Text: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Date: Sunday May 21, 2023
Jesus told a story that from time to time God uses to prick my soul and draw me to deeper places of faith, particularly in the practical ways I live my life. The story is often referred to as the Rich Young Ruler. Perhaps a better title for the story would be ‘The Young Man Who Let His Love of Money Rob Him of Joy with Christ.’ As the story goes, this young wealthy man approached Jesus with an honest question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” The Master first responds in a way that engages the young man. He begins, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments,” referring to the 10 Commandments. The young man says, “which ones.” To which Jesus lists the second half of the 10 Commandments, the half that deals with loving other people, interpersonal morality. The young man says to Jesus, “All of these I have kept. What do I still lack? At this point, one would expect Jesus to quote the first four commandments, the four that deal with our relationship with God. But Jesus is more wise than that. He looks this young man in the eye, and applies the commands of the first four commandments in one simple statement custom fit for this young man’s heart.
Matthew 19:21 ESV Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
I think what Jesus does in that scene is he masterfully takes the first four commandments which are all about honoring God with our heart, and he reveals in this young man the one thing that is deeply hindering him from living out the heart of those commandments, his financial wealth.
Matthew 19:22 ESV When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Personal: The way we handle our money matters deeply to the condition of our soul. Money has the power to be a wonderful tool, a blessing both to our families and to those suffering around us. As Christians we believe God has entrusted to us, everything in our life, including our money. Yet, like all good things in this world, money can also be twisted in such a way that it latches onto the human heart like a cancer. Greed is sometimes overt and easy to see in others, but discoverings its deathly poison working its way through our own souls is far more difficult.
Context: We have entered into the final chapter of our study of the book of 1 Corinthians. We have covered much ground, and next week I will bring us to a close as we look at Paul’s final words to this Church that he loved so dearly. Paul repeatedly in this book displays the pastoral heart to see Christ formed in his people. That’s the aim—Christ formed in me. Today Paul looks at one particular aspect of our faith, how we handle money.
Three principles of managing finances today: The Worship Principle, the Planning Principle, and the Trust Principle.
1 Corinthians 16:1-4 “1 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.”
1 The Worship Principle
The first principle for financial stewardship is what I call the Worship Principle. How we handle our money is a direct reflection of our worship of Christ.
Paul begins, “now concerning the collection for the saints.” He is turning attention from the previous issues, and he’s focusing them in on this task they had before them, to collect money for hurting Christians. Notice the term “collection”. An interesting little word used only one time in the New Testament, that signals two things. First, the term signals a collective work. Paul is not speaking here to an individual. Rather he is speaking to the whole and instructing every member to participate in this collection. Secondly, the term ‘collection’ does not signal obligation or law, so much as it symbolizes a free will offering. This is a gift that this Church is being instructed to make. Their obligation is not one of fulfilling a law, but rather one of fulfilling the needs.
“As I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.” The principle that Paul is instructing in Corinth to fulfill is the same principle he taught elsewhere. This was not some one off thing for Corinth. This was a way of life that was expectant of Christians. They were to live generously, and provide for the needs of other Christians around them.
The Old Testament Tithe & It’s Purpose: It should come as no surprise that God’s special and chosen people are instructed to be generous with their wealth. In the Old Testament, everybody participate in seeing God’s people and God’s work flourish. The follower of God living under the law of the Old Testament practiced what was called the tithe. That word simply mean a tenth. We read in Deuteronomy 14:22,
Deuteronomy 14:22 ESV “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year.
Every year, the faithful family would take one tenth of all their earnings and give a tithe towards God. In fact, when one looks at the entirety of the Old Testament law, it is not just 1/10th of the overall income that the average person gave, but it was about 1/3. That’s a lot of wealth that was being given. The remainder of what they had was intended to be stewarded wisely to create wealth, care for their families, leave an inheritance to their children. The book of Proverbs has much to say about wise financial stewardship. But the tithe, came right off the top, and had a few purposes.
