Thursday, September 30, 2010

Concerning the Collection for the Saints

"Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me." - 1 Corinthians 16.1 ff
I've been pondering over this issue for a few weeks now. The Apostle Paul seems to spend an incredible amount of time organising the collection from amongst the Gentile churches for the saints in Jerusalem. He organises the churches in Macedonia and Asia to join in; he has to remind the Corinthians (at least) twice to support the cause; it's even one of the possible causes for Paul writing to the Roman church.

So why don't we hear more about it in our public and private teaching from of the Bible. It was clearly important to Paul and his approach to mission - so what can we learn from it?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. The first thing that comes to my mind is the value of unity. The collection is highly symbolic for Paul as the Gentiles, who now share with the Jews the blessing of the Messiah, support and share in the trials of their Jewish brothers and sisters. To have organised this collection from the churches across the Eastern Mediterranean was have been quite time-consuming for Paul (i.e. the main form of transport was your two feet). He goes to great lengths to strengthen the unity of the new Jew plus Gentile community. In an age where we take unity for granted, Paul's efforts are a well aimed rebuke to our laissez-faire attitude on church unity.

3 comments:

Mike W said...

it seems to be a rather practical expression of unity too.
What do you think of churches using these passages to coax out money for their particular church?

Chris said...

I've often wondered the same thing, Matt!

I've certainly heard stuff like 'Be generous' and 'Translate your generous inclination into action' from these sorts of passages as they crop up. But as Mike hints at, it's often in the context of 'Keep paying for the ministry you're receiving here'.

It seems to me there's a wider issue of gospel partnership (or something) at play here that we don't always do too well picking up on. Maybe our difficulty is tied to a general evangelical fuzziness in the realm of what 'church' is? I'm not sure. Just a gut feeling...

Matthew Moffitt said...

@Chris That's the other thing that jumps into my head when I read these passages. Do you think it's connected to Paul's concept of unity?

@Mike maybe that's because of the way we teach scripture. We only use teach these passages in connection with the church budget, and the goal is to get people increasing their offertory.