To Whom and Why
Wednesday of Epiphany 4
1 February 2018
Pastors are often berated for talking "about money" from the pulpit. Whatever we treasure most is farthest out of bounds for sermon fodder. Yet, the Bible has extensive and explicit instruction to believers about financial offerings to the church of Jesus Christ. When I was a small child, my father dutifully gave me two quarters to put into my decidedly pink Sunday School offering envelope. I remember the anticipation I experienced as the time for the Sunday School offering arrived. Even as a small child I had a clear understanding that the gift I was giving was offered for the sake of Christ, who was my Savior. Much that we know as children, is not directly taught, just absorbed through our experience. My early understanding of giving gifts to the church was shaped by my experience of bringing that pink offering envelope to Sunday School opening. I can still sing from memory: "We give Thee but Thine own, Whate'er the gift may be; All that we have is Thine alone, A trust, O Lord from Thee" (LSB 781:1).
A great deal of the Bible's instruction makes clear what we are giving for. To that those of us who claim to be adults must pay attention. We are giving financial gifts to help the needy, because God does not need our money. The church gives to the needy of the church. That covers the "to whom." But why we give is more important than the "to whom." There are a number of hints about why we give in 1 Corinthians 16. The Apostle tells his readers to put something aside for contribution to the church every Lord's Day. The Lord's Day is the day of new life, for it is the day on which our Lord breaks death's grip upon our throats by rising triumphant over the dust of the earth. He triumphs over that dust on Sunday, a day so completely shaped by His resurrection that it is named by Christians "the Lord's Day."
Since we have been snatched from death on the Lord's Day, it also becomes the day of thanks to the Lord. We have life in Him. For us eternal peace with God has been procured by Him. Now we have the privilege of returning to the living Lord what He has given to us for our stewardship. On the Lord's Day the living Lord comes to be enthroned upon our altars in the Lord's Supper. He feeds us on His most precious body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. This is a day to celebrate by putting aside a gift for the Lord's Church from the Lord's body.
Even the exalted Lord Jesus is not ashamed to be in need. About His own circumstances while living among us, He says: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Lk 9:58). He took the mantle of human poverty, even the privation of our sins upon Himself. He became poor that we might become rich in Him (2Co 8:9). If He did not disdain our poverty, why should we scorn to offer to the little brothers so that we have done it to Him. Poor Christ is so united with His faithful poor that whatever is given to them is given to Him. Whatever is given to the body is received by the Head. Here the "to whom" and the why come together.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"'On the first day of every week (that is, the Lord's Day), each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper' (1Co 16:2). Look how he exhorts them even about the time. For indeed the day itself was enough to lead them to charity. It was as though he said, 'Call to mind what you have received on this day: how all the unutterable blessings, and that which is the root and the beginning of our life took place on this day. This day is not merely convenient for a zealous benevolence, but also because it has rest and freedom from labors.' Souls released from labors become readier and more apt to show pity. Moreover, by communing at the table of the Lord on that day in mysteries so tremendous and immortal, instills great zealousness. On that day, accordingly, 'each of you,' not merely this or that individual, but 'each of you,' whether poor or rich, woman or man, slave or free, is to 'store it up.' He said not, 'Let him bring it to church,' so they don't feel ashamed because of the smallness of the sum. As though Paul was saying, 'Having by gradual additions swelled his contribution, let him then produce it, when I am come but for the present lay it up at home, and make your house a church; your little box a treasury. Become a guardian of sacred wealth, a self-ordained steward of the poor. Your benevolent mind assigns to you this priesthood.' Our treasury even now is a sign of this. The sign remains, the thing itself nowhere.
"Now I am aware that many of this congregation will again find fault with me when I treat these subjects, and say, 'Do not, I beseech you, be harsh and disagreeable to your audience. Make allowances for their disposition; give way to the mind of the hearers. For in this case you really do put us to shame; you make us blush.' But I may not endure such words: since Paul was not ashamed to be continually troublesome upon such points as these and to speak words such as beggars use. I grant indeed that if I said, 'give it to me,' and 'lay it up in my house,' there might be something to be ashamed of in what I said. However, hardly even in that case, for 'those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings' (1Co 9:13). However, some one perhaps might find fault as if he were framing an argument for his own interest. But now it is for the poor that I make my supplication, not even so much for the poor, as for your sake who bestow the gift. Therefore, also I am bold to speak out. For what shame is it to say, Did you give to your Lord in His hunger? Did you put clothing on Him when He was going about naked? Did you receive Him in a stranger? Your Lord is not ashamed before the whole world to speak thus: 'I was hungry, and your gave Me nothing to eat,' even though He is void of all want and requires nothing. Am I to be ashamed and hesitate? Away with this. This shame is of the snare of the devil.
"I will not then be ashamed, but will boldly say, 'Give to the needy.' I will say it with a louder voice than the needy themselves. True, if anyone can show and prove that in saying these things we are drawing you over unto ourselves, and under the pretense of the poor are ourselves making gain, such a course would be worthy, not merely of shame, but even of ten thousand thunderbolts. Life itself would be more than persons so behaving deserve. If, by the grace of God, we are in nothing troublesome to you about ourselves, but 'have made the Gospel without charge' to you, laboring indeed in no wise like Paul, but being contented with our own; with all boldness of speech I would say, 'Give to the needy.' Yes, and I will not stop saying it, and of those who do not give I will be a severe accuser. If I were a general and had soldiers, I should not feel ashamed to demand food for my men. For I vehemently set my heart upon your salvation."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 42.2-3
1 Corinthians

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 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. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.
Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity. 
Lord Christ, You did not disdain poverty but took it into Yourself through the incarnation. Grant that we would be led by your Holy Spirit to give Your gifts to Your church and thus give to You. Free us from greed that we might live every day for the sake of others. Amen.
For all those who give generously to the body of Christ, that they would rejoice in their service to the Head of the church
For the Friends of Westfield House, Cambridge, who serve the needs of this community, that they would have wisdom
For the delegates of the district conventions of the LCMS, that they would be endowed with wisdom and a spirit of meekness
Art: DAVID, Gerard  Triptych of Jean Des Trompes (1505)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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