Cookie Jar Giving

1 Corinthians 16:2 “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up so when I come no collection will have to be made” (NIV).

Observation: Paul’s request was consistent with what he also asked of the church at Galatia (see 1 Cor. 16:1). They should commit to a regular, sustained practice of setting aside money to advance the spread of the Gospel. He didn’t want to leave the financial health of the expanding Christian movement to the occasional special offering; nor did he want believers to miss an opportunity for generosity. Instead, he envisioned that each believer would embrace the personal responsibility of setting aside money to be given when Paul came to town.

Application: Now Paul really began meddling. He went far beyond reminding those early Christians of their responsibility to tithe. He even exceeded usual admonitions to give generously and cheerfully. Occasional special giving, offerings gathered after a missionary’s particularly compelling report, are not enough. We are all familiar with these appeals: a dear saint arrives armed with PowerPoint and compelling tales of spiritual battles fought and won in darkest Africa or deep in the Amazon’s damp recesses. To gin up a generous response, we are told that our offering ought to be generous, given joyfully beyond what we had in mind when the service began.

Such causes are often appropriate, and a generous impulse within the redeemed heart always is. But Paul here calls us to something beyond a heart-felt response to a good cause. He calls us instead to a lifestyle of living below our means. He challenges me to make daily choices in spending so I might regularly accumulate a fund for lavishing into the kingdom when those special opportunities arise. In this, my giving would be not merely from what’s in my wallet that morning, but rather from what’s in the cookie jar at home. Gradually, I begin to understand that such generosity can only come from moderating my lifestyle, reducing debt, becoming content with personal consumption of smaller servings of the good life.

Recreation, clothing, and travel; toys, entertainment, and housing, the day-by-day decisions I make profoundly impact my ability to live as Paul asked. I must ask myself, Does Christ’s claim to my heart truly include what I earn? Have I adjusted my personal priorities with eternity in view? Neither adherence to the principles of tithing nor my impulse to empty that day’s purse at hearing the next good appeal are adequate responses to what Christ has done for me.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You have led me to make many decisions to live beneath my means for the greater good of Your kingdom, but I yet have far to go. Speak to me in each remaining area, Lord; help me to further simplify my lifestyle in light of Your claim on my life.

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