What if we recited our community’s story of God’s faithfulness each week as part of our offering?
We could start with the wandering Aramean, or the wandering first century rabbi, or, in my case, the wandering Anabaptists moving from place to place to escape persecution and military conscription. Or perhaps we would start with our own wandering grandparents, or the founders of our congregation.
We could recount the ways God has shown up for our people throughout history; detail the suffering from which they have been saved; list the abundant blessings that they have received from God.
Then we would turn in prayer and say: “So now we bring the best portion of what you, O God, have given to us.”
This is offering as response, not as obligation. Offering from abundance, not scarcity. Offering in joy and celebration, not as a somber event that must occur before we can get to the benediction.
It strikes me also that the instructions in this passage do not end with the mandate to give our tithes to God. After we give, we are supposed to celebrate. Not only do we give up some of our worldly wealth to God—for the work of the church, for feeding the hungry, for promoting justice, for whatever good and holy things God calls us to give to—but we also let go of some of our worldly wealth to throw a party for ourselves and others. (Note that the particular “others” mentioned here are the pastors and the immigrants!)
Honestly, I think it is easier for me to give money away than to spend it on a party. The party feels frivolous and wasteful compared to all the need in this world. And yet, it is right here in scripture: the instruction to celebrate. We are not merely allowed to enjoy the abundant gifts of God, we are commanded to enjoy what God has given us. And we are instructed to welcome others into our joy and celebration as well.