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Corner of Church St and Market St Wollongong 8am, 9:30am, 11am, 5pm & 7pm each Sunday
Every week, in the church where I grew up, we used to pass around a big, red velvet bag during the ‘offertory’. It was a dedicated time in the service, when the organ played until the bag had been passed around to everyone. We then prayed a thanksgiving prayer, and presented our gifts and offerings to God.
(We were also taught that this was always a response to God’s grace and never a way of earning salvation, let alone trying to ‘buy God off’. So it was an offering of thanksgiving, not of atonement.)
Because of this, even as a child, I was encouraged to think about how I could also start to give. There were opportunities at youth group and Sunday school to donate some of my pocket money.
These days, giving is much less visible. We direct debit our offering and use credit cards to give to mission and charity organisations. Our church uses the bags mainly to collect our connection cards.
I can understand that this system is good because Jesus told us to not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing (Matthew 6:3).
However, the downside of this invisible and quiet giving system is that maybe it’s easy not to be as generous as we should be. And maybe it might be hard for new believers to work out how to think, and what to do, about giving. And, maybe, because they don’t see it, our kids may not think about it at all.
Because of this, I was really encouraged that we supported Anglican Aid’s Waterworks project last week as a big church family, with the other churches in the Illawarra. It was a good start – a reminder that we should look beyond our own circles and care about the poor in the world.
It would be good to continue these kinds of conversations about generosity and giving, with each other and with our children.
In the Old and New Testaments, giving has always been an integral part of worship. Biblically, our gifts of money and talent and time should always be prioritised in this way: gospel work first and foremost – towards our own teachers, then for gospel work elsewhere in the world; the poor and needy in the family of God; hospitality and sharing in fellowship amongst the people of God, and to be a blessing to the whole world.
Let us consider how we can spur one another to be generous – for God loves a cheerful giver! (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Michelle Gajus Read