It happens every week in churches throughout the world. Whether in gold colored plates, buckets, or boxes passed around or left at the back of the gathering place, an offering is received. Though a standard practice, in our consumer-based, “get all you can” culture that rewards the accumulation of wealth, participating in this weekly portion of the worship service is actually a radical statement of faith.
The offering has been around from the beginning. God’s people have always been called to give so that they may bring honor to God and provide for those in need (Genesis 8:20). Among God’s people in the earliest days, no grain was to be harvested until an offering was given (Leviticus 23:14). This tradition is carried forth through the New Testament and beyond when the newly-formed Church would “give to anyone who had need,” often even selling their property to do so (Acts 2:45)!
We have become accustomed to offerings in church life. At times, the offering has been viewed as an interruption or as an example of the church involving itself in crass commercialism. Jokes about preachers and offerings abound!
However, in Scriptural perspective, giving offerings predates almost every other portion of the worship service.
Here’s why: Because we are never more like God than when we give.
God is most clearly illustrated in our lives when we take a portion of what the world around us says is “ours” and offer it up, reminding ourselves and others that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
The biblical concept of tithing (giving 10% of our earnings) is a statement to our world that proclaims we believe that God can do more with the remaining 90% than we could do if we kept the full 100%. This is a radical statement of faith!
The offering also bears witness in a materialistic culture tied to material things that there is no need to “sell our souls for the almighty dollar,” since the God whom we serve is the one who is truly almighty. When we trust Him with even a portion of what He has given us, He is more than able to meet our needs while we bless others in His name.
This week, pray for the offerings that will be given throughout the world in forthcoming worship services. Pray that those in charge of the worship services will treat the offering as the prophetic witness to the faith in God that it was meant to be from the beginning, and not some interruption or some simple plea for funds. Pray that those who benefit from the Church’s giving will be prompted to turn their attention toward God, who is the true Provider of all.
May we understand and experience the love of God who gave for us as we give with cheerful and thankful hearts.
Prayer for the week:
Almighty God, whose loving hand has given us all that we
possess: Grant us grace, that we may honor You with our
substance, and, remembering the account which we must one
day give, may be faithful stewards of Your bounty, through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer)
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.