Giving Is Worship
In consideration of the Lord’s Day contribution, some object to classifying personal giving as an act of worship, but the Scriptures certainly connect the two in a very intimate way. Under the Mosaic Law, the various sacrifices and offerings were designated as “gifts” (Numbers 18:11; cf. Hebrews 5:1). When the wise men came to worship the babe Jesus, they manifest their sincere devotion by offering “gifts” of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). When Paul received a contribution from the Philippians to support his ministry, he described their gift as “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). An inspired writer also admonished: “And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). These passages - along with many others like them – stand in staunch support of personal giving as a form of worship rendered to God.
The daunting work of the church must be financed, and God has carefully instructed the church in the matter of personal giving that the assigned mission may be accomplished. Since the Christian is obligated to give of his means unto God, the neglect of that duty constitutes a refusal to worship the Creator. Similar to the various other acts of worship, many disregard the plain teaching of the Scriptures concerning the individual worshipper’s duty in giving. Some in the church are very conscientious regarding the proper administration of the other acts of worship, but with respect to giving, the attitude often appears as nonchalant and indifferent.
If every member of the church viewed personal giving as conscientiously as they do observing the Lord’s Table or singing without the accompaniment of instrumental music, the work of the church would never be under-funded. It is a fundamental fact that no act of worship is optional or arbitrary. Before any worshipper can even begin to approach Jehovah God in worship, he must understand completely the authorized acts that constitute worship. Respecting the Christian’s giving, the pattern has been clearly set forth: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come” (I Corinthians 16:1, 2).
Let it be noted that the instructions outlaid in this verse by the apostle are not optional. Paul said, “…as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.” The word “directed” or “ordered” is from the Greek diatasso meaning “to set in order, appoint, command” (Vine, 1996). The verb “do” also reflects the authority of a command, imposing upon the church the requirement of giving upon the first day of the week. The church of Christ at Leiper’s Fork, along with every other church, is instructed to follow the divine pattern of each person giving upon the first day of the week as they have prospered.
This does not mean that our giving is to be done grudgingly or solely out of obligation; but as with the command to sing (where every Christian should be more than willing to pour out a song of praise and adoration from the depths of their being for the wonderful love of Jesus), we should also yearn for the opportunity to give in support of the work of the church in teaching the gospel of salvation to the lost; a salvation which we ourselves enjoy! Christians are to give purposefully and cheerfully in support of church work (II Corinthians 9:7).
The act of giving in worship is one of serious responsibility. The child of God is directed to give regularly and consistently in order that the work of the church may be adequately planned and financed. The occasion for giving is “On the first day of every week.” Some versions unfortunately have omitted the word “every,” simply stating, “Upon the first day of the week” (KJV), but the Greek distributive preposition kata indicates succession, e.g. “every year” (Luke 2:41), “every day” (Luke 16:19), “every city” (Acts 15:21), “every church” (Acts 14:23). Vine says kata gives “the sense of ‘every’” (1996, p. 210). The Christian is to contribute into the treasury of the church every Sunday with respect to how he has personally prospered.
I Corinthians 16:1, 2 serves as reproof and correction to those who are frequently absent from the Lord’s Day assembly, yet think they only have the duty to give when they choose to assemble. The process of giving as ordered for the church in worship is the reliable and unfailing contribution of the prosperity one enjoys, and thus the total of one’s giving should be consistent regardless of the necessary absences one incurs from the Lord’s Day assembly. The work of the church does not take leave simply because the members are legitimately absent for a service or are otherwise irresponsible in their attendance. If the work of the local church is to be successful, the membership must commit to making up the amount left void by any and all absences, appropriately giving from the total prosperity of each week.
The child of God possessing the proper attitude with reference to giving results in sincere worship that honors and respects God’s command to give on the first day of “every” week. These instructions should impress upon all Christians the grave responsibility of faithfully assembling for worship. Jesus said those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). It is impossible to worship according to the standard set by Christ while neglecting the matter of assembling for worship and giving “every” Sunday.
The worship of Almighty God most certainly includes a sacrificial offering of personal prosperity. Hear the words of the apostle and allow them to motivate you to higher grounds of devotion in this matter: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, “HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER.” (II Corinthians 9:6-9).
