This page contains devotional thoughts to accompany the weekly collection of tithes and offerings. I’ve seen many books with devotional thoughts focused upon the Lord’s Supper, but I’ve never found one for the weekly giving. While I give greater emphasis to the Lord’s Supper than the weekly giving, this regular collection should not be taken lightly. Too often bad theology accompanies the invitation for Christians to worship with generosity. As a result, the faith and character formation that could accompany this discipline of worship get overlooked and neglected.
The goal of this page is to emphasise giving as an exercise in worshiping God.
#1 – Cheerful Giving
Why does the church collect money each Sunday? I’ve heard all sorts of reasons over the years,
- To keep the lights on,
- To support the work of the church,
- To pay the bills,
- To pay the preacher,
- To fulfill our obligation to God,
- To repay God for Jesus’ sacrifice (although we know we can’t, but we mention it anyway)
I believe these are terrible reasons to put money in the collection plate each week.
Sure, some of them address practical necessities. The bills do need to be paid. We all appreciate heat in the winter. But these are not reasons the church exists, and they’re not reasons that we give to Him each week.
Many of us are familiar with the thought that “God loves a cheerful giver”. It seems many people are less familiar with the first half of that sentence found in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.” If we don’t want people to give reluctantly or from a sense of compulsion, why do we so often talk about bills, and obligations?
If we’re to learn how to give cheerfully, we also need to reclaim the link between our money and our worship. If we can sing praise at the top of our lungs, but give through clenched teeth, then perhaps we need a heart checkup.
God loves when we make ourselves and the things we value most available to his service. It’s in these moments that we practice loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, strength and dollars…cheerfully.
#2 – This is Not Our Kingdom
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33
We are a people waiting on a new kingdom.
The kingdom of this world operates primarily according to the value of money. The beginning of our day is money. The end of our day is money. Our prime motivations and our grandest dreams are all centered around money.
Right now, as we worship, we are rebelling against this world and we are about to participate in something crazy. We are going to let go of money that could easily have other uses, that could bring some perceived measure of fulfillment to our lives, that could ease some pressure or could help us relax and enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures.
Motivated by a simple, unseen faith, we are going to take that money and very purposefully let go of it. Not because we are so rich. Not because we are so bound by guilt or responsibility. But because we are saying, loud and clear for this current kingdom to hear,
“This is not our kingdom. We are not going to let ourselves be controlled by your money and your values. You can take your money crazed materialism and keep barreling ahead to your own destruction. Not us. We don’t care about your money. We care about the kingdom that’s coming.”
#3 – If God Were Hungry…
“God doesn’t need our money.” It’s true. Sadly, we sometimes say this to justify giving less of our money. Sometimes we think that we have a better understanding of spiritual economics than the ancient Hebrews.
This psalm demonstrates clearly that these ancient people understood that they weren’t making sacrifices to feed God or to enrich Him. Verse 12 explains this clearly, “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”
God can and will accomplish His goals without our money. He doesn’t need us to fund his mission.
Yet we give to Him as a sacrifice, as an act of worship. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. If he doesn’t “need” our money, why do we give it? The psalm responds, “because it’s worship and it’s gratitude.” Listen again at how this passage concludes,
Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
and call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
#4 – A Common Purpose
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
We share a common purse. We don’t operate by a strict socialism that is forced upon us, but we, as brothers and sisters in a family, purposefully choose to share our resources.
- We pool them together so that we can take care of those who find themselves in need.
- We pool our resources together so that we can support the causes we are passionate about.
- We pool them together so that our family, this assembly, can accomplish its mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus and bringing glory to God without the hindrance of financial concerns.
Sometimes we talk about “giving our money to God.” While in one sense we do give it to him, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but we don’t send him a check. Rather we retain a responsibility to support the use of those funds. As we pass the plates and you drop in your gift, don’t think that now you have finished what you are supposed to do and that when you let go, it instantly belongs to someone else. To the contrary, it remains very much yours, or more correctly, it remains very much ours.
Your weekly offering becomes part of our common purse. It is ours to use, ours to share, ours to take responsibility in, but also ours to spend with eagerness on the things we know are good and right and proper.
That is why we do not give begrudgingly, as Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians (they were sending their gifts all the way to Jerusalem to help the poor, but for Paul, this was personal. People he was passionate about were in Jerusalem). Instead of doing it because we have to, we do it cheerfully because we are connected and committed to the causes the resources are being used for.
Giving to God each week allows our church to purchase Sunday School material for our children, but that material accomplishes nothing without volunteer teachers. Giving to God allows us to maintain the building, but that doesn’t stretch very far without people willing to clean and repair our facilities. Giving to God enables us to buy food for our neighborhood cookouts, but if none of us show up the event will be a flop. We can send a check to an overseas missionary, which is great, but it neglects the personal and moral support those same missionaries also need.
When you give your money, know that you are not “giving” it to God, or “giving” it to the oversight of the elders, but rather you are participating in the mission and ministry of God. Dropping a check, or a bill, or some coins, is just the beginning of participating in God’s mission at this congregation.