Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Danger of the Tongue

The picture used in the header is a collage of photographs that Norman Rockwell would utilize as a reference to create his painting "The Gossips."  While the piece is meant to be whimsical, it also serves to demonstrate the how gossip can spread across and entangle a community and reminds us to avoid the practice.

We'll return to the topic of gossip later, but for now, let's talk about words.

We're familiar with the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Unfortunately, we know all too well that this is not always true.  We know that words can actually be quite devastating...

The Powerful Tongue

Proverbs 18:21 says that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue…" 

How is it possible that the tongue, something so small, could hold so much power?

James 3:5-12 explains "…So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."

We must understand that we are not only responsible for the actions that we make in this life, but also the words that we speak.

The tongue is capable of good or evil and even though we just read that we cannot fully tame it, we need to do our best to try.

A saying that we are all familiar with:  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Unfortunately, this is not always true!

Words have meaning.  Words are powerful.  We forget sometimes just how powerful our words, for good or evil, can be!

Offensive Language

One of the most obvious ways that our tongue can lead to sin is through the use of offensive language.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say, “They’re just words!”  Words have meaning and overuse doesn’t diminish the meaning.  Just because someone has personally become desensitized to using racial slurs, curse words, and other forms of offensive language doesn’t mean that others have.

For those that think that “they’re just words” and it doesn’t matter what kind of language they use, Ephesians 5:3-5 states:  But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

In this verse we see offensive language as being equal with fornication, uncleanness, covetousness and idolatry and is apparently serious enough that those who use it should not inherit the kingdom of Christ and God.

I think that one of the major reasons that offensive language is such a problem is that people can become callous to it, not only using it in moments of wrath but integrating it into our everyday speech.  Thanks to our music, movies, TV, and the internet, we are ever-increasingly exposed to this filthiness (dirty language), foolish talking, and coarse jesting (dirty jokes).  We must be extremely careful to not conform to the world and become callous to the use of offensive language.

I was listening to a song the other day that mentioned offensive language:  “Ever since I learned how to curse, I’ve been using those sorry old words. But, I’m talkin’ to these children, and I’m keeping it clean. I don’t need those words to say what I mean. No, I don’t need those words to say what I mean...”

Curse words don’t enhance our language in any way and, as the song pointed out, we don’t need them to say what we mean.

Just as we read earlier in Ephesians, instead of engaging in unrighteous ways, we should seek what is fitting for saints and live worthy of our calling.

Angry Words

One of the easiest ways for the tongue to cause trouble is when we exhibit anger.  In the heat of an argument, we say many things which are hurtful.  We can never take these words back once they’ve escaped our mouths.  In an instance, a relationship can be damaged forever.

We sometimes sing a song from our hymn book called “Angry Words”.  Let us examine the lyrics:

Angry words! O let them never,
From the tongue unbridled slip,
May the heart's best impulse ever,
Check them ere they soil the lip.

Love is much too pure and holy,
Friendship is too sacred far,
For a moment's reckless folly,
Thus to desolate and mar.

Angry words are lightly spoken,
Bitterest thoughts are rashly stirred,
Brightest links of life are broken,
By a single angry word.

Love one another thus saith the Savior,
Children obey the Father's blest command,
Love each other, love each other,
'Tis the Father's blest command.

In the latter part of Matthew 12:34, Jesus says that "...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."  

What is in our heart?  Hopefully, like our Savior, its love.

1 Corinthians 13:5-8 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth...

A Christian’s speech should reflect the love and truth that is in his/her heart.

When anger strikes, which it does when we sometimes least expect it, we need to remember these words:  Psalm 4:4 Be angry, and do not sin.  Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.

Just as it says in the Psalms, it’s OK to be angry, but not to sin.  When we get angry, instead of responding with words that we’ll only regret saying later, we need to take a deep breath and take a moment to gain perspective and calm down.


When I was in elementary school we would sometimes play the “telephone game”, in which someone in the class would make up a message and whisper it to another classmate who would whisper it to another and so on and so forth until finally the last student in the class would repeat the message that was whispered to them.  Often times, the final message would bear little resemblance to the original.

The results of the telephone game were comical, but the game reveals a very real and scary truth about gossip.  Someone sees or hears something and tells somebody else and before long, everyone has heard the news.

Ecclesiastes 10:14 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness— and fools multiply words.

Gossip can be devastating.  We all know of marriages, jobs, and even churches that have been torn apart by gossip.  The tragic part is that sometimes the tales being told in gossip aren’t even true to begin with!  A life can be destroyed through false testimony!

