God doesn’t want your offering! Yes, you heard me right. In Isaiah 1:10-18, the prophet Isaiah speaks on the behalf of God to say that the offerings, sacrifices, worship, and even prayers of the Israelites is not what God wants. Instead, God desires that they do good, avoid evil, and seek justice. For as long as I have been a Christian I have heard pastors plead with members of the church to be better stewards and give. As a pastor, I get it but I also find it a bit shallow. I get that the church needs the offerings of its members to maintain its buildings, staff, and ministries, but I don’t go to church to be told I need to give, I go to experience God.
So, why give an offering if that is not what God wants? I believe the story of Zacchaeus may shed a little light on this. If you don’t know the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), then here is my quick version of it. In Jericho, there was a short man named Zacchaeus who was disliked by the people there because he was in charge of tax collecting. One day as Jesus is passing through, Zacchaeus desperately wants to seem him but because he is short and disliked by the people of Jericho he has to climb a tree to see over the crowd. Jesus notices Zacchaeus and invites him to come down from the tree and take him to his house to have dinner. Zacchaeus is overwhelmed with joy to know that Jesus sees him and immediately shares that he has already begun to give back the money he has taken from people and more. Jesus says that Zacchaeus has received salvation, but not because he gives to the poor. Zacchaeus receives salvation because he is a son of Abraham. So how does this story shed light on giving?
Well, Zacchaeus already has a generous heart. He already gives to the poor and repays those he has taken money from. His giving was not a response to Jesus seeing him, because according to Scripture Zacchaeus was already giving. Here is what I believe has happened in Zacchaeus’ life. Zacchaeus had lived a life as a tax collector where he took from the poor and treated people unfairly. At some point, he has a change of heart and desires to do good and cause no more harm to the world around him. This change of heart opens a space that allows Christ to enter in. It is important to note that Jesus does not say that there are conditions that must be met, for salvation came to Zacchaeus just because he was a son of Abraham. In Galatians 3:7, the Apostle Paul, writing to Gentiles, says, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham”. Here Paul advances the idea of a spiritual family in contrast to a physical family—a family sharing faith rather than a bloodline. Zacchaeus is saved by his faith.
God does not want your offering, God wants your heart. A heart changed for God seeks good and avoids harm. A heart changed seeks justice and righteousness. My family gives an offering every week. We do so because we believe in the mission and ministries of our church. We believe our church seeks good and avoids harm. We believe our church seeks justice for all and disciples us in ways of righteousness. For us giving is a heart thing, not an obligation, because God does not want our offering, God wants our heart. Join us this Sunday, November 3rd at 9:30 AM for Sunday school and 10:30 AM for worship as we continue this conversation.
In God’s grip,
Pastor Chuck Church