Tuesday: Offerings and Worship
The Bible does not give us an order of service for worship. But it appears that at least four things are present in worship services. In the New Testament this list includes study/preaching, prayer, music, and tithes and offerings.
Three times each year the men (and families) of Israel were all to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem. And “they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed” (Deuteronomy 16:16, NKJV). In other words, part of the worship experience was the returning of tithe and giving offerings. It was at Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles that God’s children brought their tithes and offerings. It’s hard to imagine someone coming to those feasts empty-handed.
In other words, for ancient Israel the giving of their tithes and offerings was a central part of their worship experience. Worship, true worship, isn’t just expressing in words and songs and prayer our thankfulness and gratitude to God, but also expressing that thankfulness and gratitude to God by the bringing of our offerings to the house of the Lord. They brought it to the temple; we bring it to the church on Sabbath (at least as one way to return our tithe and offerings), an act of worship.
Read 1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 96:8-9; and Psalm 116:16-18. How do we apply the principles expressed here to our own worship experience?
As God’s children, who are tasked with the responsibility of managing His business on the earth, it is a privilege, an opportunity, and a responsibility to bring our offerings. If the Lord has given us children to raise for Him, we should share with them the joy of bringing tithes and offerings to Sabbath School and church services. In some places, people return their tithe online or by other means. However we do it, the returning of tithes and offerings is a part of our worship experience with God.
|What has been your own experience with the role of returning tithe and offerings as part of worship? How does the practice impact your relationship with God?|
For the whole of my childhood, and many years before and after, my Grandmother and Mother provided the floral decorations for our local Church. Friday afternoon, they would set about making the arrangements. Then on Sabbath morning, we would all pile into the car for the 16km trip to church. We kids had to nurse these flower arrangements on our laps (That is one way to stop kids from fighting in the back seat of the car). On arrival at church the vases were carefully placed in the church and refilled with water; the final touches were made to repair the damage inflicted by their journey and they were ready for Sabbath School and Church.
After the service was over, another family took the flowers to the local hospital where they were used to brighten up the day for patients.
That was part of Grandma, and Mum's offering for church and also part of their worship. Gardening was their passion and we grew up in an environment where flowers were always on hand for making church decorations.
We often think of offerings in terms of handing over a wad of cash, (or nowadays tapping the plastic against the scanner) Now, financial offerings are a good thing and we need to think about them carefully. But when it comes to offerings and worship, the offering of service, quietly given provides the sort of connectivity that I have been talking about this week. The flower decorations quietly connected people with God and one another. I still think of those church days when I smell the sweet perfume of jasmine in the air.
I followed in the tradition of our family with the preparation of nature-themed visuals for my local church for about 20 years. And I felt as though my worship had been truncated when our new minister told me that I was too decrepit to continue. Now, ten years later I had a little smile to myself when I was sitting in church last Sabbath. A friend in another church texted me an SMS message "Watching your bird slides in church today!" God was still finding ways to use my offering.
How much do you give for an offering? As much of yourself as God gives you the power to give. And that is a lot more than money.
Amen, brother Maurice!
The text "they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed" (Deut. 16:16) speaks to me. A couple weeks ago at church a young girl seated in front of me, watching during offering collection time, asked, "Where's your offering?" Her mom turned around and smiled at me. I felt uncomfortable at first because (1) I have no regular income currently and (2) I knew it was between God and me what I was giving. I whispered to her that I had been giving to God in a different way that week. It reminded me of when I was a young girl myself at church and received the dollar from my Mom to put in the plate; but somehow the plate bypassed my pew without me putting it in and how upset I was at the time...the feeling that somehow my offering wasn't going to be blessed when they said the prayer over the collection.
When I think of Jesus' parable of the sheep and goats at the end of time I am struck that both groups were actively doing the same "good" works asked of them by God. They were all full-handed. Both groups were diligently giving offerings. There was a distinct difference, however, in how God received those offerings. One group - the goats - was whipping up things to give from their own works. I imagine, because I've been in this group myself, that the giving was labored and what was meant as charity might have not even felt so charitable from those receiving from them. What was meant as a gift of bread probably felt to the receiver like receiving a stone, and what the goats intend as fish to nourish is given out perhaps more in the style of a stinging serpent (Matt. 7:9-11). Whereas the other group - the sheep - were in a relationship with Jesus. It is Jesus giving through them, with the finesse of His heart, that does not bruise the broken reed (Is. 42:3). He gives through us, His sheep, what the rest of the flock and world really needs. Only He knows. The sheep give out of a place of personal emptiness, empty of our own works, empty of wanting recognition from others (Matt. 6:3), empty of a constipated and labored fullness of self. Faith in Jesus drives our action, not faith in our own charm and personal bountifulness.
