The Collection

The Elements of Public Worship

The Collection

“What Ought To Be Done in Meetings fothecollection.jpgr Worship. Although it is permitted all men to read the Holy Scriptures privately at home, and by instruction to edify one another in the true religion, yet in order that the Word of God may be properly preached to the people, and prayers and supplication publicly made, also that the sacraments may be rightly administered, and that collections may be made for the poor and to pay the cost of all the Church’s expenses, and in order to maintain social intercourse, it is most necessary that religious or Church gatherings be held. For it is certain that in the apostolic and primitive Church, there were such assemblies frequented by all the godly.”The Second Helvetic Confession (1566) – Chapter XXII, Of Religious and Ecclesiastical Meetings

In his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” (1 Cor. 16:1-2)

Here Paul is instructing the members of the church that it is their duty to give as the Lord has prospered them for the relief of needy members of the church. He instructs that this collection should be held on the first day of the week (i.e. Sunday) and presumably this took place at the time when the members of the church gathered together to worship the Lord. We learn from this that an acceptable part of our Sabbath day worship is the collection wherein Christians set aside a portion of the riches that God has given for the relief of the poor, the furtherance of the Gospel, and the “cost of all the Church’s expenses.”

Throughout the Old Testament the giving of tithes and offerings was an essential part of the worship of God’s people, it was a visible sign of their heartfelt devotion to the Lord. “But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.” (Deut 12:5-6) To withhold a portion of their tithes or worse, to not tithe at all, was considered robbing God: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” (Mal. 3:8)

God has promised His people that His blessings will always exceed their giving: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10) Therefore as Christians we are to give joyfully as an act of worship, knowing that we are only stewards of all that we have, that God who is merciful will see to our needs, and that the ultimate purpose of the collection is to help spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

A few notes and observations about the collection and Old School Presbyterians.

The Collection is not specifically mentioned in the Westminster Standards, which frankly is not surprising given that at the time of their composition, it was assumed that they would be the Confession of all the established churches of the British Isles. The established churches were supported by tax revenues collected by the state, and thus the salaries of Pastors and the expenses of the church were paid by the government and collections were not necessary for that purpose. However, even with state support, the Directory For the Publick Worship of God, assumes that collections will be irregularly taken up during public worship to relieve the needs of the poor.

Obviously the needs of churches in the United States are no longer met by the state, and therefore generally speaking it is the giving of God’s people alone that meets the needs of the church. Unfortunately, recent polls tell us that only 4 percent of believers tithe, and the average level of giving is 2.3 percent of income. Now 2.3% is not a sacrifice, I mean I hate to say it, but I probably misplace more than 2.3% of my income and my wife can attest to that. R.C. Sproul is probably right when he noted that this trend was probably a sign of the spiritual weakness of American churchgoers, or as he put it, “Stewardship and tithing are easy in comparison with many aspects of Christian life, so a faithless giver will likely neglect weightier matters of faith.”

Regarding how much you should be giving to to the kingdom; that is ultimately between you and God, but it should never simply be from your excess. Remember the example of King David who came to make a sacrifice at a particular threshing floor in 2 Sam. 24:20-25 and his servant Araunah offered to give Him the threshing floor and the oxen and the wood as a gift, but David said “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”

Whatever your tithe is, make sure it really is a sacrifice rather than simply a surplus.

More important than simply the amount however, our tithing should be a heartfelt act of giving rather than simply a grudgingly performed duty. Therefore let your tithing be done:

According to your true ability, as the Lord has prospered you – “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2)

Generously, cheerfully, and from the heart – “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7)

Before God, and not so that other men would see you – “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” (Matt. 6:3-4)

[I had intended to publish this much later on, but a question from a reader caused me to bring it considerably forward in the order.]

About Andrew Webb

I was converted out of paganism and the occult in 1993 and while I was initially Charismatic/Arminian in my theology, I became Reformed and Presbyterian through bible study and the influence of ministries like RC Sproul's. After teaching in local bible studies, and taking seminary courses part time, I began to feel called to the ministry in 1997. I was Ordained as an RE at Christ Covenant PCA in Hatboro, PA in 2000 and as a TE by Central Carolina Presbytery in 2001 when I was called to be the Organizing Pastor/Church Planter for Providence PCA Mission, Cross Creek PCA's church plant in Fayetteville, NC (home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Airforce Base). In 2005 when the Providence PCA Particularized I was blessed to be called by the congregation to be their Pastor
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2 Responses to The Collection

  1. George says:

    The tithe was part of the OT ceremonial law. The WCF XIX notes the ceremonial law is abrogated.

    Tithe means “a tenth”. But a tenth of what? Not a tenth of gross income or net income (the idea of tracking such a thing for tithing purposes was totally foreign until the 19 the century), rather a tenth of the produce and livestock from landowners.

    The tithe that Abraham paid to Melchizedek after the battle of the kings was a spoils of war tax and totally different from the Mosaic ceremonial law tithe of Numbers 18.

    In Malachi III the tithes were robbed by the priests from the storehouse of the temple. The tithes were robbed from the Levites who were there in one of the 26 weekly courses (see Nehemiah). Malachi is terribly hard on the priests and reading Malachi III as shedding tears for priests that have had their tithes withheld from them, is totally out of context with the first two chapters of that book.

    The theft of the tithes was very likely by Eliashib for the sake of Tobiah, Nehemiah’s enemy who set up shop in the Temple (see the last chapter of Nehemiah). The tithes were brought to the Levitical cities (not the temple in Jerusalem). The tithe or the tithe was brough to the priests — again in a priestly city.

    In other words Malachi III pretty much means the opposite of what modern day resurrectors of ceremonial law tithing would have us believe.

    The rest of this site is wonderful. But tithing is not a part of the NT administration of the covenant of grace.

    Interestingly, self-serving new school pastors will jettison the regulative principle and the singing of Psalms (and the teaching ministry intertwined with such singing) and replace it with loud overpowering praise bands. How, precisely, because they are self-serving the new school pastors will come down hard in favor of the tithe as a tenth of gross income.

    Christians should give to any charitable organization, including their particular society, in accord with their conscience and their perception of how the charity or particular worship society uses their donations. Top heavy pastoral and non-pastoral staffs are arguments for not giving too much. To a lesser extent a very large budget for building maintenance is another argument that a particular society may not be maximizing its stewardship obligations.

    It is true the tithing came in vogue late in the 20th century as a delayed reaction to church disestablishment. As a baptist I am thankful for those who blazed the trail for seperation of church and state. Bottom line — today’s old and new school churches devoted to thithing and heavy salaried staffs are quite different from the 1st and 2nd century models.

  2. Trudy Pomerantz says:

    I used to believe in tithing to the congregation of which I am a member, but no longer. I see nothing in your article to justify this point of view. One can argue that God requires a tithe, but it does not necessarily follow that I need to give it all to the local congregation. If the obligations of the session and fellow church members are not being met, why should they believe that they have the right to God’s tithe. Since too many churches are nothing more than social clubs where the dominant clique makes all the decisions regarding how the money is spent – which missionaries are supported, what work will be done on the church, what “ministries” the church will run, then surely they should pay for the church that they own. Noblesse oblige.

    And, of course, your out will be – find another church or to somehow blame it on me. Perhaps, what have I done to improve the situation? I am so burned with all I have experienced from fellow Christians that I am sick of trying. I am sick of the accusations. I am sick of the excuse-making. I am going to send my tithe to those I think are serving God faithfully and those who love me. I am going to work on not being guilt-tripped by this point-of-view that I owe it to the local church regardless of how they act.

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