Speaking Sound Doctrine


Divine Worship

IV.               The Collection

A.           Acquisition Of Funds

1.       The ordained method

Scripture indicates that funds for the church come from only one source: individual, free-will, first-day-of-the-week, member-contributed collections.  God ordains and specifies that the corporate, local church is the institution through which the collection is to be performed. 

1 Corinthians 16:1, 2  Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

2 Corinthians 9:7  So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

No other revenue-generating methods have scriptural authority.  Illicit methods include:

·         Unauthorized: church collections other than on the first day of the week,

·         Unauthorized: business enterprises, such as publishing for profit,

·         Unauthorized: rummage sales, bake sales, and car washes,

·         Unauthorized: raffles, lotteries, and festivals,

·         Unauthorized: endorsement checks from corporations,

·         Unauthorized: inheritance checks from the deceased,

·         Unauthorized: requests for donations.

The church is not in the general money-making business.  All instructions in scripture regarding working for wages or buying and selling to make gain are given to individuals, not the church as a body (James 4:13-17).  In the church, God has specified how revenue is to be raised.  We do not give as we are prospered on the first day of the week as an optional expediency to fulfill a generic command to make money for the Lord.  No such command is found in scripture, but rather, giving is specified.  Remember: for a thing to be expedient, it must not be specified.  In order for the church to raise revenue by any other means, we must step outside the bounds of God's word (2 John 9).  Human wisdom might say that taxation, more frequent collections, or some business enterprises are better ways of securing funds, but the wisdom of God is demonstrated in the church by what He has ordained on the matter (1 Corinthians 1:17-31; Ephesians 3:10).  We cannot make improvements upon the divine method.

2.       A mandate for the local body

Some Christians today, promoting spontaneity and disparaging ordered structure in assembled worship services, claim that taking a collection of funds is not commanded for the church to routinely perform.  They affirm that the only reason the church in Corinth takes a collection in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 is as an expedient option to meet a specific need precipitated by a question that the church had previously asked, which in this case is to relieve what will be needy saints in Judea when the famine occurs as prophesied (Acts 11:28-30).  It is further argued that in every New Testament example of giving, it is done as an isolated, unique occurrence to meet a specifically identified need; a collection is never taken for no apparent reason, so we should do likewise.  These brethren further cite 2 Corinthians 8:8, 10, where Paul states that his instructions are "not by commandment."

2 Corinthians 8:8, 10  I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others…. 10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago;

In response, examine again carefully the exact instructions of Paul:

1 Corinthians 16:1, 2  I have given orders, … so you must do also….

The reason for the collection is precisely because they are clearly and specifically commanded to do so, not as an expedient way for fulfilling some generic command.  Remember: for a thing to be expedient, it must not be specified, but Paul here specifies the collection as a mandate.  "Orders" in verse 1 translates DIATASSO {dee-at-as'-so}, which means "1) to arrange, appoint, ordain, prescribe, give order" (JHT).  This word is rendered "commanded" in Acts 18:2 (NKJ) with reference to an edict from the emperor.  Paul gives the same instructions on giving to the Galatian churches, and what he ordains in any church, he ordains in them all (1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17).  Moreover, the verb in the original phrase translated "so you must do also" is in the present tense, active voice, and imperative mood, meaning we ought to be continually and regularly doing it.

3.       Authority for the collection

A study of authority in religion demonstrates that authorized practices in the church are established not by recorded examples alone but also by recorded commands and necessary inferences.  Moreover, sound hermeneutics show that not all New Testament examples are binding.  For instance, we have the recorded examples of foot washings (John 13:1-14) and kissing (Acts 20:37).  However, foot washing and kissing are not required practices of the church as a body because they originate from man, not by divine ordination.  We also have the recorded example of a church meeting in an upper room with many lights (Acts 20:8).  However, this does not pose a binding injunction for us today, because it is a coincidental matter of indifference that has no bearing on the activities involved.  They could have just as well met in a lower room with fewer lights.

Further study reveals that recorded examples are only binding when the authorizing command is not otherwise recorded.  In other words, authorized procedures for executing recorded generic commands are not limited to the examples recorded.  To illustrate, Jesus commanded His disciples to go preach the gospel.  We see recorded examples of preachers going by foot, ship, or chariot, but these examples are not binding limitations for us today.  We can also optionally go by automobile or airplane, because we are authorized by the recorded, generic command to go (Mark 16:15).  On the other hand, if examples alone are recorded without a record also of the authorizing command, we are indeed limited in our practice to only the scope indicated by the examples.

