Is Giving An Authorized And Mandatory Activity of Worship?
For something to be authorized means that it must be Divinely sanctioned (Colossians 3:17). For something to be mandatory means that it is something that must be done. Does giving financial means to the Lord's work fall under both categories? Is it authorized and mandatory?
It is certainly authorized to give of one's financial resources to the Lord's work as we see throughout the Scriptures some examples of the church of Christ giving on various occasions (Acts 4:34-36; 6:1-7; 20:35) to help those who were in need. But is it also mandatory to give of one's financial resources?
We must be honest with the Scriptures and be certain that they are being interpreted correctly. Sometimes we can go to one extreme by abusing a verse or verses, taking them out of their context. We must not at the same time go to the other extreme in believing that there is not a single principle in the Scriptures that would lend to the idea that it is not mandatory to give.
1 Corinthians 16:1,2 is a reference to the weekly, first-day-of-the-week collection for the poor saints in Judea that was going to be given financially by the Gentile congregations (2 Corinthians 8,9; Romans 15). It was meaningful because it would show the unity that they shared together as the one body of Christ as well as meet the physical needs of their Jewish brethren who had helped meet the spiritual needs of the Gentiles by sharing the gospel (Ephesians 1:22,23). Paul had ordered the congregation at Corinth (a predominately Gentile congregation) to do as the churches of Galatia had been instructed by storing up necessary funds to give to the poor saints in Judea.
It is very clear from this passage that these congregations were meeting a legitimate need that required financial resources. Therefore, whenever it is the case that the church is obligated to meet a legitimate need, then it has the authority from the Scriptures and is commanded to meet that certain need.
For example, 1 Timothy 5:3-16 is teaching the church to honor widows who are widows indeed. In this context, to honor actually means to financially help a faithful, Christian widow in need who is of a certain age and character (thus the word “indeed”) by paying for her Christian services. The word “honor” is a present active imperative verb. The imperative means it is a command. Therefore, it is a command for the church to take care of needy, Christian widows indeed (also read Matthew 15:4-6; 1 Timothy 5:17-18, where “counted” is in the imperative; James 1:27). If there are no needy Christian widows indeed in the church, then the church is not obligated to fulfill this command because there is no existing cause.
Another example is that in 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, especially verse 14, that gospel preachers ought to be supported financially: “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” The Lord has commanded and enjoined upon the church to take care of their minister who is working in the vineyard of the Lord. Therefore, it is a command for the church to give financially to help support the preacher (unless the preacher, for whatever reason, refuses his right to receive support, 1 Corinthians 9:18; see also Philippians 4:15-16).
So long as there are legitimate, financial needs to be met by the local church, such as spreading the gospel, edifying the church, and meeting benevolent causes among the membership and community, giving as an action of worship on the first day of every week is not only authorized but mandatory in fulfilling the work and worship of the church.
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