I'm fasting today. If I can make it through until tomorrow morning with no food it will be my first time (other than during an illness when appetite is suppressed anyway). My reason is wanting to heal an eye sty. There are spiritual benefits too, though. I am reminded that this is a time of emptying out, a time to make new room to receive nourishment fully, so I can live and give fully. Jesus said in Luke 12:22-31 to not worry about food or clothing, to look at the beautiful lilies, to relax into not having. [Coincidentally I picked up some giant, cut white lilies last night and they are perfuming my space gorgeously.] I love it, Maurice, how you say to give "as much of yourself as God gives you the power to give". Yes, absolutely, I want my giving to flow as directly and easily as the young girl who is handed the dollar from Mom's purse only to immediately put back into the offering plate as her own.
Perfect description! We can only give from what we have received already! We too give back to God from what we already have received from Him. While tithing is supposed to reflect my fidelity, the offerings reflect how thankful I am for the fidelity of God towards me, and this involves all my talents, such as health, time, abilities and finances.
I demonstrate the happiness of being blessed when I share those talents, with the church and the people around me.
A poor old man from our church (Papua New Guinea) never missed out on any church activity that required his little muscles and skills. He is good in cleaning the exterior of Church, cutting grass, weeding, raking and burning off rubbish. I asked him why he has to do clean-ups even when the church did not ask its members to come. And he would slowly walk the 1 km road to church with his tools. I will never forget in my lifetime when he told me that it is his offering (time and skills) dedicated back to God. As part of his worship, he now 'renders back to God, the benefits he receives from God'.
Thank you, Robert, for your story. My older brother passed away 4 years ago this month. He was like the poor old man from your area. Part of his offerings consisted of donating hours of work to church activity. He contributed by mowing the large lawn at the church property on a fairly regular basis, distributing Signs magazines, sharing song service duties, deacon, teaching Sabbath School monthly, being church treasurer, assisting at the food pantry, as well as returning a faithful tithe and offering. Our membership is small, but his services are missed.
Are we not all stewards ‘managing God’s business on the earth’? If so, by ‘giving to the LORD the glory due His name as we worship Him in the beauty of holiness’, is this not part of the integrity of a good steward? We are informed to be holy because He is holy’ – 1 Peter 1:15-17. Are offerings and worship not also part of the expression of our desire to respond to the call for holiness through stewardship?
I see the Christian’s religion as our way of life. The life we live now is that of the new creation transformed to live by faith in the Word of God. As we better understand God’s grace and mercy at work in our lives, we see it expressed though the many ways our transformed heart and mind responds to 'needs' in all its forms.
1 Peter 4:10-11 - Actually, we are given an entirely new perspective as we encounter opportunities in our life lived in the kingdom of God. We are now stewards of the ‘manifold grace of God’ and held accountable when 'utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.' (Wikipedia on Stewardship)
C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity:
Matt 25:21 - ”Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
If offering and tithing is act of returning some of what God has given us, and God had given us freely, He’s no scales or dollar bill counter carefully measuring out blessings to each of us so no one gets too much or too little. Then we too should freely return to the Lord without calculation. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:5-8
However we do it, the returning of tithes and offerings is a part of our worship experience with God....
The word "however" to me shouldn't be used in this case. There is a biblically recommended way that have been put clearly in the 3 scripture passages above.
▶️ Come before Him
▶️ Come to His courts
▶️ In the presence of all His people.
What should we have done in lockdown?
Save up our offerings till church reopened?
What if we are traveling for an extended period of time?
What if we are sick and incapacitated?
The Israelites took their offerings 3 times a year, should we resort to that also?
My own experience with the role of returning tithe and offerings as part of worship has been one of immense blessing and deeper worship. Being able to give back a portion of what God has provided, no matter the size of the offering, is such a reminder of who God is and His faithfulness. It is a tangible way to remember and show my gratitude for the blessings He has bestowed on me and my family. It has also helped me to cultivate a trusting relationship with God, knowing that He will provide no matter what I am able to give back and trusting in Him to do what is best with my offering.