An Examination of Stewardship
Tim Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 16, continuing our verse by verse study of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Today we begin the last chapter of I Corinthians. We're not going to get through the whole chapter today, but we have worked our way through this book to this point, and we thank the Lord for the opportunity to study through this passage verse by verse and look for His guidance as we conclude our studies in this book.

Most people have the idea that there is something just a little bit unspiritual about talking about money, that it is something Christians and especially preachers shy away from, that there is something wrong with a church that talks too much about money, something wrong with a Christian television program or radio program that spends too much time talking about money. Unfortunately there are many people who associate that kind of thing with Christians in general, or at least with ministries in general. Yet it is interesting to notice that the Bible has more to say about money than almost any other subject.

Larry Burkett, who is a well-known Christian financial counselor, says that there are more than seven hundred verses that directly relate to money and the use of our money. It is interesting as we come to the close of Paul's letter to the Corinthians that this is one of the subjects that he cannot close the letter without dealing with. So we come without apology today to talk to you about the Christian and money, and it is something that I trust you will accept in the right spirit.


By way of review, as we look back over this book that we have been studying, let me remind you that the major sections of the book have been in chapters 1-4, the matter of “Divisions in the Church,” and the ways that Christians can get at odds with each other and misunderstand each other. In chapters 5 and 6, he talked about “Specific Disorders in the Church,” the problem of a lack of church discipline and the problem of believers going to court with each other, having lawsuits in front of unsaved people among Christians. In chapters 7-15, the largest section of the book, he deals with “Difficulties in the Church.” These were apparently questions that the Corinthians had written to the Apostle Paul about specific topics. We have talked about why we think that. It is the fact that several places along in this section of the book say, “Now concerning this subject,” “now concerning that subject.” It seems apparent in reading through the text that they had written him and asked him about these things, and this last part of the book comprises his answers. Those things that they had asked him about are the kinds of questions we would ask if we had someone like the Apostle Paul to write to.

He has dealt with the subject of marriage and the subject of the gray areas of life, things that the Bible doesn't specifically spell out for us, using the illustration of meat offered to idols, but taking those principles to apply to all kinds of things that are in what we call the “gray areas”. He talked about the Lord's Supper and the significance of that. He talked about spiritual gifts and how we should use those. In chapter 15, the chapter that we have just completed, he dealt at length with the doctrine of the Resurrection. So you can see, if you haven't been with us for this whole study, this has been a full-orbed book. It touches on many of the things that have to do with making the Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of our church, and that has been the subject of our studies these months, “The Lordship of Christ in the Local Church.” As I have pointed out to you many times, and I want to remind you again today, the focus of this book is that the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be the center of our church unless He is the center of your life and mine.

There is a great deal of talk these days about body life, about church growth. There are even seminaries that have a department of church growth and professors of church growth. All of that may be well and good if it is not overdone, but the key issue is that this church or any other church will never be the kind of church that really effectively ministers if Jesus Christ is not the Lord of your life as an individual member of the church. That is the focus, and I hope you will keep that in mind as we talk about the last few subjects that remain in chapter 16.

At the end of this letter, he comes to a few important items that must be dealt with before he concludes. This is a very personal section, particularly as we get into the section that we will look at next week. It shows Paul's closeness to these Corinthians, his personal friendship with them. Someone said, “It shows his naturalness, that he was a real, live person who knew these people and who was responding to them.” There is even a lesson in that. C.I. Scofield, who edited the Scofield notes of the Bible, says, “This demonstrates that sometimes Christians need to be more natural.” Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. used to say, “There are some Christians who are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” Paul demonstrates in this chapter that he was a very natural person, that he dealt with real life issues and that even such things as the ways we use our money are part of the way we live our Christian life. Even such things as the ways we use our money are part of the lordship of Christ in our lives.