Proverbs 25:18 Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor. 

Long story short:  At the workplace, among friends, wherever:  A Christian should make every effort to not participate in gossip!

Additionally, we must be extra careful with our opinions because sometimes we can become unwilling participants in gossip.

Ecclesiastes 10:20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

Therefore, we must always be careful in our words, because sometimes they can become gossip when our conversations are overheard.


We might think that making a promise would be a good thing, a sign of trustworthiness.  However, another way our tongue could land us in trouble is when we make promises and oaths.

Proverbs 6:2 You have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth.

When we make an oath, we are obligated to perform what we have promised.

Jesus stated in Matthew 5:33-37: “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’  But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.  

Jesus states that under the Old Law that it was forbidden to make false oaths or to go against your word.  But Jesus takes this to the next level and states that we shouldn’t even make oaths at all, but instead let our “Yes” be “Yes” and our “No” be “No”!

Our simple statement of “Yes” or “No” should be our oath.

I know people that can’t even be trusted unless they make an oath of some kind.  They can’t let their “Yes” be “Yes” and their “No” be “No”.  And as if that isn’t bad enough, half the time you can’t even trust their promises.  They have become so callous to lying that it is like second nature to them.

The Deceitful Tongue

In writing about the wicked man, Psalm 10:7 says: His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; Under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.

Proverbs 17:20 He who has a deceitful heart finds no good, And he who has a perverse tongue falls into evil.

This one is a bit of a "no-brainer":  A lying tongue produces evil.  False witness is a sinful practice.  Jesus Himself was crucified over false witness.

Empty Words

The devil can be very subtle in his workings.  Sometimes things that appear to be harmless and the farthest thing in the world from sin can become so.  I would argue that the phrase “just kidding” can become problematic.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:36-37 "But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” 

The phrase “empty words” could be interpreted in any number of ways.  To me, it seems that “empty words” are words that have we intentionally or unintentionally put no meaning behind.  Empty words are words that we are not taking seriously.  As we read earlier, our “Yes” should be “Yes” and our “No” should be “No” and to me it seems that all of our words should be taken as it is.

If we say something untrue or hurtful, we’ve already said it and we can’t take it back and we can’t just turn around and then say “just kidding”, and just expect it to go away.

Speak Wisely

Proverbs 10:19 says, "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise"

Reading this verse, I can’t help but be reminded of the quote by Mark Twain:  “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Proverbs 12:18 There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health. 

Let us be wise in our words.  Let us use our words to build others up rather than tear them down.  Let us speak positively and seek to encourage and edify.

Some practical advice when it comes to our use of words: Think first, speak second...  And remember, God gave you two ears and one mouth; Perhaps that means that we should listen more than we should speak!

Let our pledge be that of the Psalmist in Psalm 39:1: "I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle."

Lessons from Cain and Abel

At a cursory glance there would seem to be little to glean from the account of Cain and Abel aside from the most basic of lessons.  To many, the “moral of the story” may merely be: Murder is wrong.

However, a deeper study can reveal further insights.  Through this account we can learn about God’s attitude toward worship, the nature of sin, and more.

Let us turn our attention to the account of Cain and Abel once again to see what wisdom we can attain from it.

Not All Worship is Acceptable to God

Notice that Cain becomes angry with Abel when he realizes that God respects Abel’s offering, but not his own.

Genesis 4:3-5 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

Apparently there was something wrong with Cain’s offering.  Was it the offering itself or was it the attitude of Cain?  Throughout the Old Testament we read that God commanded blood sacrifice from various livestock.  Abel supplied such an offering from his flock while Cain, a “worker of the ground”, offered some manner of fruit or vegetable.  Cain was disappointed to find that what he deemed an acceptable offering to God was not actually acceptable in the eyes of God.

If we’re not careful, we can make the same mistake today…  God’s Word gives us clear instructions for the manner in which we ought to worship.  If we deviate from God’s pattern, God is not pleased.  It was true in the Old Testament, it remains true in the New Testament.

Matthew 15:9  And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
The commandments of God are what matter, not the commandments of men.  We must understand that regardless of what mankind may reckon to be acceptable to God, if it is outside of God’s pattern He will not be pleased.  Our worship can be in vain if we are not following God’s pattern.

The Faith of Abel

What was it that made Abel’s offering so pleasing to God?

Hebrews 11:4  By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.

The Hebrew writer tells us that Abel’s faith was an integral component in God recognizing his offering as pleasing.  It was Abel’s faith that guided him into righteousness in God’s sight.  We can follow in Abel’s footsteps today.  How?

