‘On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up.’ (1 Cor. 16:2)
Paul was giving advice to the Christians in Corinth about how they would be able to give money to help the people of Jerusalem, who were experiencing famine. His advice also has plenty of value beyond that specific circumstance, however.
Collecting as a church[perfectpullquote align=”right” size=”17″]Someone’s dodgy repayment history might discourage you from ‘lending’. So don’t consider it lending; give (still calling it a loan), and then your treasure will be in heaven. Take the opportunity to prove where your heart is.[/perfectpullquote]
Every church today has a weekly ‘collection’ that works in this way. That money allows the church to respond to the various needs it is aware of, giving help to those in the local community, aid to church members who experience loss, and so on. They’re also big enough communities to contribute significantly towards relief efforts in response to global disasters as well as sponsoring ongoing efforts like medical and educational programs for those most in need in the world.
Everyone who belongs to a church of God is expected to contribute to this collection: in 2 Corinthians 8, Paul upheld the example of the Macedonians who gave even while enduring ‘extreme poverty’ themselves, leaving the relatively well-off Corinthians without excuse. In the same way, our brothers and sisters in poor circumstances worldwide give from the little that they have.
Many churches now facilitate giving via direct debit, but it’s still a good habit to prioritise giving at least some of your regular contribution in cash on a Sunday morning – we have come together to give worship to God, and starting by giving materially prepares us for this.
Collecting as an individual
While we are encouraged to have our generosity primarily demonstrated towards the house of God (Gal. 6:10), we are expected to give towards anyone who has more need than ourselves (Luke 3:11) and Paul’s advice works for individuals too.[perfectpullquote size=”16″]Many churches now facilitate giving via direct debit, but it’s still a good habit to prioritise giving at least some of your regular contribution in cash on a Sunday morning – we have come together to give worship to God, and starting by giving materially prepares us for this.[/perfectpullquote]
In an increasingly cashless society, we can lose some of our ability to respond to needs we see in the street merely by not having money on us. Therefore, if we are going to be serious about prioritising giving away our possessions as Christians (and we should be: see Luke 12:33), it might be time to keep a separate wallet or purse with cash we can use (for example) to buy a person a taxi fare when they’re stuck and in distress. Having the money ready and already budgeted for good works means that you cannot be distracted from your giving by making excuses about the distance to cash machines, nor will you be possessive about something you’ve already mentally given away.
Furthermore, see if your banking app allows for you to budget within your account. Make a budget for charitable giving, and put money in it each week. Then, next time you are invited to sponsor someone’s charitable activity, or give to a fundraiser, or see a tragedy on the news, you have the ability to give as liberally as your heart weighs on you.
Giving, called by another name
Sometimes, the manner in which we are asked for money is more of a stumbling block than our means to give. Lending is one of the most common examples of this throughout the Bible: the Israelites were instructed to not consider lending an opportunity for personal gain (Exod. 22:25), but Jesus pushes this further by telling us to “lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35). Still, someone’s dodgy repayment history might discourage you from ‘lending’. So don’t consider it lending; give (still calling it a loan), and then your treasure will be in heaven. Take the opportunity to prove where your heart is. (Mat. 6:21)