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

"Giving Thanks For The Giving" Reviewed

Joe Neil Clayton, Aransas Pass, Texas

Any number of practices which are in customary use by the churches of Christ are sectarian in origin. It might be possible to condemn any of these practices on the basis that it is an example of sectarian infiltration into the "common, unpretentious services of the church." Brother H. N. Howard in the Gospel Guardian of September 3, 1953, used this line of reasoning to expose the inadvisability of "giving thanks for the giving." In all brotherly respect for Brother Howard's convictions, I am moved to take a view that is opposed to the one that he expressed.

If opinion could be the basis for any scriptural discussion, it could be said that the custom of condemning practices because they manifest a taint of sectarianism is largely unreasonable and inconsistent. Many common practices of the churches should be condemned along with the most flagrant procuration from sectarianism in order to retain consistency. Such practices as the use of a pulpit, or a baptisty, or even certain styles of church-building architecture saw their origin in sectarian churches. These things are trivial in nature, of course, yet they are undoubtedly sectarian. In another case, the average church-member of some of the sectarian churches is considerably more reverent and prayerful than the average member of the church of Christ. By the use of the above form of reasoning, Christians should be condemned if they begin to approach the standard of reverence and prayerfulness which has been demonstrated by the sectarians. However in a discussion of this sort, opinion should never have the weight that the scripture itself can exert toward bringing two different positions into a common agreement. Therefore, let us regard what the scripture says on this matter.

Brother Howard makes the assumption that the only attitude of prayer that is used by our brethren in connection with the offering is the "giving of thanks." This is not necessarily the case. We agree with him that there are several courses that can be followed in the prayers of an individual. One may "give thanks" for blessings received, make petitions for further blessings, and use his prayer as a means of praising God's glory. Brother Howard concludes that a prayer in connection with the contribution of our money to the Lord cannot scripturally take any of these courses. He says,

"We pray for things that we think we, or others need. Prayer is a petition to God for things we want. We 'give thanks' for blessings received. There is a lot of difference between 'giving thanks' and praying for favors. There is too much just saying prayers without any special object in view. (To this I agree, at least — parenthesis mine, J.N.C.) This sort of thing is useless and hurtful to the church. If we pray before passing the plate for the collection, for what shall we pray? There should be something we desire, else why pray at that particular time? Or, if we 'give thanks' at this time, for what shall we give thanks?"

In a later paragraph, he states,

"This practice is sometimes defended ( ?) by a passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 which says, 'In everything give thanks.' This passage is quite correct, for whatsoever we receive we should give thanks. Now if the contribution is made to me, I should give thanks for it, but why should I give something to the cause of the Lord and then thank Him for the contribution I just made, or was about to make, to advance His cause?"

In reading these two statements, we readily observe that Brother Howard is correct in his conclusion that we should only give thanks when we receive blessings. However, it is evident that he has forgotten the fact that we do receive blessings from giving. The scripture says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35) Paul understood that there was a blessing to be enjoyed in giving, as well as in receiving. "To receive is to be superficially and momentarily happy; to give is to be inwardly and abidingly blessed. It is far more blessed to give than to receive." Another scripture says, "give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again." (Luke 6:38) This verse shows the value of giving on the human level. Not only are we spiritually blessed, but we are also subject to reciprocal giving from others. Yet another scripture says, "He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound unto you: that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work: as it is written, He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor: His righteousness abideth forever. And he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food, shall supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness: ye being enriched in everything unto all liberality, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God. For the ministration of this service not only filleth up the measure of the wants of the saints, but aboundeth also through many thanksgivings unto God; seeing that through the proving of you by this ministration they glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all; while they themselves also, with supplication on your behalf, long after you by reason of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift." (All bold face mine — J.N.C.) (2 Cor. 9:6-15)

We are told in this passage that it is possible for us to give only because the Lord blessed us with the "seed for sowing." We also find that we have the blessing of the love of God, if we do not begrudge our gifts to His work. In addition to these discoveries, we note that the writer of the passage mentions the fact that thanksgivings are made both by the givers and the receivers. Lastly, we observe that the apostle expresses thanks for the "exceeding grace of God in" the givers, and that he describes its nature as wonderfully "unspeakable." These verses should suffice in showing us that the offering of thanksgiving in connection with our giving is in perfect harmony with New Testament teaching.

Brother Howard states in his article that "no man's money burns his pockets so much that he is glad to get rid of it. Let's not kid ourselves that we are fooling God, or anyone else." Of course, we know from the lesson of Ananias and Sapphira that we should not attempt to fool God about our giving. However, we also have the example of the churches of Macedonia which Paul says, "According to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints: and this, not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God," (2 Cor. 8:3-5) Surely, no one would deny that we need to pray or petition God that he will help us duplicate this standard of Christian giving.

In the above paragraphs, I have tried to show that there is something for which we can pray when we make contributions to the work of the Lord. Rather than just copying the sectarian world in this practice, we are belatedly awakening through this practice to the serious nature of our giving.