Romans 10:17  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith in God’s Word provides us with all the instruction we need in how we ought to worship and live righteously.

Faith is essential for pleasing God.

Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Faith is essential for salvation.

John 8:24  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

If we desire to please God and attain His salvation, faith like Abel’s is vital!

You Cannot Worship with the Wrong Attitude

We have already discussed the possibility that Cain’s offering was not pleasing to God because it went against His instructions for proper sacrifice.  But further study reveals that this was just part of Cain’s problems…

1 John 3:12  …Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.

Here Cain’s works are called evil.  Even before Cain murdered His brother, we see that his heart was not in the right place.  God speaks to Him and warns him of future sin.

Genesis 4:7  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.

Our method of worship is important, but the attitude that accompanies that worship is just as important!

John 4:24  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

It’s not enough to worship God “in truth”, adhering to God’s pattern of worship detailed in Scripture, but we must also worship God “in spirit”; We must have the proper attitude.  Cain did not exemplify the proper attitude when it came to worship.

Mark 11:25-26  And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

Cain was jealous of his brother and angry with him while seeking to worship God.  Are we guilty of the same?  Are we coming to worship God with sin in our heart?

Sin is Avoidable

It is important to realize that the story of Cain and Abel did not have to play out the way that it did.  Cain could have avoided sin altogether.  In fact, we read that God actually encouraged Cain to do the right thing and reminded him that he had the power to overcome temptation.

Genesis 4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.

Cain, had free will, just as we all do today.  It is only when we succumb to temptation that we engage in sin.

Matthew 26:41  Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

To avoid sin we must seek the strength of God.  Only in doing so can we overcome the weakness of the flesh.

1 Corinthians 10:13  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

God offers to help us avoid temptation and sin, but we have to be actively involved with a willing spirit.

The Progression of Sin

The account of Cain and Abel clearly illustrates the progressive nature of sin.  At first, Cain was merely jealous of Abel.  He was angry that Abel’s offering was pleasing to God while his own offering was not.  This anger escalated to the point that Cain lashed out at his brother in a murderous rage.

Jesus tells us that all sin – murder included – begins in the heart.

Matthew 5:21-22  You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

The argument of the proverbial “slippery slope” is a very unpopular one, but that is the way sin works!

James 1:13-16  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

The unfortunate, ultimate conclusion of sin is spiritual death, eternal separation from God.  It all begins when we allow sin to have even the slightest foothold in our heart.  We must strive to avoid temptation at all cost!

You Can’t Hide Sin from God

Sometimes we read of God asking questions to which He already knows the answers.

This is a phenomenon that I understood somewhat as a teacher, but now have a much better understanding of as a parent;  When one of my students or my child does something wrong, one of the first things I do is ask them what they did, not because I don’t know, but because I want them to understand the seriousness of the misdeed they chose to engage in.

In the same manner God confronts Cain with his own sinful deed, helping him understand the gravity of the situation…

Genesis 4:10  And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.

Whether it’s Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:9), Cain, King David (2 Samuel 12:1-15), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), or us today…  God knows when we commit sin.  We cannot hide any wrongdoing from His sight.

Numbers 32:33  But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.

We know that we will be judged according to our works.

Ecclesiastes 12:14  For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.

We Are Our Brother’s Keeper

In the course of being confronted by God - standing condemned of the horrible sin of killing his brother - Cain actually has the nerve to ask Him, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God doesn’t bother to answer Cain’s evasive inquiry, but a Christian knows that the answer to that question is “Yes!”

James 2:15-17  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

We cannot ignore the needs of those around us.  Christians are obligated to care for others!
While this is certainly true in the physical sense, it is also true in the spiritual sense.  The spiritual well-being of others must also be our concern!

Galatians 6:1  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

As Christians, we are to love all.  This particularly applies to those within the church, but we are charged with looking out for the well-being of all we come into contact with.  We must love our neighbor!

1 John 4:20-21  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

God Still Loved Cain

Of course, the story of Cain does not end with the murder of his brother.  After God confronts Cain with his sin, Cain is given his sentence.  We read that Cain is cursed to be an exile for the rest of his days, wandering the Earth as a fugitive.  Subsequently, Cain becomes fearful and worries that he will be killed.

There seems to be no evidence that Cain was ever remorseful for his sin nor that he ever repented.  His name actually became synonymous with rebellion (Jude 1:11).

However, in spite of all this, we see that God still cared for Cain.