Conclusively, the New Testament examples of churches taking first-day-of-the-week collections for a particular purpose, such as for the relief of needy saints, is not our limiting feature in the collection, because we are authorized by the direct, recorded command to do so.  We will also discuss the role of the necessary inference when we later examine the treasury of the church.

4.       Regulation of the collections

Let us now investigate whether the collections in scripture are regulated activities or isolated, unique occurrences to meet particular needs as they arise.  Interestingly, the word translated "lay something aside" in 1 Corinthians 16:2 is TITHEMI {tith'-ay-mee}, meaning "1) to set, put, place 1a) to place or lay 1b) to put down, lay down 1b1) to bend down 1b2) to lay off or aside, to wear or carry no longer 1b3) to lay by, lay aside money…" (JHT).  Moreover, it is in the present tense.  According to Dana and Mantey, "The present tense is the idea of progress.  It is the linear tense" (DM, paragraph 172).  "It signifies action in… state of persistence" (para 173(1)), "to denote that which habitually occurs" (para 173(2)), "…to describe that which recurs at successive intervals or… periods,… of repeated action" (para 173(3)), as would be once per week.  (A unique, one-time event would have been expressed in the aorist tense).  Moreover, the word "prosper" is from EUODOO {yoo-od-o'-o} and appears also, not only in the present tense, but in the passive voice and subjunctive mood.  The significance of this is that as a regularly as prosperity might come our way, we ought to be regularly giving.  If prospering is not a unique and isolated occurrence, neither should be our giving.  Scripture indicates that giving is fundamentally driven by our prospering, not our current needs.

In 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2, Paul orders the churches to make their collections upon the first day of the week.  As simple as this is, controversy still somehow arises.  Some religious organizations will take a collection on any day; some might take the collection monthly.  Our brethren advocating the doctrine of casual and spontaneous worship maintain that Paul's words are only a suggestion or recommendation to expedite relieving needy saints.  However, Paul's command is specific, and where a command is specific, substitutions are not authorized.  Similar Old Testament ordinances were apparently easily understood by those subject to it.  For example, Mosaic law ordained that no work was to be done on the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8-11).  They understood that, since every week has seven days, every Sabbath was to be observed (Nehemiah 13:15-22, Acts 15:21).  This is a forced conclusion based on sound reasoning.  To illustrate secularly, if our mortgage company tells us that payment is due upon the fifteenth of the month, we understand that it is due every month on the fifteenth.

To further consider whether the collection is required on every first day of week rather than intermittently, look again at 1 Corinthians 16:2 as rendered in The New American Standard version:

1 Corinthians 16:2  On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. (NAU)

A similar rendering also appears in the English Standard, Revised Standard, and Young's Literal versions.  The idiomatic phrase in the Greek is literally, "During (KATA) first (MIAN) week (SABBATOU)" {kat-ah' mee'-ah sab'-bat-on}, which requires syntax correction to come into English.  The preposition "KATA" basically means "down through" but can include various connotations, as the context will indicate.  Here it is in the accusative case and pertaining to time.  Regarding this, Thayer explains: "it denotes reference, relation, proportion, of various sorts… distributively, indicating a succession of things following one another… yearly, year by year, Luke 2:41;… on the first day of every week, 1 Cor. 16:2;… at any and every feast, Matt. 27:15…."  Imagine going "down through" a calendar and marking all the Sundays.  Thus these translators include the word "every" in the rendering, as corresponds to the logical reasoning presented earlier.

5.       Free will

Paul's statements that his instruction is given by "orders" in 1 Corinthians 16:1 but "not by commandment" in 2 Corinthians 8:8 is an apparent contradiction, which demands an explanation.  The answer is that, though it is a command, God doesn't want us to do it from the sense that it is a requirement bound upon us against our will but that we do it out of love simply because it is the right thing to do.  Paul explains this clearly in 2 Corinthians 9:5-11.  He utilizes the same appeal to Philemon in his letter to him (Philemon 1:14).  You don't "obey" advice (vs 21).  The fact that we do it willingly does not negate the fact that it is a command.  The same was true under the Levitical order, as we noted earlier.  Though their offerings were to be of their own free will, they were nonetheless required (Leviticus 1:3).  We will revisit this aspect later in this section when discussing our attitude in giving.

