1 Corinthians 16:1-4 (On the first day of every week)

collection2

Paul has now finished the serious theological part of his epistle, and so he moves to some practical concerns.

One recurring feature of many of Paul’s letters is his collection of funds for the saints in Jerusalem. We aren’t ever told exactly why this is needed, but Paul sees this sort of inter-congregational charity as at the core of the gospel.

(1Co 16:1-4 ESV)  Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.  2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.  3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.  4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

Paul is soliciting a freewill offering, not a levy like the Temple tax.

And it is in actual fact a case of the support of the (socially) poor. The whole mode of expression, especially in Rom 15:25–28, shows that it is a question of a freewill offering. Kittel rightly points out that Paul uses as synonyms of λογεία not technical fiscal terms, but devotional expressions: χάρις, “gift,” v 3; 2 Cor 8:44ff.; κοινωνία, “fellowship,” Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:4; διακονία, “ministration,” Rom 15:31; 2 Cor 8:4; 9:1; εὐλογία, “blessing,” 2 Cor 9:5; cf. also [vol. 67. p. 296] the plural in v 2. This confirms the picture of Gal 2; it is a question of a voluntary agreement. Its point is to document the unity of the church.

Hermeneia — A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible.

We do not know why the Jerusalem church was so poor, evidently poorer than other churches. But Jerusalem as a whole was not rich; it was largely dependent on the generosity of Jews from outside Palestine. Christians would be excluded from such bounty; indeed, they were the objects of special hostility and persecution (1 Thess. 2:14f.), and might well be in dire straits. There were famines from time to time (e.g. Acts 11:28–30). They may well have suffered also from the after-effects of the community of goods practised in the first days (Acts 4:34f.).

Another motive for Paul would arise from the fact that, just as the Jews helped their poorer brothers, so did the Greek religious brotherhoods (the eranoi). It would never do for the Christians to lag behind the Jewish and pagan world in their care for their poorer members.

We should also remember that Paul himself and the whole Gentile mission were held in suspicion by some of the more conservative elements in the Jerusalem church. Paul doubtless felt that a generous response to the need of the poor in that church would strikingly demonstrate the solidarity of the Gentile churches with the mother church, and do much to promote unity.

In any case, the Gentile Christians owed so much to the Jews that common gratitude demanded some such response (Rom. 15:27). The collection was being made throughout the Gentile churches of Paul’s foundation, as we see from the references to the Galatian churches (and those of Macedonia, 2 Cor. 8:1ff.; 9:1ff.).

Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 7; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), n.p.

In the Churches of Christ, focus has long been drawn to 16:2, because it’s taken as a “binding example” requiring a weekly contribution to the church’s general fund. Of course, quite plainly, Paul wasn’t collecting for the Corinthian church’s general fund but rather a special fund dedicated to Jerusalem.

Moreover, it’s hardly clear that Paul is asking for the money to be set aside as part of the weekly Sunday assembly —

The most natural meaning of should set aside is, as many commentators from Chrysostom down have maintained, that each is to keep the money in store at home. But as Paul expressly deprecates the collecting of the money when he arrived (which would be necessary if they all had it at home), it is perhaps better to think of it as stored in the church treasury. Certainly in the second century money was collected at worship on the first day of the week (Justin, Apol. I.67.6).

Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 7; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), n.p.

So it’s a definite maybe. Or something like that. The grammar argues for laying aside at home (perhaps because workers were paid weekly?), whereas early church history — not inspired — argues for giving the money at the assembly.

While Paul’s guidance here may well be applied to other financial commitments the members of a congregation take on (including commitments to a church’s annual budget and other financial needs) it should be noted that Paul is not discussing giving towards a church’s regular budget but the preparations to be taken for one particular and special project.

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), n.p.

So here’s the bottom line. We have this exactly backwards. We do.

