Many people have probably grown up hearing, “And that concludes the Lord’s Supper. Now we are to give back of ourselves financially, as we are commanded to do upon the first day of the week.”
To be honest, I loathe the practice of passing a plate. I much prefer a drop-box. What I dislike is the statement, “as we are commanded,” though. Check out what God says in comparison:
“Now about the collection for the saints: you should do the same as I instructed the Galatian churches. On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save to the extent that he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come. […] I am NOT speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.”1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:8
You can see that our giving is more of a GREAT tradition than a perpetual mandate. As a precept—that is, a rule—we know that giving was very specific in the New Covenant. As a principle, of course, you’d want to help out your family in building things up and doing good works, so why wouldn’t you give? The graphic I used below is a slight modification of what Kent West of “Westing Peacefully“ made and once shared on Facebook. It helps to show some of the differences between what the Bible says and what we often assume it says.
It can be hard for people to give when the only part they have in the process is writing the check or dumping the cash in the plate. That isn’t rewarding and doesn’t build much of a bond. In fact, it disconnects you from what the money might do to help others, which can even be discouraging. Some people might wonder, “What did I give money for, anyway? Where’s it going?”
The excitement that is incurred through involvement, through making a difference; through each person seeing the fruits of their own labor, is incredibly important. From doing projects to benefit the saints and the community, seeing things being accomplished—especially when one is personally involved—is encouraging and motivating. Involvement increases investment. We should be helping people get a sense of what they are doing, and if they aren’t doing much, we should help them start doing things. Their lives will be more rewarding as servants who build up the community of God, which is what God wants each person to do. (Ephesians 4:12)
In the above respect, the early assemblies seemed to really excel. They were notable for having feasts (1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Jude 1:12-13), for having EVERY person involved and visible instead of warming a bench (1 Corinthians 14:26), and for ‘the daily ministration” to those in need. (Acts 6:1-4)
The topic of giving is not a comfortable subject for many saints. We often find it unimaginable to see any possible distinction between our traditions and God’s ordinances. The biggest thing, though, is that change is difficult. It makes becoming all things to all people, so that we may by every possible means save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-22), perhaps the most difficult of tasks. One thing you can do to change your own life is to find somewhere that you can be personally involved. Having skin in the game makes all the difference in the world.
“Those who talk should do and only those who do should talk.”―Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
Thanks to Adam Akola for spurring me to make this post.
- a. Often throwing 20 bucks in a bucket is easier than giving someone 20 minutes of your time.
- b. A Timeline of Giving in the New Testament