Today’s reading: Numbers 32-33; Psalm 58; 1 Corinthians 16
Money and personal finances are a touchy subject. I remember when my wife, Kassy, and I were dating and we talked about money a lot.
The reality is that we grew up in two different contexts (not radically different) where I managed money differently than she did. You see this between couples and even in groups of friends!
How many of us have gone out to eat with a group of people only to find that you differ on how you handle your money, how you split the bill, how you tip the waiter, etc.
For many of us in our current cultural context, personal finances are extremely personal. It’s culturally inappropriate to say how much you make, to ask someone what they make, to ask how much they spent on a specific item (like a bigger item like a car or a house) and so on and so forth. People that I have ran into throughout life have generally played their hand close to the chest when it comes to money. They don’t want to show you what is in their hand. That’s fine. I wouldn’t advocate it otherwise.
But remember, we need to view money through God’s teaching in the bible. And today’s passage out of 1 Corinthians 16 hits something that we should all take away and implement into our lives surrounding the topic of money.
“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 on 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.” (1 Cor. 16:1-4, NIV)
So, the situation going on in 1 Corinthians, is Paul is addressing the final concern in his letter to them. The church in Jerusalem was struggling and Paul was going throughout his missionary journey collecting money from each of the churches for the sake of caring for the Jerusalem church.
But how are they going to do this when he comes to them? After all, we all know what it feels like when we have a sudden big expense hit our bank accounts. The car breaks down and you need to drop 1k just to get it running again. The A/C goes out and you need to spend $1500 to replace it. Whatever it is, we all know what it’s like to have a suddenly large expense hit our account and if we aren’t prepared for it, then this can be devastating for us.
So Paul proposes a solution. In verse 2 he tells them, “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 collection will have to be made.”
Paul wants to avoid the scenario where people are getting displaced or put out because of their giving. Rather, he knows that they will actually be able to give more faithfully by intentionally setting some aside to save up for the collection.
The problem with this is that saving for the purpose of giving (well, saving for anything really) is hard!
What makes saving up for giving or giving regularly so hard is that it requires us to be deeply intentional with the rest of our finances.
It requires us to plan ahead.
It requires us to stick to a budget.
It requires us to tell ourselves no when we want something.
It requires us to tell others no when we have hit our budget limit.
Setting money aside to save for giving is very hard. There is just no getting around that. Now, there are people out there who have the spiritual gift of giving. The Spirit enables people to be amazing givers for the sake of God’s kingdom. But those are the people who really ought to encourage the rest of us to give faithfully.
What also makes giving hard is keeping the vision of Christ in front of us.
When we keep Christ’s mission, His saving mission to the whole world and His inclusion of us in that mission to participate with Him, in front of us, we find the spiritual resource that is necessary to give in the first place.
Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with the Father something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross!
Jesus gave everything in order to take our sin and the penalty of sin upon Himself so that we might have eternal life through Him. If this is true (which is certainly is!) then we should not only want to give our lives to Him and His mission, but we should also want to rightly give all our resources to the forward progression of His mission to the world. We want others to come and experience His salvation and the joy that comes only through Jesus!
Through the Spirit, who enables us, we are able to set aside money for the purpose of saving up to give for the purpose of the gospel proclamation. We give so that the good news about Jesus would be spread to all those who do not yet know Him and so that we can have ministries that grow deeper followers of Jesus who themselves go and spread the good news.
It’s not just about money. Giving is about the heart. Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
May our hearts ever be with Jesus and may we grow in our desire to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. May we deepen in our desire to give so that we might also see the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection received by those who don’t know Him yet.
Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 34-36; Psalm 59; 2 Corinthians 1-2