Tuesday 3-31-15 (Martinez, Argentina)
Scripture reading: Judges 9-10 Ps 49 1 Cor 16
S. 1 Cor 16:1-4 Now about the money being collected for the Christians in Jerusalem: You should follow the same procedures I gave to the churches in Galatia. On every Lord's Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don't wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. When I come I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem. And if it seems appropriate for me also to go along, then we can travel together. NLT
O. We read "Now about the money..." and our mind shuts down or goes into a spin… “Oh, no! Another lecture on giving!” Check it out. This is how the Apostle Paul did world missions: He had the home church lay hands on himself and his companions and send them off into the wild blue yonder. There was no monthly support line for the missionaries, no e-mail or other instant communication to keep the home front people advised if they were still alive, in prison or wherever.
So Paul, whose hobby was making tents, went to work in many of the cities where he landed and lived off this income. He must have been good at it since he even supplied support for his companions. But he also encouraged his converts to take up generous offerings to help the struggling, persecuted church in Jerusalem. “Come on, you Gentile Christians, let’s generously help the people that sent us out to you.” In a word, Paul taught his new converts to be generous givers, not just takers.
A. This is doubtless an area of my early ministry where I failed the most. I just couldn’t make myself say, “Now about the money…” The official state church was highly criticized by some people for making themselves wealthy, with sparkling gold and silver altars, gems crowning their icons and obese priests… so I found it hard to teach delicate new converts the blessing of tithing and giving offerings. One of our younger pastors had a special talent to build the joy of giving into his converts. I watched his church prosper although located in a poverty area, while a church I had founded in the heart of a large city still struggled financially to support its pastors after many years. The Apostle Paul was not even bashful about taking up an offering for the church back home.
I wonder what would happen if I found a pastor and church in the USA that was struggling financially and took up a generous offering from our Argentine churches to help them pull out from under economic disaster? That’s exactly what Paul did and he got away with it. There was nothing in it for him. But he knew that his converts needed to learn the joy of giving.
Today our Argentine churches are bit by bit learning the blessing of supporting their own missionaries all over the world. It requires great sacrifice since their own economy is so weak, but many are giving from the heart to bless others.
P. Lord God of heaven, You have been so generous with us! You have lifted us from the mud and mire of sin and set us upon a firm foundation. You have prospered us so in many ways. Help us all to learn the blessing of not only tithing Your 10 percent of our blessings to our local church, but of giving from our hearts generous, sacrificial offerings far above Your requirements. For You have said and I have found it true, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) So, Lord, "Now about the money..." Help us all to experience the wonderful joy of sacrificial giving. Amen.