Seven Principles for Christian Giving

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1 Corinthians 16:1-4

INTRODUCTION: This is Stewardship Emphasis Month, and we are taking a break from our messages in the gospel of Matthew to talk about giving today. Now don’t worry, I won’t be preaching on giving all month long. We don’t want to make this Stewardship Over-Emphasis Month! Next week we’ll be right back in the gospel of Matthew. But each week this month we will take a few moments to emphasize a different aspect of stewardship, whether through a testimony or a bulletin insert or a brief report from one of our deacons.

In 1 Corinthians 16 Paul shares with the Corinthians about his upcoming trip and answers some questions they had about the collection for God’s people. And in answering this question Paul gives the Corinthians (and us) seven important principles for Christian giving in the church. Those principles are found in verses 1-4. (Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and pray)

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So, how many of you are people who never read the instruction manual? Yep, there’s a lot of us, aren’t there? How many of you shop at Ikea and never read the instructions? Okay, you are very brave!

A lot of times in life we find ourselves saying, “If only I had the instructions!” There are entire YouTube channels today devoted to giving visual instructions on how to do various tasks. When I need to learn how to do something, I almost always go to YouTube first.

Well, when it comes to Christian giving, you don’t need to worry about finding the instructions. God has given us all the instructions you need right in his Word. You don’t even need to go to YouTube; you can just open your Bible! And the good thing about that is this. When we follow the instructions, when we give as God tells us to give, we will have everything we need to do what God tells us to do.

Today we are going to look at the instructions for giving found in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. And these instructions are all given within the context of a collection for God’s people. Look at verse one where Paul writes: “Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.” (1 Corinthians 16:1)

This collection was a special collection for the poor people in Jerusalem, who were struggling either due to persecution or famine. (Acts 8:1, 11:28) But in discussing the preparations for the collection, Paul gives some important principles for church giving in general. Notice he gives the same instructions to the Corinthians as he gave to the Galatians. In other words, these are general principles applicable to any church and any church setting.

Then in verses 2-4 God gives us these seven principles for Christian giving in the church. Now there are other principles for Christian giving we find in other places of Scripture, too. For example, Christian giving is an act of worship to the Lord. Christian giving should be done out of an attitude of thankfulness for what God has provided. Christian giving should be generous. Christian giving should be done cheerfully. Christian giving should be done in an attitude of faith.

But this morning we are going to be looking at the seven specific principles that we find in 1 Corinthians 16. Here they are: Christian giving should be: 1) regular giving, 2) participatory giving, 3) intentional giving, 4) proportional giving, 5) anticipatory giving, 6) effective giving, and 7) accountable giving. These are what we might call the nuts and bolts of Christian giving, the practical aspects, as opposed to the more spiritual aspects of giving, such as worship, gratitude, cheerfulness, faith etc.

However, you cannot really separate the practical aspects from the spiritual. The practical aspects are only acceptable to God if you also practice the spiritual aspects. But the spiritual aspects won’t happen at all if you don’t implement the practical. And so, God gives us these seven practical principles for Christian giving here in 1 Corinthians 16. The first six principles are all found in verse two, and the seventh principle is found in verses 3-4.

So, first of all, let’s look at the six principles found in verse two: “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.” (1 Corinthians 16:2)

1) Regular giving – “on the first day of every week”

The first principle is regular giving. We find this in the phrase “on the first day of every week.” The first day of the week is Sunday, and so Paul is talking about the weekly gathering of the church for worship.

Notice Paul assumes that the church is meeting for worship on Sunday rather than Saturday. That’s a fascinating discussion for another time, how the early church, which was mostly Jewish, began worshiping on Sundays rather than on Saturday, which was the long-established Sabbath day. Sunday is also known as the Lord’s Day in the New Testament. It’s the day Jesus rose from the dead, and very early on the church switched from Saturday worship to Sunday worship.

But this first instruction from Paul tells us that our giving should be regular. The church meets regularly, the church makes regular collections, and therefore we should give regularly to the Lord’s work.

Now not everyone gets paid every week. Some people get paid every two weeks; some get paid once a month; some do contract work and get paid irregularly. So how do we coordinate our giving with the church’s weekly collections?

That’s between you and the Lord. Some people may choose a weekly amount that they will give even though they aren’t necessarily paid every week. But I think a good rule of thumb to follow is this: as often as you receive income, give back to the Lord. Every time God provides for you, you give back to him. Don’t wait until Sunday to write the check. Write the check when you receive the check. Or if you give online, schedule your online giving for when your regular check comes in.