Conclusively, a regular collection of funds is commanded of the church.

B.           The Treasury Of The Church

1.       Authority for the treasury

A careful examination of Paul's instructions in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 reveals a treasury for the church.  Note that in verse 2, "storing up" is from the verb form of a family of words with definitions by Thayer as follows:

·         THESAURIZO {thay-sow-rid'-zo} [verb form] "1) to gather and lay up, to heap up, store up 1a) to accumulate riches 1b) to keep in store, store up, reserve 2) [metaphorically]. so to live from day to day as to increase either the bitterness or the happiness of one's consequent lot."

·         THESAUROS {thay-sow-ros'} [noun form] "1) the place in which good and precious things are collected and laid up 1a) a casket, coffer, or other receptacle, in which valuables are kept 1b) a treasury 1c) storehouse, repository, magazine 2) the things laid up in a treasury, collected treasures."

The English words "treasury" and "thesaurus" are directly derived from THESAUROS.  In the passages that follow, the words indicated in bold are translated from THESAUROS or its kindred forms.

Matthew 6:19-21  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

1 Timothy 6:18, 19  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

James 5:3  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have heaped up treasure in the last days.

Note particularly in James 5:3 that the word is used of a monetary treasury of funds reserved for future use.  The church treasury is therefore understood to be nothing more than monetary funds or needed goods stored up and saved to meet current known and future unknown needs of the church.

In spite of this, the brethren previously mentioned, who advocate a doctrine of spontaneous and casual worship, further declare that a treasury of funds stored by the church for some future use is foreign to scripture.  Upon this false supposition, the following conclusions are derived in support of a doctrine of so-called "needs-based giving:"

·         Fallacy:  It is unlawful for a church to maintain a stored treasury of funds.

·         Fallacy:  A special collection should be taken specifically for each need only as it arises and expended immediately for that purpose alone.

·         Fallacy:  A church should first determine how much funds are to be contributed for the specific need and then take up the collection to meet it.

·         Fallacy:  If the amount pre-determined is not at first acquired, another collection should be performed and the church admonished to give beyond their means (2 Corinthians 8:3) and to fulfill what they have agreed (2 Corinthians 8:11; 9:5).

·         Fallacy:  If there is no present and specific need, there is no collection; it is not necessary or required as a ritual by general command.

Our review of the terminology of scripture demonstrates that these statements are indeed invalid.  To the contrary, the authority for a church treasury is clearly established from the direct command in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2.

Moreover, the notion that the monetary value to be raised must be established before the collection and that the members all give to meet the agreed commitment is fabricated by conjecture alone.  According to scripture, the basis of the giving is the degree that we have prospered and how we have individually purposed in our hearts (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7), not the need.  No scripture supports the idea of a pre-agreed-upon monetary value that the congregation is to meet.  Early Christians gave as they each purposed and prospered, and the church used whatever they thereby gathered.  The gift was determined by what was collected, not the other way around.

2.       The purpose for the treasury

We now further examine giving with respect to the purpose of the church treasury.

a.    A storage of resources

The apostle Paul makes clear the reason for maintaining the treasury: "That there be no collections when I come" (1 Corinthians 16:2).  Conclusively, the contributions each member puts aside are to be gathered into a common collection of church funds.  It is not reasonable that Paul is instructing each of them to create their own private reserves at home.  If each one had their own private treasury, then when Paul comes to administer the delivery of the gift, these private treasuries will all have to then be gathered into a common collection in preparation for delivery.  This is the very scenario Paul wants to avoid.

b.    Meeting current needs

Since the first-day-of-the-week free-will collection is the only authorized means of generating revenue in the church, there is a necessarily inferred connection between contributing to the treasury and the basic need for the church to pay for things pertaining to its work.  Therefore, the afore-mentioned idea of "needs-based giving" ought to be a moot point.  There is always work that a church needs to be doing.  The early church utilizes their treasury to expedite their work, such as providing wages to gospel preachers (1 Corinthians 9:4-14; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 11:8, 9) and to elders who labor hard at teaching (1 Timothy 5:17, 18).  Preaching and teaching often require supplies: books, papers, or any other teaching aid (2 Timothy 4:13).  Some preachers are living in substandard conditions today because of lacking funds (Philippians 4:12).  For this reason, others cannot devote themselves full time to ministry (2 Corinthians 11:9; Acts 18:3-5).  Moreover, we often have poor saints needing benevolence (2 Corinthians 8:13-15; 1 Timothy 5:3-12) and will always need to keep supplies for worship and secure a place to meet (Acts 20: 7, 8).  If a church would truly investigate her potential, there would be effectively no end to the work that could be done with whatever funds are gathered, thus, never a time when no collection is necessary.

