Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 8, 1953

"Giving Thanks For Giving"

Denton M. Neal, Jackson, Tennessee

It is only upon invitation that I presume to write and call in question some matters presented in a recent article. In the article, "Giving Thanks For the Giving," Brother H. N. Howard of Modesto, California, concludes with the question, "What do you think?" I take it that this is an invitation to express what I think. I have thought and so I write. I do not know Brother Howard and certainly have nothing personal in mind but humbly offer criticism of some of the ideas expressed, not only by him, but as I have seen them previously expressed by others.

A prayer offered just before the offering is taken is declared to be "sectarian," "unscriptural," and "illogical."

The practice cannot be "sectarian" just because the sectarians practice it. The offering itself is a part of their practice but it is scriptural. It is very likely that the sectarians originated the method of taking the offering by "passing the plate." But I hardly think that Brother Howard would call that a "sectarian practice." It violates no scriptural principle. Does a prayer at the particular point in a service just before the collection violate a scriptural principle? Would a prayer before any other act in the service violate the same principle? Does a "dismissal prayer" violate the same one? There is no scriptural precedent for either. Do we have precept or example that teaches us how many prayers are to be offered and at just what point in a service?

It is first claimed that this particular prayer is "a sort of psychological 'gold digging' to make their parishioners feel that the Lord is looking angrily upon them when they give to the church, and will curse the fellow who does not give liberally"; and that "Fear of wrath drains more from the pocketbook than love for the cause." Then it is concluded that giving is simply and solely "a duty," "not a privilege," and that we shouldn't try to fool God "by trying to make Him... think that we are glad to 'get rid' of our money." If there is no joy or pleasure in giving, "love for the cause" would seem to be little of the motivating force in giving, and a little "fear of wrath" might be the appropriate motivation. Certainly "fear of wrath" has its place in causing anyone to perform any Christian duty as it is so used by both Christ and the apostles, and I have never before heard any but the modernistic consider it "Voodoo." In all the prayers "before passing the plate for the collection" in which I have ever engaged however, I have never heard the "fear of the Lord's wrath" referred to, hinted at or even vaguely implied.

Certainly I could not take issue with the author's statement, "Now I see nothing in connection with giving that resembles a 'privilege'," as I do not know just what he can see. And I do not know who may be included in the "we" when he says, "We are not fooling anyone, and especially God by trying to make Him or them think that we are glad to 'get rid' of our money." But when it is said, "no man is thankful that duty requires a sacrifice," the implication, that "no man" is "glad to get rid of" his money, to suffer and/or to make a sacrifice when it is required, is contrary to the facts. The apostles "departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name." (Acts 5:41) Paul says to the Romans, "We also rejoice in our tribulations," (Rom. 5:3); and to the Corinthians, "And I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls."

(2 Cor. 12:15) Do you suppose that these were kidding and "trying to make Him or them think that" they were "glad" to suffer, sacrifice and spend? Or were they carrying out the Lord's instructions, "rejoice and be exceeding glad"? Do you suppose that they would say, "Lord, I'm 'glad' to give my skin or my life, but don't think that you can make me 'glad to get rid of my money'?"

The article under question declares, "Giving is not a privilege, it is a duty," and "a duty is binding. A person can waive a privilege without guilt..." I wonder if prayer is a "duty" or "privilege." Can we thank God for the "privilege of prayer"? Can one "waive" the privilege of prayer "without guilt"? Was preaching the gospel a duty or a privilege to Paul? He said, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel." (1 Cor. 9:16) But again he says, "Unto me... was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles." (Eph. 3:8) The great job and duty of preaching, at great sacrifice, Paul calls "grace," "unmerited favor... kindness... a benefaction." There were, and I am quite sure that there are yet, those to whom "giving" is the same "favor." "Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the churches of Macedonia; how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy (they were glad! DMN) and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality." (2 Cor. 8:1,2) We can see, as those brethren did, that giving is a privilege, and thank God at any time that we have the ability and opportunity for this "grace," even though it be a "duty."

"We can pray for things that we think we, or others need." I think we "need" to be able to consider giving as "grace," "a favor," as early Christians did. As we pray God to help us sing, study, teach, preach and partake of the Lord's Supper with the proper disposition of heart and mind, we can also pray that He help us give "cheerfully" and "not grudgingly."

We can, do, and should thank Him for the songs we sing and the "privilege" and "duty" of singing. We can as well thank Him for the material blessings granted us and the "privilege" and "duty" of giving of it to His great work and purposes. If we can do it at the beginning, at the close or in the middle of a service, we can do it just before or just after the collection has been taken. Such is not the practice here, where I have preached for two years, but it has been done, and "I see nothing" "unscriptural" or "illogical" in it.

Anything we can do in the Lord's name we can give thanks for it and in doing it. (Col. 3:17)