"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.IX Pg.5,4c
April 1944

"Giving Thanks For The Offering"

(G. H. P. Showalter, in Firm Foundation)

I have received quite a number of inquiries along the line of thought suggested by the above heading. I hardly feel that I am the most suitable one to write on this question.

I love to assist my brethren, when I can, in their study of the Holy Scriptures, and to point out the teachings of God's word on the questions and problems that come to my attention, if and when my services may be of assistance. It is needless to write or speak where we cannot help.

The trouble with some things we do, is not at all in regard to what the Bible reveals, but where the silence of the Bible is conspicuously apparent. Anyhow, brethren keep writing me to know whether they should thank God for "the offering," or would it be better to thank him for "the privilege," or for "returning to God a portion of what God has given us." (The rest of it of course, to be kept for our own use.) And why not return it all to him? All we have and are is the Lord's already, provided at least that we have first given ourselves to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5). And some of the brethren have decided that they should "first take up the offering" before they give thanks for it; they do not want to be found giving thanks for what they don't have. And then it has occurred to others that the "offering" is not theirs, and why give thanks for what they do not receive, and what is not theirs? It is the Lord's offering. (Maybe the Lord should give thanks for it?) But the earth is the Lord's already. And the fullness thereof (Ps. 24:1; 50:12, 89:11; 1 Cor. 10:26). We are not our own. "And ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 7:23). Read 2 Corinthians chapter 9. And particularly, verses 10 to 15. There the matter of thanksgiving is considered in connection with free-will offerings; and you will note that it was the ones who received the offering and the benefits of it who thanked God, not the ones who made the offering. And, if now, you take a poor widow, a bushel of potatoes or a ham of meat, and she is one of God's children, she will most certainly give thanks to God for this ministration at the hand of one of his servants. But it is not in place for you to thank God for what you have done, for the small and pitiful service you have rendered to him, for all we do is so small in comparison with what God has done for us.

Our "offering" on the Lord's day is a simple service that we render to him and should not be confused with the worship. For orderly and convenient arrangement, it is entirely suitable to make this offering on the first day of the week, in keeping with Paul's order to the Corinthian and Galatian churches when they were making up a collection for the poor saints (See 1 Cor. 16:1-4). Not that this is the only time when an offering may be made. This, of course, can be done and must be done, as we have opportunity (Gal. 6:10). The requirement of the primitive churches (1 Cor. 16:1f.) for a special offering on the first day of the week when they assembled for the breaking of bread, as made by Paul, was for a scriptural purpose, and it is a safe precedent for our offerings for scriptural purposes. And this is all that this passage teaches or authorizes. It certainly does not mean that Paul meant to augment, increase or enlarge the items connected with the worship, itself, known as the Lord's supper. It is reasonably certain that these offerings, at that time, were not made, as a formality in immediate connection with partaking of the bread and wine in memory of Christ. They most likely followed the general custom of the time. When Christ paused and beheld how the Jews "cast money into the treasury" (Mk. 12:41) they were putting the money into a box or chest, provided with an aperture for receiving the money. The "chest" was in a side room, or court, probably "the court of the women," and was not in the place of worship in the temple. The early disciples most likely followed this custom in the absence of any divine precept prescribing any formality for making the offering. Any special formality, or show, or ostentation, or exhibition of vanity, was then out of place. It was not in keeping with the genius and spirit of the Christian system in the primitive days of the gospel era. It remained for the decadent days of the great apostasy to bring about all the fanfare, boast and bluster, and the extolling of the names of rich men, big men, and big gifts, such as has characterized many sects and parties during medieval and modern times. Because these flatteries please men they bring them into the worship and service of God. They overlook the greatly significant and sublime truth of heaven that "man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7), and that a very small gift presented by the poor, is often far more precious in heaven's sight, than princely gifts from the worldly wealthy.

But just a few words more concerning thanksgiving and "the offering." Some of the embarrassing features relating to thanking God for what we do, for what we give, may be the better understood by referring to the time of the institution of the Lord's supper, and by noting what our Savior did, and what becomes an example to all his followers. He gave thanks for the bread and then the disciples ate of it; he gave thanks for the cup and the disciples all drank of it; he did not give thanks for the offering. And it does not appear that an offering was any part of this worship--this initial observance of the Lord's supper. (Read Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:23-29). Here we find Paul agrees with the synoptics. All four of the accounts are in perfect agreement in regard to what was done by our Lord in the institution of the supper. None of them call it "the sacrament"; none of them say, or intimate, that the Lord gave thanks for both the bread and wine at the same time, and then started the distribution of the bread and the fruit of the wine all at the same time. In fact, the record states the opposite of this procedure--a practice that seems to be growing in popularity at the present time. But the precedent did not come from the Savior or the church of the New Testament times. Neither did the Savior "give thanks for the offering"; nor do we find mention in the inspired writings of any such practice among the early Christians. It sprang up away later, and after the popes of Rome had started the practice of blessing water and many more material things in order to make them "holy" and thus acceptable to the Lord. Some of our practices are borrowed bodily from the sectarian churches about us, and they borrowed them and many more from the Catholics. Usually the best thing to do with borrowed property is to return it to those from whence it came. It is seldom that matters of history, in connection with the Savior's life, are recorded by as many as four writers of the New Testament. But such is the case with the institution of the Lord's supper, and moreover, with an unusual detail. Is this meaningless? -- It is the only commemorative institution of the new dispensation and the simplicity of its observance in the beginning must not be overlooked.

We find in the New Testament just one example of where any one gave thanks for "the offering." This was the Pharisee who went up into the temple to pray. He thanked God for what he was, for what he had done, and for what he gave--"the offering." The Savior mentioned this but without commendation of this exceedingly religious professor. Read Luke 18:9-14. He thought himself to be "righteous and despised others." We should thank the Lord for what we receive from him, not for what we do for him.