John 4:21 records Jesus answering a Samaritan woman regarding worship. She is inquiring about proper location, but he turns her attention away from the secular setting and toward the concept of worshiping in spirit and truth. It is the manner of worship that matters. Acts 2:42 records that, when Jesus’ spiritual kingdom of the church was growing, the saints would come together. One part of that worship was giving, and that’s the topic of this lesson.
Contribution As Worship
The question of contribution is not one of amount. It is one of attitude. Do we treat our offering to God as something we rush through? Do we see this part of worship as less important than other parts? We sometimes sing about Christ, “I gave, I gave my life for thee. What hast thou given for me?” Our contribution is an offering to our God who gave all for us. Are we as sacrificial as He?
In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira lie when they bring their money to the apostles’ feet. They look for praise from man rather than God. Our offering is directed toward God, and there is no room for personal glory involved. Our personal benevolence and our contributions to God’s church are to God’s glory. As when we sing and when we pray, it is to and for God.
I Corinthians 16 provides a context for participating in this worship when we come together on the first day of the week. In this scenario, the collection is used for saints in need. Need is established, and they fulfill it. Examples like the famine coming in Acts 11 as well as several occasions in Paul’s journeys, the church fulfills those needs they see.
Offerings and the Old Testament
Romans 15:45 discusses the example set for us in the Old Testament, and the earliest offering we read of is by Cain and Abel. Abel’s sacrifice is of spirit and truth, and God respects his sacrifice. He gives unto God as God would have him give. This is prior than even than the law of Moses. When Abraham returns form battle in Genesis 14, he makes offering to God. Jacob offers God a tithe when fleeing from his brother Esau. These sacrifices are centered around worshiping God.
In the case of animal offerings, God expected the best from His people. The finest and healthiest of the livestock went to God. This was a valuable and costly resource to those making the offerings. These animals were an investment in the future of their families and businesses in a largely agricultural society. By the time we reach the writings of the prophets, people ceased giving as they should, leading to corruption in the priesthood’s work and teachings. Like the offering supported those serving God then, Paul writes about our contribution supporting our elders and preachers.
Exodus 35:4 and II Chronicles 24:8 both record offerings from the people in building and restoring the place of worship. In James 2:2, the word translated assembly is the same that is translated as synagogue in other places. It is a meeting place, set apart for the purpose of worship. Again, like the contributions of the Old Testament helped maintain the places of worship, so do ours today. Even the widow with nothing but two mites was giving for the support of the temple.
Application to Our Offerings
We are to give as we have been prospered, and II Corinthians 8:2-12 says our offering should be liberal, loving, and willing. The very next chapter tells us we should be cheerful in giving, and that we should determine our offering ahead of time. It is purposed in our hearts. Galatians 6:7-8 warns us that God is not mocked, reminding us to sow spiritual blessings. When we give to God, our priority is on God rather than ourselves. We are supporting His work and His workers. It is worship to Him, sacrificing for Him as He sacrifices for us.
lesson by Herbert Smelser, Jr.