Fueled a Heart of Worship: First, it fueled a heart of worship in the giver. The idea was that each person would give back to God from among the firstfruits, or his best. It was a form of worship where individual went to God and acknowledged that everything he had was from God.
Fueled the Work: Secondly, the giving of the animals and the money towards the temple financed the work of the temple, and all of the priests that labored in the temple. What were they doing? Those priests did many things, the most important of which was instructing God’s people on how to live faithfully according to the Word of God. And so the tithe became a way of acknowleding priorities. This is important.
Provided for the vulnerable: Thirdly, the tithe in the Old Testament provides a number of resources for the vulnerable in society.
Deuteronomy 14:28–29 ESV “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
This tithe was a way of making sure that all of God’s people, including the most vulnerable, were provided for.
The New Testament: As we move into the New Testament, the tithe of the Old Testament is no longer applicable in the extremely literal sense. There are no more priests and there is no more temple. Rather, those shadows find their substance in Christ who is the fulfilment of the Old Testament law. Jesus taught more about money than anyone else in the Bible. And the same stewardship principles that applied to the OT tithe, are consistently taught to New Testament Christians.
Fuels a Heart of Worship: First, giving financially towards God’s work fuels a heart of worship.
2 Corinthians 9:10–11 ESV He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
“Will produce thanksgiving to God.” When you give generously, abundantly, sacrificially towards God’s work, you learn to rely on God in new ways. You see more of what God is up to, and worship is formed in you. The more a Christian gives away towards the building of God’s kingdom, the more his heart is enflamed with both a dependence on God and a love of God. The more we hoarde, the more foster a dependence on self and a love of self.
Fuels the Work of the Church: Secondly, it fuels the work God is doing. Paul says, “there will be an increase in the harvest of your righteousness.” What he means is that, their sacrificial financial contribution, is going to win many to faith in Jesus. The harvest is going to be great. Because God is able to do much more with it than we can do on our own. He is going to multiply it. He is going to use it.
Provides for the Vulnerable: Paul writes
2 Corinthians 9:12 ESV For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.
The money is largely being used to “supply the needs of the saints.” That means that the Church is organizing provisional care for the needy, the widow, the hungry, the unborn, the immigrant, the refugee. So, as they give, they are giving towards the care of the vulnerable.
Money is a sacred tool in the hand of a Christian. As a faithful Christian that ought to be a marked delineation between the way you handle and steward your money, and the way your nonChristian friends handle their money. We must not fear wealth, as if it is some kind of evil, but we must also be wise enough to know that the story of the rich young ruler may have more to say about our own hearts than we care to admit. And so let me ask a few questions at this point. Let these questions serve as a litmust test to scan your own heart and demonstrate your inclusion in the Kingdom of God.
1 Are you concerned about fueling the worship of God with your finances?
2 Are you concerned and prayerful about seeing the work of God’s Church here and around the globe develop through your finances?
3 Are you concerned about the vulnerable and the poor being overly provided for through your finances?
If the answer to these questions is no, then we have discovered an area of your heart that is in resistance to God.
How we handle our money is a direct reflection of our worship of Christ.
The Planning Principle
The second principle is the Planning Principles. Every Christians household ought to have a plan for generosity.
1 Corinthians 16:2 “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.”
The first day of each week is Sunday, its the Lords day. Its the day when Churches meet and gather to celebrate the Word of God and the fellowship of Christian community. On that day, when your hearts are most stirred up to zeal for God, and hunger for the things of God. On that day when you see each other, and are most reminded of everything that God is doing in your midst. Then, put something aside and store it up. This was to be a weekly offering that was taken from each member in the Church.
