January 30, 2012

The Offering

Part 6 in a series on the church’s “liturgy

One part of Lord’s Day services that is often overlooked is the offering. It’s not that churches or individuals overlook it altogether, but that we may be prone to overlook the fact that the offering is actually a part of the worship service.

Yes, we collect tithes and offerings because they meet very practical needs in the church’s weekly, monthly, and yearly operations. Without the offering, we would have no lights, no sound system, no bulletins, no Windex for the front doors, no gas for the lawn-mower, no salt for the parking lot, no benevolence fund for families in need, no support for our missionaries, no full-time pastor, and so on. So, yes, the money we collect every week does serve very practical (sometimes even mundane) purposes. But that’s not all that – or even mainly what – the offering is about! No! The offering is actually an act of worship!

To believe that, of course, you have to believe that the church grounds, lights, sound system, front doors, missionaries, and pastor are actually God’s possessions, not merely those of the church. For your offering to be an act of worship, you must believe that you really are giving the money to God … not just to Kurt and Tobey, Midge, and the various committees of the church! When our hearts are right, we realize that we are putting our money, not simply into the offering plate, but into the hands of our Lord (see Leviticus 27.30, Malachi 3.8, and Matthew 25.40)!

This is why we (like the early church, 1 Cor 16.2) include the offering as a part of Lord’s Day worship, rather than simply having a deposit box in the foyer, or a PayPal account online. The money, of course, would spend the same way no matter how it came into the church’s bank account. But that money is not simply going into the church’s account, but into the hands of the living God! And so, to help us remember that, we offer our money to God each week at the same time we offer Him our hearts, and voices, and spiritual gifts, and ears. That is not to say it is impossible to truly worship God while giving your gift some other way. But there is something about giving our gift to God when we are gathered with God’s people, having just sung His praises and listened to His word, that I think would be very difficult to duplicate online, or standing next to a deposit box in the foyer, or even dropping your envelope into the plate before the service (as I used to do).

But here’s the thing. Even though we do collect the offering as part of worship; even though we do present our money to God right alongside our praises, it is possible for you or me to do so only in a perfunctory way. We may drop our envelope into the plate without really even thinking about what we are doing … just doing our duty, or waiting to get to the next song or scripture. But let’s not miss this once-a-week opportunity, not simply to give to the church, but to say to the Lord Himself: ‘God, this is for You! You have been so good to me – physically and spiritually. And I want to show my thanks. I want this gift to be a token of my love for you and my recognition that you are worthy of my praise. God, I place this little envelope into the passing plate as a real, conscious, deliberate act of worship!’

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