I’m a pastor. Yesterday during the service, I got so excited talking about Jesus – I forgot to mention something very important. The offering! That’s like being a pastor 101. You always mention the offering. In fact, there’s a lot of training out there about the best ways to do that. What to talk about that inspires giving. I mean, even Jesus talked about giving! But then again, Jesus never took up an offering among the crowd – unless you count a few fish and biscuits. He talked about giving very differently than how I’ve been taught to “take up” an offering.
Luke 12:33-34 (NLT)
33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.
34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Can you imagine that little offering talk on a Sunday morning? “Who’s ready to sell your possessions and give to the needy?” Oh, but that wasn’t an actual command – we say. Jesus doesn’t expect us to actually give like that! No. He actually expected more.
Luke 14:33 (NLT)
So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
If you are still reading this – hear me out. I’m not trying to suggest Jesus followers should have a big fire sale and all be homeless. Taken in context, Jesus teaches that giving is from the heart. It’s more about ridiculous generosity and where our real treasure is. I also believe Jesus reinforced the principle of tithing (giving 10% of our increase.) But one simply can’t deny that Jesus repeatedly emphasized that following Him costs us everything. We don’t pay dues like some sort of subscription fee.
As I contemplated what a bad thing it is for a pastor to not even mention the offering, I actually had this thought. “I wonder who didn’t give yesterday because I failed to remind them about it?” A little later, and unrelated at the time, I logged on to check our personal bank balance and noticed our Netflix subscription had just gone through. That one little fee every month gives us access to watch what we want when we want, where we want. If for some reason we didn’t pay it, they would remind us until we do. When those two thoughts collided, it made me very sad.
In many ways, we have taught a Jesus on demand Gospel. It’s kind of a subscription service. Pay your dues, show up when you want, do what you want and log into Jesus whenever it’s most convenient. There’s even a lifetime free trial! You can show up whenever you want, give nothing – make no commitment to anything. We just need enough subscribers to help pay the bills so we can offer the same thing next week… Hope you enjoyed it enough to come back and invite a friend! Often there’s even a free gift when you show up for the first time! Who doesn’t love free coffee mugs and t-shirts?
I’m not trying to suggest we shouldn’t make it easy to go to church, or that we shouldn’t use every single method to attract more people to hear the Good News. But following Jesus isn’t an on demand subscription service we conveniently fit into the rest of our weekly entertainment. It’s not Jesus on demand. Following Jesus demands the willingness to give up everything!
Why? Isn’t salvation a free gift? If I can’t earn grace then why should I have to do anything? Can’t we just pay our dues and enjoy the show? Maybe we need to stop explaining away what Jesus said about following Him and just hear and obey. Nothing in the world compares to the real life we can have following Jesus. I’m ready to cancel my subscription to on demand Jesus.
Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT)
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.
25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?