I have divided chapter 16 into four parts. This is just my outline; it's not inspired. There are four things that are included in this chapter. First of all, in verses 1-4, the examination of stewardship, and that's what we want to think about today. Then in verses 5-9, an explanation of submission. The whole principle of submission must be dealt with before we have a complete study of the lordship of Christ. Then in verses 10-18, exhortation as to stability. Paul is saying to these folks, as he winds up his letter, “Keep on keeping on. Keep on doing what God has told you to do. It's not enough just to know it, but it must be continually practiced as well.” Then in verses 19-24, an extension of salutations where he sends greetings to particular individuals who he knew in that church.

The Collection of the Saints

Today we want to look at these first four verses, the first section of the chapter, an examination of stewardship, as it is brought out in verses 1-4. If you have your Bibles opened to I Corinthians, chapter 16, notice beginning with verse 1:

I Corinthians 16

1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
3And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
4And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.

Notice that recognizable introduction to a subject, verse 1: “Now concerning the collection for the saints.” As I mentioned a few minutes ago, in this latter half of the book, this is the way that he introduces a new subject and one of the things that makes us think that he was answering specific questions from the Corinthians. Evidently, another of the things that the Corinthians had written to Paul at some other time–their questions are not included in the Bible, but the answers are–was this collection for the saints at Jerusalem. Probably other things had been said about it besides what Paul says here. Probably it was a need that was generally known among the Christians around that part of the world, and they had written to Paul, saying, “Now how shall we handle this? What shall we do about about that?” Here we have Paul's answer.

The Problem of Christian Socialism

If we were to take the time to look at some other sections of the New Testament or to compare some points of church history that deal with this particular age in which this letter was written, apparently there was wide-spread impoverishment of the Christians in Jerusalem. Several reasons have been suggested for that. Most of the Christians in Jerusalem were having extreme financial problems. The churches that were made up of believers in Jerusalem were having financial difficulties. One of the reasons for that may have been, as we read in Acts, chapter 2, that the Christians pooled all of their belongings and had all things in common. Now that is one of those things that the Scripture mentions, and it is neither a commendation nor a condemnation.

All down through the years there have been new groups of Christians who have said, “This is the way Christians ought to live. We all ought to sell our possesions and put it all together and have kind of a socialistic church–Christian socialism.” It has even been referred to that way sometimes. People say, “That is the way early Christians did it; then that is the way that we ought to do it.” However, even though that may make some sense at first glance, let me remind you that even in Acts, chapter 2, where it is reported that they did that, they had immediate problems with it. They had that problem of Ananias and Sapphira, who were impressed with a wealthy man who had given all of his goods to the church, to the commune, so they decided to do that; but they were tempted and yielded to the temptation to keep part of the money back for themselves. God dealt with them as, very thankfully, He does not deal with our sins usually. He struck them dead. Aren't you glad the Lord doesn't do that? Of course it would make church discipline a whole lot easier if He did. They could probably do away with church discipline, do away with the need for a whole lot of laws. God, in His grace, doesn't normally deal with us that way today, but He did in those days. So there were problems with Christian socialism, as there are always problems with socialism.

Possibly what had happened was the Christians in Jerusalem were impoverished because they had tried socialism, and it never works. But also we know that there was a great deal of persecution among the Christians in that early day, and that probably contributed to it. We know that from time to time there were famines in that part of the world, and possibly there had been a large famine in Jerusalem. Bible scholars suggest that. But regardless of the reasons, I'm sure that socialism contributed to it. Whether that was the whole thing or not, I don't know. There may have been other factors involved. There probably were, but all of those reasons together had led to the fact that there were many believers in Jerusalem who were impoverished.

Let me again digress for just a minute to say that impoverishment is never a sign in and of itself of a lack of God's favor. Those Christians in Jerusalem were just as spiritual as the people in Macedonia and in other areas who were doing well financially, and the same thing is still true today. God sometimes uses finances to discipline people. Sometimes God uses finances to get our attention and get us back on the track spiritually, but He uses many other things also. So don't ever think that because an individual is having financial problems that there is something wrong with him spiritually. That may or may not be the case. It is probably not the case. There are probably a lot of other reasons.

