Elements of Congregational Worship: Giving

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Here we are at the last element of congregational worship! So far I have written about prayer, singing, Scripture, and the Lord’s Supper. Now I want to finish off by discussing giving.

Notice that I say “giving” and not “tithing.” This is because I believe that tithing is a practice commanded in the Old Testament but is nowhere mentioned in the New Testament (other than when referring to the Old Testament practice). The only time the word is mentioned is either when discussing what the Pharisees did (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, 18:12) and in Hebrews when discussing Abraham and Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:6-10). Nowhere else will you see the word mentioned or commanded.

So humor me for a moment and forget about tithing, unless you want to also follow the rest of the law as well. And I don’t know about you, but I would not rather have a church-wide circumcision or institute the animal sacrificial system in the gym.

What the New Testament does command is giving. Let’s look at some reasons why we should give, based on passages from the New Testament.

The first reason people should give is because it is a way of modeling what Christ did for us. He gave his life for us (John 3:16) and now he gives life to those who believe in him. He gives us wisdom (James 1:5) and his Holy Spirit (John 14:16). Giving is part of what it means to be a Christian. So when we give we are honoring and glorifying God through our money.

Second, God commands us to give. In Luke 6:38 Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you…” In Matthew 6:3, he says, “But when you give to the needy…” Giving is not something that is suggested, it is expected.

Third, giving is a way of providing for others in need. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” The “first day of the week” that he is referring to is the day that Christians gathered to worship God. In other words, Paul is telling the church to collect money when they gather together.

Fourth, giving is a way to support your pastors and church. In Luke 10:7 Jesus refers to the “worker” (a ministry worker) deserving his wages. In 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Paul refers to the elder (pastor) being worthy of double honor and worthy of receiving his wages (quoting Jesus in Luke 10:7).

With all this in mind, Christians should be generous givers. They should give both inside and outside of the church. But Christians should not feel compelled to give any certain amount. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Give the amount that you can give cheerfully, but also pray that God will increase your faith (and wallet!) to be able to give more.

For all the reasons I just listed, giving should be part of a worship service. Not only is it a practical way to collect money in order to pay the church bills, but it is also a way that Christians can honor and praise God through their wallet. Just like God is praised by our words in singing he should also be praised by our giving.

Note: The other elders likely have a slightly different interpretation on tithing than I do, so if you disagree with this post then you are probably in good company.