The offering

So what did you get out of “church” today? Did you have a powerful experience of God? Were you inspired by what went on?

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor” (Genesis 4:3-5).

Old Testament worship, whether it was offered by patriarchs on a windy hillside or by Israelites in a tabernacle always had an “offering.” From the very earliest of Sunday school lessons, children’s vivid imaginations are fired by the image of an animal being placed on an altar, and of the smoke of the “offering” rising to heaven.

In Christian worship, too, there is an offering. This is probably the best of the descriptive phrases for the “collection.” Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was an offering. We offer “a sacrifice of praise” with our lips (Hebrews 13:15). And Paul urges us to “offer our lives” as a sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Worship has always centered around the term “offering.”

So, I have just one question for you. If worship is an offering, exactly who becomes the center of worship? In a word, who gives the offering, God or us? The correct answer to this question will go a long way in helping us identify what we are supposed to gain from worship.

If we really came here to offer something to God, then there would be much less criticism of worship on our part. If we came here to offer God some of our proceeds, our songs of praise, indeed our very lives, then it would not be we who evaluated the “relevance” or “merit” of our worship. It would be God, the one to whom we offer these things.

I wonder if his criteria for “good” worship are the same as the ones we commonly mention? So often we come to worship, not to “call on the Lord,” but to see “what’s in it for us.” This may well be worship, but it is offered to a false god. Worship Him. Offer Him praise above all others, not primarily because he has fulfilled you; not because you seek some “pay off,” but simply because He is worthy.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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