“As he may prosper” communicates that our giving is to be proportionate to our earning. Those who make more ought to give a higher percentage of their overall income than those who make little. One thing Kensen Lam taught me on giving, and something that my wife and I try to do every year. Our desire that every year our percentage of money that we give both towards the Church and towards other Christian ministries and missionaries would increase. So, if last year we gave 14% of our Net Income, our desire is that the year after we might 14.5% of our net income. This does a few things. We don’t want to get stuck in fruit of the past. Perhaps giving 10% was a stretch for us a number of years ago, but now 10% is pretty easy. 10% on $40,000 leaves you with $36,000 to live on in Chicago. That’s not much. 10% on $120,000 leaves you with $108,000 to live on. That’s a lot more. And so when Paul says, “as he prospers” he envisions that each person is taking into account what God has given them individually, and is giving based on their own situation.
2 Corinthians 8:12 ESV For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
The Biblical precedent is 10% of net income, not gross, but net (before taxes). Start there. Build your annual budget around taking 10% of everything God gives you, and pouring it right back into the Church. This is not a law, but it seems that God in his wisdom has granted us principles to be applied through the Old Testament that are well supported by the rest of Scripture. Start with 10%, and build a life of increasing generosity with each year.
Statistics: According to one research institute who researched giving trends among professing Christians
• 5% of Christians tithe
• Of the 5% that tithe, 77% of them give well over 10%
• If every Christian tithed 10%, faith organizations would have an extra $139 billion each year (Health Research Funding)
Oh Christian—weep at these statistics. Weep because if this is you, you are missing out on so much joy of worship that could be yours. And weep, because the Kingdom of God might advance with such great force if God’s people were to get serious about God’s work.
What causes this dirth in financial generosity among Christians. This is not about hte Church getting more money. God has always provided exactly what we have needed. And He will continue to do so. I trust him fully. This is about the health of your souls, and the way that money is robbing you of opportunity to grow in your faith in Christ. It was greed that stood as an idol between the rich young man and Jesus. That rich young man walked away rich in this world and bankrupt in the only world that actually matters. His skin was draped in the softest and finest clothes that money could afford, yet his soul was draped in misery. Because of one thing, the vice grip of greed.
Money as idol. It demands your worship. The inability of the Western Church to live in accordance with the principles of financial management set forth in the Scriptures, is an indicator that something is off. I am not simply referring to billionaire Wall Street executives out there somewhere. I’m speaking to myself and the to average person in the pew. I’m speaking to you and me.
1 Timothy 6:10 ESV For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
What does the love of money and the inability to live by God’s standard in this area of our life speak about us. Let me suggest five conditions of the heart that are at risk if we fail to have a generosity plan.
1. Trusting in the Extent of Our Possessions. We may not say it with our mouths. But our actions reveal we are trusting in the extent of our possessions rather than trusting in the grace of God. It is our possessions, our savings, our homes that will protect us should all else fail.
2. Contentedness: It reveals that we have not yet mastered the spiritual discipline of contentedness. Christ, through the resurrection, offers us deep contentedness in his steady faithful plan. But the lover of money refuses that contentedness, and lives without that deep harmony of soul, resting in God’s providential hand.
3. Unwillingness to Sacrifice: Third, it reveals a spirit that is unwilling to sacrifice. A modern Christian may make many sacrifices in various areas of life, and yet cling like a miser to his money, giving 2% (and only if he gets the tax write-off). This unwillingness to sacrifice is an unwillingness to follow Jesus, to be like Christ, to listen to the Holy Spirit.
4. Failure to Prepare for Hardship: Fourth it reveals that catastrophe is headed your way. Because our hearts are trusting in money, where will we turn we need something that money cannot buy. We spend so much time fostering a trust in money, rather than releasing money and learning to trust the one who will be there for us when needed most.
5. Lack of an Eternal Perspective: Fifth, it reveals a lack of an eternal perspective. An energy that is given more to storing up treasures here on earth where moth and rust destroy, and a severe lack of energy towards storing up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust can destroy, nor thieves break in and steal.