c.     Preparing for the unknown

Even though the doctrine of "needs-based giving" has no scriptural validation, if we give it the benefit of the doubt, it is found to be completely impractical.  Defenders of this casual approach to giving propose that dispatching funds is more efficient when each brother simply spontaneously contributes to a special collection as necessary the moment a specific need arises.  However, experience shows that what actually happens is far from simple or efficient.  First, agreeing upon the pre-determined amount to be collected is a time-consuming challenge, as no one knows what the capacity of the group will really be.  Second, if the congregation is struggling to meet the agreed-upon commitment, perhaps another week's time will be required for an admonishing and an additional collection.  By the time all this transpires, the opportunity for the joy of fellowship will expire, as other churches will have probably already fulfilled the need.  This is so backwards from the biblical pattern.  A church cannot really know how much it can do until it first takes up regular collections; then, with a reasonable treasury in store, the time wasted by an impromptu collection is avoided.

Another practical problem with the "needs-based giving" concept is that, if a church is not diligent to routinely discuss the work it needs to be doing as a body and establish budgets and goals for each separate matter individually, no one gives, as they see no need for it.  As a result, little or nothing is laid up "in store" [THESAURIZO] as funds reserved for future use.  Then, when a pressing need does suddenly arise, no funds are available – the very problem Paul seeks to avoid (1 Corinthians 16:2).

C.           An Act Of Worship:  Contributing To The Treasury

The same Christians today who are promoting spontaneity and disparaging ordered structure and routine in assembled worship services are also claiming that giving is not an act of worship in the church.  In response to this claim, consider that the treasury fully depends upon the collection exclusively; they are inherently linked.  Therefore, whatever the treasury accomplishes the collection is also accomplishing.  Now examine Paul's further words describing what the treasury of the church at Corinth is accomplishing:

2 Corinthians 9:11-14  while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.

In verse 12 the word "service" is from LEITOURGIA {li-toorg-ee'-ah}.  Thayer explains its biblical usage to include "a service or ministry of the priests relative to the prayers and sacrifices offered to God" (Luke 1:23).  The Greek-English lexicon of Louw and Nida further states that the verb form means, "to perform religious rites as part of one's religious duties or as the result of one's role" (Hebrews 10:11).  Paul further indicates that this ministry glorifies God and results in thanksgivings to Him – elements of worship.

In Philippians 4:10-18, Paul commends the church for their contributions to him to supply his needs as he labors in the gospel.

Philippians 4:18  Indeed I have all and abound.  I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

In this passage, "a sweet-smelling aroma" is borrowed language from the tabernacle sacrifices described in Leviticus.  Moreover, "sacrifice" translates THUSIA, which we examined earlier in connection with Patriarchic and Mosaic worship offerings (Genesis 4:3, 4 (LXT); Hebrews 9:9). 

Indisputably, the collection for the church treasury is a form of worship, and to debate otherwise is contentiousness.  Consider this: little of us is required to sing and pray and take the Lord's Supper, but nothing is typically regarded as more of a personal sacrifice to a man than that which he is asked to offer from his wallet.

D.           The Contribution, Individually And Collectively

The collection for the church treasury is clearly action of the church as a corporate body, but each one making their own contribution is individual action, without which, a church could have no collective treasury.  However, though the individuals are doing the giving, it is still nonetheless corporate action of the church as a local body.

The funds that are collected belong to the Lord and His church and are to be used for His divinely appointed purposes alone.  The scriptures reveal that the work of the church as a collective body is limited to three areas (Acts 2:38-47):

·         Preaching and teaching the gospel (1 Timothy 3:15),

·         Providing benevolent relief for needy saints (1 Timothy 5:16),

·         Worshiping in assembled service (Hebrews 10:25).

