Neither visitors nor regular members of a church should be guilted into contributing money. I “contributed” toward this kind of guilt inducement last Sunday myself, and I repent. This post continues from yesterday’s.
I vaguely recall that Tommy, a fellow leader at a church in Texas years ago, was of the mind to link communion and collection even more solidly and inextricably than most–by intentionally connecting 1) what Jesus gave to 2) what we give. On the surface, this seems as logical as it is spiritual. What could motivate us more to give money but a fuller realization of the fact that Jesus gave it all? Strains of gospel songs waft over the Christian airstreams:
Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.
~ ~ ~
But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe.
~ ~ ~
Savior, Thy dying love Thou gavest me.
Nor should I aught withhold, dear Lord, from Thee.
In love my soul would bow, my heart fulfill its vow,
Some off’ring bring Thee now–something for Thee.
~ ~ ~
Why did my Savior come to earth and to the humble go? …
Why did He drink the bitter cup of sorrow, pain, and woe? …
He gave His precious life for me because He loved me so.
~ ~ ~
I led the immediately preceding song last Sunday, and I’m afraid it contributed to a negative kind of guilt induction. Follow the line? “He gave His precious life” naturally leads, at that time in the official Sunday proceedings, to “well, at least I can give 50 bucks like everyone else.” This is not what the Lord had in mind with communion … and He doesn’t appear to have had anything in mind at all with regard to the Sunday collection of an offering, since there is no example of, or instruction related to, such an offering.
Perhaps the worst of all is the song I have led around communion and collection in past years (many churches would call this song the “offertory”):
I gave my life for thee; my precious bled I shed,
That thou might’st ransomed be, and quickened from the dead.
I gave, I gave my life for thee.
What hast thou given for me?
The crowning glory embarrassment is in the final stanza:
And I have brought to thee, down from My home above,
Salvation full and free–my pardon and My love;
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee.
What hast thou brought to Me?
See what we have here, in the words of this song? Jesus standing there in front of our adoring eyes, having left glory, having died lovingly and sacrificially, and having re-ascended to glory, now imploring us, “I gave my physical life willingly. I gave you the salvation of your souls. This is a lot. Can’t you give money to Me?” (In our warped, legacy-ridden minds, the “Me” of the last line is somehow morphed into “church treasury.” Please don’t overlook this parenthesis; it is really quite material to these thoughts.)
Does Jesus want our money? Well, yes. But He wants so much more, and the monetary angle of the institutional church has been so corrupted through the centuries that I think it’s both logically and spiritually dangerous to link His gift to us only to our gift of money.
In themselves, the words of Frances Havergal’s song seem apt enough, almost unique, and worthy of the Christian’s time. But not at the time of collecting money, as though we could possibly satisfy the debt we owe to our Lord by dropping a check in the plate. Not as though our response to Him is summed up, or even answered in any substantive way, by offering money.
I’m sorry that, last Sunday, I went along with the program and led a song that contributed to a concept I don’t believe in. I don’t intend to do that again, and I shall never, ever lead “I Gave My Life for Thee” in connection with the collection.