Several years ago the decision was made at our church to have the Sunday school kids carry their offering up to the front of the church along with the adults. Now, each Sunday the hall monitor goes to the classrooms when the offering is taken in church and gets one of the kids from each classroom to bring in baskets with the offering for the class. These adorable developing Christians come forward ahead of the adults, some shyly, some proudly, and some practically skipping. It is one of my favourite parts of the service. The decision was made so that the kids would be able to connect the collection in the classroom with the congregation’s offering to God and see that their little bit is a part of a bigger whole.
Why do we give money for the offering on Sundays? We know from the story of “the widow’s mite” that a collection was taken in the Synagogue during Christ’s time. Along with the meat, grain, and oil from people’s sacrifices these offerings went towards the maintenance of the synagogue and for the livelihood of the priests. Little has changed. Our congregational offering is handled by boards of members who oversee the maintenance of the physical plant, the stipend for the minister, the materials for worship, the power bill etc. This is what we do with the offering, but is it why we give?
It is tax season. People keep track of their charitable donations over the course of the year and claim them against their income as an aid to getting a break on what they owe, or even a possible refund. We give our members envelopes which allows anonymity with the offering counters as well as a way for the treasurer to credit our giving. Is this the reason we give?
Many of us are familiar with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” This is used frequently in sermons and talks on stewardship and it sounds great. If you read the rest of the section it is a part of a letter arranging to send some workers along to help prepare for the collection of a large offering from the congregation.
Jesus talks about tithes while pointing out that the Pharisees do a great job of giving the tithe in the things like spices but not in the things that matter like mercy, judgement and faith. When a rich young man asks how to get into heaven he is told to sell all that he has and give it to the poor. He talks about giving what we have, and for some of us this does not necessarily include money alone.
There are many possible motivations for putting out pennies in the offering plate. While the amount we give may in some way be related to the taxes etc. I believe that we give because we love and believe in God and are grateful for his abundant gifts to us. We give as a way to give praise, show gratitude, and help to further the work of God’s kingdom. Hopefully as we place our envelopes, coins or bills in the plate we may feel like one of our children skipping down the aisle with baskets in our hands!