A Demonstration of Unity

Here were some of the first Christians, living in Jerusalem, who were in some cases almost literally starving to death. Now Paul wrote to the other churches in the other cities around the Biblical world at that time around Asia, and he told them about the Jerusalem problems and asked them to pray about giving an offering to that. We can piece that together from references that he makes in some of his other letters, but particularly he deals with it in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul was particularly interested in promoting this offering, I think, not only to meet the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem, but also to demonstrate to those Jewish believers in Jerusalem that the Gentile believers were solidly with them, to demonstrate the solidarity of new Gentile believers with those Jewish believers in Jerusalem. Most of the believers in Jerusalem would have been Jews because that was the center of Judaism, and as I said a few minutes ago, some of the original Christians lived right there in Jerusalem.

So Paul, being the apostle to the Gentiles, was anxious to have these Gentiles minister to these Jews and demonstrate that that “wall of partition” between Jew and Gentile had been broken down and that there was no difference between Jew and Greek, Gentile, bond or free. That concept of the Body of Christ could be demonstrated very clearly through the Corinthians and other Gentiles contributing financially to these Jews who were in need, so they had written to him for more specifics apparently, and now he writes back to them to answer their questions. In doing that, he establishes the principles of giving that we want to think about today. Now these are not the only principles of giving in the Scriptures. They are elaborated on in other places, but these principles that he does touch on here in I Corinthians, chapter 16, form kind of a seed plot out of which all the other principles on giving are drawn in his other letters. So it is very important teaching that we have here in chapter 16.

The Principle of Practicality

He establishes six principles for giving in these verses to guide the Corinthians and of course to guide us in giving to the Lord's work. First, in verse 2, there is the principle of practicality. Paul doesn't call it that, but that's what I am calling it, for purposes of outline. Look at verse 2 again:

I Corinthians 16

2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

Notice especially the phrase, “that there be no collections when I come.” This did not mean that Paul did not want to take a collection. It did not mean that there is something wrong with taking collections and Paul did not want to be any part of that. Some people who read their Bible carelessly have actually made that kind of an application to this verse, and of course that is an example of not looking at the whole context. That's not at all what Paul was saying. What he is saying is that there is a practical aspect to giving. There is something valid, in fact something very important, about planning our giving. I am mentioning this first, even though other principles are listed before this one; I'm mentioning it first because it is an underlying principle having to do with New Testament giving.

Something else we should notice is that Paul is not collecting this money for himself. I think from what I have already said, you can gather that. Paul is not collecting this money for his personal use. In fact, we do not have any record of Paul ever having personally solicited money for himself. He thanks people for gifts that people have sent him in some of his letters, so we know that people did give him money, people did support him financially. In fact, in the earlier part of this letter, he established very clearly his right to be supported as a minister of the Gospel, but we never find anywhere Paul specifically asked people for money. There are several places in the New Testament where he uses the little phrase, “helped me on my way.” Some fundraisers have taken that to mean that Paul was saying, “When I come to you, I want you to give me an offering which will help me on my way.”

Responsibility to Help Others

If we take that phrase and follow it through its use in the New Testament, it can be demonstrated that he was speaking about encouragement. He was speaking about requesting their prayers. He never specifically asked for money. In fact, in chapter 9, verse 15, he specifically said that he would not take money from the Corinthians for himself; but notice he did not hesitate to make known the needs of others. He didn't hesitate to talk about money. He didn't hesitate to let his spiritual children know that they had a responsibility to help other people.

