*Update* - This article is part of a series on corporate worship which has been put together into one digital book entitled Corporate Worship: Principles & Elements of Worship at Providence Presbyterian Church, PCA (Midland, TX). It is available for free download in pdf or Kindle format here: http://providencemidland.org/resources/helpful-links (it is the second resource listed on this page).
Dear Church Family,
One of the elements of worship that is often overlooked, or perhaps taken for granted, is the giving and receiving of offerings for the support of the gospel ministry of the church. Some people see the giving of offerings as a sort of due which one gives because they are a member of the ‘club.’ While this may be the historic practice in some churches (thinking of giving to the church as a sort of ‘due’), that is not the case in the Scriptures or at Providence Presbyterian Church. We do not give to the church in payment for ‘services rendered.’
The Manner of Giving: Voluntary, Proportional, Purposeful
The offerings which are given as a part of worship are to be voluntary, proportional, and purposeful. Consider the first offering which God commanded for the people of God at Mount Sinai for the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-9):
1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. 3 "This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, 4 blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, 5 rams' skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, 6 oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece. 8 "Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. 9 "According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.
The Lord commanded Moses to receive a contribution from ‘every man whose heart moves him’ (Exodus 25:2). The New Testament reiterates this principal of voluntary giving: “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Indeed, Anianas and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) were judged not because they withheld their property, but because they lied about their giving – their property was under their control to do with as they saw fit (Acts 5:4).
Implicit in God’s command to Moses to receive a contribution from the people of Israel (Exodus 25) is the understanding that all that they owned was a gift from the Lord. All that the Israelites owned was a result of their plundering of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:35-36) as God delivered them from slavery. Likewise, James tells us that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). “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 acknowledgement 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.” (PCA Book of Church Order, 54:1).
John Frame provides some helpful insight into the teaching of Scripture concerning our personal finances and giving to the church:
The New Testament does not explicitly require the tithe, although it says much about giving. Its emphasis, in passages like 2 Corinthians 8-9, is that giving should be voluntary and cheerful (2 Cor. 9:7-8), but also generous. In Acts 4:34-37, we read of Christians selling property to meet the needs of the poor...[R]adical giving seemed to be the rule for them – and a joy. Newcomers sometimes ask church members how much money they should give to the church. The question seems crass, and church people often find various ways to avoid answering it. But for someone who is new to the Christian community, it is a reasonable question. What would be a good ball-park figure? Well, in one sense God demands all that we have, and sometimes he demands that in literal ways, as when he calls someone to martyrdom or to the poor widow’s moral heroism (Luke 21:1-4). But our inquirer is interested in what would be considered a normal amount, a base from which one may proceed to greater gifts. When I talk to such inquirers, I cannot get out of my head that again and again in the Old Testament the figure of 10 percent recurs. That is the Lord’s portion. It may be that in the New Testament that amount is not strictly required. But surely the ‘cheerful’ giving of 2 Corinthians 9:7 cannot be much less than that. So I unashamedly recommend to inquirers the tithe, as a beginning of financial discipleship. (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, 801).
In Exodus 25, God commanded Moses to receive contributions from the people for the purpose of building a tabernacle, a physical structure patterned after the heavenly temple which the Lord showed to Moses (vv 8-9). In the new covenant, the worship of God is no longer confined to a particular place (John 4:19-24); Jesus Christ and His people – the church – is the holy temple and spiritual house of God (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-10).
Even though we no longer worship in a tabernacle or temple which needs to be supported by the giving of the people of God, in the New Testament, there is evidence that weekly collections were taken up for the ministry of the gospel and for helping the poor (1 Corinthians 16:1-14). Likewise, the early church maintained lists of those who would receive financial help from the local church (1 Timothy 5:9-12). And the Apostle Paul writes, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him” (Galatians 6:6). The church’s resources are to be used “exclusively for those matters assigned to the church in the scriptures. This assists individuals in giving cheerfully, when they know that the church is not frittering its resources on questionable matters” (T. David Gordon, The Tithe in Biblical-Theological Perspective).
The Worship of Giving: Thankfulness, Liberality, Prayer
“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” (PCA Book of Church Order, 54:2).
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus taught that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). And, as we have already noted, giving to the local church must be done as each one has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Christians give out of thankfulness for all that the Lord has given to them.
The Scriptures exhort that the one who gives, ought to give with liberality (Romans 12:8). The churches of Macedonia are commended in the Scriptures because “in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2). And, the Apostle Paul enjoins the church at Corinth to do likewise – to liberally give in order to produce more thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9).
Indeed, one of the principle duties of the deacons of the church is “to develop the grace of liberality in the members of the church, to devise effective methods of collecting the gifts of the people, and to distribute these gifts among the objects to which they are contributed” (PCA Book of Church Order, 9:2).
We do not set our offerings on an ‘altar’ – we have no more need of altars since the old covenant has been made obsolete by the new (Hebrews 8:13). Christ is the one through whom we offer up a sacrifice of praise to God (Hebrews 13:10-15). No, we ought never to think of our giving to the church as a sacrifice, or means of atonement. Rather, because Christ was offered up once to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:27), God’s people give out of thankfulness for what Christ has already done, not in an attempt to seek forgiveness of sins.
Therefore, “it is appropriate that the offerings be dedicated by prayer” (PCA Book of Church Order, 54:3). We ask the Lord to bless the givers and that which was given. We pray that the Lord, through the application of the offerings, would use them for the support of the faithful proclamation of the gospel – for the building up of His kingdom, the church.
May the Lord bless you as you prepare to worship Him well, this Sunday!
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch