger in this vital area of Christian discipleship.
Second, I especially want to help those of you who are struggling in this area of Christian discipleship. You may feel a vague twinge of guilt because you are not giving much—or anything at all—to God.
Some of you may be students, and you think that because you don’t have a “real” job, you don’t have to give.
Others of you may be frankly embarrassed by your level of giving. Maybe you feel like Dennis the Menace’s father. The family left church one Sunday and as Dennis was shaking the pastor’s hand, he asked, much to the embarrassment of his father, “Pastor, what are you going to do with the quarter my father put in the offering plate this morning?”
Third, I believe that a proper understanding of the biblical stewardship of finances can be truly revolutionizing for you. Armed with a clear understanding of what Scripture teaches on this subject—and by the way, Scripture has a great deal to say about finances—you can grow significantly in your walk with God.
In the next four weeks I plan to cover topics such as why you should give, when you should give, to whom you should give, how much you should give, and so on.
By the way, most of the material for this series of messages comes from John MacArthur, whose teaching on the subject I have found particularly helpful.
I am hoping that you will take this one area of your Christian walk, learn what Scripture says about it, apply it to your life and circumstances, and be greatly blessed for the rest of your life.
So, with that in mind, let’s read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. In this text Paul gives us principles regarding financial stewardship:
"1 Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 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. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me." (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)
In this passage of Scripture Paul addresses issues “about the collection.” The Corinthian church had written to the apostle Paul about a great many issues, and this letter is his response to their questions and some other issues that had come to his ears. Clearly at this point in his letter he is responding to their question about how money is to be collected in the church. Paul’s teaching here is rich with information giving us principles regarding financial stewardship.
In order to understand the principles regarding financial stewardship we should know some background information “about the collection.”
A. The Context of Poverty
First, in terms of background information, let’s note the context of poverty.
In the ancient world, poverty was a live issue because many people were so poor. Now we seldom see that degree of poverty in this country. There are places in the world today where poverty is like what it was in biblical times, but our society knows very little of that kind of poverty.
In ancient times, poverty was such a serious issue that society itself had taken some steps to deal with it. For example, among the Greeks there were associations known as eranoi. These were associations of people that banded together to provide interest-free loans for people who couldn’t meet their financial needs.