Paul is not even addressing the contribution toward the common costs of the congregation — bread, wine, rent, whatever. He is speaking of a gift to be accumulated to relieve the poverty of their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. And if this is a “binding example” of anything, it’s a binding example of contributing money to care for our fellow Christians who have legitimate financial needs.

And yet we are far more likely to dig deep to build a fellowship hall or a youth minister for our own kids than to relieve the poverty of any fellow Christian. We don’t give for this need because, as Americans, we can’t imagine the need. And so we repurpose God’s words to require us to give weekly for the janitor and the mortgage and the fellowship hall.

I’m not at all against spending money to have a suitable, helpful meeting space. I’m just against pretending that this is charity in the sense of what Paul is asking for. I’ve seen too many poor people turned away by too many churches to believe it.

So, bottom line time:

* You do not have to give weekly. God will be quite pleased if you give when you receive. Most people get paid twice a month or every two weeks. That’s fine.

* You and your spouse don’t have to give separate checks so that you’ve both engaged in all Five Acts of Worship during the assembly. It’s less than certain that Paul even expected the members to give during the assembly. Grammatically, he may have meant to set the money aside at home.

* We should certainly support the costs of our local congregation. Absolutely. That comes first.

* But we should also help to relieve the suffering of our poor brothers and sisters. We should stop pretending that poverty is always the fault of the poor person. Indeed, we should work extra, if need be, to have enough to give.

(Eph 4:28 ESV)  28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

The goal for a former thief is not to become self-supporting, but to work to be able to share with others. Surely, the same is true of the rest of us.

* The notion that giving money is one of five and only five essential “acts of worship” that must be performed on each Sunday during the assembly is just not true. Electronic giving is okay. Mailing a check in is fine. The point is that we are to give, not that we are to give during the assembly.

Indeed, in the other references to this same fund-raising effort by Paul, he makes no mention of giving during the assembly — and it’s far from certain that he says any such thing here. What he does emphasize is our obligation to give — which is far more important than the form of our giving.

(Gal 2:10 ESV)  10 Only, [James, Peter, and John] asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. 

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 (On the first day of every week)

  1. rich constant says:

    OOPS.
    that’s just so true it can’t be right.
    What

  2. rich constant says:

    as a PS
    That’s called selective hearing
    😉 .
    and that’s what she used to say, where am I at home

  3. Dwight says:

    This has become a theological command. We are commanded to give on the first day of the week. So are we wrong if we give on any other day? Also Paul’s command was in relation to him arriving to pick it up. Besides there are other scriptures were the saints gave that don’t initiate the “first day of the week” scenario. The prime directive: Gal. 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith,” and the examples show that the saints gave not to give to a collection, but to give to other saints. There was a line where the funds went from one saint to another and didn’t veer into a savings account, a building, a program, etc. The saints gave before to fill a need and they gave after to fill a need. They didn’t have to wait to give on the first day of the week if there brother was in need. They shared then. And the money that went to the collection wasn’t the “church money” or even “God’s money”, but it was money given through the will of God and the work of the Holy spirit for a purpose…others.
    I would argue that there is no scriptural directive for “supporting the costs of our local congregation. Absolutely. That comes first”, if the cost is the cost that goes into the buidling and peripherals.
    People come first. The building, the carpet, the pews, the air conditioning are not people, for things that comfort us, but we don’t need those things and they do not go to others. It is money for others turned inwards.
    But you are right…giving money isn’t worship, but it is an act of mercy and aid. We offer up praise and glory and our lives to God, not money.

  4. I think 1 Corinthians 16 is one of the biggest blind spots in pattern theology. There’s no possible way that this passage establishes weekly offerings, yet it’s used time and again.

    Paul never says he had taught them this before, as he did on other things in this letter. He never says it is a universal teaching; it’s what he told the Galatians.

    The point of the instruction is so that no offerings would be taken while he was there. None. It was to end before he got there, not continue until the 21st century.

    And the money was to be held until Paul got there. How did that part drop out of “the pattern”?

