Catechism: Grateful Offerings

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Q: For what do we pray in the fifth request?

A: In the fifth request (Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors), encouraged by God’s grace, which makes it possible for us sincerely to forgive others, we pray that for Christ’s sake God would freely pardon all our sins.

This month we are discussing Tithes and Offerings. Last week we considered how God, being the creator of all, is therefore the rightful owner of all. As a result, whatever we have can be said to be a gift from Him, including our “daily bread.”

We also discussed how an offering is a act of gratitude and, therefore, doesn’t have to be money. A few children bring in a regular tithe to Children’s Church, but that’s often more a gesture from the parents; most of our little congregation don’t receive an allowance to draw a tithe from. We discussed, however, what things we do get regularly: toys, food, books, time. There’s no reason why these things can’t be “tithed” in Children’s Church.

I strongly encourage you (that is, parents at NewCity) to talk to your child or children about whether they want to give a Sunday offering to God and what they have that they might offer. A snack perhaps? I can collect them and have them available at a later time. Books? Toys? These could be donated to the Nursery or to one of our partners in the Mercy Ministry. Time? Maybe your child just wants to make a piece of art or write a thank-you letter to our Lord. None of these things will go unappreciated.

What’s most important is that these come from a sincere desire to worship and thank God. Bring up the topic and help them think through possibilities, but don’t pressure them into action. We discussed in Children’s Church how we are able to give grace to others when we truly understand the grace given to us.

We revisited the story of Cain and Abel. Most of the children knew Cain killed Abel, and several remembered he did it out of envy. None of them knew, however, why God found favor with Abel’s offering and not with Cain’s and understandably so — no explicit reason is given in the text.

The context is filled in later, in covenants God makes with Israel and fulfills in Christ. Abel provided a blood sacrifice, a life for a life left unfulfilled in sin. We considered how this sheep, probably the first lamb Abel ever domesticated, was raised by him, nurtured, and protected by him, slept by his side, listened to his monologues and dreamy thoughts, and grew to be his most valuable possession in every possible way. For Abel to sacrifice this sheep was a profound recognition of the debt he owed and yet could still not pay.

Speaking to Pastor Paul’s sermon, Cain’s envy reflects a worldview missing an understanding of that love, its power and cost. When we see our relationships as fundamentally transactional, everything around us becomes flattened in value… including our own lives. Happiness becomes a matter of bargains, and justice is reduced to bookkeeping. And we are left hollow and bereft in the end, alone in a world of stuff, lashing out at a loss we cannot fathom.

This is why giving back must come from within. Only one gift ever mattered, and it has already been given. What matters for us is the heart that springs forth our own desire to give.

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