Pastoral Series

Worship Matters: One more on the Offering

   If we think about God and money at the same time, gratitude inevitably is in the mix. Our weekly discipline of collecting the offering might, if we’re attentive to it, foster gratitude, which none of us has an excess of. In worship every week, I have the chance to declare that I will not bow down to the idol of money; God alone is the fullness of life. Maybe when we pass the plates, it’s like being handed a quiz. You’ve been in class, you’ve heard the material – but do you get it? What is money for? Is money for buying stuff now? Is money for investing, to earn more money or provide a security blanket? Is money an index that declares my worth as a person? Where does my money go? and is God glorified by what I do with it? Martin Luther quite rightly said that to be a Christian, three conversions are required: the conversion of the heart, of the mind, and of the purse. Has my purse been converted?

Yes, Jesus warned us about money, how it deceives and misleads us, usurping God’s place in our souls – and how it cannot deliver. Some Americans insist our money should say “In God we trust,” but we shiver over the realization that money has become the god in which we vest our trust. Perhaps, in a capitalist society where moneymaking just is, the best the Christian can do is heed the counsel of John Wesley to make all the money you can, save all you can, then give all you can – and he didn’t mean that you only give the extra money you don’t really need or want. Give generously, sacrificially, joyfully. But more importantly, look at all your money and ask how your choices are altered, and how your feelings about it are changed, if you see it as God’s, not your own.

The secret of the offering and a worshipful life is learning to love your money. Yes, the Bible sternly warns us that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Perhaps we can step back and ask if there might be a proper love of money versus an improper love. If we compare love to fear: there is bad fear, but also good, healthy fear. A truck is bearing down on me; I should be afraid and get out of the road. But if I fear something irrational that is unlikely to happen tomorrow, I need to calm down.

What would proper love of money be? If I love my child, I don’t want to cling to my child, or use my child to do stuff I want, or to be a status symbol. I want my child to go out on his own and be useful in the world, to live a life that matters. So, if I love my money properly, I want to see it venture out and make a difference in the world. What’s it for anyhow? Thomas Merton suggested that “If you have money, consider that perhaps the only reason God allowed it to fall into your hands was in order that you might find joy and perfection by giving it away.”

So money then can be deposed from the throne of my soul. Money is always trying to usurp the role the Holy Spirit is supposed to play in my life. But if I offer money in worship, and then try to envision all of my money as God’s, then I am liberated to love my money, to let it go so it can find its ultimate and true purpose.

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