Giving back to God

The phrase ‘giving back to God’ is heard nearly every Sunday morning in nearly every church when it’s time for the collection plate to be passed.  Giving back to God.  Is that what we’re doing?  Perhaps the answer depends on how that money is being used, or if it’s being used at all.

It is true that God doesn’t need or want our money.  It’s all His anyway, so in that sense we don’t even have the ability to give money back to God.

Psalm 50:10-12 “for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.  If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”

Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”

I don’t see anywhere in the bible where the collective giving by Christians is referred to as ‘giving to God’.  God demands that we give to Him, but what He expects is much deeper and more sacrificial than merely giving a ‘portion’ of money Sunday morning.  God wants you.  Not 10% of you.  Not 20.  All of you.  He wants your heart, your soul, and your mind.  He wants your time.  He wants your life to be wholly devoted to Him.  He wants your love.

We sometimes have the mindset that Sunday morning giving is the collection of the saints; and that collection is our offering to God.  But that’s not really what the bible says about it.

I Corinthians 16:1-2 “Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”

Romans 15:25-27 “Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem.  They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.”

II Corinthians 8:3-5 “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.”

“For” the Lord’s people, not “of”.  The Sunday morning collection is not a gift to God so much, but a gift to those in need.  Our offering to God is our lives.  Our weekly donations are certainly a part of an overall life of sacrifice and service, but we must never fool ourselves into thinking that our giving to God is complete once our checks have been written and dropped in the basket.

Nor should we ever absolve ourselves of responsibility about how the money is spent.  Is our collection being used to help people in need?  Is it being used to advance the cause of Christ and spread the gospel?  The pattern in the bible was for Christians to collectively save and give expressly for the purpose of satisfying a specific need.  Here’s the kicker, when our collection is used to help people then Christ says we are giving to Him.

Matthew 25:37-40 ““Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

How awesome.  We give to God by giving to others.  However, what does that say about the other expenses our collections go towards like rent, cleaning supplies, shrubs, and paint?  What about investments and large saving accounts?  Is there anything in the bible that even remotely hints that God considers these things gifts to Him?  These things are great and there’s no doubt a place for them, but giving back to God?  Not really.  These are merely the accouterments of modern religious tradition, having very little to do with God’s definition of religion or true biblical Christianity.

James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

So, let’s give.  Let’s give more to others. Let’s give more to God.  But let’s make certain that we are giving Him what He has asked for, and understand the difference when we’re not.

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