While we often think of Paul as a great teacher, missionary, and theologian, we might also think of him as a great “social worker” as well. I do not mean this literally, of course, or in a secular sense. What I do mean is that the gathering of a special offering for the relief of the poor believers in Jerusalem was one of the most important ministries of Paul’s missionary journeys. And in this offering, we see that just as Paul faithfully preached the Gospel, so he also was committed to meeting the physical and material needs of those to whom he ministered.
It was vital to Paul that people put their faith into practice. One of the ways he encouraged people to do this was through generous giving. Here we learn several governing principles for sharing what we have as an essential part of faithfully following Jesus.
1. Giving should be systematic. Paul writes that on the “first day of every week” the Corinthians should set aside a portion of their income as an offering to God.
2. Giving is for everyone. Notice that Paul addresses his instructions to “each of you.” Anyone who had an income also had the privilege of sharing in giving to God’s work.
3. Giving is relative to earnings. Those who make more should give more (“you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income” is how the TNIV puts it. The Message is more succinct: “Be as generous as you can.”)
Clearly, these principles apply to us as well. Duty goes with doctrine. May we be those who give as freely to others as God has given to us.