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 (St. Paul; 1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV).
Herein lies the clearest articulation of what I believe the New Testament teaches about practical, Christian giving. Paul was a bridge builder, doing real-time theology in the space between the Jewish Covenant and what was emerging as a faith community centered on the work, person and resurrection of Jesus. Rather than simply reiterating what he new to be true about life with God in the former covenant, Paul extrapolated the heart of the Law, carrying forward what he thought to be central to life with God in the area of giving. Notice what he does:
1. On the first day of the week: this was the day when the emerging Christian church would have worshipped, and thereby would have been in a worshipful state of mind.
2. Each of you is to put aside something and store it up: Each disciple was responsible for setting aside money for those in need (in this case, those struggling in Jerusalem).
3. As he may prosper: Other translations make this clearer—in keeping with your income. The point is the same—give some portion that is reasonable, consistent with your income/prosperity.
4. So that when I come there will be no collecting: In other words, Paul had no aims at using his position in the church to persuade people to give. Simply put, Paul didn’t have a late-night, televised show where he hyped the crowd into a frenzy. No, Paul put the responsibility on the disciple to do what s/he knew to be right.
Let’s boil down these New Testament giving principles, knowing that the Scriptures teach more than this, yet we have here consolidated thoughts from an early Church founder that lead us in the rhythms of grace in giving:
- Giving should be worshipful, regular and consistent (on the first day of the week in Paul’s world).
- Giving is the responsibility of each disciple (each one of you).
- Giving should be based on one’s income, not a pre-determined amount like a spiritual flat tax rate (as he may prosper).
- Giving should not be demanded or performed under persuasion (so that there will be no collecting when I come).
Consider how you, and perhaps your family as applicable, can integrate these principles into your weekly routine.