Be A Generous Church !
1 Corinthians 16:1-14

By Paul Robison

In a church bulletin, there appeared these words: "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver, but He accepteth from a grouch as well."  Some elders notice that members in their congregation seemed embarrassed when the collection plates were being passed.  So they thought some new system should be devised so that nobody would be embarrassed, especially those members who didn't give anything.  After scratching their heads, they came up with this idea.  They had several interesting boxes built and put them at the doors of the church building so the members could give as they came in and went out.  Here's what would happen.  If a member gave a $10 bill, nothing happened.  If a member gave a $5 bill, a little bell tinkled.  If a member gave a $1 bill, it blew a whistle.  If a member gave quarter, a siren went off.  If one gave a dime, a shot sounded.  If a one gave a nickel, the clang of a railroad crossing barrier was heard.  If one gave a penny or nothing, it just took the member's picture.  You probably heard about the congregation when the preacher was saying with a growing crescendo: "This church, like the crippled man, has got to get up and walk!"  And the congregation responded immediately: "That's right, preacher, let it walk!"  And the he said with even more fervor: "This church, like Elijah on Mount Carmel, has got to run."  And the members answered immediately: "Yes, preacher, let it run, let it run!"  The preacher then said all fired up: "This church has got to mount up like eagles and fly!"  And the members shot back, "Let it fly, preacher, let it fly!"  So the preacher then added: "Now if this church is going to fly, it's going take money!"  And the members replied in unison: "Let it walk, preacher, let's just let it walk" (all three illustrations above from Swindoll).  Preparing a new budget was mentioned in the last elders and deacons' meeting, so maybe it is Providential that we have arrived at chapter 16 in our study of 1 Corinthians.  It was reported that we are about $1000 dollars short of meeting our budget each month.  You know, it's interesting that the New Testament says much less about giving than does the Old Testament.  The Jewish were commanded to give tithes, the first fruits of their fields and flocks, wood for sacrifices, portions of their sacrifices, and by Jesus' day, an annual temple tax.  But Christians aren't commanded to give any of those things.  Perhaps this is because the Christ and the church have a much more spiritual emphasis.  Today's theme is: "Be A Generous Church." Paul is going to give us four encouragements on giving in chapter 16.
 
The first encouragement is this: give, to help saints in need. Let's read verse 1-4: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.  And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.  But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me." This is a very interesting passage.  You'll recall that in the later part of this letter, Paul is responding to questions that the members in Corinth had written to him.  Paul usually uses a typical expression throughout the letter to address their questions, and that expression is "Now concerning ..."  Well, here's the next to last time we find this expression.  The last is found in verse 12 where Paul gives them an update on Apollos.  The collection for the saints was a free-will offering that Paul was asking numerous Gentile churches to participate in.  In other passages, Paul also calls this collection: a grace, a sharing, a service, an abundance, a bounty, a privilege, a charitable gift, and a sacrifice (Acts 24:17; 2 Corinthians 8:4, 9, 20; 9:5, 12, Barclay).  Paul and Barnabas, missionaries to the Gentiles, had been asked by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem to remember the poor in their work (Galatians 2:10).  Somehow, the members in Jerusalem had come upon economic distress.  Paul provides an opportunity for the Gentile congregations to show Christ's love in a practical way toward these Jewish brothers in need (Barclay).  This gesture will not only show their fellowship in Christ but also enhance their unity (Morris).  Someone has noted that in chapter 15 Paul takes us to spiritual heights with his insights about the resurrection, but now we see him with his feet on the ground as he discusses financial matters (Ibid.).  Yes, here was a preacher who was also serving as a fund-raiser because of a practical need.  Give, to help saints in need.  So we see Paul instructing the Corinthians brethren as he had instructed the members in Galatia: on each Sunday, each member was to give in church some sum that they had determined to offer according to their prosperity.  These instructions show that their giving was to be planned, substantial, and regular.  Paul did not want them to give some kind of last minute half-hearted contribution of nickels and pennies.  In fact, these brethren act about like some brethren today.  Since Paul takes two chapters in 2 Corinthians to exhort them once again, it looks like the Corinthian brethren had trouble with giving as Paul instructed them.  Paul is being very careful with this collection since he does not want to be accused of unscrupulous conduct; he tells them how to collect it and also for them to chose the delegates who will take it to Jerusalem.  Even though it looks like Paul didn't even want to lay his hands on the money, he still gets accused by some Jewish brethren of using this collection wrongly for his own gain in 2 Corinthians 12:16ff.  We see in Acts 20:4, the delegates who traveled with Paul to Jerusalem with this collection, and in chapter 21, we see it being delivered to the elders in Jerusalem.  Give, to help saints in need.  It's good to see that about 6% of our contribution is budgeted towards helping others in need: orphans, local benevolence, SOS program, national and state disaster relief.  You even gave about $800 above the budget to help with disaster relief this past May!  Someone gave this bit of country advice: "Do you givin' while you're livin' and then you'll be knowin' where it's goin'."  J. L. Kraft, head of the Kraft Cheese Corporation, annually gave approximately 25% of his enormous income to Christian causes; he said, "The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord."  Give, to help saints in need.  Be a generous church!
 