There is an application here, I think, and that is that when you have a financial need, when any of us have a financial need, we should be very careful not to be looking for clever ways to let other people know about that. Now the Bible does not ever say that we should not tell people when we're in need. I'm not saying that. There is nothing wrong, if the Lord is leading you, in telling other people that you have a financial need, but what I'm saying at this point is that we need to be careful that we don't cleverly work that into the conversation. God will take care of letting that need be known. We don't have any record that the Christians in Jerusalem wrote the Corinthians to ask for money or that the Christians in Jerusalem sent a representative to Corinth for the money. They apparently prayed about it, and the Apostle Paul knew about it. A lot of Christians knew about it, and the Apostle Paul took it on as a project to raise that money.

What I am saying is this: When you have a financial need, the first thing you ought to do about it is pray about it. The first thing you ought to do, and the thing that you ought to continually keep doing, is to let the Lord know about that need. He knows it anyway, but He wants to hear your acknowledgment of it. He wants to hear you say, “Lord, I know that this is my problem. I can't meet it, and I put it on your shoulders.” Then you let the Lord direct in whom you tell about it, if anybody. The Lord may appoint for you some Apostle Paul or someone who will play that role that the Apostle Paul played about the Jerusalem offering. Somebody else may take care of letting your needs be known, but don't go around trying to cleverly work into the conversation that you have some kind of financial need. If you're going to let it be known at all, then do it directly and up front and be sure that the Lord is leading you to do that. Many times it is hard for us to just make an up-front, open request for help. Our pride gets in the way, but the problem is that when our pride gets in the way like that, and we can't make an open, honest appeal for help, we then slip around and try to do it in some round about way and try to work it into the conversation. Let the Lord take care of it. You let the Lord know what your needs are. You acknowledge your needs to the Lord, and let Him take care of it, and here is an example of how he does that. He burdened the Apostle Paul to go around and raise money for this need in Jerusalem.

Legitimate Aspects of Raising Money

There is another aspect to this instruction, and that is that Paul wanted to get this taken care of in advance. He didn't want to be raising money when he came to Corinth. Again, that is not because he was opposed to taking up an offering. As I mentioned a while ago, some people have taken that application from this verse, but what Paul is saying, if we think about all the things that he has written to the Corinthians about his coming to visit them, it's just this: He had more important things to do when he came to Corinth than to spend time raising money. That's something they could do before he ever got there, and then they would not have to spend a lot of time raising money while he was there as their spiritual father to guide them in some other areas.

That tells us something that we need to keep in mind, and that is that even though it is legitimate to raise money, as I've mentioned a few minutes ago, we should never let the raising of money take the time that could be spent in dealing with other matters. It is perfectly legitimate to talk about our financial needs as a church. It is perfectly legitimate for me as pastor to stand before you and say, “Now folks, we need this amount of dollars, for this project.” There is nothing unbiblical about that at all, but as pastors and as elders, and as those in authority in a local church, we who are in those positions need to be very careful that we use a practical approach about that and that we let those needs be known in such a way that it doesn't take time away from what we are really gathered here to do on Sunday. What are we gathered here on Sunday for? To raise money or to worship the Lord? Certainly our purpose is to worship the Lord, to feed on His Word, to be filled up so that we can go out and minister to others; and we need to handle our financial needs in such a way that it doesn't take time away from that.

Probably all of us are familiar with television and radio programs where a huge portion of the time that they are on the air is spent raising money. It's not Biblical. It may be that those programs need to do it by mail. It's not my responsibility to tell them how to do it, but to use the Apostle Paul's pattern, he said, “Now I'm coming to see you, and I'm coming to work on some things that you need to know spiritually; but before I come, I want you to take this offering so that that will be out of the way before I get there so that we will not have to spend time raising money when I'm there.”

