Wow, can he take an offering!" my associate admiringly crooned. The visiting evangelist had just spent more time pitching the offering for his ministry than he would later spend teaching or preaching the Word.
Is it just me, or does anyone else ever tire of the cajoling, begging, pontificating, hyperbolizing, intimidating, rebuking and downright manipulating that too often precede the passing of the plate?
Oh my, here come the letters as I take measured aim at that sacred cow that so often puts a roof over our heads, pays our bills and underwrites endless lunch appointments with the sheep or visiting guest speakers.
Do you know whom I've been considering in my recent offertory statements? Before preparing what I will say over the sacrament of giving, I picture the single mom with three kids. I visualize my gray-haired, widowed intercessor whose Social Security check barely pays her monthly bills. I also see the prosperous businessmen and women who probably know more than I do about living by faith and having God as their source.
So what am I saying? Simply this: Taking an offering is a sacred trust, not a carefully punctuated, planned and premeditated pitch.
People give to the Lord, not to the church, the building, the needs, the programs or the man or woman of God. We give because it's right; it's God's idea; it's sacred. We give what is holy unto the Lord because we love the Lord and the work He is doing in the world. We are cheerful and thankful, humbled and awed, faithful and committed. Yes, we tell people to expect a harvest, but the emphasis is not on me reaping but on His harvest.
I cringe each time the offering-taker invokes the passage in Luke, "'Give, and it will be given to you'" (Luke 6:38, NKJV). Immediately eisegesis, not exegesis, follows. Whenever the speaker, televangelist or announcer shows pictures of starving children, I am reminded of the godly missionary who shared with me how one ministry took pictures of her orphanage and used them to raise tens of thousands of dollars for his ministry while her children continued to freeze and starve.
It's time to return "taking the offering" to the realm of sacrament instead of committing sacrilege. Have we become Aarons shaping golden calves? Can we humbly speak God's Word without adding our own cacophony of string-pulling anecdotes? Good stewardship isn't just how we spend God's offering--it's also how we take it. Can anyone say amen?
Larry Keefauver is a teaching pastor at The Gathering Place Worship Center in Lake Mary, Florida. He is the author of numerous books, including, Lord, I Wish My Family Would Get Saved (Charisma House).