    The biggest thing: this collection was not for the use of the local church. It was to be sent elsewhere. If you want to bind a weekly collection based on this passage, be sure that offering is for missions or relief work somewhere else.

  5. rich constant says:

    common Dwight……that’s what are U ignorant or sommen, building and property parking are CALLED NECESSARY INFRINANCE’S …Don’t ya know…
    😉

  6. Dwight says:

    Tim, The apostle Paul shows up at our church every Sunday to take the money. He doesn’t yours? But you are right…then money wasn’t for internal use, but external purposed use for the needy. We have become so legalistic in the how and when, that we have overlooked the reason for the who and why.

  7. Ray Downen says:

    I feel it’s good that many are realizing that legalism is not Christianity. Good for Jay and those who read what he is writing.

  8. Dwight says:

    Rich, Yes, we use Heb.10:25 to argue for the building, but all Heb.10:25 argues for is assembly and when you have assembled you have met the command, so what we have is people assembling to pool money for an object to use for something they are already doing…assembling. It is like being commanded to walk to the neighbor’s house to deliver some money and when you get there you think, “man a nice car could get me here, now where can I get the money” and there it is in your hands. Bingo. We don’t realize we are robbing from the needy for our own selfish desires. “Ironically the same argument that many use to argue for necc. Inf. in the building can be used to justify having to have instruments. Now I am not going to say instruments and buildings are bad, but the prime directive for the money was always the saints and saints can and did meet anywhere. I had my thoughts formed before reading Jay’s writings, but it is good to know that some think like me. To me the argument for the command is actually moving beyond the intent of the scripture and making more law out of thin air.

  9. rich constant says:

    Dwight that would be called Theological ontology.
    it’s kind of like “putting a virus in an operating system that’s so subtle nobody really gets it over a. Of a couple of thousand years”even when you try to fix the thing you don’t know and can’t find what love is. so you make a rule out of it.
    pretty neat now let me have that block of wood and I’ll show you how to put it through that hole it’s a circle

  10. rich constant says:

    guess I should finish that last post.
    I know you told me its a circle, just get me that big hammer over there will you, put some cotton in your ears and just watch.
    😉
    blessings rich

  11. Keith says:

    Last I checked, at our large church we spend almost 50% of the contribution on the “staff” salaries. That does not include the building. Salaries and building together take up 66% of the contribution.

    Hope the saints in Jerusalem weren’t expecting too much!

  12. Dwight says:

    Keith, it sounds as though you go to a business, instead of just a gathering of saints to reflect on God in their lives and edify each other, but then a lot of churches are built on a business model which turn out programs. I think we must assume that all of the money that was given by the saints for others went to others.
    The saints gave. We sometimes forget that the saints were supposed to be giving to the saved and the lost. Help the family first, but don’t ignore the others either. It is not about a social program, but it is about love, compassion and caring and reflecting Jesus who did no less. The first day of the week was an example of them giving, but not the rule.

  13. Monty says:

    The numbers get skewed in smaller churches with fewer resources. The preacher’s salary often times represents the majority of the budget, and yet many preachers at smaller churches struggle on the salary they’re on, or have to work a second job, or their wife has to work also. Not a terrible thing, they’re not looking for pity(most aren’t), but just the way it is. It would be easy for these preachers to feel guilty that so much of the budget goes to supporting them but they shouldn’t. Preachers hear all the time their fellow members gripe and complain about how they’re not getting paid enough on their jobs, and yet often they are making 30-50 % more than the preacher is with similar education. And we just smile to ourselves.

  14. Keith says:

    We attend a large congregation (>1000 regular attendance) and we have about 12 staff minister positions. Senior minister, associate minister, involvement minister, family minister, worship minister, two youth ministers, two children’s ministers, …

    Staff costs are by far the majority of the budget. I’m sure they all work very hard, and they are good and kind people. And from my research ~50% staff cost is common for many churches. It just seems excessive to me. I would love for us to start sending more “outside the building”. Maybe even out of the country as Tim noted.

