All Christians who are serious about advancing the gospel know that it requires money, and the bigger the vision the more money that is needed. Some things of course should never be funded especially when it is really someone’s personal ambition being promoted in the name of God.
My first understanding of the offering from childhood was when a group of men wearing the same color sport jackets came to the front of the church during a certain song, prayed, picked up shinny brass or silver plates and then proceeded to follow a simple crisscross choreography of passing those plates from front to back as people dropped in change, checks or envelopes.
My next exposure to the offering was basically the same thing, but this time there were no matching coats, and someone actually taught on the principles of giving. But the more I became exposed to other churches and movements, the more I noticed that some leaders spent quite a bit of time trying to motivate people to give.
Great incentives and many promises of God’s generous reciprocity were used to pry the needed sum from people who were not convinced or motivated enough to give. “Don’t worry, you will get it all back.” was the usual statement to soften the blow of giving. Oftentimes the pressure was greatest and the message longest when the reason for giving was in doubt. You know: theme parks, golden faucets and a faster jet.
The worst offering message I ever heard was from a woman who for some reason altered her voice to sound like a cat in torment when she took the microphone. She screamed some unintelligible hyper-something message for 5-10 minutes. Of course I knew that she was mimicking another screaming-cat preacher that she had seen on TV, and they both probably lost their voices.
But then there is the best offering message I have ever heard, and it went something like this:
“If Christians really understood the pearl of great price there would be no need for long messages on giving.” Wow, that was short!
This phrase resonated in me and still does. This is not only the motivation to give, but it tells us what we should give to. We might get something back, but then again we might not. We can definitely be sure of one thing. If we give something of value then someone else in need will receive something of value. And yes, God will take care of us and meet our needs along the way.
The pearl of great price – and if you haven’t guessed by now it is Jesus – is also the motivation to give one’s life to advancing God’s kingdom either where you are or to go where you are needed. Jesus because of love gave all that He had to get what He valued, us. If we also give because of love others will get what we value, Him. Is there really any other motivation to give?“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matt 13:45,46