Works that do not fulfill any of these functions are not ordained works of the church.  Unfortunately, the religious world has changed the function of churches from spiritually-centered works to carnally-centered works.  Without authority, churches today are using their treasuries to operate as general benevolent societies, social clubs, homeless shelters, human rights advocacies, secular schools, and day care centers.  All these things are good works, but God has not appointed His church to such works.  He established His church to redeem us from our sins through His Son by the testimony of the gospel and obedience to the faith (John 3:16; Acts 2:22-47; Romans 1:5, 6; Revelation 12:10, 11).   

Nevertheless, God and has not neglected the physical needs of non-saints.  God loves all mankind; however, He has appointed that we as individuals are to serve the physical needs of our fellowman (Galatians 6:9, 10; 1 John 3:17) and that His church be not burdened with this task.  Therefore, when those who are not saints are found to be in need, Christians are authorized to individually offer assistance from their own pockets.  We can also work collectively – independent from the church – taking group collections as we please to assist anyone in need.  We have the right to even form human organizations for these works.  It is commendable when Christians work together to help a needy non-saint who is worthy, but we ought not think we are thereby doing the work of the church, and no elder of any church should think he is fulfilling his responsibility to the church to manage such an effort.  The church has the duty to teach individual Christians to be benevolent to non-saints, but such benevolence itself is not an ordained function of the church as a body.  Some today might view a church with disdain or consider them unloving who would not offer benevolence to non-saints from their treasury; however, such a church is to be commended for upholding divine authority in the face of disparagement.

A misunderstanding of the distinction between the individual Christian and the church as a body is at the heart of many disputes in the church.  Deeper examinations of this and the work of the church are left to a separate study.  However, as the main purpose of this study is to examine worship within the church as a collective body, this brief review of individual benevolence separate from the function of the church is presented for the purpose of comparison and admonition.

Coincidentally, our early discussions brought out the difference between worship that is serving God in the duties of everyday life and worship that is offering a special oblation to the Lord.  Note that offering our personal assistance to one in need fits the aspect of day-to-day service, but contributing to the treasury of the church is a special act of homage by divine ordination fitting the character of PROSKUNEO.

E.           Attitudes In Giving

Though the intent of this study is to investigate worship in the collective church, we need to examine the personal aspect of giving on an individual basis for a complete understanding.  We established earlier from scripture that our worship is to be in spirit and in truth.  Having determined our authority in truth for the collection and the treasury of the church, let us now consider our attitude: the spirit by which we make our contributions.  God calls us to a nobler motivation than perfunctory performance of a worship rite.  Review Paul's stirring speech to the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 9:1-13  Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; 2 for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. 3 Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; 4 lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation. 6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written: "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever." 10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men.

We will now note some attitudes prescribed in giving that we observe from this text as highlighted.

1.       Willingly

Paul explains how the churches of Macedonia, like the Corinthians, freely and willingly contribute for the needy saints.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5  Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.  For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

They were able to do this only because they first gave their own selves to the Lord.  To voluntarily surrender oneself fully to the will of another is essentially to become their slave.  Paul explains:

Romans 6:16-22  Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.  For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

The original word rendered "heart" in verse 17 is KARDIA {kar-dee'-ah}.  As we examined earlier, Thayer's definition of KARDIA includes, "…the soul or mind, as it is the … seat of the will…" (Matthew 12:35; 15:18, 19).  When we renounce our own will and make our will the Lord's will, we reap fruit to holiness.  The foundation of this attitude is a commitment to put God and others ahead of ourselves.  Selflessness is a character trait of our Lord (Matthew 16:21-27; Philippians 2:1-18).

2.       Purposefully

The reason a church takes up a collection ought not be merely to fulfill a command.  The heart of each contributor should be focused on the Lord's important work at hand with zeal for His gospel and thankfulness for His blessings.  Our giving should demonstrate a sense of urgency and preparation (2 Corinthians 9:4, 5).  With forethought, we ought to be deciding in our hearts what we will do long before the moment the collection is taken in our assembly.  In 2 Corinthians 9:7, the word "purposes " translates PROAIREOMAI {pro-ahee-reh'-om-ahee} meaning, "1) to … bring forth from one's stores 2) … to choose for one's self before another, to prefer…" (JHT).  The word is a compounding of PRO (before) and HAIREOMAI {hahee-reh'-om-ahee} (to choose).

2 Corinthians 8:13-15  For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack – that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack."

