On one occasion of our Lord’s ministry, he was tested by an “expert of the law.” He asked Jesus what the greatest Commandment was, not because he truly wanted to know, but because he wanted to challenge Jesus with the intent of discrediting him in some way. So, Jesus responded with these words…
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Remarkably, Jesus summarized all Ten Commandments by saying, “Love God” and “Love neighbor.” These commands of God have always been the center of why God’s people give. Love for God and love for the people of this world.
Placing hard-earned money into a collection plate is a very visible and authentic way for God’s people to say thank you to God for all the blessings that he pours out into our lives. Someone once said, “If you want to see what occupies first place in a person’s heart, Just ask them to open up their check book.” If our offerings are merely a sliver, and maybe even an inconsistent sliver of what we return to God each week or each month, it might be indicative of our priorities in life. As Martin Luther once said, “The pocketbook is usually the last to be converted in man.”
There is a universal call to all Christians from their Savior to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I command you” (Matthew 28:19,20). Part of making disciples is sending out disciples to go preach and teach that gospel. And money is used by God to send forth pastors and teachers into his world to proclaim the gospel. Our offerings support that global effort when we give to God.
But in addition to this, the Christian church is also called to love neighbor, too, so we will show our love for people who are hurting by using some of our offerings to help those in great need. And we see this example in the early church as well, when there was a severe famine in the land of Israel, Paul and Barnabas collected money throughout the Gentile churches across Europe and Asia Minor to assist the saint back home. As a group of churches, most recently, we financially helped with relief in disaster areas of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico where Hurricanes destroyed people’s homes. So, some of the dollars that we collect as a church and church body, go to help our neighbors who are truly hurting from their various losses.
Our love for God and our love for our neighbor is impacted by God’s love for us. You see, God is the greatest giver of us all and Jesus even says as much when he tells Nicodemus that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God redeemed, or bought us back, from sin, Satan, death, and hell! But what did he use to buy us back? Not gold, not silver, but something even more precious and sacred – the blood of his own Son, who purchased and redeemed us so that we might now be called children of God. And that’s exactly what we are, through faith in Jesus Christ.
So, when Christians gather together to bring offerings to the Lord, they bring what’s inside of their heart to reflect what God has done for them in Christ Jesus. And when we bring our first and our best, we do so to reflect our love for God and our love for our neighbor.
Blessed day and week to all,
Pastor Matthew P. DeNoyer