Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 15, 1953

"What Do You Think?"

W. G. Poplin, Santa Rosa, California

In the Gospel Guardian for September 3, 1953, Brother H. N. Howard writes under the heading, "Giving Thanks For the Giving." He argues strongly against the practice of giving thanks before the collection — with more strength, I should say than logic or scripture. At the close of his article he asks the question, "What do you think?" I feel impelled to tell him what I think.

First, however, may I say that I do not introduce this practice, nor do I follow it when it is mine to serve at the table. But if the brother who is serving asks me to word a prayer at that time I do so, and none has yet convinced me that either of us sins in so doing. I am not so much inclined to defend the practice, however anything that must be opposed by so many false arguments must have something of merit, and must be worthy of defense. This article is not intended as a defense of the practice, for I care not whether the practice is followed or not, but rather to show the inconsistency of those who would make essentials of incidentals, and to warn of a very dangerous attitude often assumed by those who oppose the practice under consideration. I speak of the attitude expressed in these words: "Giving is not a privilege, it is a duty."

Brother Howard gives us four definitions of "privilege." It seems to me that in view of those definitions, it is a distinct privilege to give of our means and share in the preaching of the gospel of Christ, and in lifting the burdens of those in distress. Certainly it is a duty as well as a privilege. I thank the Lord for the privilege of prayer. But I do not forget that prayer is a duty, both prayer for the church, the brethren, the rulers and ourselves. I am sure Joshua was speaking by inspiration when he gave the people the privilege of worshipping whom they chose, but neither did this exempt them from "the whole duty of men, to fear God and keep His commandments."

The brother states that "a privilege is an advantage granted that a person can use or not use as he sees fit." Well, generally speaking that is true. But he surely cannot fail to use it and expect the advantage. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." I think those words describe a great privilege, but we do not have to use it. If we see fit we can "not use" it, and at the same time forego the advantage. God extended a privilege to the Gentiles when He granted unto them repentance. A lot of them have not seen fit to use it. Of course they who do not use it shall all "likewise perish."

He says a person can waive a privilege without guilt. Perhaps one can waive that which is purely a privilege without guilt; although he might be guilty of ingratitude. But if he waives the privilege, he waives the advantage. However, if something is both a privilege and a duty, when he waives the privilege, he avoids the duty, and this he cannot do without guilt. I consider it a privilege to have responsibilities in God's service, and to discharge duties in His employ.

Christ prayed that if possible the cup might pass from Him. But He waived the privilege of asking the Father to send twelve legions of angels to rescue Him. He himself said that He laid down His life, no man took it from Him. Paul said Christ gave himself for us. The Hebrew writer said that Christ, "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the same." He had the privilege of saving the lost and of sitting at the right hand of God. This privilege He did not waive. In view of that great sacrifice, I am thankful for the privilege of sacrificing a little in His service.

Brother Howard calls this practice of "giving thanks before the collection" pure sectarianism, and says it is a gold-digging scheme. It is employed to cause the "ignorant, half superstitious member" to give more because he thinks the Lord's eyes are scrutinizing his giving. Well, if the ignorant, and half superstitious — and miserly — members do not know that the Lord is scrutinizing their giving, they need something to remind them of it. It appears to me that Brother Howard's concept of giving as solely a duty, which if not discharged, will send one to hell, will contribute more to the undesirable fact that "fear of wrath drains more from the pocketbook than love for the cause," than will the concept of giving as a blessed privilege as well as a duty. I wonder if giving thanks for the bread and fruit of the vine causes one to more fully realize that Christ is present in that feast, and if this too is "voodoo" and "bunk"?

I trust that Brother Howard has allowed himself to exaggerate his own selfishness when he pictures giving as such an unpleasant task. He is not glad, nor can he thank God for the privilege of "getting rid of" his money. It is not "burning a hole in his pocket." He is not going to kid himself, nor try to fool God, by making like he is a cheerful giver. The brother pictures himself as not being able to align with 2 Cor. 9:7, "Not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." I do hope and believe that he has misjudged his own attitude. But he says he could give thanks if the contribution was given to him. I just refuse to believe that this fairly describes his attitude.

Now let me clear myself of one charge in his article. I do not "give thanks for the offering." And I do not in any sense defend the practice of so doing. When someone asks me to pray at the time of taking the contribution, I thank God for the material blessings that He has given us. I thank Him that He has made it possible for us to have a real share in the work of the gospel by giving of our means. I ask him to help us that we may give both willingly and liberally. And I ask Him to overrule the wisdom and judgment of those who shall disburse that given in the service of the Lord.

If someone still objects to the word "Privilege," I shall gladly refrain from using it, and use in its place "blessedness." I defy any one to challenge the scripturalness of that word. For Jesus himself taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive. If it is more blessed, I think I can be thankful for it without being "ignorant" or "superstitious," or practicing "voodoo" or "bunk."

Paul says in the last four verses of 2 Cor 9 that giving does five things: 1) It supplies the want, and 2) causes thanksgiving on the part of the needy. (verse 12) 3) It makes them glorify God for your practical Christianity. (verse 13) 4) They in turn pray for you, and 5) they have a feeling of fellowship as they long exceedingly for you. (verse 14) Then he sums up in verse 15, "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift." I think it is a blessing.