God does not expect a church to stockpile funds to no end but to put them to work.  When Paul speaks of the abundance of resources at Corinth, he is not suggesting that they should merely sit on their surplus but that they correspondingly should be doing abundant work (2 Corinthians 9:8-11).  A church ought to be continually doing all they can with their resources to teach the gospel and support others who do the same.

Philippians 4:14-18  Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound.  I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

Paul's explanation that this service "supplies seed to the sower and bread for food" (2 Corinthians 9:10) is not to be carnally appraised; he is not talking about literally sowing seed to produce literal fruit.  To the spiritually minded, the sowers are evangelists (Isaiah 55:10, 11); the seed is God's word (Luke 8:11); the food is the bread of life (John 6:35); the harvest is "the fruits of your righteousness" (Galatians 5:22, 23).

3.       Cheerfully

In 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, Paul reveals the grace God bestows upon the Macedonian churches in that they joyfully contribute to the needy saints in spite of their own tribulations, urgently imploring Paul to administer their gift.

In 2 Corinthians 9:5, 6, the words "generous gift," "a matter of generosity," and "bountifully" all translate the same original word: EULOGIA {yoo-log-ee'-ah}, (from whence, the English "eulogy") whose definition includes "1) praise, laudation … 2) fine discourse … 3) an invocation of blessing, benediction" (JHT).  The word is a combination of the familiar EU, meaning well, and LOGOS, meaning speech.

In 2 Corinthians 9:5, the phrase "a grudging obligation" translates PLEONEXIA {pleh-on-ex-ee'-ah}, meaning, "1) greedy desire to have more, covetousness, avarice" (JHT).  In verse 7, "grudgingly" translates the Greek phrase EK LUPE {ek loo'-pay}, meaning out of grief or annoyance.  The word "necessity" translates ANAGKE {an-ang-kay'}, meaning, "1) necessity, imposed either by the circumstances, or by law of duty" (JHT).

Paul's words indicate various overtones when we compare verses 5 and 7 with several other translations:

NAU:          "as a bountiful gift, and not affected by covetousness … not grudgingly or under compulsion."

NRS:           "as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion … not reluctantly or under compulsion."

ESV:           "as a willing gift, not as an exaction … not reluctantly or under compulsion."

BBE:           "so that it might be a cause for praise, and not as if we were making profit out of you … not giving with grief, or by force."

YLT:            "as a blessing, and not as covetousness … not out of sorrow or out of necessity."

Unfortunately, the nation of Israel loses their joy after their restoration.  In disdain, worship becomes drudgery for them, and God consequently sends the prophet Malachi to sternly rebuke them.

Malachi 1:10-13  "Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain?  I have no pleasure in you," Says the LORD of hosts, "Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations," Says the LORD of hosts. 12 "But you profane it, In that you say, 'The table of the LORD is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.' 13 You also say, 'Oh, what a weariness!' And you sneer at it," Says the LORD of hosts….

Conversely, when we give cheerfully, it speaks well of us, and it leaves no regrets.

4.       Sincerely

1 Corinthians 9:11, 13, Paul commends the brethren for their liberality.  The English word "liberality" means "the quality of being generous" (MW).  However, the original word here is HAPLOTES {hap-lot'-ace}, which has a dual meaning: "1) singleness, simplicity, sincerity, mental honesty 1a) the virtue of one who is free from pretence and hypocrisy 2) not self-seeking, openness of heart manifesting itself by generousity" (JHT).  In most translations where this word appears in the context of giving, it is rendered "liberal" or "generous."  An exception is Romans 12:8 in the NET:

Romans 12:6-8 (NET)  And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us.  If the gift is … 8 contributing, he must do so with sincerity [HAPLOTES] ….

In other contexts HAPLOTES is rendered "sincerity" or "simplicity" (2 Corinthians 1:12; 11:3; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22).  "Liberality" is certainly an accurate translation in 1 Corinthians 9:11, particularly since verse 12 indicates that the administration is "abounding," translating PERISSEUO {per-is-syoo'-o}: "to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure" (JHT).  However, the connotation of sincerity might also be intended, especially in verse 13 where their obedience and confession ("professed subjection," KJV) to the gospel is mentioned. 

By all means, sincerity leads to generosity, but it is possible to be generous without being sincere.  Our Lord warns us against charity under false pretenses:

Matthew 6:1-4  Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.  Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

An example of an insincere offering is seen in Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 4:34-5:10).  Their offering may well have been done willingly, purposefully, cheerfully, and bountifully, but with double-mindedness, they no doubt had mixed motives, seeking the praise of men through deception.