No Giving Under Pressure

There is another implication of that also. The Apostle Paul was just that–he was an apostle. It is hard for us to really understand the power and influence that an apostle in the New Testament days had. The apostle, before the Scripture was completed, carried the authority of God Himself. When he came and spoke to the Christians, he was speaking on the behalf of Jesus Christ. He was something like the Pope in the Catholic Church today. Even the Apostles didn't claim, as the Pope very erroneously does, to be the vicar of Christ–taking the place of Christ. The apostles never claimed that, but they were much closer to it than the Pope is. They were the representatives of Christ until such time as the canon of Scripture could be completed. So if Paul had waited until he got there to raise that offering, he knew that would have put those Corinthians under tremendous pressure. He knew that some of them probably would give just because the Apostle was there and just because the Apostle might either notice that they did give or find out that they didn't give. Paul said, “I don't want any of that.”

The implication is, “I don't want to put you under that kind of pressure.” Giving should never be done in a pressurized kind of way. You should never allow yourself to be in a situation where you give because you are afraid the “powers that be” will find out you didn't give. One of the practices that we have tried to follow in this church is that we have several treasurers. We have, right now, about five different men who are the treasurers of different funds, and those men get together and a number of them count the offering. On any given Sunday, after the morning and evening services, whichever of those treasurers are here get together and count those offerings, sort the money out to go into the various funds that you have designated your offerings to go to.

There are two things about that. Number one, it keeps any one man from keeping a total tab on what anybody gives. There is no one man who is responsible to count the offering every Sunday. On any given Sunday, several treasurers may not be there, so there is no way for any one man to keep track of what you give. Then a second procedure in that is that the pastor's staff never sees those offerings. Once in a while one of the treasurers will show to me a check to see what fund it should go in, or something like that, but rarely do I see what any of you give. That is the way it should be. You should never–and if you didn't know this already, you need to know it now–have in your mind, as you make your offering, “I wonder what Tim will think if he sees that I didn't give to this project,” or “I wonder if Tim will be impressed when he sees how much I gave.” If that has been your mind set all along, I hate to disillusion you, but I rarely know what anybody gives, and that is as it should be. The Apostle Paul said, “I don't want to be a part of this offering. I don't want to spend my time when I get there taking it, and I don't want to put you under the pressure of giving just because I'm there.”–a very important principle of planning ahead in the way we administer our offerings. So that's the underlying principle of practicality.

The Principle of Punctuality

Verse 2 also contains another principle, and that is what I'm calling “The Principle of Punctuality.” Look at verse 2 again:

I Corinthians 16

2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

Notice especially the phrase, “upon the first day of the week.” Through the years many people have said, “This is referring to the offering. The first day of the week is Sunday, and so this means that on the first day of the week, you need to give an offering.” Let's look carefully at what this says: “On the first day of the week, let each of you lay something aside, storing up as you may prosper.” In other words, you see, the focus is not so much the idea of doing your giving on a particular day as in having a regular program of giving. What he's talking about here is not a Sunday morning or Sunday evening offering in church, but he is saying you should have as part of your financial program a regular process of setting money aside for the Lord's use.

Now in that day and time, in that culture, they were paid on the first day of the week. Sunday was not the big special day that it is legally in our world today. It is getting less and less that way in our world, but for non-Christians who were in the vast majority in that day and time, Sunday was just another day; it was the first day of the week. The Jewish world had Saturday as their holy day, and here was this little group of Christians, if they possibly could, who would take time off from that first day of the week and get together with other Christians. It wasn't Sunday in the sense that we think about it, so he is not saying you need to take an offering in your church services. He is not saying that at all. He's saying that on payday–for them that was the first day of the week–whenever that is, whether that's quarterly or weekly, daily, whenever you deal with your financial matters, be sure that you also deal with the matter of the Lord's work. When you are handling your budget, be sure that there is some consideration given to the Lord's work because, you see, all of the money is the Lord's anyway.