Giving, as an act of worship, calls for the sacrifice of that which is esteemed highest or best within our hands. For instance, when Abraham came before Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God, Abraham “gave a tenth of the choicest spoils” (Hebrews 7:4). The word akrothinion is defined by Vine as “primarily ‘the top of the heap’” (1996, p. 595). Abraham gave the very best part of what he had collected.
Under the Law of Moses, the Jews were ordered to give the “firstlings” of their crops and herds (Exodus 13:12, 13; 23:19). The priestly sons of Eli were condemned in part because they broke the law of God by taking whatever portion of meat sacrifices they desired, taking their portion first, leaving the remainder for God (I Samuel 2:12-17). God is not pleased when men offer their leftovers; and in the case of Israel’s persistent sin in this matter, God desired that someone “would shut the gates [of the temple], that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar!” (Malachi 1:8-10). Because the people were not offering the best of their possessions, God issued the following resounding question and answer: “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!” (Malachi 3:8).
These words should resonate within the heart of every Christian, teaching each one the necessity of setting aside a reasonable portion of their income - from “the top of the heap” - to be offered to God first, adjusting the personal standard of living accordingly. Unfortunately, like Israel of old, too many worshippers are content following the reverse order, giving from the scraps that are left behind after selfish indulgences are satisfied. Are we robbing God? How many doors of worship does God desire someone to lock shut today? The self-less sacrifice of Christ is the prime example for Christians to follow, not only in giving, but in every facet of life (Philippians 2:1-11).
Christians need sorely to recognize the principle of “stewardship.” The “parable of money usage” (Luke 19:11-27) and the “parable of talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) both exemplify the concept of stewardship, revealing that God is sovereign over all that man enjoys. The faithful Christian must rid himself of the common tendency seen among many to contribute a small token to the Lord as “His share,” meanwhile spending the greatest share of prosperity on abundant pleasures and personal pursuits. All that we possess is a blessing from God, given for the sustenance of life and serving the purpose of the Almighty. The sincere child of God gives on the first day of every week, yet further seeks to exercise godly stewardship in every aspect of spending. The blessings of God should never be wasted in frivolous and excessive selfish pleasures, especially when the work of the church is languishing in a state of poverty.
The responsibility to contribute belongs to every child of God who draws an income. Whether one is the President of the United States or a teenager mowing grass, the duty to give according to one’s prosperity is binding and continual. Each one gives proportionally to his own situation. Some in the early church gave even beyond their ability (II Corinthians 8:3), and Paul asserts that those who have more should give more, that “equality” may exist in what is collected (8:11-15). When those who are blessed with abundance give liberally, the lack of ability to give by those who have nothing is compensated, providing the “equality” which God desires. These matters should be carefully considered by every child of God who desires to worship acceptably.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he exhorts those who give to do so with “liberality” (12:8). Who could doubt that God desires His children to be generous in their giving? When the commitment is made to liberal giving, Paul promises: “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality” (II Corinthians 9:10, 11). The term “liberality” translates from the Greek noun haplotes. In James 1:5 the adverbial form haplos is used to describe the generosity of God in giving wisdom to those who ask. We can rest assured that if we are seeking first His kingdom and righteousness, God will supply our needs to enable us to serve acceptably (Matthew 6:33).
Love for God and appreciation for salvation in Christ Jesus will motivate the contrite heart to examine carefully the biblical teaching concerning giving as an act of worship. The first day of every week will be eagerly anticipated by the worshipper desiring to serve God acceptable in compliance with His revealed will. Acknowledging God as the giver of all good and perfect gifts, the humble steward will cheerfully bring his offering to contribute into the treasury of the church, confessing to God that he has received more than he could ever repay.
Each Christian must search his own heart carefully so that the Almighty - who searches every heart - will find the church filled with sincere and conscientious servants approaching in holy worship. The church will excel in her mission only when Christians embrace every act of worship with reverence and devotion, passionately serving the Creator in view of eternity. We should pray God that the church in the twenty-first century would learn to exhibit “the surpassing grace of God” in the matter of giving, bowing submissively and offering genuine appreciation “to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Corinthians 9:14, 15).
Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White (1996), Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old
and New Testament Words: with Topical Index (Nashville: T. Nelson).