Saturday, January 17, 2009

Show Me the Money

The spring semester has begun. Consequently, I am no longer able to lay around on the coach all day long watching episodes of House and eating Pringles. I have to get up early and walk through the blistering cold to my 7 a.m. class, risking hypothermia all the way. But really, I'm glad to be back. I prefer the company of other people to the company of all our pet cats. And people generally leave a lot less hair on all my clothes.

I want to write today about something I've thought about for a while. It has to do with how modern American churches handle church offering. Now this probably isn't really a big issue, but I think it's worth considering. Now here's how the collection of offering looks in most churches. Someone will get up and make an offering appeal, often referring to the story of the poor widow giving her gift in the temple. After a brief prayer, the plates are passed throughout the pews, and congregants place their personal checks in the plate and pass it along. Afterward, the gifts are handed over to the church treasurer, and he goes to some room and counts it up. Then, as tax time approaches, church members receive statements of how much money they gave over the year so that they can pay less taxes or whatever. I don't really know how tax stuff works, but that's how I understand it.

When Jesus talks about giving to the needy in the Sermon on the Mount, he says, "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matt. 5:3-4). In America, a ton of people give their offering by writing out a check. I find it hard to fit Jesus' words about giving in secret to our practice of giving money with our names printed on it. And then we get statements telling us how much we give in a year so that we can let our accountants know and pay a few less bucks to the government.

I understand why people write checks for their offering. A lot of people today don't like to carry cash, and it's a lot more convenient and whatnot. They don't do it to draw attention to themselves at all. And I don't mean to judge anybody or anything like that. There are many more significant problems that I could write about. I just think it's kind of an odd practice that our churches have adopted, and I wonder if there is a better way we can practice Jesus' command to give in secret.

Charlie, Ryan, and I watched all five "Planet of the Apes" movies this week. I suggest you do likewise.

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