It's not a matter of giving a percentage to the Lord and then all the rest is yours to pay the bills with. What Paul is saying is that on payday–for them on the first day of the week–be sure that you lay something aside for the Lord's work. In fact he says, “storing up as he may prosper.” We will talk more about that in a minute, but the principle of punctuality, the fact that our giving should not be just helter-skelter, random giving, here and there if we are moved by a particular need; but this should be something that is a part of our financial thinking, part of our financial planning, that every time we deal with monetary matters, every time we pay the household bills, or whatever that may mean for you, the Lord's work should be a part of your thinking. It's not a bad idea to do our giving on Sunday, but the focus of the verse is to have a specific time when we deal with the matter of giving.

The Principle of Pervasiveness

The third principle in verse 2 is the principle of pervasiveness. Notice the phrase, “Let every one of you”–“every one of you.” You see, every one of us as a believer has a responsibility to give to the Lord's work. Someone says, “I just don't have the money to do that.” He didn't say, “Let those of you who have the money, do it.” He said, “Let every one of you deal with this.” Notice, though, he says, “storing up as he may prosper.” We have dealt with this on other occasions, and I'm not going to take the time to go into it in detail, but the New Testament does not teach anywhere that you have to give ten percent of your income to the Lord. You will not find that in the New Testament. He tells us to deal with it. He tells us to deal with it regularly. He tells every one of us to deal with it, but he says to do this giving as you may prosper. Now if it helps you to think in terms of percentage, that is all right, but don't think God has put you under that kind of bondage.

If you're going to insist on tithing, then you need to know that the tithe in the Old Testament was not ten percent. The tithe of ten percent was just for the priest in the temple. Everyone seems to think that somewhere in the Bible God says, “Give me ten percent and the rest of it is yours.” That ten per cent was just for the priest in the temple. Maybe that's why it has become so popular. Preachers like to talk about that, but if you were to add up all of the things that God required the Old Testament believers to give, it came to something like thirty-two percent. So if you are going to insist on tithing, you need to know what tithing really is.

In the New Testament, God does not even talk about tithing. He talks about giving as you may prosper. Some Christians could give ten percent and never even notice the difference. There are some Christians who could give fifty percent of their income and never even notice the difference. What God is saying is that you should decide how much to give of this money that God has given you, how much of this money that God has allowed you to earn with the brains that He has given you, the talent that He has given you, or the education that He has given you. God says, “I have given you this money, and now it is your responsibility to decide how much of that you're going to use on yourself and your family and how much of it you are going to use on Me. It is to be based on how much you prosper.”

Another implication of that is when you are making more money, you should be giving more money. When you are making less money, maybe God wants you to give less money. You do not need to be in bondage to some kind of a definite number, some kind of a definite percentage; but on the other hand, you definitely need to always keep this matter in your thinking, every one of you.

Gifts From Believers Only

There is something else that is here in this little phrase. “Let every one of you,” and that is that giving is to be done by believers only. Giving is to be done by believers only. Paul has established over and over again that this is the letter to the Corinthian believers. It is very clear that God wants to supply the needs of His work through His people. In Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 8, it says:

Proverbs 15

8The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.

There is no way that we can thoroughly distinguish when the men count the offering on Sundays. They don't say, “By the way, are you a Christian? We need to know before we deposit your check. We need to know if you are a Christian or not.” We are not carrying it to that extent, but the point is, as churches and as ministers, we should be extremely careful about soliciting money from unbelievers. We should never knowingly take money from an unbeliever. That may be hard to take, but that is what the Scripture says. Why would that be? Isn't their money just as good as someone else's? I have heard preachers say, “Boy, the devil has had that money long enough; let the Lord use it for a while.” I think God's reasoning in this, and what He means in Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 8, is that a wicked person–in Proverbs' terms, the unbeliever–may get the idea that he is going to earn God's favor by giving an offering. And if you are here today as an unbeliever, just let me tell you that you can give the biggest offering we have ever had here in this church, and it will not sway God's opinion of you. You still are just as much on your way to Hell, if you have not accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, as you would be if you had not given that large offering. God doesn't want anybody to get the idea that they can somehow gain His favor by giving money. You already have God's favor. He demonstrated that by letting Jesus Christ die on the cross for your sins, and if you are not a believer, then no amount of money can change that. When you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, then God will direct you to give money.

