"No good or services were provided to you by the church in connection with any contribution"
Those are the words stamped on our congregation's financial forms which indicate how much was given in offerings over the past year. Evidently federal or state law requires that we include such a statement because of our non-profit status as a church.
That statement got me to thinking, though. Is it true? Don't you receive goods and services in connection with your offerings? What greater service could you be receiving than divine service? What greater goods are there than the saving Word of God and the body and blood of Christ given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins? Does that statement on your financial form lie?
The answer is, "no." For your offering is not given to pay for such heavenly goods and services. Your offerings are not "dues" that you pay so that you can stay in the church "club" and receive its benefits. For the divine service and the holy goods that God gives to you are entirely free and without any strings attached.
It is written in Romans 6, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." What you receive in church is a free gift! The forgiveness, life, and salvation bestowed upon you come with no strings attached. There is nothing for you to do but to receive what God gives you entirely by grace. No requirements are laid upon you.
So what are the offerings for then? Why do we give them? There are at least three answers. First of all, the giving of an offering shows forth your thanks to God for all that He has done for you in Christ and all that He has given you in both body and soul. It is a concrete expression of gratitude for His goodness toward you.
Secondly, an offering is an expression of faith. It shows that you believe that the Lord is indeed the Creator and Owner of all things and He alone is to be praised for the good things that you have. Returning back to Him a portion of what He has first given you honors Him as your Maker and Redeemer and shows a trust that He will continue to care for you in the future.
Thirdly, we give offerings because we desire to support the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. We want to be sure that the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments will continue to go on in our midst, both for our salvation and for the salvation of others. This Gospel is our very life and our greatest treasure, and we want the good news of Jesus to be proclaimed here and in all the world.