"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." (Romans 12:1)
When we talk about offering, I think it can sometimes seem like a mediocre thing that we do. Because I introduce the offering every week in the service, this has been on my mind. It’s probably because we have done it every week since we were children and is an afterthought. Some churches pass an offering place, but we have a basket in the back. Both manners of collecting serve the same purpose: to support the work of the ministry in the local church and beyond.
We can often fail to connect the offering to our daily living. Paul tells us in Romans 12 that we are to offer up our whole selves as a service. In the Old Testament, God commanded his people to give a tithe to support the temple. He also included other laws. The first major fruiting of a fruit tree was to be offered to the Lord. It wasn’t just any offering but an offering of praise to the Lord (Lev. 19.24). Most of us would feel stingy about giving the first good harvest from our fruit trees to someone else. When we sold our home in south Minneapolis, we sold along with it our three year old fruit trees just starting to produce. It was one of the saddest things we had to leave at the house. I wouldn’t have given the fruit up.
In fact, we know the Israelites were stingy, and this is one of the reasons that the Lord brought them into exile, so that the land would have its Sabbath rests (2 Chronicles 36.21). They didn’t trust their God when the time came to give up a year of fruit for the Sabbath year or for the first year of fruit. They couldn’t see provision beyond the fruit that they took for themselves.
We ought to remember this as we give our offering. Our tendency is often to hold back and keep the best fruit, the newest fruit for ourselves … and then we give the Lord the leftovers. Paul reminds us instead that we give of our whole selves: this is acceptable worship, and as we give a part in our offerings to support the local ministry of the Church, we give as though it were spilling over from our giving our whole lives for the Lord’s work. It is a glorious thing, and it is like the fourth year of the fruit tree which is the Lord’s: an offering of praise. Our giving to the Church is an offering of praise.
However, we don’t only give financially to support the local church, but it is the locale of our service to the Lord as we disciple others and gather corporately to worship. What we do in this local body is a central aspect of offering our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord, and as we disciple and worship in this body, the desire is that there might be gospel fruit that grows through our worship.
May we present our bodies in worship to God both as we worship in this local church here in Northeast Minneapolis and as we anticipate fruit and the establishment of Christ’s church.
--J. Andersen 4/1/16