There is a story about a guest worshiper. The congregation’s custom was to receive the offering just before the sermon instead of after it. It caught the visitor off guard when he saw the offering plate coming toward him.
He quickly reached for his wallet, drew out a bill and dropped it in. Just as suddenly it dawned on him that he’d had two bills in his wallet- a $100 bill and a $5 bill. He glanced sideways into his wallet. There was the $5 bill.
He didn’t hear a word of the sermon.
Immediately after the service he went to the ushers’ room. He explained what had happened and asked if the usher could return the $100 bill he had not intended to give in exchange for the $5 bill which he had intended to give.
The usher replied: “Sir, you’re asking me to put my hand into an offering that was placed on God’s altar and to remove something. I can’t do that with a good conscience.”
The visitor, visibly upset, replied: “Back off! I made an honest mistake and all I’m asking is that you help me correct it.”
The usher answered: “Sir, I didn’t say you can’t put your hand into the Lord’s offering and take something out. I simply told you that I cannot and will not.”
The visitor eased up a bit and said: “Well, beats me. I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I suppose I can understand it. I guess the Lord will just have to credit me today with a $100 offering.”
The usher replied: “I’ve got to disagree with you again. I think the Lord will give you credit for a $5 offering.”
The amount wasn’t the issue, of course. It’s that the man’s heart did not accompany that $100.
Faithful believers in Christ, whose newborn hearts are really in it, are moved by the bleeding love of their Savior. They love the Lord and they love the Lord’s word.
Consequently, they do not scrape the scraps and leftovers off their life’s plate into the Lord’s offering.
They also know that not just the offering plate, but all of life is “stewardship,” the managing of what God has loaned them – to care for their families, support their nation, help the less fortunate, and yes, spread the gospel.
They understand the Biblical principles of giving regularly, cheerfully and proportionately– as the Lord has blessed them. Their hearts are in it. Their offerings follow, like apples on an apple tree.
But they also smell the difference between giving to God or giving to a budget, between nurturing souls or raising money, between shepherding the flock or fleecing the sheep, between a theology of the cross or a theology of money, between Christ’s gospel or man’s gimmicks, between worshipping God with our substance or simply paying the bills, between God-ordained mission work or pointless busy work, between churches that only croak for money, or a Savior who says, “My son, give Me thine heart!” (Prov. 23:26).