As he has decided in his heart

Giving has been important to Jesus’ followers since the church began.  The Jerusalem church sold “their possessions and belongings…distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45).  The Antioch church sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem with financial aid (Acts 11:27-30).  When Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles was accepted by James, Peter, and John, they asked that he “remember the poor”, which he “was eager to do” (Galatians 2:7-10).

So, it is not at all surprising that Paul directed the churches he planted to complete a “collection for the saints”.  “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come” (I Corinthians 16:2). 

The church already met on Sundays to eat the bread and drink the cup “to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Corinthians 11:26, cf. Acts 20:7).  It made sense to address the collection of this gift to take to Jerusalem on Sunday, too (I Corinthians 16:3, Romans 15:26).

Yet, Paul was very clear that excelling in giving was “not as a command” nor “an exaction” but as a “willing gift” (II Corinthians 8:8, 9:5).  It required heart.  “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7).

Heart matters because giving is about more than relieving poverty or meeting budgets:  it is all about Jesus.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).  We cannot be like Jesus and enjoy the abundant life without learning to be generous givers! 

Giving shows our love is genuine, and it benefits us by making us a part of something bigger (II Corinthians 8:8-11).  Reflecting on what God has provided makes us thankful, and sharing it teaches us to rely on God to have “all sufficiency in all things at all times” (II Corinthians 9:8-12).  When we give, others come to glorify God (II Corinthians 9:13-15).

When Jesus comes again, we won’t hunger, thirst, or even need light:  God will supply every need (Revelation 7:15-17, 22:5).  When we give, we learn to trust God to meet our needs, and He gives us a glimpse of how beautiful Heaven will be.