The church was growing exponentially and to sustain such growth and reach the masses, funds were required. Luke writes that all the believers were one in heart and mind (Acts 4:32). Many members of the Church were led by the Holy Spirit to sell their possessions to support the mission. One such person was a Levite named Barnabas, about whom we will read extensively in the later chapters of the book of Acts. Technically, Levites are not supposed to own any property(Deuteronomy 10:8-9) but Joseph Barnabas, who hailed from Cyprus was perhaps liberal in his beliefs. Whether the land was his inheritance or purchased, he felt the need to support the church through that land. Being a Levite, Barnabas knew, how a whole nation supported his ancestors with their tithes.
Our offerings are a crucial part of our Church. It helps smaller churches keep their lights on and it helps larger churches with their outreach programmes to help the wider community. For the Jews of the Old testament it was a compulsory tax, as their tithes were running the country. We all pay taxes to our government and it helps build infrastructure and facilities to help the masses. Our offerings similarly help establish churches and spread the gospel to all the nations. The people who have dedicated their lives for God’s ministry are our responsibility, and we must take care of their needs, as God intended when He established the Tithe offerings for the Levites, the widows, the orphans and the downtrodden (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). However, we often think that our part ends when we drop off our ten percent tax in the bag on Sunday morning. We read in 1st Peter that we are the royal priest hood and are a vital part of the church.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9
We should have the knowledge of what happens with our offerings, and if we feel it is not aligned with where the Spirit is leading us, we should raise our concerns. Offerings that are not used with the leading of the Holy Spirit are just establishment fees that the church collects from you to use its premises for your Sunday morning recreational activities. Similarly, Offerings that we give without the leading of the Holy Spirit, is something that we do for the norms of the church. We are not concerned about the Gospel or its proclamation but only give these offerings because our friends and families are doing the same.
In Acts 5 we read about a couple who brought their offerings, not led by the Spirit but wanting the adoration of the members of the Church. Ananias and Sapphira sold one of their property and lied to the Church claiming that they were donating the entire amount for the ministry. They stuck to their pre-constructed narrative even when Peter questioned them bluntly leading to their immediate deaths. Does this mean that God wanted them to give their entire proceeds from the sale and not hold back some part?
Offering were voluntary gifts that the people gave being led by The Spirit, not to maintain the church lawns or get a new gargoyle or perhaps some new wooden benches for the aisle but to sustain the Church and its members. The money from the proceeds of the sale of the property belonged to the one who owned the property. They were free to keep all of it or give part of it. But Ananias and Sapphira choose to lie to God. This shows us a glimpse into the early church and that everything was not rosy. Not all members were in one Spirit but there were some who had joined the Church for the wrong reasons. This sent a stern warning to all the witnesses, to never test the Holy Spirit.
We need to examine ourselves that whether we are part of our church for the right reasons. Whether our offerings is just a way for us to get the pastor off our backs for not being involved with the Church. Has God called us to earn well and then give our ten percent to the church or to be hundred percent part of his kingdom?
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:6