Genesis 4:15  Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.

In the same way, Christ cares for us today.

Romans 5:8  For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We have all been guilty of sin.  For such rebellion we deserve death.  We certainly do not deserve forgiveness.  But Christ loves us so much that He was willing to die for us anyway and make forgiveness – the remission of sin – possible.

What are we willing to give in return for this indescribable, unrepayable gift?

Let’s strive to be better than Cain and take a cue from the faithful offering of Abel.

Psalm 51:16-19  For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—  These, O God, You will not despise.  Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;  Build the walls of Jerusalem.  Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;  Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

Based on a lesson by John Baxter

Friday, January 6, 2017

Christian Giving

There is much confusion in the world today concerning giving in the Church.  Many realize that we are commanded to give contribution, but there are often questions about when, how much, and what for.

Before we answer such questions, it is first important realize that everything we have comes from God.

James 1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

We use a lot of time discussing how best to use the Lord’s money within the context of the church, but I wonder if we properly appreciate the fact that really all money is the Lord’s money?

My friend and brother in Christ David Baxter once said the following on this very topic:  "We use the Lord’s money to pay our cable bill. We buy cat litter and coffee and cigarettes... and sometimes we give a little bit to the church."

Very sobering words!

Taking this all into consideration – recognizing that every physical blessing we have was given to us by God, including money – I hope that we develop an attitude of thanksgiving.  With this acknowledgement of and gratitude for God’s benevolence, Christians should have little issue with seeking to emulate God’s example!

Let’s examine a few elementary principles when it comes to giving by answering some of the most general of questions:

How Much Should We Give?

During the Old Testament, the children of Israel were subject to strict guidelines of giving in the form of the tithe.  Giving in the tithe meant that you were expected to give 10%.  That 10% applied not just to money, but everything they received, including crops, livestock, and other various goods.  This tithe went to the Levite priesthood (Deuteronomy 10:8-9), the upkeep of the tabernacle and later the temple (Exodus 30:11-16), and the poor of their own Israelite nation (Deuteronomy 24:19-22).  In the New Testament, Christians are also commanded to give, but there is no set amount on how much to give.  However, there are still guidelines for our giving!

1 Corinthians 16:2   …Let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper…

In the King James Version this same verse reads: … Let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him…

This verse indicates that, even though there is no set amount that we are expected to give, we should take into account that we should give “as we prosper” or  “as God has prospered” us.  In other words the amount we give may fluctuate from time to time...  there is no set amount established.  Suppose that one loses his job and takes on a new job that pays less.  God does not expect such a one to give the same amount he did before since he now has less.  On the opposite end, when we prosper more, our giving should likewise increase!  Therefore, if one receives some kind of raise or prospers by some other means, the amount he gives should reflect that.

2 Corinthians 9:5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.

Even though this verse was directed at the Corinthian Christians that they may have their contribution ready before Paul’s arrival, I think that it is also a guideline for us.  This implies that there is a degree of preparation involved in the act of giving.  We shouldn’t be scrambling to find something, anything to give when the collection plate comes around.

I think we also must have already decided just how much we are going to give before we give, so that our giving is done out of genuine generosity and doesn’t become an act of mere obligation.

2 Corinthians 9:6  But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

We are told that, in giving, we will reap what we sow!

2 Corinthians 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

We are told to give as we purpose in our heart.  This means that we get decide the amount that we want to give.

We are told to not give grudgingly.  This means that we are to give freely.  So while there is no set amount that we are expected to contribute, we still are commended to be liberal in our giving.
We are told to not give out of necessity.  This wording refutes the idea that we are to give a set amount such as the Old Testaments tithing system.  If we were required by church leadership, or the Old Testament to give a certain amount, that would be in violation of this part of the verse.  Under the New Testament law, there is no set amount that we commanded to give.  The amount that we decide to give is between us and God!

But, remember: God loves a cheerful giver.  We are once again reminded that, despite the fact that we have no set amount that we are required to give, we still must be liberal in our giving!

Recall that Christ praised the widow who made the great sacrifice in giving two mites!

Mark 12:41-44 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.  So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

Jesus was less impressed with those that gave much when they had much to spare.  While the widow didn't have as much to give in total monetary value, she gave everything she had!  We see that it is the intent of the heart - not necessarily the amount - that God is concerned with!

When Should We Give?

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 states:  “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

Likely, it is no coincidence that this is also the day that we are commanded to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

It is clearly stated in this section of verses that we are to give upon the first day of the week.  Sunday, of course, is the first day of the week!

