Grace and Peace from Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Over the last three months we looked at three ways we respond to the word in the service of worship. These ways are a prayer of thanksgiving, a profession of faith (especially the Apostles’ Creed), and the intercessory prayers of the people. A fourth way to give thanks for the good news is through the presentation of our tithes and offerings to God.
Within the larger liturgical context, asking for your offering early in worship can send the signal that it is necessary to pay a fee to enter the invisible Temple. This is especially dangerous for those who continue to struggle with thinking that they have to contribute to their salvation and don’t really fully grasp that Jesus did everything necessary for our redemption. However, collecting it after the sermon shows that any and all giving
is an act of gratitude for the good news. Instead of ‘giving’ and expecting something in return, we can freely give – just as God has given us Jesus. [Update: 7/22/17, this danger can be somewhat mitigated by taking up the offering following the litany of confession inasmuch as the litany of confession is a microcosm of the whole service and a telling of the gospel…]
Our regular liturgy of giving includes a call to share from the blessings God has given to you, the actual collection of monetary gifts, the Doxology, and a prayer of dedication. James K.A. Smith stresses the importance of money to this, saying, the offering “embodies a new economy, an alternative economy” even “an economics that refuses the assumptions of the capitalist imagination.”1 His description is helpful since the pursuit of happiness and prosperity is more at home in a capitalist ‘liturgy’ than Christianity. Indeed, it is common among younger generations to have no appreciation for self-sacrifice but the offering is an opportunity to give a joyful thanksgiving sacrifice. Giving an offering is a training exercise in dying to self. Meanwhile, when you bring a tithe you are admitting that all of your possessions belong to God – even yourself. Thus the giving of both tithes and offerings are acts of self-denial. Therefore, these gifts are practice for daily self-denial
(see the end of Acts 2). In other words, these gifts are practice for the daily sharing of our time, talents, and treasures.
Where we put the wealth God has given to us shows where our heart is. December is an important month to reflect on our giving. Sure there are tax benefits to give before the end of the year. But even more than that December is a time to resolve to be even more generous in the year ahead. God desires for us to grow in faith and when we give in faith we will grow in faith. And when we give thanks by freely giving it means we are growing in grace.
1. James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, p.204-205.