  15. Dwight says:

    My father preached at small congregations and most often had to have a second job to support us. He understood this part of the job. And yet that is often how we look at it as…a job. It is a vocation to preach that is supported by those around. Most preachers are owned by the congregation, which I think is a mistake. They shouldn’t be paid to preach, they should be supported in their preaching, even if it is not for the congregation all of the time and even if the preacher goes to other places and even though the preacher teaches mostly outside the assembly. The assembly goers should be able to edify each other and teach each other, while a preacher has the duty to grow not the assembly, but the kingdom.

  16. David Taylor says:

    Noted CoC scholar Abe Malherbe wrote about this in Restoration Quarterly 3:4 way back in 1959 but it has been a hard sell to get people to move past our traditional, but wrong, understanding of this topic.

  17. Alabama John says:

    Start a church in an old folks home or some other place (use your imagination) close by and the building, seats, utilities, even in most places the Lords Supper, will cost you nothing.
    Folks in many places are in bad need of someone coming to them instead of them having to come to you.
    They are seeking, will you go?
    Question we all need to ask ourselves and those we pay to preach.

  18. R.J. says:

    I think if we saw this as a temporal directive rather then a universal command, this problem wouldn’t be an issue.

  19. John F says:

    We MUST give directly to the church (a 501c3 corporation) so we can take OUR tax deductions. To fail to do so would ROB us of our tax rate, so giving to the corporation makes our money go farther. Just good STEWARDSHIP, RIGHT?

    We have so SOLD OUT the church to government, we have become largely blind to any other approach.

    I see the value in good stewardship, but we have for too long become accustomed to compromise with government. Constantine tried to have a state religion, see what that got us!

    And the answer is . . . . . . .______________________________.

  20. Raymond Gonzalez says:

    Good articles and super good replies. As a new born babe in Christ, I witnessed several debates about supporting orphan homes from the church treasury. Little sentiment or fear of God was shown for the orphans from either side. The apostle calls the offering of the Phillippians a “sweet smelling.. sacrifice” Phil.4:18. Most of us will not sacrifice so that others can have what is a daily necessity. I feel a little guilt when we go to a resturant and the bill is over 50.00 for 3 of us. In some countries, 50.00 dollars represents two months salary. On my Facebook page, we pride ourselves about going to ¨Zizzlers”.. or “Olive Garden”.. easily dropping 100.00 bucks for a family dinner. I onced proposed to the brethren that we meet at someone´s home with our own lunches, just once a month.. and the money we would have used just once a month at a local resturant, be used to help some poor brothers in Central America. That would be like a sacrifice. It did not go. The problem is that we “love” our weekend outings more than we love our poor brethren. We simply do not want to be burdened with someone elses poverty.

  21. Jay Guin says:

    Raymond,

    Thanks for the note.

    Members of my church have gotten together and done something similar for a particular cause — giving up X meals out a week to save money to help fund a mission or benevolence effort. More than once, we’ve had groups fast for a day (or a day a week for a several weeks) and give the savings for missional purposes. These people in my church are hardly unusual. It’s actually a fairly common practice — but many never mention their decisions to others.

  22. Dwight says:

    There is a deep sense of irony and hypocrisy in the conservative branches of the coC and we just dont’ see it. I have heard numerous lessons against “insitutionalism” or giving money to outside organizations and the scriptures are that the money was used for the saints.
    And yet it is never recognized that the prime directive of giving includes those around us and especially the saints, so that the saints are a priority, but not the only priority.
    And yet it is never recognized that the funds collected were purposely given for the poor and needy saints in other locations and not used for buildings, pews, etc.
    We would not send the money out to others, but use it for our local created reasons instead.
    Then we “command” that money is supposed to be collected on the 1st day of the week.
    And yet there is no Paul to recieve it and take it.
    And yet there are other examples where the saints brought money or just gave money of themselves, thus meeting the prime directive of giving.

Leave a Reply