A Personal Program

The fourth principle in this verse is the personal program, and we have touched on this already, but let me just mention it again. He says, “Let every one of you lay something aside.” The King James text says, “Store up to himself.” In other words, the program is to be yours, not the church's. The Bible does not teach what some churches call, “storehouse giving” or “storehouse tithing,” that you just make your offering to the church, then the church will divvy it up for you and decide where it all goes. Certainly the church's needs are a part of your giving, a part of your responsibility in giving, and you may want to give to several different programs that the church is administering. There is nothing wrong with that, but you are the one who is to always decide where your money will go. You should never give an offering and say; “Well, you all just put this where ever you want to.” The Scripture says; “Lay up for yourselves, lay aside for yourself.” God wants you to take the responsibilty for praying about the needs that you hear about, and you follow His leading as to where you put your money.

This is not in any way critical of those of you who give me a check–and particularly it happens with ministries like the radio and television ministries or offerings that are sent in by mail and they will just say: “Just put this where it is needed most.” We appreciate that, and God appreciates that. We know that it is done out of a sincere heart, but I'm here to tell you today that the Bible says that you are the one who should pray for the Lord's leading about where the money should go. Don't put that responsibility off on the pastor. For those who don't know any better or for those who may pray about it and the Lord may tell you, “Give this to the pastor, and tell him to use it.” If you know the Lord has led you in that, it's all right; and if you've done that out of ignorance, then please don't be offended. I'm just telling you what the Scripture says. You should be praying about where that money is to go. You hear about the needs, pray about the needs, and let the Lord tell you where to put that money.

The Principle of Proportion

A fifth principle is established in verse 2, with the phrase, “as God has prospered you.” We have already touched on this, but let me just put it in terms of an outline, “The Principle of Proportion.” As I said a few minutes ago, it is not a matter of giving a tenth and then the rest is yours to do with however you want. But it is a matter of distributing the Lord's money acceptably.

The thing that I want to get across to you today, the thing that is the underlying principle of the New Testament, is what Paul referred to in II Corinthians, as stewardship. Now we are not very familiar with stewards in our society, but in the Roman world, in the world in which Paul lived and wrote, the steward was a member of the household staff in large, wealthy homes. Today we would probably think in terms of the business manager of a corporation or a personal fortune. That's the concept of the word “steward.” But Paul says that every Christian should think of himself as a steward. Every Christian should think of himself as a business manager of the money that God has given him. As I mentioned earlier, even if you've earned that money by the sweat of your brow, God gave you the brow and God gave you the sweat. Even if you have earned that money because of your brilliant mind or by your years of training, God enabled you to get that training and gave you that brilliant mind. All the money is His and you are simply the administrator for the Lord. So there is none of this business of ten percent is the Lord's and the rest of it is mine. That is absolutely untrue. That is unbiblical to think that way. The principle is the principle of proportion: “As He has prospered, let him give.”

God has promised over and over again to meet all of our needs, to take care of all of our needs for clothing and food, and God sometimes defines needs differently than we define needs. God's definition is always the correct definition, but God expects you to use your income for food and clothing. He has promised to give you the income for that purpose to meet those needs in some way, and with most of us it is by means of a regular income that we earn. There is nothing wrong whatsoever; God intends for you to use some of that money for food and clothing, but at the same time he also expects you to administer that money, in proportion to what you have received, for His honor and glory. So we are business managers. It's the “principle of proportion”–distributing the Lord's money according to the needs.

The Principle of Propriety

Verses 3 and 4 contain a sixth financial principle, and that is the principle of propriety. Notice in verses 3 and 4.

I Corinthians 16

3And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
4And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.

