A Question About Giving

Does 1 Corinthians 16:2 require that we give weekly as opposed to once a month or some other way?

Old habits die hard! This verse has been looked at by some in a certain way for so long that it’s close to impossible for them to see it any other way. It’s like one of those two-way pictures that you get locked into looking at one way and have to have someone else point out the other way of viewing it.

1. This passage does not speak of the regular weekly contribution we take up in our assemblies.

2. It speaks of a contribution that began with the reception of this letter by the Corinthians and ended when Paul came to Corinth (v. 2-4). To make this part of a pattern for us today is to ignore the fact that Paul is discussing a one time contribution —not an ongoing command like love one another.

3. We know that the contribution was for the Christians in Jerusalem because Paul and Luke tell us (Romans 15:25-28; Acts 24:17). If we’re going to be consistent in using this passage, we need to find an apostle named Paul, have him give letters for those approved by us, and send our money with him and the group to needy believers in Jerusalem.

4. Paul never commanded the Corinthians to participate in this collection. His instructions have to do with the manner in which they should give if they decided to participate (on the first day of the week, proportionally)—so that when he comes he doesn’t have to be delayed while each of them scrounges around for their contribution. (Anyone who has ever participated in fund raising for school or sports or done any bill collecting knows how time intensive this can be. Paul wisely wishes to avoid this).

Once again, even though Paul was quite precise and to the point about how they were to give, the choice to give was voluntary. In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul refers to their participation in the collection as an “act of grace,” (8:6). In 8:12 and 9:5, he speaks of it as “a gift.” In 8:8 he tells them, “I am not commanding you.” Could it be any clearer than that? I shared passage this with a business oriented individual who always kept a watchful eye on the congregation’s finances (and God bless him for that!). He kept returning to 1 Corinthians 16:1, “Do what I told the Galatians to do,” in an attempt to prove that Paul was commanding them (and by implication us), to give. If we didn’t have these statements from Paul in 2 Corinthians 8-9 maybe such a case could be made (maybe), but we do have them and we must let Paul’s explanation of his words trump ours. Participation in this collection was voluntary!

5. If 1 Corinthians 16:2 doesn’t speak of regular weekly collection taken up by a church to meet its own needs, then this passage obviously doesn’t authorize it. To quote this text and say it sets a pattern for us is to completely ignore the context. I think the best we can say is that here is a way the church in the first century took care of a disaster relief situation. If we would like to use it as a model for similar situations we could, but I don’t see how it could be regarded as binding in any sense.

To answer the question posed, there’s nothing wrong with contributing monthly rather than weekly. It would have been wrong for the Corinthians, but since we’re not taking up a one time offering to send with the apostle Paul (and others approved by us) to the saints at Jerusalem, it has nothing to say to us today in that regard.

6. Why this is worth the time you’re investing in reading and me in writing is this: giving (of any kind) is fundamental. There are tons of texts that deal with our responsibility to give. This being so, we need to approach it in an appropriate manner. To employ this passage in a proof text approach to giving is not only exegetically wrong, but in the long run, I don’t think this is the way to produce mature, generous disciples. One place to start is 2 Corinthians 8-9 where Paul deals not just with the collection we’ve been discussing, but with inspiring examples of giving (8:1-5, 9), and many of the principle involved in any kind of giving (8:12,24, 9:5-8).  I think we’re much better off developing these truths than continually quoting a text that doesn’t apply to us!  

Questions You’ve Asked


Published by A Taste of Grace with Bruce Green

I grew up the among the cotton fields, red clay and aerospace industry of north Alabama. My wife and I are blessed with three adult children and five grandchildren.

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