by Ron Graham
“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.” 1 Corinthians 16:1-3.
First notice that Paul says “concerning the collection for the saints” Paul specifically states who the collection is for… the Jerusalem saints. The purpose of the collection was to help provide the saints in Jerusalem with sustenance – apparently they were in great need.
Secondly, we find the true understanding of the verse above to be somewhat diverted in our English translations. The English phrase “the first day of the week” is translated from the Greek words “mia sabbaton”. The Greek word “mia” means “only one or someone” and it comes from a root word that simply means “one”; it does not mean “every” such as every week. The Greek word “sabbaton” is translated into Greek from the Hebrew word “Sabbath”. Sabbaton means seventh, as in the seventh day of the week, or it can simply “week.”
If we back up a few chapters to 1 Corinthians 7:1 we find that Paul has received a letter from Corinth. He’s attempting to answer the concerns of that particular assembly. In chapter 16 Paul continues his reply to that same assembly, this time it’s in regards to a collection for the saints in Jerusalem. Paul spends two chapters on this subject – the ministering to the saints. He’s concerned for the plight of the saint’s in Jerusalem. As Paul did with the assemblies in Galatia, he requests that those in Corinth help their brethren in Jerusalem.
I’ve received numerous letters from my readers who’ve requested a biblical explanation of tithing. I’ll not attempt to turn my brethren away from giving. On the contrary, I wholeheartedly convinced that giving of our abundance as we purpose in our own hearts is of God. We, as the children of God, more than any other people on earth should be of the mindset of helping our brothers and sisters “in Christ” who are in need. In this commentary I will attempt to set many minds at ease when it comes to tithing, using the inerrant word of God as our guide.
What is God’s view of tithing? There is no example of tithing in the New Testament. The tithe was a requirement of the law in which all Israelites were to give 10% of everything they earned back to God. One reason for giving back a portion of what God had blessed them with was the need of the Levites. The Levites were priests, thus they had been given no land. Without any land they had no way to sustain themselves. They relied on the rest of the Israelite tribes for their sustenance.
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart…” 2 Corinthians 9:7.
On the other hand, the “ekklēsia” (the called out congregation of Jesus’ followers) was never given the commandment or directive to tithe. Giving with a glad heart pleases God, giving one percent or ten percent of our abundance, or giving everything we have, is a decision based solely on how we purpose giving in our own heart. No man should be provoking another brother to give or to give more than they’ve purposed in their heart.
We are given confirmation of the Greek word “mia” meaning “one” and not “every” in another verse in Matthew.
“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.” Matthew 28:1.
Clearly Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the sepulcher only once. They didn’t arrive “every week” seeking to prepare the body of our Lord for burial, but one time only.
“For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:” 2 Corinthians 9:1.
The Greek word “perissos” is translated into our English word “superfluous”, and a more defined meaning would be: over and above, more than is necessary. In other words by now its apparent from Paul’s statement above that the assembly at Corinth were keenly aware of what Paul expected of them concerning the collection for the saints… unto Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 9 are the two main chapters used by those who wish to bind the Ekklesia of Christ with a stumbling block – one of tithing. Yet, as we study the original Greek language, we find these two chapters have nothing to do with tithing or giving on a continual weekly basis. Nor do we find in Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians any exhorting of the faithful to collect weekly, not to mention for the purposes for which they are collected today.
Basically what Paul is requesting is “one” offering to take place on the seventh day of the week. Remember who he’s writing to. These were Gentiles who had become Christians, they had never been observers of the Sabbath. Nor did this offering have anything to do with worship services; Paul wasn’t telling the Corinthians to worship on “Sabbaton” but to collect liberality (a onetime gift)… on the seventh day. And, as I’ve already mentioned, to give it to those saints who were suffering in Jerusalem. Don’t take my word for the correct rendering of the original Greek but look them up in your own concordance/dictionaries.
The correct interpretation of 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 indicates that the collection Paul requested was not something he admonished the parishioners to repeat every week. It was a onetime blessing for the saints in Jerusalem collected from the assemblies in Galatia and Corinth. Paul made it clear he intended to send one of the brothers of the Corinth congregation to Jerusalem with this one time offering. That was it. Paul never says bring your tithes every Sabbaton so we can build new beautiful buildings, pay pastoral salaries, pay for grounds upkeep, musical instruments, stages, lighting, sound systems, and all the rest of the entertainment specialties that people seem to need today. These verses have been used to accommodate the hierarchy (the clergy) for hundreds of years, but as I’ve just demonstrated this was clearly not God’s intent.
Please don’t misunderstand my intentions with this commentary. I’m only trying to give my readers a clearer picture of the correct interpretation when it comes to tithing – from scripture. There are many pastors who are under extreme pressure from their board of directors to squeeze more from their congregations in regards to funding. In most cases these funds are not used to help the suffering brethren but, as I’ve already mentioned, to add sources of entertainment or pay for overhead to an already bloated building fund.
Supporting others in need through our own abundance is exactly what Jesus teaches us in the parable of the Samaritan. Almost immediately, as Jesus begins this parable, He uses the word compassion. However, He never mentions that this Samaritan was under orders from his pastor or anyone else to help the man who had been attacked by thieves. The parable tells us that the Samaritan purposed in his own heart to help this man. Instead of passing by, Jesus showed that this Samaritan loved this man with a sacrificial love. He didn’t wait to be asked; seeing the need right in front of him was enough to compel him to action. He also gave freely of both his time and his resources. He didn’t filter his giving through a “benevolence” fund or send it to a charity where most of the funds were siphoned off for administration purposes, but shouldered the responsibility himself. By laying out this parable, Jesus was attempting to answer the question “Who is our neighbor?” What we come to understand from this parable is that everyone is our neighbor. We should have compassion for our fellow man, no matter who that person may be.
“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” James 2:15-16.
In many cases we pray for the hungry, naked, and destitute but give them little if anything at all to eat, cover themselves with, or help them pay their monthly heating cost. If we are of no help to others what profit, or what benefit, is it to them? Here’s a suggestion. Look around your own community or congregation and see who is in need, then help them directly. Even if you want to stay anonymous there are ways to accomplish that also.
Anyone who tells you that if you don’t tithe you can’t be born again is mistaken. Many in Christian leadership continually insist that the members of their congregations who don’t tithe are standing against God’s precepts. Jesus Christ is our Saviour and He is our King, and a King doesn’t tax his own children. We’re free to give as we prosper and as we purpose in our hearts.
“…so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7.
The Greek word “lypē” is translated into our English word “grudgingly”, and it means: sorrow, pain, grief. We aren’t to be in serious state of wanting ourselves when we give because then we will be giving grudgingly. The Greek word “anagkē” is translated into our English word “necessity” and it means: imposed either by the circumstances, or by law of duty regarding to one’s advantage, custom, argument, calamity, distress, straits. In other words, no one should be provoking us or brow beating us into giving or tithing. Clearly when we give we are to give out of our love for someone else – God says give cheerfully, joyfully; when we do so we honor God pleasing Him in love.
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed
God bless you all
by Ron Graham