The second encouragement is this: give, to help ministers.  Now let's read verses 5-7: Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go.  For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay awhile with you, if the Lord permits.  Paul is communicating some of his future travel plans.  One commentator observes: "Paul's travel plans are no doubt being made around his final efforts in completing the collection; this will be his last trip through Macedonia and Achaia, trying to complete this project which has preoccupied him through his 5-7 years in this part of his mission to the Gentiles" (Holladay).  Paul hopes to remain with them throughout the winter months when travel by sea came to a halt.  And we read this in Acts 20:1-3: "After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia.  Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece and stayed three months." Paul says in our text today that “if the Lord permits,” he will stay with them, and the Acts passage shows that is exactly what he did!  Note the expression "that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go."  One commentator noted that this expression meant: provide me with the resources that I will need to travel (Barclay).  Another thought it meant: provide such things as Paul will have need of during his journey (Morris). In 2 Corinthians 12, we learn that Paul supported himself while he was in Corinth, but it looks like he was not bashful about asking for financial or material help for his travels (he does the same thing in Romans 15:23-24).  Acts 18:11 informs us that Paul worked in Corinth for 18 months, and to that figure, we could now add 3 more months.  So Paul was almost like a located preacher to the members at Corinth.  Give, to help ministers. Paul argues for the support of ministers is found back in 1 Corinthians 9:3-11: "My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right to eat and drink?  Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?  Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?  Who ever goes to war at his own expense?  Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit?  Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?  Do I say these things as a mere man?  Or does not the law say the same also?  For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.'  Is it oxen God is concerned about?  Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? [Paul also uses this same passage to argue for the support of full-time elders as well in 1 Timothy 5:17-18.]  For our sakes, no doubt, this is written that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?"  Give, to help ministers. I man here in town once gave me a cartoon showing a preaching standing in the cold holding out a tin cup to collect funds. Underneath was the caption: "Preachers are paid weakly."  I told him this is scenario was not the case with the congregation that I worked for because they supported me very generously.  It looks like about 29% of our budget goes towards supporting my family.  That's very generous, and I'm proud that I can say this before you and before our TV audience.  I just want to personally say, "Thank you" for this good salary.  We have never missed a meal nor worried greatly over not being able to pay our bills, our quarterly taxes, and our personal health insurance.  Of course, we try to do our part in living fairly frugally as well.  You have helped to give our third child a Christian education as well.  Give, to help ministers.  Be a generous church!
Paul’s third encouragement is this: give, to help missionaries.  Let's read verses 8-11: "But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost.  For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.  And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do.  Therefore let no one despise him.  But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren."  Paul communicates here that he is not coming right way but will remain in Ephesus before going back to Palestine for the feast of Pentecost.  Timothy is probably going to come by, and Paul wants these brethren to treat him well.  Note also how he says to send Timothy on this journey in peace.  That expression is exactly like the one found verse 6 concerning himself.  So Paul is encouraging them to provide financial or material goods for Timothy as well.  Timothy was sort of like Paul's ambassador and was sent by Paul to help several churches.  Timothy was more like what we'd call a missionary since he worked with various congregations in different locations.  Give, to help missionaries.  Raising funds to go to a mission field is no easy task; about 70% of those who want to go work in another culture never make there because they can't raise enough money.  Once you're on the field, then come the difficult task of maintaining support.  Most church budgets change annually, and not too many missionaries have contracts that guarantee them a fixed income no matter what the circumstances may be stateside.  We worked in Italy for 17 years, but that was under 4 different supporting congregations because economics and local situations change. Traveling all over the country and living out of a suitcase to report about the work and to keep your support base is a stressful hassle that most missionaries endure with smiles so that they can work with abroad with the foreign culture that they love.  Give, to help missionaries.  You've given about $5,200 beyond our budget to help missionaries this year!  It's good to see that 8% of our is going to help missionaries and ministries abroad!  Wouldn't it be wonderful if that percentage could increase every year?  Now, our church directory shows that we have 53 households pictured.  So let's 17 more to cover those not pictured for a total of 70 households.  To meet the budget, each household should be giving about $54 dollars per week.  Now, I'm not saying this to shame anybody.  It's a fact that we all have different income levels.  I just wanted to show what was needed on a strictly household basis.  But here's something else I wanted you to see.  You see, if each household increased that $54 to $60, then we probably could support an additional missionary and his family! Now, lest you be suspicious, the elders did not ask me to make this appeal.  I did this on my own just to show how helping another missionary could possibly be done.  Of course, I'm still very concerned about that $12,000 shortfall with which may end this year.  We are to give as we have been prospered, and I wonder how many of us are even giving 5% of our income.  Give, to help missionaries.  Be a generous church!
 