But however you decide to do it, make sure that you are giving regularly to the Lord. God provides for us every day, and we should give regularly back to him.

2) Participatory giving – “each one of you”

So that’s the first principle, regular giving. The second principle is participatory giving. We find this in the very next phrase in 1 Corinthians 16:2: “each one of you.” On the first day of the week, each one of you should give to the Lord.

Participatory giving means everyone is to participate in giving. Every church should aim for 100% participation in giving.

Parents, you should be teaching your children to give to the Lord. Whether you give your kids a regular allowance, or you pay them for specific chores, or they receive gift money from time to time, you should teach them to set aside a portion of that to give to the church.

Now we always did a weekly allowance with our kids. It wasn’t much. But when they were real young, we might give them a quarter and a nickel. And we’d say, “Here’s a quarter for you and a nickel for God.” And they knew when Sunday came, they would be able to participate in giving to the Lord.

Everyone should participate in giving to the Lord. Not everyone may give the same amount, we’ll get to that shortly, but everyone should give. So, that’s our second principle for giving this morning – participatory giving.

3) Intentional giving – “should set aside a sum of money”

Our third principle for Christian giving is intentional giving. We see this in the next phrase of verse two: each one of you “should set aside a sum of money.” In other words, our giving to the Lord should be intentional, not random or haphazard.

Now this is an area where many of us could improve in our giving. For many of us when the offering plate comes around, we grab our wallets or our purses, not even knowing what’s inside, and we look for some bills of various denominations to put in the plate.

It’s not that God is displeased with this. You are still giving to the Lord, but you are missing out on the intentional aspect of giving. God wants our giving to be more thoughtful, more prepared, more planned out in advance.

And so, the Bible tells us to set aside a sum of money to give to the Lord. We should think ahead and know exactly what amount we are giving to God before we give. Once again, the best time to set aside is when you receive. Each time you receive from the Lord, you set aside a sum of money to give back to the Lord.

Now there will be other times when you give spontaneously to the Lord as well, and that is also good, but our regular giving should be intentional giving. “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money.”

4) Proportional giving – “in keeping with his income”

So far, we have looked at regular giving, participatory giving and intentional giving. The next principle is proportional giving. We find this principle in the next phrase in verse two: “in keeping with his income.”

In other words, not everyone gives the same amount when we give. “In keeping with his income” means those who have more give more, while those who have less give less. And no one should feel bad about that. In fact, that’s how God designed it to be. If you can’t give a lot because you don’t have a lot, don’t worry about that. God is pleased when you simply give in obedience to his word and out of worship to him.

“In keeping with his income” means you give a proportion of your income to the Lord, and so, of course, the question is often raised, “What proportion do I give?” Once again, that is between you and the Lord, but the Bible tells us we should begin with ten percent or the tithe. The tithe is mentioned in Scripture long before the law was given to Moses, and Jesus affirmed the tithe in the New Testament as well.

But once again, the tithe is only a starting point. The Bible also says we should give generously and sacrificially. For someone with little income, the tithe can be a great sacrifice. For someone with a much larger income, the tithe is not much of a sacrifice at all. And so, there are many people who give much more than a tithe, because they can and because their desire is to see God use their money for ministry and missions and for spreading the gospel to people who need to hear the good news of Jesus.

The story’s told about a local business man who was having trouble tithing. So, he went to his pastor for help and said, “Pastor, when I was a young man and earned $100 a week, I had no trouble tithing. I gave $10 a week and it felt great. Over time the Lord prospered me, and I was earning $500 a week. It was more difficult giving $50 a week, but I still did the best I could. Then when I was earning $1,000 a week, it was real difficult giving $100 each time. Why, that’s as much as I used to earn in a whole week! And then when I began earning $2,000 a week, $3,000 a week and more, I just found that I couldn’t tithe anymore. Pastor, will you please pray for me?”

The pastor said he would be glad to and began praying, “Lord, my friend here is having trouble tithing. He has asked for your help. Oh Lord, could you please reduce his income back to the level where he would feel comfortable tithing again?” At which point the business man said, “Pastor, thank you very much, but that won’t be necessary, I think I’ve just been cured!”

You see, a person’s giving reveals their heart. What do you really care about in life? What things are most important to you? Are you storing up treasure here on earth or are you storing up treasure in heaven? The Bible says you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead!

That’s our fourth principle of Christian giving this morning: proportional giving. Each one of us should give in keeping with our income. Some people can give a smaller proportion of their income, and others can give a much larger proportion. Once again, it’s not the actual number that matters so much as your heart. The proportion you give is between you and the Lord.

