The Pleasure of Giving Money Away (1 Corinthians 16)

As all of you know who have known me for a while, one of the great experiences of my life that I enjoyed so very much was coaching distance runners at Williamsport High School for 13 years. I invested a lot in it and in the lives of the kids, almost all of whom are now adults. When I read about or see their successes as they move on in life, I feel like I had a small part in shaping some of that. It gives me great joy and personal satisfaction, beyond the state championships and 50+ titles.

A fifth principle about giving that we are identifying in 1 Corinthians 16 is the “personal” element of being a part of what God is doing. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about how some of them might go along in delivering the gift. Imagine the stories that they would bring back with them of that trip and that experience. They would be sharing with the larger church about the people they met and how the offering was meeting needs and advancing the kingdom.

The text says in verses three and four … 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.

So I am speaking of the personal pleasure and sense of satisfaction that comes from giving to a cause and seeing and hearing about the results of how God is blessing it. Really, how many things are there in the world that you can be a part of that has eternal reward and benefit attached to what you do or give?

This giving topic coincided with the “Project Zero” program we have going on right now, which is our effort to pay down the remaining roughly $100,000 in debt that we have on our church building, 29 acres and house. This is out of about $2 million in total costs over the past 20 years.

It may not seem like giving toward mortgage payments on a steel building is very Kingdom-oriented, but let’s just mention a few things that we have seen done at TSF because of the building that we have as a place for God’s people to meet.

Think about how on Sunday mornings we see regularly some of our teens as a part of the worship team, thinking about how many others before them have gone on to serve in this way with us and in dozens of other assemblies where God has taken them. Think of our youth who have come to know Christ in this place and have been discipled and are serving the Lord, even around the globe. Think of all the biblical instruction that has gone on in all of the classrooms in the building … for all ages. Recall all of the local ministries that have used our facility for their banquets and programs, including the FCA camp that happens every year with annual dozens of commitments for Christ. Every Thursday we have hundreds of women and children growing in Christ through the Community Bible Study program. Even the local Mennonites use our building for programs and graduations, etc.  This is all but a tip of the iceberg.

So, relative to our Project Zero campaign, and reviewing the five principles of this week, we hope that you find giving toward this facility debt elimination to be PURPOSEFUL. We hope you will be PERIODIC and PERSISTENT about it over the next year. We would like, as did Paul, to see it be PARTICIPATORY BY ALL. We understand that it needs to be PROPORTIONATE BY PROSPERITY as God blesses you and makes you his steward of resources. And we trust you will find in doing it that there is the pleasure of a PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE.

A point that I grieve I did not make strongly enough in preaching on this last Sunday is the following. Though I reflected a good bit in my remarks on events of 19 to 20+ years ago, I did not say enough about how overwhelming it looked at the time to the people committing to be a part of this original structure and the expansion of it and the properties associated with it. If you have not noticed this truth in looking around at TSF, we’re not a very wealthy bunch. The debt and the expense we were entering into was HUGE! It was audacious faith. Scary even. But, like the old question goes … “How do you eat a whole elephant?”  The answer is “one bite at a time.”

God has been very good to us. We’ve been blessed, even in ups and downs and times when people have come and gone. God is very, very good.

Blessed Bigger to be a Bigger Blessing (I Corinthians 16)

One of the most intense job experiences of my life was working for UPS in Dallas, Texas the first two years I was in seminary. It was a nighttime shift from about 6:00-10:00, loading outbound trucks to other states. Though that was probably at the time of my peak health and fitness, I always said that the company only had part-time jobs for this task, because you would drop over before you got to eight hours of doing what we did.

The company started you out by loading trucks (in the heat!), teaching you how to do it just right. They constantly counted everything you did and tracked it in charts they would show you once in a while. When beginning, there was a certain number of boxes you should load in an hour (counting what you did in three minutes and multiplying by 20). As time went by, you were to get better, for which you were paid more.

Later, you might be moved to a “secondary sort” by picking boxes off a conveyor belt and funneling them to one of four or five trucks. If you did well with that, you got to work on the “primary sort” aisle, picking packages and sending them on one of seven belts that went to the pick-off guy, who sent them to the loaders on the trucks. It was a lot of memorizing zip codes, many of which I recall to this day.

With more responsibility came more accountability and expectations … and better pay as well. It was essentially the shipping world’s equivalent of a biblical principle stated by Jesus in Luke 12:48. In the context of teaching about diligent service and watchfulness, and using a parable about faithful stewardship when the master is away, Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

We should see our time, talents and treasures as resources given to us by the Lord — the ultimate Master — to be used as a stewardship. And in terms of our giving, the fourth principle that rises from our 1 Corinthians 16 passage is that giving is to be proportionate by prosperity.

From the text it says … 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.

Paul never gives a number or a percentage that should guide giving. Tithing is an Old Testament concept that is difficult to apply in exact science to New Testament giving. We should strive to be generous, even happily so, recognizing how we are so blessed on the receiving end.

I have always promoted with people that tithing is a worthy goal to work toward early in life, family and career … to establish it early as a baseline financial discipline.  For those with greatest need, this is a difficult goal; for those with the greater blessings of resources, mere tithing could be the definition of falling quite short of being generous toward God as a faithful steward of what HE has prospered a person with.

But you all get the idea. As you are beginning in life and careers and so on, times may be tougher; but later when blessings are greater and multiplied, more can likely be done.

