By Angel Manuel Rodríguez
This is probably the best answer to your question: God’s will is for us to bring to Him our offerings; and His will always procures what is best for us (Deut. 16:16). The Lord expects us to bring Him not only our tithe but also our offerings (Mal. 3:8). You may wonder why these are required from us. Here are a few thoughts about the theological foundation for offerings, our motivation for giving, and the nature of a true offering.
- Theological Foundation: I see two main theological foundations for the practice of giving offerings to God. The first is related to salvation. In the Bible, offerings are often associated with the idea that God is our Savior. This is extremely important in a theology of stewardship; it clearly excludes the idea that our offerings contribute to our salvation. Yes, an offering saved us, but it was one provided by God, not by us. This concept was illustrated in the Old Testament sanctuary services through the sin and guilt offerings (Lev. 4, 5; 17:11). These offerings pointed to the sacrifice of the Servant of the Lord, who would bear our sins to cleanse us from them (Isa. 53:4, 5, 10-12). This was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, whom God offered as a sacrifice in our place (John 3:16; Rom. 3:25). Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, making it possible for God to accept our personal offerings in response to His grace.
The second theological foundation is the lordship of God. The one who saved us is to be acknowledged as our Lord, otherwise we would remain enslaved to sin. He liberated us to His loving service. We honor and show respect to Him, as our Lord, through our offerings in the same way that people of importance are honored through gifts (Mal. 1:6-8). According to the Old Testament view of end-times, the kings of the earth will recognize the lordship of the God of Israel and will bring Him offerings/gifts (Isa. 18:7; Ps. 68:29).
- Motivation for Giving: The most fundamental motivation for giving offerings is gratitude for what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Ingratitude flows from selfishness and engenders idolatry (Rom. 1:21). We are grateful because of God’s abundant grace. In fact, the cosmos is home to more grace than evil: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Rom. 5:20, NIV). This abundance comes from Jesus Christ, who, although rich, became poor to enrich us (2 Cor. 8:9). Gratitude and love to God take a concrete form in our offerings, and God uses them to reach others with the message of salvation. In other words, our offerings are the embodiment of our gratitude and commitment to God in a tangible way that is transferred to supply others’ needs.
- God’s Purpose for Us: Our offerings are given to God through His church, not to anybody claiming to be God’s instrument. He requires them from us to protect us from idolatry and to assist us in overcoming our natural selfishness. We can hide our selfishness in words, but it could easily show its ugly face in our resistance to give our offerings to God liberally. Human ego becomes particularly visible in our thirst for material wealth, and the way we administer it. God helps us overcome this enslaving power by asking for our tithe and offerings as a response to His grace and love. In the process, He transforms us into loving creatures. Consequently He expects our gifts to be a self-offering (Luke 21:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:5), voluntary (Ex. 25:1; 2 Cor. 9:7), and systematic (2 Cor. 8:11). Systematic means that we give according to our means, that we assign a specific percentage of our earnings as offerings. We do not give because there are needs; we give because God has been good to us and we want to express our love and gratitude to Him unselfishly.
Angel Manuel Rodríguez lives in Texas, United States, after a career serving as a pastor, professor, and theologian.