5) Anticipatory giving – “saving it up so that when I come”

Okay, so far, we’ve looked at four principles of Christian giving. Now we have three more to go. The first four principles primarily apply to individuals and our giving to the church. These next three principles apply more to the church and how the church handles the offerings it receives. But all seven principles together are essential for Christian giving.

The fifth principle is anticipatory giving. We find this in the next phrase in 1 Corinthians 16:2 where Paul says: “saving it up so that when I come.” Anticipatory giving has to do with wise planning, stewardship, budgeting and the allocation of funds. In other words, the church must be a good steward of the funds it receives.

Imagine a church with no budget, no planning, no tracking of spending. The money just comes in, and the church just spends it here and there with no thought to the future. That church is not practicing anticipatory giving. It is not being a good steward of the funds that God has entrusted to it.

The wise church doesn’t just take whatever money comes in that week and spend it, because the church knows there are various expenses that are going to come up during the year, various ministries it needs to support, various missions it has pledged to support.

And so, what does the wise church do with its collections? It saves them up. It distributes the money into various funds to cover various expenses. How do you know how much to put into each fund? You anticipate. You plan ahead. You make a budget.

Every October the deacons in this church prayerfully and thoughtfully put together a budget for the following year. In putting that budget together, we look at a number of things. We look at the current rate of giving. We look at the anticipated expenses in various areas. We anticipate rising costs where costs are going up. We pray about new ministries that we would like either to create or expand.

And then we present that budget to the congregation at our annual meeting. The budget is distributed to the congregation two weeks before the meeting, so everyone has the opportunity to review it in advance. The budget is discussed at the annual meeting before voting. Questions are answered and sometimes parts of the budget are modified before we vote on our new budget for the year. If we need to make any mid-course corrections, we call a special congregational meeting during the year, and we go through the process all over again.

This is wise stewardship, and this is what we mean by anticipatory giving. We pray and plan ahead, and we seek to be wise stewards of the funds that are entrusted to us. By the way, wise stewardship is not just for churches, but for individuals and families as well. As individuals and families we should also prayerfully plan our giving and spending throughout the year.

6) Effective giving – “no collections will have to be made”

So that’s the fifth principle, anticipatory giving. The sixth principle is effective giving. We find this principle in the very last phrase in verse two: “no collections will have to be made.”

When Paul says “no collections” here, he means no single, large collection. The collection for God’s people was a big deal. It was going to take a significant amount of funds to meet the need. Paul knew if the Corinthians waited until he arrived and just took one big collection, it would not be enough. But if the Corinthians practiced the principles he had just shared with them, then their giving would also be effective. There would be sufficient funds to meet the need.

It works the same way in the church today. If we only took one offering at the end of the year, it would not be effective. We would not have sufficient funds to do the work God has called us to as a church. But when we follow the week in and week out principles of Christian giving we have looked at today, we will have all the funds necessary to accomplish all that God is calling us to do.

7) Accountable giving – “men you approve … send them with your gift”

And then the final principal is accountable giving. We find this principle in verses 3-4 where Paul writes: “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 16:3-4)

When Paul arrived, he was going to put careful, accountability measures in place to make sure that the money the Corinthians gave to the Lord went where it was supposed to go. The Corinthians themselves would approve the men sent with the gift. Paul would personally give letters of introduction to the couriers. And if it seemed advisable, Paul would also accompany the gift to Jerusalem.

Churches should also have accountability structures in place. Some of the accountability measures we practice here at PCC include: 1) always counting the money in groups, 2) carefully documenting all cash and check transactions, 3) separation of duties so that the persons counting the money are not the same persons writing the checks, 4) financial records detailing income and expenses, 5) monthly financial reports to the diaconate and congregation, 6) adequate receipts and invoices submitted with any request for funds, and 7) an annual audit of all the church finances.

Paul put procedures in place to make sure that the Corinthians offerings went where they were supposed to go. And we do the same at our church to make sure that your offerings go where they are supposed to go.

CONCLUSION: When it comes to giving, you don’t need to worry about finding the instructions. God has given us all the instructions we need on how to give to the church. Your giving should be: 1) regular, 2) participatory, 3) intentional, 4) proportional, 5) anticipatory, 6) effective, and 7) accountable.

These seven principles are timeless principles for Christian giving applicable to all churches at all times. They are the practical aspects of giving that need to take place in every church that seeks to be obedient to God in their giving. And remember – when we give as God tells us to give, we will have everything we need to do what God tells us to do.

© Ray Fowler

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