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Church Contribution: The Biblical Pattern

By Kyle Pope

I

n many churches any time that the church comes together a collection is taken from the members (and even visitors). Sometimes great effort and motivation is used to persuade those present to give. While the Bible clearly teaches that the New Testament church did take up a collection of money to address the needs of a congregation, does the Bible teach taking up such collections at any (and every) time of assembly?

I. The New Testament Church Gave on Sunday. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in ancient Corinth he gave them instruction regarding how and when to take up a collection for a need that the church should address. He wrote – “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.” (1 Cor 16:2). Although the occasion for this instruction concerned a gift that would be sent to Jerusalem, his instruction was not isolated to Corinth alone. In the previous verse he wrote – “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also” (1 Corinthians 16:1). While individual charity is to occur as the opportunity arises (see Galatians 6:10) this is the only example we have of when the church collection was made.

II. Giving is to Be A Personal Matter, As Each Person Decides Within Their Heart. In Paul’s second letter to Corinth he returns again to this subject. While Paul clearly seeks to encourage generosity, he tempers this with a powerful qualifier. Notice what he says – “[So let] each one [give] as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). We notice three points here: giving is to occur…

1. “As he purposes in his heart.” Just as the words of Jesus declared – “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). The public spectacle of a preacher manipulating an audience, and then focusing attention upon a large contribution is the exact opposite of what the Lord is teaching in Matthew 6:3 and through the Apostle Paul.

2. “Not grudgingly or of necessity.” While a preacher or the elders are doing just what Paul did if they teach the principles of giving, any pressure or compulsion should only come from a person’s reflection upon their worship of God. A Christian’s giving must not come from “guilt-trips” and “mind-games.” Instead…

3. “God loves a cheerful giver.” When a worshipper leaves an assembly feeling as if they have been pressured and manipulated into giving, God is not pleased with the gift. In such an instance not only has the one who resents being pressured failed to worship in truth but the preacher or church leader responsible for that atmosphere stands accountable before God for violating the clear teaching of Scripture. Instead, we should search our hearts, make deliberate plans about what we would like to give, and do it with joy. Of this attitude the Hebrew writer tells us – “…with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). This is the Biblical pattern, and the one which Christians today must follow as well.   

Pope, Kyle. "Church Contribution: The Biblical Pattern" Biblical Insights 7.8 (August 2007): 25  

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