Notice what he says: “I will send whoever you appoint with your offering to Jerusalem.” In other words, Paul did not want there to be any question of his involvement with this money. He said, “You pick out the representatives who will carry the offering to Jereusalem. All I am doing is publicizing the need. All I am doing is giving you some instructions about responding to the need, but I'm not going to handle that money myself. If you want me to go with the men you pick out, then I will do that. But I want you to pick out the men who will handle the money.” It comes back again to what I mentioned earlier of our practice here in this church, of having several treasurers who jointly handle the money and the pastor, as much as possible, staying away from the handling of the money. That kind of provision should always be made within the church structure.

There is a personal application, too, and that personal application is that we should be just as careful in handling the Lord's money as we would be in handling somebody else's money. If somebody gave you a twenty dollar bill, for example, and said, “Would you see to it that this gets put into the offering on Sunday? I'm not going to be able to go, and I want to make an offering. Would you see that it gets into the offering?”, you would stumble over yourself trying to make sure that that money got in the offering, wouldn't you? You would honor your friend's request, and whether you got your own offering in or not, you would make sure his got in, because that is what they asked you to do, and it is the Lord's money. But how careful are we with handling our money that way? You see, that is the point. It's all the Lord's money, whether it is the money your friend gave you, entrusted to you to get into the offering or whether it is money God gave you to get into the offering. All of it is the Lord's, and Paul said, “I want this to be handled open and above board and in a very principled fashion.”

Economics plays a major role in the affairs of individuals, and even in affairs of nations. Nations have risen and fallen on the basis of economics. It happens all of the time. Wars are fought over wealth and ownership of resources, and yet I think most Christians don't really know what God has to say about money and it's use. It is imperative that we understand these principles and the other principles in the Scriptures that are mentioned. These verses are really just some of the principles, but they are the underlying principles of handling our money, and giving to the Lord's work.

Our Attitude Toward Money

Let me ask you something as we conclude. What do you think about money? Do you think it is yours to do with as you please, and if you feel like it and if you're in a real generous mood, you will use some of it to give to all of these different ministries that keep hounding you about money? If you are like me, you get two or three letters every day from some Christian organization needing money, and if you are in a real generous mood, you will see what you can do to help those poor folks. Do you realize that you are really an administrator of God's resources? For most of us there is no way we can respond to all of the requests for money that we get. It's just impossible for most Christians. There are a few wealthy Christians who are able to give a little something to everybody that asks for money, but God doesn't necessarily want us to give to every request that we get. He wants us to think about this and pray about it and handle His money in a way that honors Him.

We have listed in our bulletin several different needs, several different ministries that the Lord has given us here. It is very conceivable that the Lord would never burden you to give to one or two, or several of those. It is not conceivable that the Lord would never burden you to give anything to this church because the Lord tells us that the church is our central focal point. The church is the agency, really, through which all of His work should be carried out, so God will burden you to give to your church. If you feel otherwise, then you need to talk to me or some other Bible teacher about that. You should be giving to the church where you fellowship. You may also give to many other ministries, but what I'm talking about right now is your attitude. Do you understand that you are God's business manager? Do you understand that just like a business manager of some corporation, you're probably not going to be able to give to every need you hear about?

Why do you think God established a monetary system in the first place? Being God, don't you think that He could have established our culture without the use of money? Of course He could have! Many of us would probably prefer it be that way. He could have gotten by without money. He could have gotten our whole society to function without money. It would have taken the mind of God to do it, but He could have done it.

Why do you suppose God included money in the context of our human lives? I believe it is because that is the most effective way to put our eyes on Him, the most effective way to get us to think about what He would have us do. It is a personal link with Him. It is His personal way of demonstrating our trust in Him. There is something about the pocketbook that really gets our attention, isn't there? God knows that, and He has designed our giving and our receiving in just that way. So if you will handle your finances the way God wants you to, it will automatically draw you into a close relationship with Him, praying for His guidance, praying for His provision–that's the way God intended it to be done.

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