In an effort to communicate to visitors that they aren’t trying to get their money, many churches have given up the practice of taking an offering during Sunday worship. I get the intention behind the change, but it’s yet another mistake brought about by a desire to not ask too much of people and to appear relevant.
One of the key movements in worship is sell-offering, a giving over of self to God. Without this, I don’t believe anything else we do in our worship gatherings is actually worship.
The great issue in most of our lives is kingship. Who is King here? Is it me or is it God? When Adam and Eve took and ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden in an attempt to be like gods, they usurped God’s throne. They claimed kingship over their own lives, denying God’s kingship.
So, what was the central message Jesus proclaimed when he began to preach? The kingdom of God. God is King. We aren’t. Caesar isn’t. Building our own personal and political kingdoms is doomed even before they are begun. The only way to effect real and lasting change in our lives and in this world is to lay down our crowns before the throne of our God.
And what do you know? That is the very image the Scriptures give us of creation put right. God as King on his throne and us as not-kings tossing our crowns at his feet (see Rev. 4, especially verse 10, as an image of what heavenly worship looks like). Our worship should be modeled after that.
Now, we do this in bits and pieces.
Singing can be a means of emotional sell-offering.
Simply showing up for worship is a physical means of sell-offering. As Romans 12:1 urges, we offer our bodies to God in worship when we bring those bodies to worship.
But giving our money to God is worship at another level.
Giving our money to God in a regular, conscious, active way dethrones the god Mammon and our desires to rule our own lives. Money is means. It opens up possibilities. It gives us the illusion of control over our lives by giving us a bit of real control. Giving that over to God is a massive act of submission and obedience unlike almost anything else we do.
Bringing our sacrifices to God and laying them before him is one of our greatest acts of sell-offering.
About a dozen years ago, I brought a bunch of kids up front during worship and talked about this stuff. I said one of the things about sacrifices is that what you offer gets burned up. It’s just gone. No one gets to control it.
So, I pulled out a $100 bill and showed it to them. One of the kids took it to his mom, who confirmed the Benjamin was legit.
Then I pulled out a lighter and caught the bill in my hand on fire. There was a gasp in the sanctuary as legal tender money for burned up into nothingness.
“Bye, bye, hundred dollars!” said one of the kids.
Now, I had actually swapped a Washington for the Benjamin, so had only burned one dollar. But the point was made.
When I offer my money to God, it’s gone. It’s not mine anymore. It’s fragrance in God’s nostrils, not power in my pocket.