IT IS this
writerís conviction that giving should be looked upon as an act of worship,
and especially in connection with the assembly. It should be thought of
more in spiritual terms. It is not just a matter of raising money.
The church was established on the Jewish Day
of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, which fell upon the first day of the week.
With 3000 being converted and added to their number, we are told, "And
they continued stedfastly in the apostlesí doctrine and fellowship and
in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). The different things
listed in this verse are associated with worship. Fellowship is listed
along with the apostlesí teaching, the breaking of bread and prayers (all
distinct features of worship). In Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 10:16, the
breaking of bread means the Lordís supper. Prayer is the essence of worship.
Here (Acts 2:42) "fellowship" refers to their
giving. Among the definitions of this word (koinonía), Thayer
says, "a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution." We can
find this word used in this way in Romans 15:26, 2 Corinthians 9:13, Philippians
1:5 and Hebrews 13:16. Paul thanked God for the Philippians, and for their
"fellowship in the gospel from the first day until" then. They had
consistently contributed to his support from the beginning. He also mentions
this in Philippians 4:15. Then in Philippians 4:18, he says, "I have all,
and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus [their messenger]
the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice
acceptable, well-pleasing to God." By saying this, he puts their giving
in the category of worship that has taken place. The writer of Hebrews
talks about the "sacrifice of praiseÖthe fruit of our lips," and then he
says, "But to do good and to communicate [fellowship, koinonía]
forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews
13:15,16). This is the language of worship. Scripturally, giving can be
looked upon as an act of worship.
We meet upon the first day of the week to worship.
We observe the Lordís supper, like the early church did (Acts 20:7). We
reflect upon the supreme sacrifice that took place to accomplish our salvation.
With introspective self-examination, we ponder upon this. God gaveóHe
gave His only begotten son (John 3:16). Then, after this moving experience,
how fitting that we in turn respond to Him by giving. Out of the liberality
and abundance of our hearts, we give. The Thessalonian Christians, even
in their poverty, did this, "as they first gave their own selves to the
Lord" (2 Corinthians 8:5). Paul instructed the Corinthians, "Upon the first
day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered
himÖ" (1 Corinthians 16:2). Fittingly, we do this and appropriately it
should be looked upon as worship.
However, it is disturbing to us that many in
modern church circles donít look upon giving from such a spiritual perspective.
With some it is a matter of raising money for their inflated, and sometimes
self-indulgent, church projects. Any way that they can get their hands
on the money is fine with them. In other cases, perhaps, because stingy
people will not turn their money loose, outside sources and schemes are
resorted to, actually to get someone else to pay the church bills. In times
gone by Ladiesí Aid Societies filled this void with their projects. Sometime
ago in a financial appeal from a religious endeavor, evidently thinking
it would enhance their cause, we saw a listing of several dozen ways and
means suggested to raise money. Then recently, on the Internet, we came
across this new scheme of how to get people separated from their money
without the painful process of giving. As they were appealing to churches,
and the clientele of church members, it said, "Better Than Bake Sales!"
It was a package deal where members would pay for their vacation, and the
home church would get a sizeable kickback from it. And the ad pictured
a girl in her bikini, along with some others, at the beach.
There is something amiss somewhere. The dignity
and concept of worship has been lost. When we truly imbue the grace of
God, it makes us want to respond in kind. Freely we have received and freely
we should give. A liberal heart is evidence of a changed heart. As we pointed
out, Paul praised the Thessalonians who had first really given themselves
to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5), and then even out of their poverty, they
were liberal. They are a model for us. With such a heart, giving indeed
is worship. It is a joy. May God be praised!