carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
The Issues and Elements of Worshipping God
Part 11 – The Offering
The offering, or collection, can be another of those sensitive issues regarding worship that divides Christians and can even make us suspicious of one another. As a minister, I have heard the same kind of skeptical remarks you have: “All they want is your money!”
The problem is, sometimes that has been proven correct – ministers and churches have occasionally been guilty in the past of being more eager to build their own little kingdoms rather than truly contribute to the Kingdom of God. Proper checks and balances with regard to goals and spending of funds is an issue the church must not ignore or overlook.
Still, in spite of sin corrupting the work of the church at some places and in some times, we are still under the divine instruction to:
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Tim. 6:17-19)
The offering is a part of our worship to God. That premise is first and foremost and keeping it before us will not only instruct us but guard us as well. Several observations come to mind when we think about this.
Ø The Old Testament legislation is clear about worshipping God with the tithe. When done in kind it was called the “first fruits” of the harvest, another way of saying “the best of the crop”, and again, a way of stressing the need to return thanks to God as a priority. That is, before we enjoy the fruits of our labor ourselves, we acknowledge the One who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
The New Testament does not eliminate this part of the worship but, as with many other aspects of the law, enlarges it. The tithe principle, a tenth of all your gross income, is not diminished but spiritually expanded – a Christian belongs entirely to God, we are, ourselves, to be the offering poured out on His altar in service and ministry and life (Rom. 12:1). New Testament believers have at least the same obligation to express their thanks to God as the saints of the Old Testament church.
Ø The collection is to be made regularly because the offering is a part of our regular weekly worship (1 Cor. 16:2). I know some are in the habit of contributing monthly or bi-monthly because that is when they get paid. But that is really worshipping God according to our own convenience and schedule rather than by divine directive or principle. (Some do it this way because they’re afraid that if they don’t they’ll just spend it on themselves. That really falls under the category of proper budgeting and self-control.) Think about it: we don’t sing hymns “monthly” or decide we will listen to the sermon “every other week” (you better not!!). Why should our offering be any different? What is the biblical justification for just passing the plate along as an act of worship?
Optimally, we should plan ahead enough so that we spread out our offering over the pay period so that we have something to bring every Lord’s Day. Will that take extra effort? Yes. But is our preparation for worship every week necessary? Yes. And is the Lord worthy of His due praise every week? Yes.
Ø Now some of us simply are not yet in a position to do that. Some have never been challenged before to meet a full tithe obligation. Others are not used to tithing at all and their income, at present, is spoken for – perhaps there is even irresponsible debt to get under control. Still others live very close to their budget and cannot consider doing more. But we will all find the Lord a merciful and loving heavenly Father.
For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Mt. 6:32b-33)
Remember the offering is an act of worship. It’s not your dues or taxes. You won’t get into trouble if you aren’t able right away to “meet the deadline”. You are bringing your offerings out of faith and trust in the Lord’s provision to you and His promise to provide for you in the future. Changing your habits or lifestyle may take time. That’s OK. Learn how to budget and control your own desires, pay what you must to meet obligations to creditors you have agreed already to pay, and begin your offering with something – even if it is only a part of your tithe – rather than wait any longer. The worship of God in any form is not to be postponed.
Ø Christians who have committed themselves to the work and ministry of the local, visible body of Christ – that is, they have become communicant members of the congregation – should realize the duty to give their full tithe to that congregation of which they are members. If you wish to support other ministries and/or causes, that should not come out of the tithe but be given over and above the tithe sacrificially. The church is not to suffer because you have chosen to get involved elsewhere as well.
The opportunity to receive God’s blessing for giving over and above the tithe is the reason we call the offering in worship the collection of His tithes and our offerings. We have the opportunity to give over and above what the Lord requires and when we do so we can truly rejoice in the Lord’s goodness to us.
Ø Finally, our attitude in such worship as this is extremely important. But it is just as important to realize our attitude is not what must come first. Obedience will lead to joy. This is how it works:
v You must first give yourself to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5).
v Then you must give yourself to others for the ministry of the gospel and the building up of the saints (2 Cor. 8:4).
v Then give with an eye to abound in this gift of giving just as you seek to abound in the exercise of the other gifts of God’s grace given to you (2 Cor. 8:7, 9).
v Thank God for His indescribable gift to you in Christ (2 Cor. 9:15).
v Then, without a doubt, you will be a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 9:7).
David G. Barker, 2003
|David G. Barker