Giving in the Order of Worship (Part One)

Earlier this year our church underwent several changes. First, we ordained two new deacons (we now have three). Second, we ordained a new elder (we now have two). Third, we instituted a time of giving in our order of worship. There were several considerations that contributed to our decision to start “passing the plate.” The following are just a few:

Giving as a Command

One of the big questions commonly asked of Calvinists is how they reconcile their soteriology with the Bible’s exhortations to evangelize. There are many different angles from which Calvinists approach this issue, but ultimately, they will unanimously end up hitting on the big one: we are commanded to evangelize. The same is true for giving. We give because we are commanded to give in the Bible.

In 1Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul orders the church in Corinth to regularly take up offerings on the Lord’s Day. He had not only given this command to the church at Corinth, but had also given it to the churches in Galatia. The specific occasion for this command was a famine that had come upon the church in Jerusalem, but notice that Paul does not have them take up a one-time “love offering” to help meet the need in Jerusalem. Rather, he had them take up regular offerings. This was so that the flock would not be pressed for funds when he came to them to collect the money. Rather, out of their regular givings, they would have compiled a large sum that they would have been unlikely to raise with a single offering. The work of the church requires regular giving. Churches cannot function without it.

Passing the Plate 01Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people are commanded to bring their gifts to the Lord. Even the sacrifices are referred to as gifts in some passages (Numbers 18:11; cf. Hebrews 5:1). The Magi brought gifts to Christ as an act of worship when He was a young child (Matthew 2:11). These commands to give are reiterated by the author of Hebrews when he says:

“And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16; NASB).

Such doing good and sharing is reminiscent of the early church in Acts 2 who shared all things in common and gave to anyone as he had need (vv. 44-45). So, if anyone asks why we should give, there may be many answers we can give. However, if all those were to fall by the wayside, we would still have the command given us in Scripture. Let us not withhold our gifts from the Lord who has so graciously given all things to us.

Giving as an Act of Worship

Another issue that was raised in our discussions about giving was the fact that pretty much any sermon you will find on subject of giving will inevitably make reference to the fact that giving in the Bible is an act of worship. In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus gives instructions on worship through giving. He instructs those listening to His sermon to give in such a way that only they and God know how much was given. The point is that the gift is meant to be a theocentric act, not an act to draw attention upon oneself. We give out of worship toward God, not out of a desire to bring glory to ourselves.

This was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias and Sapphira, having seen that others like Joseph of Cyprus (Acts 4:36-37) were selling land and giving to God, sold their land and gave only a portion of the proceeds. When they brought the portion to the apostles, they were asked why they lied. The land belonged to them, Peter said. As long as they owned it, it was theirs with which they could do what they wanted. They chose to sell the property and give some of the proceeds from it in order to bring glory to themselves (Acts 5:1-16). The act of giving is an act of worship to God, not to self.

Before we decided to include giving in the order of worship, we had always had an offering box in the back of the room. This box made giving the only act of worship at our church that was not included in the order of worship. It took the corporate sense out of this one act of worship and made it individualistic. Thus, I and others argued that, if we were going to call giving an act of worship, it should be included in the corporate worship service.

_________

In the next article, I will discuss three more arguments for giving in the order of worship: giving as a teaching tool (for our children), giving as a blessing to the giver, and giving as an act of stewardship.

LBCF of 1677/1689 – Chapter Twenty-Two, Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

1. The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.
( Jeremiah 10:7; Mark 12:33; Deuteronomy 12:32; Exodus 20:4-6 )

2. Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creatures; and since the fall, not without a mediator, nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone.
( Matthew 4:9, 10; John 6:23; Matthew 28:19; Romans 1:25; Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5 )

3. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one part of natural worship, is by God required of all men. But that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of the Spirit, according to his will; with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and when with others, in a known tongue.
( Psalms 95:1-7; Psalms 65:2; John 14:13, 14; Romans 8:26; 1 John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 14:16, 17 )

4. Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.
( 1 Timothy 2:1, 2; 2 Samuel 7:29; 2 Samuel 12:21-23; 1 John 5:16 )

5. The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord’s supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear; moreover, solemn humiliation, with fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, ought to be used in an holy and religious manner.
( 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2; Luke 8:18; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19; Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:26; Esther 4:16; Joel 2:12; Exodus 15:1-19, Psalms 107 )

6. Neither prayer nor any other part of religious worship, is now under the gospel, tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed; but God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth; as in private families daily, and in secret each one by himself; so more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly nor wilfully to be neglected or forsaken, when God by his word or providence calleth thereunto.
( John 4:21; Malachi 1:11; 1 Timothy 2:8; Acts 10:2; Matthew 6:11; Psalms 55:17; Matthew 6:6; Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42 )

7. As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.
( Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10 )

8. The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.
( Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Matthew 12:1-13 )