The love of money is first and foremost a worship issue. It’s an issue between you and God, that God desires to free you from greed’s grip. God desires to reorient your heart towards true worship of the only thing that can satisfy the needs our hearts to worship something. Money will always let you down. And the love of money will slowly rot your heart. But Christ, in his mercy, has moved towards us in our rebellion against him and his ways. Our false love of money would have been the demise of us all if Christ had not stepped in. But He did step in. Christ suffered under the wrath of God, for idol-worshipers like us. Christ suffered under the wrath of God for hoarders of money like us. For men and women and women who have grown callous to the suffering, callous to the vulnerable, callous to Kingdom of God. Christ offers you new birth today, salvation today, change of heart today. The God we love is not content to leave our souls rotting. No—he has given His Holy Spirit to change us, to transform us, to move us from faithlessness, to faithfulness. We must not be content to permit the Gospel to change us in every other way, but in our generosity. Oh—may Christ open our clutches and teach us the joy of releasing!
I want to make this as simple and as practical as I can. Every Christian family needs a Generosity Plan, a plan for how you are going to steward your finances. Generosity plans change in different seasons of life, based on many factors. But a Generosity Plan should be a prayer filled, Holy Spirit sought work of manifesting your faith through the assets God has assigned to you. Remember, everything we have is a gift to us from God. A Christian without a financial plan of how they are going to steward God’s money, is a Christian who is wasting God’s gifts. Because this is sacred work, and because we are his chosen possession, we must be serious about this work, leset we miss out on the blessing of participating in what God is doing. Permit me to give some very practical advice right here that I pray will bless you, and give you much to consider.
• Begin with 10% of your Net Income. Look at your overall budget, carve out 10% and give it straight to the Church. Then, above that find other faithful missions and missions agencies to support.
• If you have bad debt that is hindering you from living this way, pay it off as fast and hard as you can, so that you can experience the joy of giving.
Proverbs 22:26–27 ESV Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?
• If you have fallen into financial hardship, let the Church come around you and bless you. Over the last year, we have given tens of thousands of dollars to families in this Church who are struggling in one way or another. Much of that is invisible. But the point here is that, do not feel guilty if your are physically unable to give at least 10%. But, make sure your inability is rooted in actual need, and not unwillingness to live on less. One of these is beautiful, one of them is sinful.
• For families who are starting out, my advice to you is to learn to live on one income, preferably the husband’s who is the head of the house. If you have a second income, give and save extraordinarily. Give much away. And save much. So that, if and when you have children, you can decide whether the mother will stay home to raise the children without hte pressure of needing two incomes. This is possible. My wife and I did this, and so can you. It will mean adjustments, but it is possible. And God provides in unique and powerful ways.
• Support Missionaries: Lastly, when looking for where to give your money, give to faithful Christian ministries. There is only so much money to give. And there are many charities. Support Christian ministries.
Principle 3: The Trust Principle
The third and final principle is the Trust Principle. As Stewards, we must be faithful with that which God has apointed us. Paul says at the end of this passage,
1 Corinthians 16:3-4 “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’s concern in this section is about trust. He wants to make sure they feel fully confident that the money they give will get to where it is intended. And so Paul permits them to accredit and appoint people whom they trust for this work. And then offers himself as a trustworthy companion if need be.
In Matthew 25 we read the Parable of the Talents. A talent was a very large sum of money in those days, about 1/2 a million dollars in today’s starndards. In this parable a Master give three different servants three different amounts of money. To one he give five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to their ability. The Master leaves for some time and then returns and asks what each man has done the money. Both the men with the five and two talents invested the money, and were approved by the Master. He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you overmuch. Enter into the joy of your master.” The third servant makes an excuse of why he didn’t invest the money. He had done nothing with it. At the end of the Parable he was called a “worthless servant” and thrown into outer darkness, wehre there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
My simple question I want to ask you is, are you a trustworthy servant with what God has assigned you? When God looks down at your financial management, your generosity, your motivations, is he pleased? If the answer is, “Yes, I am doing what I can to be faithful.” Well done good and faithful servant. The Lord will honor your labor. If the answer is no. If the answer is that your heart has treated the money you have been given as your own, and not your masters. Turn today, trust Christ with this part of your life. May we look forward to the day when Christ says to us,
Matthew 25:21 … ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”