5.       Bountifully

Paul explains that the Macedonians gave liberally according to their ability and even beyond (2 Corinthians 8:2-5).  When we consider giving from the perspective of Christ's example, our attitude should all the more exhibit cheerfulness and a readiness to serve His saints in generosity.  If Jesus gives abundantly, He is not asking too much for His disciples to do the same.

2 Corinthians 8:9  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Our Lord has not established quotas for our giving, but He leaves us by our own conscience to decide, based on the proportion of our prosperity (1 Corinthians 16:2) and the importance of the work set before the church.  If we will first give ourselves to the Lord, as did those in Macedonia, we will do the right thing.

2 Corinthians 8:12  For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.

Jesus establishes for us some basic rules and guidelines in giving that are fully applicable to the collections of the church:

Luke 6:38  Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.

Luke 12:48  For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required….

Act 20:35  And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

In our Lord's own words during His earthly ministry, He promises a reward for our generosity.  Yet, before that, through the prophet Malachi, He challenges the complacent nation of Israel after their restoration to put Him to the test whether He might bless them with abundant fruit, protection, and honor if they would only selflessly serve Him in liberality.

Malachi 3:8-12  "Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?'  In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," Says the LORD of hosts; 12 "And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land," Says the LORD of hosts.

Notwithstanding, a desire for the reward is not to be our motivation.  Our bountiful giving should be motivated by a sincere love for the truth, our brethren, and our God (1 Corinthians 13:3; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 8, 24; Philippians 2:3; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10; Hebrews 6:10).  Moreover, we ought not think that we will necessarily live in lavishness because of our liberality.  However, trusting God, we are assured that we will have what we need (Matthew 6:19-34; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Hebrews 13:5).

Psalm 37:25  I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.

Incidentally, there is no scriptural basis for a church or its eldership to pressure the congregation to "dig a little deeper" and give more.  The job of elders is to teach God's word and oversee the work.  Doing this, they will encourage the members to give willingly, purposefully, cheerfully, sincerely, and bountifully according to scripture.  They will also advise them of their needs and the current and future planned work of the church.  Conclusively, a church and its leadership need to work with what they have and not spend beyond their means, only to ask the congregation to cover it.  In scripture, no church was ever chastised for not giving enough, and whenever one church could not fill the needs of the saints, other churches became involved with their free-will resources.  When brethren are giving liberally in love, these matters take care of themselves.

F.           Expediencies For The Collection

1.       The form of funds

In His wisdom, the Holy Spirit's instruction on the church contribution is generic to the point that it accommodates any economy, whether a legal tender monetary system or a barter system.  The church is a viable institution, regardless how primitive a particular society.  To explain, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, 3, the phrase, "lay something aside, storing up," and the word "gift" generically include more than monetary entities alone.  However, a contribution of goods within a legal tender culture would be entirely inexpedient and inappropriate.  In our modern society, we ought not think we can put tomatoes from our garden in the collection plate.

The instruction in scripture also accommodates contributions by personal check.  Some brethren may object and insist that contributions should be by cash only.  However, where a command is generic, we are free to utilize any expedient means to a particular end.  There is no law against contributing with cash, but we must be careful not to bind our opinions on others.  A church is obligated by civil law to accept legal tender, but contributions by check are all the more expedient for a church that conveniently utilizes a bank and checking account for the storage and disbursement of funds.

As our society seems to become increasingly cashless, the question arises whether it would be lawful for a church to accept first-day-of-the-week contributions by credit and debit cards.  Charge card transactions are still based on cash equivalencies, but it might not be expedient for a church to acquire the means to accept them.  Moreover, though debit cards function by direct deposit, as do personal checks, credit cards in contrast allow contributors to give money they do not have.  This violates the principle of giving as one prospers.

2.       The method of collection

Any means or methods of gathering funds is lawful, as long as it is done on each first day of the week by free-will offerings from individuals as they have prospered and purposed in heart (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 9:7).  Beyond this, we can pass around a bucket, a tray, or a basket.  We can also just put this container by the door so contributions can be conveniently made at any time during that first day of the week.  We can also all just hand our contribution to one designated to gather the funds – a deacon, perhaps.  Some Christians may think that the collection needs to be a ceremonial activity or a formalized worship ritual, as it is traditionally conducted in many congregations.  Others may think that it must not be so conducted formally.  There is nothing unlawful either way; there is no scriptural precedence which would bind one way or the other.  As long as the contributors all understand what they are doing and are doing it in homage with decency and orderliness (1 Corinthians 14:40) any mode or method is permissible to the extent that the authority is generic.

