I hope you do not suppose that the collections do not concern you. Those of you who have not yet learned the privilege, not to say obligation, that lies upon you to devote a portion of your substance to the Lord, ought, without any loss of time, to give the subject your careful consideration.
In turning to the word of God for this purpose, you can hardly do better perhaps than refer to Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians. Towards the close of that letter the apostle reminded them of the collection that had been set on foot among the Gentiles for the benefit of the poor saints in Jerusalem. And in the course of his brief reference to their duty in this respect, he laid down two principles which are as useful for your guidance today as they were to those he was addressing. Indeed, you will find this Epistle was directed not only to the saints in Corinth, but also to "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 1:2).
The words that the apostle uses are, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come" (1 Cor. 16:2). From this passage the least that is clear is that their contributions were to be made (1) regularly — upon the first of the week, and (2) conscientiously — as they had been prospered.
These two principles — regularity and conscientiousness — are very simple and easy to be understood; but they are not on that account less likely to be overlooked. You will therefore do well to lay it seriously to heart that whatever sum you set aside week by week, whether it be a penny or a pound, it ought to be the outcome (1) of the regular habit you have acquired of so doing, and (2) of a real effort to make that sum a just and generous proportion of your income.
It will be observed that the day named is the first of the week, the Lord's Day, This was the day on which the early disciples assembled to break bread (Acts 20:7). On that day they were called to remember in an especial manner how the Lord gave Himself up on the cross for them. The day, therefore, was particularly full of hallowed associations and memories of the Lord Jesus, which were calculated. to awaken feelings of love and benevolence as nothing else was.
But I do not wish, on this occasion, to dwell so much on the motives that should animate you in giving, as on the necessity for regularity in this practice. The Lord has associated it with the first of the week. There is therefore invariably a weekly call to dedicate a portion of your goods to Him.
It ought not to be necessary that the collection box should be thrust before you to remind you of your duty. The amount of your weekly offering should be ready beforehand; and it would be better for you to omit to take your Bible and hymn book than to overlook your gift to the Lord.
I fear that some often forget that in the collection they are giving to the Lord, else the box would not so easily be forgotten. It is true that as a matter of pounds, shillings and pence, it is better to contribute a shilling a week regularly than a half-sovereign three or four times a year promiscuously. But if you think the Lord Himself is passing round the basket, you would not be so thoughtless and careless in the matter and make no response because you forgot to bring any money.
However, while the occasion of laying by in store comes round regularly once a week, it is not expected that the same fixed sum should always be reserved. The amount is to be regulated by your prosperity. It is well to see that the Lord has not laid down the proportion to be set by. He has not asked you to give half of your goods to the poor as Zacchaeus was in the habit of doing, nor a tenth as in the case of Israel. But it appears to me from the word — "every one of you" — that each, however poor, is bound to give something. How much that is you must each settle for yourselves before the Lord. Only be sure to be before the Lord about it. Say plainly, "Here is my sixpence, Lord; it is all I can spare Thee this week;" and then wait to see whether conscience cries, "Shame" at you or not.
Of course it should be borne in mind that if you purpose to give a shilling there is nothing to hinder you increasing your donation to two, if you feel moved to do so. But it is a serious thing to reduce it without adequate reason. You must remember there is such a thing as robbing God (Mal. 3) of which you must beware.
I can fancy that some of you may possibly be thinking that because you are not in receipt of a regular income these remarks have no reference to you. But surely you have a few pence weekly which you are free to use at your own discretion. That amount therefore is yours, and the Lord should have such a part as you are ready to yield Him. Whatever the amount of your contribution, let it be your own; young people sometimes make a point of asking their elders to give them something for the collection.
A servant of Christ relates a circumstance which illustrates how true faith and love acceptably serve the Lord in a humble way, and it may perhaps set some of you thinking. A woman who was known to be very poor, came to a Missionary Meeting and offered to subscribe a penny a week. "Surely," said one, "you are too poor to afford this." She replied, "I spin so many hanks of yarn a week for my living, and I'll spin one hank more, and that will be a penny a week for the missionaries."
Self-denial for the sake of Christ is of great value in His eyes. And it is a small thing to give Him only what you do not miss, or what costs you little. It was not said of a true Christian, that he was "ready to act the good Samaritan, without the oil and the two pence."
Before closing, I would like to add that there are other calls upon the pocket than those on the first of the week. There should therefore be, as our verse implies, a store for special need. It must not be supposed that when you have placed your coin in the collection box, you are to resist every further demand. Your heart and your purse should ever be open for the help of the needy. Of course, I mean as far as you are able. I am sure many of you are far from being backward in this grace but we ought to remember that:
"We all can do better than yet we have done,
And not be a whit the worse;
It never was loving that emptied the heart,
Nor giving that emptied the purse."