Oh the weather outside is frightful, but my office is delightful and since I’ve no place to go, lets get working on the Beacon. It has been a while since our last installment of the Beacon so I thought we would have an end of the year edition.
Let us take a few moments to reflect on the worship service and particularly the offering. As we come down to the end of the year many are keeping their eyes firmly fixed on the budget numbers to see how we as a congregation are doing in our giving. That is not why I am interested in talking about the offering. Yes, I do track our giving as I expect any of the officers of the church to do. However, I’m not making an appeal for giving. My concern as the Teaching Elder is that we understand why the offering is considered part of the worship service in the first place.
I have found it interesting in the last several years to see the rise in popularity of the giving kiosk. You’re more apt to see them in larger churches, but they are growing in popularity. What is a giving kiosk? Well it is like a reverse ATM (no, that does not mean you call it an MTA). If you want to give to the church you just go over to the giving kiosk and swipe your card. It is like self-checkout at the grocery store. An old friend of mine who serves as a deacon got the idea one time to mount a credit card reader on an offering plate as a joke. It was good for a few laughs. Seriously though, why is giving tithes and offerings part of the worship service? For some people, seeing the plate being passed fosters an attitude that is anything but worship.
As we come to these kinds of issues, it is of vital importance that we see what the Bible has to say on the subject. That said let me warn you that I’m just going to use a couple of references. On this issue there are literally thousands of verses that apply. In the Old Testament we see clearly the command to “bring the full tithe into the storehouse…” (Malachi 3:10). In the New Testament, Paul makes it clear that giving in worship is expected of God’s people: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up…” (1Corinthians 16:2). In Acts the people brought their gifts, to support the church and it’s ministry, laying them at the disciple’s feet. So we see giving is a clear act of our stewardship and a necessary part of Biblical worship.
Our “Directory of the Worship of God” in the Book of Church Order is helpful as it summarizes the Scriptural teaching on the worship of God by offerings:
The Holy Scriptures teach that God is the owner of all persons and all things and that we are but stewards of both life and possessions; that God’s ownership and our stewardship should be acknowledged; that this acknowledgment should take the form, in part, of giving at least a tithe of our income and other offerings to the work of the Lord through the Church of Jesus Christ, thus worshipping the Lord with our possessions; and that the remainder should be used as becomes Christians. (54-1)
It is both a privilege and a duty, plainly enjoined in the Bible, to make regular, weekly, systematic and proportionate offerings for the support of religion and for the propagation of the Gospel in our own and foreign lands, and for the relief of the poor. This should be done as an exercise of grace and an act of worship, and at such time during the service as may be deemed expedient by the Session. (54-2)
David summarized the proper spirit of worship that willingly gives tithes and offerings, when he said in 2 Samuel 24:24, “…I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” In other words as Mike Ross puts it, “I will honor God with a sacrifice of praise that is costly and dear to me – my tithes and offerings. I will not insult God with an attitude of discount religion!”
We need to understand that our worship in tithes and offerings is pleasing to God when they are given as a priority (Proverbs 3:9,10), when they are generous and not stingy (2 Corinthians 8:1-3), when they are given willingly and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7), when we consider it an honor to tithe (2 Corinthians 8:4), and when we do so with purpose, planning and in a systematic manner (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
Again Mike Ross is helpful and convicting here: “God is offended by “small change” thrown off-handedly in the collection plate like some “tip” for a waiter or bellhop. We do God no favors when we give to Him. Instead we give thanks to Him for all He’s given us and for the true privilege bestowed upon us that He would accept our little gifts from unclean hands and use them for His glory!”
We worship God with our tithes and offerings because these are part of our sacrifices offered to God. We offer sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving, and love. Our tithes and offerings are simply part of that and they are pleasing to the Lord when we offer them from a willing and cheerful heart. God does not need your money, it is our great privilege to allowed to partner with Him in the ministry in this way. Before you give of your tithes and offerings, make sure you are doing it with a heart of worship.
Good readers take note, for this edition of the Beacon the “Pastor’s Secret Message” (to tell me you’ve done your reading) is: “Drink more Ovaltine.” A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.