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I Corinthians 15:50-16:4
“Now concerning the collection?”
“Now concerning the collection?” What kind of mumbo jumbo is this; moving from discussing the most astounding news the world has ever heard, the historical resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of His children to this mundane matter of collecting money?
“Now concerning the collection.” There must be some mistake here. Surely the Apostle Paul would never presume to talk about salvation and money in the same breath!
“Now concerning the collection.” The nerve of the guy. Hasn’t anyone ever told you Paul, there are three things we don’t talk about in this family: religion, politics, and money!
In fact, a recent survey asking people what they don’t talk about in families indicated that money beat out politics and religion; 44% admitting they don’t talk about money, 35% politics, and 32% religion. The topic of money even beat out talking about death which came in second at 38%. 1
But no, Paul places the matter “concerning the collection” right in the heart of the Gospel message because that is precisely where it belongs! Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians and to us ‘to give’ is not an afterthought, is not a separate part of the letter that was added after he was finished with the heart of the matter because this invitation to give to the Lord’s work IS THE HEART OF THE MATTER!
In essence what Paul is saying to the Corinthians and to us is, “When you give, let it be a response to all that God in Christ has done on our behalf.
Paul had found the matter of death to be an offensive barrier to meaningful living. But in his encounter with the living Christ on the Damascus Road, Paul became fully convinced that God, in Christ, had overcome the curse of death. Thus the gospel message was not only a crucified Jesus but more importantly, a Risen Lord. Therefore, death is no longer an enemy for those who put their faith in Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf.
And so Paul writes in words that almost defy description, words which are really unparalleled in their power and their poetry anywhere else in the New Testament:
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:54-57)
And then he immediately turns to two Christian responses to such amazing news: Last week we looked at the first; serving. “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (15:58).
And then he moves to the second, “Now concerning the collection” (16:1).
The whole matter is a very deliberate part of Paul’s central theme: “For All You’ve Done” we will “Love the Lord our God” with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.” In other words, when we open our hearts to the astounding message of what God has done for us in the death and resurrection of Christ we will thankfully serve Him (last week) and give of our treasure to the Lord’s work?
Paul was not the first to link together thankful hearts and giving treasure.
We know that one of the pithiest statements Jesus ever made was: “Wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
That much-respected pastor and Bible commentator David Martyn Lloyd Jones writes:
Our Lord is concerned here, not so much about our possessions, as with our attitude towards our possessions. It is not what a man may have, but what he thinks of his wealth, what his attitude is towards it. There is nothing wrong with having wealth in and of itself; what can be very wrong is a man’s relationship to his wealth. And the same thing is equally true about everything that money can buy. 2
Jesus is challenging us to examine our attitudes about money and possessions.
Gail follows Christian blogger Brandon Cox who recently blogged an article titled Two Wrong Ways to Think About Money, and the One Right Way in which he posits that there are those who have the attitude that “Money is Everything.”
Those in this camp, whether rich or poor, look to money as their security blanket and status symbol. “Believing that money is everything ultimately means you have a core belief, deep down inside, that money will meet your need for security and your need for significance. The money-is-everything mindset can consume those who are afraid to lose their money as much as those who fear they’ll never have any.”
In the opposite camp are those who have the attitude that “Money is Nothing. When we’re in this mindset, we wind up making no plans for our money. It goes unmanaged. It isn’t maximized or multiplied or invested into anything meaningful. We just consume it and move on.”
He then encourages, “Those who have the healthiest relationship with money subscribe to the third school of thought – that money is something. Money is a tool that can be used for all kinds of good and benevolent purposes; for providing for daily needs to helping meet the needs of others.
“Here’s the challenge. Decide today that money won’t own you. It won’t rule you. It won’t hold your emotions hostage any longer. Instead, money will be owned, managed, used, and invested by you for good purposes.” 3
In other words, Brandon Cox recommends being a wise steward of that which God has given.
Lloyd Jones again:
If we have a right view of ourselves in this world as pilgrims, as children of God going to our Father, everything falls into its true perspective. We shall immediately take a right view of our gifts and our possessions. We begin to think of ourselves as stewards who must give an account of them. We are not the permanent holders of these things. It matters not whether it is money, or intellect, or ourselves, or our personalities, or whatever gift we may have. The worldly man thinks he himself owns them all. But the Christian starts by saying, ‘I am not the possessor of these things, I merely have them on lease, and they do not really belong to me. I cannot take my wealth with me, I cannot take my gifts with me. I am but a custodian of these things.’ And at once the great question that arises is, ‘How can I use these things to the glory of God? It is God I have to meet, it is God I have to face, it is He who is my eternal judge and my Father. It is to Him that I shall have to render up an account of my stewardship of the things with which He has blessed me. Therefore,’ the Christian says to himself, ‘I must be careful how I use these things and of my attitude towards them. 4
Why? Because, Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” According to Jesus we can’t have it both ways; it is either or; there can be no compromise.
Some of you have figured that out. And because you have, you gladly and joyfully give of yourselves and your resources to God’s Kingdom through His Church.
I have a feeling that others among us are still working this through. Some of us want to have a foot in God’s Kingdom and in our own personal kingdom too when it’s convenient for us. But according to Jesus we can’t have it both ways. We’re either all in or all out!
When I consider all that God in Christ has done for me, I want to be all in! “For All You’ve Done, I will love and serve You Lord with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength!”
Eugene Peterson tells how he saw a family of birds teaching their young to fly. Three young swallows were perched on a dead branch that stretched out over a lake. One adult swallow got alongside the chicks and started shoving them out toward the end of the ranch–pushing, pushing, pushing. The end one fell off. Somewhere between the branch and the water four feet below, the wings started working, and the fledgling was off on his own. Then the second one.
The third was not to be bullied. At the last possible moment his grip on the branch loosened just enough so that he swung downward, then tightened again, bulldog tenacious. The parent was without sentiment. He pecked at the desperately clinging talons until it was more painful for the poor chick to hang on than risk the insecurities of flying.
The grip was released, and the inexperienced wings began pumping.
The mature swallow knew what the chick did not; that it would fly; that there was no danger in making it do what it was perfectly designed to do. Birds have feet and can walk. Birds have talons and can grasp a branch securely. They can walk; they can cling.
But flying is their characteristic action, and not until they fly are they living at their best, gracefully and beautifully.
According to our Master giving is what we can do best. It is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth.
My friends, it is not only the desire of God’s heart that we taste of the goodness of the salvation He has provided us in Christ Jesus, but it is also the desire of His heart that we taste the joy of giving!
1 Taylor, Chris. The Last Taboo; Why Nobody Talks About Money. Reuters (3-27-14)
2 Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. Studies on the Sermon on the Mount. Volume II [Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing, © 1959-1960]. Pages 80-81.
3 Cox, Brandon. Two Wrong Ways to Think About Money, and the One Right Way. Untrapped August 8, 2019 https://unstrappedlife.com/two-wrongs-one-right/
4 Lloyd-Jones, page 84.