3.       The participants

The command for giving is given to the local churches (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2).  The work accomplished by a local church's treasury is work done by that church collectively (Philippians 4:15, 16).  A local church is comprised of Christians who have joined and been accepted among them, fulfilling their role and function within that body (Matthew 18:15-17; Acts 9:26-28; 18:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 5:2, 7, 13; 16:19; Romans 16:1).  As this is the divine pattern, a Christian needs to be joined to a local church (or seeking to do so) and contributing to its work.

In reality, in the assembly of a local church there might be visiting Christians from other congregations (Colossians 4:7-10), unassociated visiting Christians seeking a body to join (Acts 9:26), or non-Christians (1 Corinthians 14:23-25).  The command for the contribution, delivered to each church as a separate body, would not apply to these individuals in such in an assembly.  With respect to local church autonomy, visitors have no such obligation to other churches.  Notwithstanding, if a visitor makes a contribution, he does not sin.  As previously observed, giving is done with free will – how ever one purposes in his own heart.   Every man's own possession is under his own control to do or not do as he pleases (Acts 5:4).

4.       The portion

Scripture reveals that every individual in the body is to participate in the contribution.  However, the divine ordinance also provides us the liberty to contribute as we purpose in our hearts by our own free will (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7).  This means we may give as little or as much as we choose at a particular gathering.

a.    Contributions when visiting

A question arises among brethren; what should we do when we are visiting away from our own congregation?  When we worship with another faithful congregation, singing, praying, studying, and communing with them, but then not give, do we fail to worship God as He has ordained and therefore sin?  We certainly do not.  To explain, God has left it entirely up to our own conscience to contribute to a collection as much or as little as we choose.  Scripture reveals no such liberties in other worship forms.

If we have an unhealthy check-list mentality and perform rote worship, we may feel the need to put at least a little something in the collection when visiting, just so we can say we fulfilled our first-day-of-the-week worship obligation.  However, this does not align with giving as one has prospered or with non-compulsory giving.  To the contrary, if a visiting Christian chooses to give nothing at all, he has not sinned; the law of free will allows for this.  However, if giving nothing would violate one's conscious, then he would indeed sin if he failed to give something (Romans 14:22, 23).  Conversely, if a Christian visiting a church decides to give the same portion as he would give to his own congregation, he also has not sinned.  God's law is clear about this; he can contribute whatever he purposes in his own heart.  One caveat here is to have some understanding about the faithfulness of the church we are visiting.  If we give to a church that is using its funds for unauthorized practices, we become a participant in their sin.

We need to review our attitude in giving at this point.  We ought not be looking for an excuse to not contribute to the work of the Lord when we are away.  Instead of taking the opportunity to waive our weekly contribution, our devotion and love for the church and its work would suggest that we might expediently give a compensating portion when we return, as would align with our prospering and purposing. 

b.    Irregular prospering

Many people who are self-employed do not receive wages at regular intervals.  Examples include farmers and salesmen on straight commission.  Some might receive income only once per year.  In wisdom, God's law of free will accommodates this.  As observed earlier, the verb in the phrase translated "as he may prosper" in 1 Corinthians 16:2 is passive voice, subjunctive mood.  Therefore, if one's prospering might only come once yearly, so might his contribution.  Alternatively, if he would purpose in his heart to evenly distribute his contribution throughout the weeks of the year, he is at liberty to do so.

c.     A private matter

We certainly ought not judge one another regarding this nor enact mandates beyond what scripture states (Romans 14:13; James 4:11, 12).  Each one must search his own heart (1 Corinthians 11:30-32; 2 Corinthians 13:5).  This should be entirely a personal matter and not any other member's business (Matthew 6:4).  Deacons or those entrusted with managing church finances and expenditures must exercise diligence and discretion with their exposure to the private giving habits of the members.  However, know that there is an omniscient God who searches the inner man and daily judges us in His righteousness (1 Peter 1:17-19).  If we are negligent or greedy in this area of worship, He will hold us accountable for our evil hearts (1 Timothy 5:24, 25).



Copyright 2014, Speaking Sound Doctrine