1 Corinthians 16:1-9
On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don't wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. – 1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT
At his point in his letter, Paul returns to answering the series of questions that he had received from the Corinthians regarding a range of different topics. Here he deals with a question about the collection of money for the needy believers back in Jerusalem. Not only had the believers throughout Judea endured tremendous persecution as a result of their faith in Christ, the entire region was in the midst of a terrible famine. The poor had been impacted especially hard. So the Corinthians had heard about the collection of relief funds being made among the Gentile churches and had sent questions to Paul regarding it. Paul's response revealed his practical nature. He simply instructed them to set aside a portion of their income on the first day of the week. That would have been Sunday, the day on which the New Testament church had chosen as their normal day of worship. Notice that there was no percentage given. Paul did not tell them how much to give or how much to collect. He simply said that they should set aside a portion each week and designate it for the offering being collected.
One of the fascinating things about this section is what it reveals about the global community of believers in those early days. Paul and the other apostles seemed to know that the body of Christ was not to be relegated to some local gathering of believers in a particular city or region. The body of Christ was global and international, and there was a need for the body to care for itself regardless of location or language. The Gentile believers in places like Corinth and Galatia were expected to love and care for the Jewish converts in a place as far away as Judea. Paul was in a unique position to witness the growing global context of the Church as he traveled all around the known world at that time. He had witnessed first-hand the unprejudiced, unbiased call of Christ to all peoples. He knew full well the command of Christ to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19 NLT). For Paul, the Church was global in nature and communal in calling. He had already talked a great deal in his letter to the Corinthians about the necessity of love within their own local community, but he also wanted them to understand that their love must extend beyond the confines of their own congregation. The body of Christ must care for itself, without reservation or prejudice.
Paul was indiscriminate in his love for the lost and his care for the body of Christ. He traveled extensively and wrote incessantly. He would go anywhere and share the Gospel with anyone. He faced constant opposition for his efforts, but never let it prevent him from doing what God had called and commissioned him to do. He spent three years in Ephesus alone, because there was "a wide open door for a great work" there. But Paul knew that the key to the long-term sustainability and viability of the Church was its ability to care for itself. He knew he had to raise up leaders and motivate selfless generosity among all of those who called themselves followers of Christ. And the same need exists today. How easy it is for any local fellowship to be myopic and self-absorbed, thinking only of their own needs and their own ministry. We have some churches that are thriving while others are barely surviving. Some pastors are well taken care of by their local congregation, while others must hold down two other jobs in order to make ends meet. There are churches closing their doors for lack of funds, while others enjoy a surplus of income. Believers all across the world are suffering great persecution for their faith. Many have lost their jobs and live in poverty. There are congregations of believers in third-world countries where the pastors have little in the way of formal education, no biblical training, and few resources to minister to their flocks. Bibles are scarce. Houses of worship are nothing more than mud huts or a hidden spot in a forest. The Good News of Jesus Christ is spreading all around the world, just as it did in the days of Paul. But the question is whether or not the generosity and graciousness of God's people is accompanying that growth. Are we caring for the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? Are we even aware of their needs? Or are they out of sight and out of mind? The body of Christ is global, not just local. My neighbor is not just the one living next door to me. My brother is not just the one who attends church with me. When Jesus commanded us to love one another, He wasn't just thinking about the one standing next to us who happens to attend the same church with us. He was calling His people to love one another globally and communally. And the greatest expression of our love is to not only share the Gospel with them, but our resources as well.
Father, give me a g!obal perspective. Help me to see the Church as something far greater and bigger than just my local congregation. Give me a love for all those who call on the name of Christ all around the world. Show me how to support them with my prayers and resources. Don't let me overlook them. Don't allow me to ignore them. They are your sons and daughters and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.