I have often said this: In my years of ministry experience, I am yet to find any person who has ever said that they regret what they gave to the Lord. Be generous; you simply can’t go wrong.

Everyone Has a Part to Play (1 Corinthians 16)

Some years ago at a Moody Pastors Conference seminar headed by a well-known mega-church pastor, he said to the group I was a part of, “You want to hear my best plan for assimilating new people and growing a church?”  And everyone leaned forward to hear this gem!  He said, “When we have a church potluck, I watch new people and what they bring and set on the table. Then I go around to my main people and say, ‘see that blue dish over there … make sure it goes home empty.’ Because when people contribute something of themselves to an event and see that something received, they then feel personal ownership and will keep coming.”

Flat tax or consumption tax advocates — who are against the idea of a graduated income tax that more heavily taxes wealthier people (by percentage), arguing for a tax system that involves everyone at every level — contend that it is best for “everyone to have some skin in the game.”  Though we may debate the details of these proposals, we can see the point that when everyone has a part is paying something, albeit small, there is a universal sense of ownership that comes with it.

I have been the “poor guy” in some wealthy settings. You all have often heard me talk about my experiences of living in Texas and my several years on the pastoral staff of a wealthy congregation. And even though our yearly offering to that church would not likely even amount to that given in a single week by many of the millionaires who attended, we faithfully did it, and we certainly felt a great sense of partnership and ownership with everything that church did, big and small. I still feel it and have an ongoing sense of affection for that congregation and the ministries we did together 35 years ago.

As we talk this week about our topic “Why Give?” we make the point that giving is something foreseen to be participated in pretty much by everyone (outside of dire circumstances of life, which do happen). From the text in 1 Corinthians 16, Paul said … On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income…

Paul envisioned that everyone would play a part, not just that percentage that was either wealthy or more than sufficiently resourced.

Giving something, even a small amount, gives a person a sense of ownership and partnership, and we know this is true of any club or organization, not just a church.

But it has always been true in churches (as it is with clubs and other benevolences) as to the shocking percentage of members and attenders who don’t give anything or merely give the smallest amount, thus depending upon a fraction of the people to carry the bulk of the weight.

There is proportionate responsibility, and we’ll be getting to that tomorrow; but there is also the undeniable obligation for all to participate at some level.

Great sports teams have a roster of very different sorts of players. Along with the stars who hit all the home runs or score all the touchdowns, there are role players who do things like pinch run and steal a base once every five games, or who play a simple role like only being the long-snapper for the punter. But when the team wins the Super Bowl or the World Series, they get the same championship ring and the same playoffs share of the prize money. They each contributed what they could and they all had partnership and ownership.

Be a partner; be a player; be an owner, even if all you can do is a small amount. God will be faithful to supply your needs, as faithfully partnering in his service in the kingdom-building work of the church demonstrates your trust in him.

The Periodic and Persistent Giver (1 Corinthians 16)

We have all seen or heard illustrations of how saving even a small amount of money on a consistent basis pays off in a huge way over time. Yet so few people do this.

But the same thing is true of giving. It may not seem like much at the same time, but over a longer period it really does add up. And likewise with saving, too few people develop this as a discipline.

In the summers of 1987 and 1988 I took youth music teams to England and Scotland to do a variety of ministries involving singing and children’s VBS work. I met a missionary couple there (one-half of whom is originally from this area) and our family personally began to support them. The amount is not great – only being $25 a month. But now that I look back on it after 29 years of doing this, we have given to the work there close to $9,000.

A second principle about giving that rises from the text in 1 Corinthians 16 is that it be done periodically and persistently. Relative to the issue of giving toward the project of relief for the poor in the church at Jerusalem, Paul directs that this be received in an ongoing, weekly, persistent and disciplined process.

From the text in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 16 … 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.

Obviously this is speaking about the gathering of the church on Sunday, the first day of the week. It was assumed that pretty much everyone was going to be there most every week. Imagine that! I know that looks very odd to many people today. Of course, folks then did not travel like they do today, and I doubt that they had junior gladiator travel team leagues for the kids to be a part of on Sundays.

People probably also received their wages in a more daily fashion; they likely did not have weekly, bi-weekly or monthly pay schedules. Nor were there checks and credit cards and the opportunity such as we have to do online giving or automated payments (which is how Diana and I have done our giving for quite a while, as this really keeps you regular and persistent).

The principle to take from this is to make the issue of giving to be a thoughtful, regular, planned and ongoing process of giving back to God (as his stewards) what is acknowledged to have first come from Him.

The second part of this: Paul did not want to see a situation where they would be scrambling around at the last minute to put together an offering. He knew it would not be the same thing nor nearly as effective.

The discipline of regular giving is a statement of our trust in God’s supply and our gratitude for all he has done for us. It connects us to his ongoing work in a regular fashion of being invested in all that is happening to build the Kingdom.

At one time, I owned stock in a particular company, and I would regularly check in on how that corporation was performing. After a time, I sold that position. And as I think about it now, I’ve never looked back again to see how it has done. I’m no longer invested, neither financially or by interest.

The Scriptures say that where our treasure is, our heart (our interest) will be also. And where our heart is, there too will be the expression of our treasure and investment. Persistent and regular giving keeps our heart and our interests focused upon the things that really matter, the things of eternity.

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.