While giving (whether to a specific church congregation, or to another good cause) takes many forms today, including electronic and virtual methods, I still see some people giving traditional currency or coins. In my part of the world, a few bills may be placed in an offering collection, while loose change is more commonly dropped in tip jars and charity boxes at fast-foot restaurants. (God can use your gift no matter what your income, though. As a result, if you wish to give coins towards God’s work, don’t hesitate to do so!)
Let’s start with what should happen: Each follower of Jesus should personally work out what to give to His kingdom (i.e., between the follower and God).
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT
Lest I induce panic to those who serve in full-time ministry (i.e., those who rely on contributions both to provide for their own families, and support other ministries), I don’t see any evidence that God would call His people to anything except generosity. If you told me that God has called you to not give, not serve, and not contribute to His kingdom at all, I would struggle to accept that at face value, since it would certainly seem to contradict His word.
Still, despite the fact that this verse is reasonably well-known, there are still two groups that we need to avoid being a part of.
In the first case, we shouldn’t be proud or self-seeking when we give what we have received from God. If we are able to be generous, we didn’t achieve that on our own. If we have the faith to give sacrificially, we should know better than to show off.
While I’d like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, history suggests that a few followers of Jesus haven’t yet internalized His instructions in Matthew 6:1-4 (see below), and they still hope that people see them giving.
In the second case, we shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed if we have only a little to offer. I’m sure that some feel the eyes of others on them when the offering is collected. These people feel conspicuous for not putting in as much as they believe others are.
Modern instruments like checks (where folding them hides the amount), offering envelopes (where everyone’s gift looks the same), and online giving (which – in some cases – is still accompanied by a physical envelope for the collection) have thankfully eliminated some of this temptation and stigma (whether real or perceived). Still, I feel awkward when the usher walks by, and I have no envelope to offer that day. This happens even though I know that our congregation’s ushers are made up of godly men and women, and I can trust that they are probably not judging me!
Instead of looking around me, though, Jesus calls me to give to God, not to my own reputation.
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Matthew 6:1-4 NLT
It’s one thing to evaluate our own motives (and we should). However, let’s consider how we should look at others, as well.
Maybe instead of judging people (and perhaps, ourselves) on the amount that they give, we should – if we judge at all – gauge how cheerful they are when they give. Maybe we could observe where their heart is, based on how excited they are to participate in a specific ministry, where God has led them. If we did so, we might learn more about the nature of their giving (in the occasional case that it’s any of our business in the first place).
So, give what you have decided in your heart to God, and allow others to do the same. It’s not others’ place to judge us for the amount that we give, nor our role to judge others with regards to the same thing. At the time of the collection, exchange a big, sincere smile with the next person in line when you pass the plate, basket, bag, or bowl, and let them know that you appreciate the opportunity to share this freedom (that is, to be part of the Kingdom of God) with them.