Exposition of 1 Corinthians 16:1–9 Sharing the burdens of others

1 Corinthians 16:1–9

1 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

5 After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you — for I will be going through Macedonia. 6 Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

As I said in commenting on chapter 15, the Apostle Paul was a very practical theologian and church planter. In chapter 16 he deals with vital matters of human need within the body of Christ (verses 1–4) as well as plans for further contact and travel by himself (verses 5–9) and others (verses 11–12). He concludes chapter 16 with a series of exhortations and greetings; they are worthy of more attention than they sometimes receive.

Starting in 1 Cor. 1:2, Paul has stressed the relationship of the believers in Roman Corinth to all others belonging to Christ elsewhere. This expansion of their viewpoint was undoubtedly designed to help them discover their solidarity with Christians outside their own factions in Corinth. In verse 1, Paul reminds them of about the collection being taken to relieve the needs of believers in Jerusalem and urges them to imitate the similar effort of the churches in Galatia (located in what today would be central Turkey).

David Garland explains, “We know from 2 Corinthians and Romans that he [Paul] hoped that the gift would cement the bond between the Gentile and Jewish Christian communities and that it would demonstrate that Christian unity transcended ethnic barriers and did not require Gentile Christians to become Jewish proselytes.”[1] He further states that, in Greco-Roman society, charity toward strangers was not considered a virtue and was not connected with any expectation of reward from the gods. Jesus Christ demonstrated quite the opposite!

It was the common custom of Christians to gather on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2), in honor of both the resurrection of Christ and the coming day of the Lord. At that time every person in the church was expected to set aside their own money privately for the collection so that all would be ready for Paul’s arrival. Of course, this begs the question: How much?

The key phrase about “how much” in 1 Cor. 16:2 has been translated as follows:

(NIV) in keeping with your income

(Revised English Bible) whatever he can afford

(New Jerusalem Bible) as each can spare

(NET Bible) to the extent that God has blessed you

(ESV) as he may prosper

(Garland) whatever he or she has been prospered

(Thiselton) in accordance with how you may fare

In our view, the translations shown above get progressively better as you near the bottom of the list. The rare Greek verb means “to be led along a good road, to get along well, to prosper” in its biblical and secular uses.[2] The verb is used in 3 John 2, where the writer prays that “all may go well with you.” Paul has much more to say favoring generosity in 2 Corinthians 8–9.

As was his custom, Paul labored to earn his way while establishing a church, but it was also his custom to permit a local church to meet his needs for travel expenses and companions when he set out for a new destination (1 Cor. 16:6). We all share the mission!

It is easy to sense Paul’s wishes as well as his uncertainty about being able to act on them (verses 5–7). It is obvious that he intended to stay in Ephesus before coming to Corinth because of an unusually great opportunity for evangelism (verse 9). Paul found that when the gospel was moving in a community, the opposition grew more intense; the identical pattern may be seen in the public ministry of Christ in the Gospels. We too must spread the gospel and expect opposition when we do so.

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 752.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 1323.

Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:1-4

Matthew 6:1-4

Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2 Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. 3 But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
(NET Bible)

Who is our audience?

Through the voice of Macbeth, the playwright Shakespeare talked about life as a performance:

Lifes but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.[1]

During your hour upon the stage, will you behave for the pleasure of men or the approval of God?

Matthew 6:1 states the principle that governs all of 6:1-18. Jesus answers the question: How do I carry out the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees?

The answer Jesus gives is equally simple: do everything before the searching gaze of God, not for the approval of people. This idea is treated in three classic areas of Jewish piety, giving to others, prayer and fasting. In this post we deal only with the general principle and giving to others.

The presence of the word merely in the NET Bibles translation of 6:1 is questionable. [Take a moment to read the verse.] No Greek word explicitly underlies this word, and it gives the unfortunate impression that your performance of righteousness may have two audiences. That is contrary to what Jesus is teaching. It will soon be obvious that people need not see your righteous deeds at all! In the court of heaven, all that will matter is what God thinks of your deeds.

Jesus will contrast the way commanded for his disciples with that of the hypocrites (6:2). The hypocrites — read here the scribes and Pharisees— do their deeds for public show. In what way is this hypocrisy? The hypocrite wants you to think his actions are serving God, but in fact they are designed to get attention resulting in public approval. It is a sham, like the old sheriff who said, Son, were going to give you a fair trial followed by a good hanging!

What is the outcome of performing righteous deeds for popular approval? You get such approval, and that is all! NLT correctly translates, I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get (Matt. 6:2). The Greek verb was used in financial transactions and means to provide a receipt for a sum paid in full.[2] God will not pay them again on judgment day.[3]

The religious leaders not only performed for public approval but also did it with great fanfare; the trumpets (6:2) are probably figurative, but they indicate little subtlety in the act of giving!

To make his point in a memorable way, Jesus again uses exaggeration when he speaks of one giving hand not knowing what the other hand is doing (6:3). Craig Keener points out that the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius used a similar idea when he said, Do not let your own ear hear you.[4]

The charitable giving done by a disciple must be done in secret so as to clearly appeal to God alone for reward (6:4). And the Father, who keeps on seeing in secret, will reward the giver (6:4).

An exclusive performance

If you do acts of righteousness to impress people, all you will get is a receipt that says Paid in Full! But the deed done for Gods approval alone is the one that wins lasting reward.

If you have ever seen a minister or other disciple involved in self-promotion, it probably turned you off. What is more important is that you take a different path, one designed to please God. The reward that comes later from Jesus is far beyond the fickle praise people may offer now.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, lines 24-26.

[2] BDAG-3, apecho, receive in full what is due, q.v.

[3] Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 208.

[4] Keener, Matthew, 208.