Christian giving as a mode of self-giving in gratitude to God for his gracious salvation in Jesus Christ

 

Offering is one of the elements in the liturgical tradition and orders of the Maranatha Reformed Church of Christ. The central goal of Christian offering is gratitude to and glorification of God. It is therefore befitting to start this section by quoting a prayer of gratitude of the Stewardship Department of the Church of Scotland, in Edinburgh. It reads:

We thank you, God, for all your gifts; for life in your wonderful world; for space and time to enjoy your gift of life; for talents that bring us a sense of fulfilment. We thank you, God, for coming as Jesus: to show us how much you love us; to forgive us through the cross of Calvary; to raise us with Christ to new life with you. We thank you, God, for your Holy Spirit: your presence to guide us day by day; your assurance of your continuing love.

In this prayer it is clear that human beings need to corporately and individually continually thank God for all that God has done, given and continues to do and to give that no human being, worldly or heavenly power can give. This prayer is a reminder to all of us that there is nothing that we possess that has not been placed in our hands by the owner, God (Psalm 24:1) for his glory and for the support of the needy (James 1:17). There is nothing that we must take for granted and boastfully think that it is ours for our exclusive use. Christians cannot do otherwise but cheerfully and lovingly give a portion of their financial or any form of income as a way of expressing gratitude to the all-giving God and love to his people.

There are various forms of offering in the MRCC in the context of worship, e.g. the Sunday Collection, Special Collection and harvest (in some congregations in the West of Drakensberg). Others like the building fund contributions and free will offerings are offered outside the worship service (in some congregations – West of the Drakensberg).

One would think that the MRCC, considering the mentioned modes of offering would be rich or would achieve the status of being self-propagating, self-governing and self-supporting. On the contrary, the MRCC in spite of these initiatives in terms of offering remains one of the poorest churches on earth so much that she is unable to sustain her spiritual services and engage in needed social and community services. While the church has long attained the status of self-governing, she is not able to exercise efficient self-governance as a result of lack of financial muscle.

Why is this, the case? Is it because the members of the MRCC are the poorest on earth? There should actually be no excuse among Christians for not offering. Christian worship is never a theoretical issue but has importantly to be especially practical. Let us consider the following information regarding Christian giving from Eric Costa (2009) at Theokosmos.com so that as thechurchofChristwe should start doing things differently. It can indeed not continue to be business as usual. Eric Costa writes:

1. Christian Giving Is Worship

God made us, sustains us, and lavishes us with good gifts. He loves us and gave his only Son for us. Our response of praise can and should be expressed through giving. The supreme reason to give away our money and possessions – the motive that permeates all other motives – is to worship God. Like a precious cut gem gleaming in the sunlight, every facet of Christian giving should reflect the glory of God’s grace. The immediate beneficiaries of Christian giving are on earth but the One who receives honour from each gift is in Heaven. It is nothing to hoard, to indulge, to beautify ourselves. It is divine to lay down all that we are and all that we have as a tribute at the feet of the King of kings.

2. Christian Giving Is Faith

Christian giving honours God because it is a tangible expression of complete dependence upon him. God owns all things and has pledged his support to those who follow him. His own beloved Son is the guarantee of his goodwill. The one who trusts that God will supply his/her every need has no fear of becoming generous. In giving away what the world says he/she needs to survive, he/she confesses that the source of his/her security is a good Father in Heaven. In giving away what so easily rules his/her heart, he/she renounces the god Mammon and swears allegiance to the Lord and giver of life.

3. Christian Giving Is Love

God gives to some people much more than they need, while he allows others to suffer want. Does he grant wealth solely for the consumption of the rich? No. He means for those who have to give to those who have not. He gives to you so that you can give to others. In doing this, Christians participate in God’s merciful love, which we ourselves have received freely and unreservedly in Christ. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich”. If you can see yourself in the poor – if you can see Jesus there! – then let your love be genuine. Work hard to meet their needs.

4. Christian Giving Is Mission

Jesus was on a mission: to expend his life restoring the world to glorious peace with God. One Day, finally in his Kingdom there will be complete wholeness and happiness for God’s people in his presence forever. Until that Day, Christians are to adopt their King’s mission in this world. This means we don’t just give to missions, but that Christian giving, in and of itself, is the mission to which we are called: to give all that we have for the sake for the Gospel. Jesus Christ gives life to the dead, both spiritually and physically; Christians can imitate him, however humbly, by giving of themselves to the spiritual and physical welfare of others.    

5. Christian Giving Is Sacrifice

Judas sacrificed Jesus for money. Christians sacrifice money and possessions to Christ. A genuine sacrifice is a good, desirable thing being surrendered to God’s glory; giving up what is evil is simply obedience. For such an offering to honour God, it must be costly; it has to hurt to lay it on the altar, otherwise the glory of God is not exalted above the preciousness of the gift. The Lamb of God willingly climbed up on the altar, sacrificing his holy life on the cross for us. What would our love to him be if we did not respond in kind? Christian giving is relinquishing that which is dear to us to him who is dearest.

6. Christian Giving Is Secret

Secrecy reveals who you really are, whether you live unto God when no one else knows to applaud or despise. The one who draws attention to his giving is a hypocrite, selfishly seeking acclaim for his ostensible selflessness. The one who loves God, who cherishes his/her approbation alone, gives in secret. He/she does not sabotage himself by allowing others to confuse his/her motives with their esteem. Rather, he/she starves his fleshly appetite for recognition, and feeds his spirit with promises of heavenly reward that are assured to him/her in Christ. His/hers is a quiet gift from his/her soul to God which God does not forget.

7. Christian giving is joy

Christian giving is like a release valve on a life bursting with unstoppable happiness. If your faith is in God and in the One he sent to ransom you from your sins, then you are welcome to glorious love and everlasting joy in the communion of the Holy Trinity. Nothing can rob you of this. Not poverty or persecution. Not demons or death. So do not let fear of losing happiness paralyse your generosity. Give in order to share life and joy with the weak. You will only increase your participation with the Redeemer in his jubilant triumph over the effects of sin in this world. Besides, God loves a cheerful giver!    

A mouthful indeed! Can we afford to continue holding back from God what belongs to him? If that is the case, what will concretise our worship of God? How will our faith in God and love of God’s people be made manifest? How else can we as Christians relinquish that which is dear to us to him who is dearest? Where will our joy come from if we continue to keep closed the valve that would otherwise grant us life fulfilment and eternal joy?

The way in which our church's current financial state is, demands that we should repent and be wholly transformed. 

Rev. Prof Matsobane Jacob Manala