What is the Contribution For?

Why do we give in the first place, what does this contribution go to?

We must realize that the moment we decide to put our money in the collection plate that it has already become God’s money.  We have no say in how we think this money ought to be used.  What we do with this money is subject to the guidance and restrictions of God’s Word.  God’s money is subject to God’s rules and is to be used for:

  • Continuation of God’s Work

Through our weekly giving to the church, we are contributing to the continuation of God’s work.  We ensure that there is a place to meet, supplies for teaching, and income/reimbursement for preachers.

2 Corinthians 9:10-15 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.  For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Through giving to preachers of God’s Word, we are “supplying seed to the sowers”!

1 Corinthians 9:7-14 Whoever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?  Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also?  For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about?  Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.  If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?  If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?  Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.  Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?  Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

  • True Widows

1 Timothy 5:16  If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.

This entire section of 1 Timothy is dedicated to restrictions on giving to widows.  In this sense, the widows are female members of the church who have not only went through the tragedy of losing their spouse, but also the loss of a possibly vital source of income for their households!   "True widows" appear to be women who will not be remarrying and are in dire financial straits.  It is evident from this section of verses that the church has a responsibility to supply for these “true widows” in their need!

  • Needy Saints

Contribution also plays a role in providing for the needs of Christians that have fallen on hard times.

Acts 2:44-45 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Acts 11:27-29 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.  Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.  Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.

Romans 15:24-26 … whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while.  But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.  For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.
Notice that in the previous verses that the contribution of these Christians was given to fellow Christians.

General Benevolence: Giving Beyond the Collection Plate

In addition to giving to support the Church’s work through the collection, Christians additionally ought to be involved in giving out in the world.

However, we must recognize that there is a difference between our obligation as a whole and our duty as individuals.  As we established in the previous examples, our first-day contribution may be for needy saints, but there is no evidence that the first century churches were involved in general benevolence as a group.  Within the church, the pattern seems to be Christians giving to Christians.  We do not read of churches acting as charitable organizations that collected and distributed funds to those not in the church.

It seems callous and cruel to say that the church’s mission is not to supply for the non-believing poor, but according to Biblical example it isn’t the church’s responsibility to care for those in need outside of the church.

We do, however, read of an obligation individual Christians have to be involved in these types of works!  According to Biblical example, it is individual Christians who are commanded to give to the less fortunate outside of the Lord’s body!

1 Timothy 6:18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share…

2 Corinthians 9:8-9  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

Once again, we see that God desires that we be "cheerful givers" and that He is pleased when we give freely, just as He has!

Giving Discreetly

The worldly pattern celebrates charitable giving in a variety of ways.  This is contrary to the Biblical pattern however…

We we give we must keep in mind that our charitable works are to be done in a discreet manner and not for show.

Matthew 6:1-4  Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

As with all things pertaining to God’s righteousness, it appears that God is less concerned with the deed itself as He is with the intent of the heart behind the action, which leads us to our final point…

The Role of Grace in Giving

It’s very easy to get caught up in the basic commandment of giving recorded in 1 Corinthians.  In fact, most of us probably offer that scripture as an explanation of why we should give and simply leave it at that.  But I hope that through this lesson we have considered that there is more going on than just simply giving because we are commanded to.

Consider Paul’s follow-up teaching in 2 Corinthians in which he discusses the “grace of giving”:

2 Corinthians 8:1-4 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.

We read that churches of Macedonia were commended for their liberality in giving not just according to their ability, but even beyond that!  Paul continues by telling us why this was the case:

2 Corinthians 8:7-8 But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others...

Notice that the relationship between grace and giving is highlighted by Paul.  He even goes as far as to say “I speak not by commandment” because grace can’t be commanded; Grace is offered freely by the giver!  As Paul points out it is through such grace that the sincerity of our love is exemplified.

Paul essentially says here that God desires us to have a grace toward others approaching what He has for us.  When we see needs around us we ought to respond with the same grace that God has demonstrated.

Notice how Paul brings this point home in the following verse by reminding us of Christ’s example:

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Conclusion:  Remember to WHOM You are Giving!

At the beginning of the lesson we discussed the fact that we need to remember from Whom all our blessings from.

Just as importantly, we need to remember to Whom we are supposed to be giving!

The next time that we set out to give, whether it be within the assembly, or through our own individual benevolence, let us remember the words of Jesus:

Matthew 25:34-40 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’  “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Essentially: When we give, we give to Christ Himself!

Since that’s the case, let us examine ourselves...  Are we giving as we should?