Q&A: Offerings in Worship

Offerings in Worship

Question

What place should the offering take in the worship service? What is its significance? Are there Scriptures to back it up?

Answer

Giving an amount of money as an offering to the Lord dates back at least to the instructions given to Moses in the building of the tabernacle. In Exodus 30:11-16, God instructs Moses to tell the people that they must give half a shekel as an "offering to the Lord to atone for your lives" and that the money is to be used "for the service of the Tent of Meeting." Later, when David gave out of his royal treasury for the building of the temple, all those in leadership gave much in gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Further, "any who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the Lord" (1 Chr. 29:6-8). Note, the people were glad to provide these offerings, for they were "given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord" (1 Chr. 29:9).

Jesus did not discourage monetary offerings given to the Lord. In Mark 12:41-44 (the story of the widow who gave everything), "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury" (v. 41). Presumably, Jesus did not think it wrong for God's people to do this or he would have put a stop to it. Moreover, he praised the widow's contribution.

Paul also encouraged giving money, especially from those more fortunate to those less fortunate. In fact, in his letter to Rome, Paul stated that the Gentiles, who "have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings (being brought into the family of God) ... owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings" (Rom. 15:27). In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul spoke of a "collection for God's people" (v. 1), most likely for the Jerusalem church, that he asked the Galatian as well as the Corinthian churches to undertake. Some of today's churches find their biblical basis for a weekly offering in Paul's instructions concerning this "collection." He wrote that "on the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made" (v. 2). But in 2 Corinthians, his instruction to give is not a command, but a "test" to show "the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others" (8:8). Paul then adds that "each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). Note how that attitude echoes the same motivation that the people of God had in giving to the work of the temple (1 Chr. 29:9).

That being said, what the Bible says must be included in a worship service is not clearly laid out. From Acts 2:42, we can gather that the early church "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." A monetary offering is not mentioned, but a little later in Acts, Luke records that "no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had" (Acts 4:32). So, there may not have been any need for an offering. The writer of Hebrews urged believers, "Let us not give up meeting together" (Heb. 10:25), but he did not state what must take place at these meetings.

While we no longer need to present a monetary offering to atone for our lives, there is still biblical support for an offering to be used for the building up of God's kingdom (including the structure in which we meet) as well as to help those in need in the family of God. But there is no verse mandating an offering when God's people gather. Still, nothing in Scripture would seem to point against this practice, and we have biblical precedent for its acceptability. It is, by all accounts, practical to collect an offering at one time so that everyone can be glad seeing fellow believers "giving freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord."

Answer by David Zoeller

David Zoeller is the Post Production and Senior Language Director at Thirdmill