NOW ABOUT THE COLLECTION
There’s nothing here but a simple transitional particle. “Now” There’s no drum roll, no trumpet blast, no drama-filled pause. “Now about…” You might imagine the tone being something like a let down: “Okay, that’s that dealt with; let’s move on to the next thing on the agenda. Hmmm, yes, well all right, the collection.” But imagining it like that would be a real blunder.
The text is 1 Corinthians 16:1, of course, and Paul has just concluded his lengthy discussion on the resurrection of the dead with a shout of triumph: “Death where is your victory? Death where is your sting?” In the name of the risen and immortal Lord Jesus he jeers at arrogant Death and yells, “Loser!”
What a triumph; there’s a throbbing and an assured hope in the shout, nothing timid about it. The graveyards in all the hamlets, all the villages, all the towns, all the cities and all the vast metropolises on the planet must have heard it and trembled! All the tombs and secret places no one knows about, where countless dead were thrown, having been used and butchered—all those unknown prisons where proud Death keeps them shut away—they must have heard the sound and shivered.
And what then does Paul do? Should he not have closed the letter with that exultant cry? He didn’t—without hesitation he moves from the glory of a cosmic event to:
“Now, about the collection for God’s people.”
Paul speaks of that collection in this text, in Romans 15:25-31, Galatians 2:10 and in 2 Corinthians he takes two entire chapters out of thirteen to speak about it.
It’s not uncommon in congregations to take sixty seconds to say the collection will now be taken and then perhaps four minutes to collect it and that’s all and that’s the last it’s heard of until the next Lord’s Day.
This isn’t the place to develop the contexts of the passages mentioned but each one is rich in truth about God and his reconciling of the two divisions of the human family [Jews and non-Jews]. Note the occasion of his mentioning the collection in Galatians [a profoundly critical moment where—humanly speaking—the life of the Church of the Lord Jesus is at stake]. Note the brotherly and sisterly interdependence he speaks of in Romans 15 and note that he makes the entire gift of the Gentiles to the needy Jewish Christians [and others] a Christological matter in 2 Corinthians 8:9. In the completely free gift of the Gentiles [8:8 and see 9:7] they are imitating the reconciling work of the Christ. We need to reflect carefully and prayerfully on the setting and the words of these texts.
The grace of giving is the grace of God given to us [8:1] and it re-enacts the grace of God flowing through the Jewish Messiah to the entire world. This giving is a visible witness that God came in Jesus Christ and reconciled the world unto himself and it is carried out by the men and women who are part of that one body of Christ in which all nations are welcomed.
As the dollars and checks are dropped on to the plate or into the basket wondrous things are being said. Assuming the heart is good this giving event is not to be rushed or treated as a secondary issue—God’s inestimable gift to the entire human family—Jesus Christ—is being proclaimed.
This is the perfect act to follow eating the bread and drinking the wine, the perfect act to express the meaning of the Lord's Supper as Paul speaks of it in 1 Corinthians 11 where the "haves" were refusing to share with the "have nots".