The next encouragement is this: give, motivated by love.  Let's read verses 13-14: "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love."  Now those first four commands that Paul gives have already been preached on in a previous sermon.  But the fifth one is worth our consideration: "Let all that you do be done with love." All that you do would include giving as well wouldn't it?  Give, motivated by love.  Look with me at John 12:1-6: "Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.  There they made Him a supper, and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.  Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair.  And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.  But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, 'Why was this fragrant oil not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?'"  When you remember that a denarius was a day's wage, then you see that Mary had spent almost a year's wages on this costly perfume.  She was so grateful for what Jesus had taught her and was so thankful that her brother had been brought back to life!  She was giving motivated by love wasn't she? Someone else had this good thought: "When you go to a doctor for your annual check-up, he or she will often begin to poke, prod, and press various places, all the while asking, 'Does this hurt?  How about this?'  If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened.  Either the doctor has pushed too hard, without the right sensitivity.  Or, more likely, there's something wrong, and the doctor will say, 'We'd better do some more tests. It's not supposed to hurt there!'  So it is when [elders and preachers] preach on financial responsibility, and certain members cry out in discomfort, criticizing the message and the messenger.  Either the [elder or preacher] has pushed too hard.  Or perhaps there's something wrong.  In that case, I say, 'My friend, we're in need of the Great Physician because it's not supposed to hurt there'” (Rogers).  How many "I owe yous" do we have towards God?  I owe you—for My time.  I owe You—for Your Son's example and sacrifice.  I owe You—for the gifts of Your Spirit and Your Word.  I owe You—for My numerous material blessings.  I owe You—for my good physical family and my great church family.  I owe You—for Your forgiveness and discipline.  I owe You—for Your patience with Me and faith in me.  I owe You—for Your wonderful hope and eternal life.  I owe You—for Your love that has lifted me and seen me through some of life's hardest difficulties.  And this is just a short list!  Now think about this question: What does our contribution say about our love for God?  Give, motivated by love.  Be a generous church!
 
Listen carefully:
Oh God, the bumper sticker says: ‘Smile if you love Jesus!’  So, I smiled all day long ... and people thought I was trying to be like some celebrity or game show host.  Another bumper sticker says: ‘Honk if you love Jesus!’  So, I honked and honked, and a policeman pulled me over and wrote a ticket for disturbing the peace in a hospital zone.  Another bumper sticker says: ‘Wave if you love Jesus!’  So, I waved with both hands ... but then lost control of the car and crashed into the back of a church bus.  Oh God, if I cannot smile, or honk, or wave, how will Jesus know that I love Him?" God replied: "Smiling, honking, and waving are just too easy, why don't try giving Him 15% of your total income? (Larson in Swindoll).
Let's stop giving God our leftovers!  Give, to help saints in need, ministers, and missionaries.  Give, motivated by love.  Be a generous church!
 
Let's pray: “Lord God, thank You for giving this text to help us and to challenge us.  Help us to give motivated by love.  Thank You for all Your great gifts to us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!”
 
"Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. ... And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen" (Phil. 4:14-15 & 19-20).  Do you need to ask Jesus to help to be a better giver?  Do you need to ask His help to have a better attitude and motive?  Do you need to repent of your past sinful life? Do you need to be baptized in Jesus' name to begin your life as His disciple? Whatever you need, give yourself first to Him, and He will bless that gift!