A Part of Something Purposeful (1 Corinthians 16)

Let’s start the week off with something totally depressing. After all, it’s Monday, the day after Sunday — the only day we’ve seen in a long time with its namesake, the sun making an appearance! And it’s going to rain again much of today. Just filled with good cheer here … so, here it is …

You love your family, but in four or five generations, nobody in going to remember who you are … this is, unless you do something really important or newsworthy, like become a serial killer or something like that. How do I know this? OK … name the names of your great-great-grandfathers.

So, you live, you do a few things, you die, a few folks cry for a couple of hours, and generational history dementia begins. (I told you this was going to be depressing.)

But here’s some good news: God does not forget you. He knew you before you were born. He chose you before you were born. Don’t argue with me on that last point, that’s what the words of the Scripture say. So if he has known you since before you knew yourself, he is going to know you after you are gone and nobody remains to remember you.

So while it is great to achieve a reasonably high level of success and reward in terms of the scorecard of material gains and assets, it is better to invest at least a decent portion of those resources in stuff that is going to be remembered eternally. We can help you out!

Our question for this series is “Why Church?”  The church is the bride of Christ. That’s pretty important, and the marriage begins our eternity future. And our question for this week is “Why Give?”  And we’ll give you five reasons that come out of a passage in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 where Paul says this …

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.  On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

The first reason or answer to the question “why give?” is that it is purposeful, it is for the Lord’s people. All that we give to the church, be it for benevolent purposes (as in this case) or for costs related to personnel, materials, projects or facilities to make it all happen … these are given with a purpose of growing the work of God’s people, the church. And it is work that has eternal consequence and reward, stuff that will not be forgotten.

In the context of this end of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, this “collection” related to providing funds for the relief of Christians in the very first of all the churches — the church in Jerusalem. Why was this church poorer than the others?

  • Jerusalem was a poor city to begin with, often a place flooded by people who came on feasts and pilgrimages.
  • As the center of Judaism, the early Christians there were particularly persecuted for their belief that the Messiah had come and been rejected by the Jews.
  • Many of those who were converted on the Day of Pentecost and thereafter had likely stayed there, sharing “all things in common” as it said in Acts, likely living with multiple families in a single home and scratching out a living.
  • There was a famine in that region that lasted for four years — we see this referenced in Acts 11.

Paul also had a purposeful passion beyond the mere human needs to be addressed by these gifts. He wanted to see the body of Christ become One, bringing together the disparate background of Jews and Gentiles into one new and amazing family unity, unlike anything else. And he realizes this is a great opportunity to do just that. Not only might he help relieve the needs of the Jerusalem church, but in an overwhelming act of love, this money from many Gentiles would go a long way to solidify union in the family of faith.

These early Christians, on both the giving and receiving ends, would realize that they were a part of something so much bigger and greater than anything else. It is the stuff of eternity.

And this remains true in our generation. The dollar that provides a building with a youth program and a youth worker with resources … who meets a visiting student who enjoys the event and comes back, trusting in Christ as savior … who gets discipled over time and ends up on a mission field in another part of the world where a new church is begun there … this is the work of the church. And we can be a part of it and rejoice throughout all of eternity for what was accomplished in the mundane of the here and now.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

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