Paul frequently devotes the final chapter of an epistle to practical directions that are quite specific to the congregation he is addressing and that cannot be followed by modern readers in the same way that his original audience kept them. We see this, for example, in 1 Corinthians 16, which provides us with such things as the Apostle’s immediate travel plans and instructions regarding the collection of funds for the churches in Jerusalem in Judea. Nevertheless, we can find in this chapter principles to apply to our own setting even if the exact method of following them looks different for us than for the first readers of this epistle.
In 16:1, Paul makes reference to “the collection for the saints.” He is talking about the gathering of funds to assist the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea, who were suffering under severe poverty because of the intense persecution they had to endure. Paul talks about this collection often in his epistles, as he regarded it as a vital and tangible way to demonstrate the unity of the gentile Christians outside of Judea with the Jewish Christians who lived there (e.g., Rom. 15:25–29; 2 Cor. 9). This collection also served as part of Paul’s fulfilling his commitment to remember the poor (see Gal. 2:1–10).
The Apostle instructs the Corinthians to set something aside “on the first day of every week” (1 Cor. 16:2). Here we have one of the earliest evidences that the Christians gathered together for worship and fellowship on what would come to be known as the Lord’s Day, or Sunday. Coming together to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week was not a post-Apostolic invention of the church, but it goes back to the beginning of the new covenant. In any case, Paul tells each Corinthian believer to collect funds “as he may prosper” (v. 2). The idea here is that the Christians should provide offerings for the poor in proportion to how they have prospered under the hand of God. Those of greater wealth should give more than those who have little, though there is no set formula for what this means or regarding what the church is to require. Matthew Henry comments: “God expects that our beneficence to others should hold some proportion to his bounty to us. All we have is from God; the more he gives (circumstances being considered), the more he enables us to give, and the more he expects we should give, that we should give more than others who are less able, that we should give more than ourselves when we were less able.”