There was a time when we would take up "love offerings" at church. We would do this for an itinerate evangelist or musician who ministered in our church. Sometimes we would take up a "love offering" for a special need: such as a family who lost everything in a fire, or a para-church ministry or missionary organization like an orphanage, or for a special project at church such as the construction of a new fellowship hall. "Love Offerings" were a common occurrence.
Then as a pastor I began to hear complaints about these "special" offerings. "Pastor, you're going to overdo it. You can only go back to that well so many times. The 'Law of Diminishing Returns' will take effect. Our budget giving will suffer. We know people take money from their regular tithes to give to these 'special offerings.' The 'bottomline' will suffer." So, we began cutting back on these special collections. My question is--and maybe someone could research this--has it really helped the 'bottom line'? Are our church finances better off?
In a time and culture where many churches do not take up ANY offerings, "love offerings" are all but extinct. We've put in place more creative ways of supporting the church--online giving, electronic kiosks, marketing displays with giving stations in the church lobby. I'm not opposed to these things. Times have changed. Technology has made it easier. Many people prefer digital giving to writing a check. Golly, many people don't even know what a check is!
But I believe we have lost something: we have lost that physical connection of writing a check and putting it in the plate, or folding a couple of twenties and putting them in an envelope. The other night I came out of a restaurant. A man came up to me and hit me up with a hard luck story. I resisted the urge to stop him, and inform him I was a pastor! I could have said, "Let me finish the story for you. You're a veteran. You were on your way to Florida to your mother's funeral when your car broke down. Your kids in the car and haven't eaten since yesterday. Could I spare $10?" I knew--because I've watched these guys before--he was going straight to the liquor store or his dealer. But I didn't say anything. All I could think about was that twenty I had found just that morning in my billfold--the one I didn't know I had. I took it and gave it to the guy. I would have witnessed to him, but we had a bit of an emergency (sick wife).
There was something about reaching for my billfold, putting my fingers on that bill, and handing it to the guy. Something physical passed from my possession to this stranger. There was a depletion of myself--because we are all connected to our money--that was palpable. I felt it. I'm not saying the feeling was good or bad. The point is that I felt something. There was less in my billfold and on my person.
There is something--I believe--about the physical act of giving itself that makes us more complete people... more connected to our own soul. And I believe we are in danger of losing this today.
In 2 Corinthans 9 Paul reminds the believers about a promise they had made. They had promised to give a monetary gift to relieve the suffering of the Christians in Jerusalem. Paul tells them that their act of giving would benefit them--the givers--in six ways:
1. It would come back to them: "the person who sows generously will also reap generously" (vs. 6).
2. It would cause the saints in Jerusalem to give thanks to God. Helping others give thanks to God is a good thing, right?
3. The saints in Jerusalem with will also be thankful for the Christians in Corinth.
4. The Christians in Jerusalem will love these strangers who assisted them. We all want to be loved, don't we?
5. The saints in Jerusalem would be motivated to pray for the saints in Corinth. We all could benefit from people praying for us, couldn't we?
6. Our giving is an expression of our own thanks to God for His gift to us--Jesus!
So, even if your church does not ask for a love offering, why not surprise them this Sunday by giving one?