“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and saved, as he may prosper, that no collection be made when I come.” (I Corinthians 16:1-2)
Uh, Apostle Paul, our committee has a suggestion for you. We’re surprised you didn’t think of it yourself.
We think you’re going to like this.
You have asked us to take up this offering to help the Jerusalem believers going through hard times, as you know. And, for the most part, we’re glad to do that.
But we’ve found the going pretty difficult. People don’t want to turn loose of the almighty shekel, as you know. In addition, our members have a hard time giving to people they don’t know. We have no pictures of needy children of Judea or first-hand stories of malnutrition to help motivate the giving.
So, we came up with a plan.
We want you to take up the offering, Paul.
We’ll simply wait until you get here to Corinth. The people will turn out to see you and they will hang on your every word. After all, you birthed our church and we all owe you a great deal. No one can do this offering better than you, Paul. (A big crowd equals a big offering. You can put that in one of your epistles if you like. It does sound like an adage for the ages, doesn’t it?)
Paul, you have lived in the Holy City. You know the Jerusalem church and its leadership. You can tell stories that make the hairs stand up on the back of the necks of your audience. That’s what we’re suggesting, beloved friend.
Just use your gifts, those Spirit-inspired gifts of persuasion and conviction, and the money will pour in.
How about it? Can we count on you? You’re the best.
Why Paul said no.
First, as to the offering itself.
For centuries, Jewish hospitality and generosity toward their own people in need was customary and legendary. Paul simply wanted the Christians to show the same energy toward helping the needy as their Jewish brethren.
Contributing to the needs of the Jerusalem church provided a way to establish Christian unity, to tie the scattered churches together. Christians are not just members of a local congregation, but members of “The Church” everywhere, with obligations to care for one another.
“That there be no offerings when I come.”
Paul did not want to be the designated offering-taker.
So, before anyone has a chance to suggest that he head up the fund-raiser, he stops that idea in its tracks. “No offerings when I come.”
In a later epistle to the same church, Paul said, “Let each one do as he has purposed in his heart; (giving) not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7).
Doubtless Paul could indeed generate the big offerings. But the people would be giving for all the wrong reasons: to impress him, to please him, under the sway of his strong plea, impulsively,emotionally, and possibly competitively.
There is such a thing as an unworthy offering and, as well, there are improper motivations and unsuitable appeals for people to give toward those offerings.
When offerings are received by the local leaders, there can be no questionable tactics used and full accounting can be done.
In former times, powerful and persuasive itinerant evangelists were sometimes known to present emotional appeals in their altar calls and for their offering plates which were stunning in their results. Stories linger to this day of the huge love-gifts certain preachers carted away for a few days’ work.
I say this to our shame
Here, then, is a caution God’s shepherds must always bear in mind about offerings taken for the work of the Lord….
–people love the personal touch and will be more likely to respond to a speaker when it has been established.
–people can be manipulated to do more, give more, sacrifice deeper, when skilled motivators are brought in for that purpose.
–after such manipulative offerings have been taken, the donors will soon regret what they did and resent the pastor who allowed them to be fleeced.
–never let a visiting preacher or missionary conduct the appeal for his own offering. The host pastor should do this and the normal receiving, counting, accounting, and reporting procedures should be followed. (That’s why I would never use the visiting minister’s “specially prepared envelopes.” Use your own.)
Integrity in giving is important. But for church leaders, integrity and Christlikeness in motivating people to give are every bit as important.
Let us honor Christ with all we do.