I once did a study of the practice of worship in the Bible. I searched every passage of Scripture where people worshipped God, capturing 1,600 years of biblical history. I was surprised by what I found. From the earliest biblical times, the primary way people worshipped God was not by singing songs of praise or listening to sermons. The central act of worship was building an altar and offering the fruit of one’s labors upon it to God. They would burn the sacrifice of an animal or grain as a way of expressing their gratitude, devotion, and desire to honor God. The scent of the offering was said to be pleasing to God. It wasn’t that God loved the smell of burnt meat and grain. Rather, God saw that people were giving a gift that expressed love, faith, and the desire to please and honor God, and this moved God’s heart.
Several years ago, our family took a camping trip to the Grand Tetons. We arrived on my birthday and set up our little pop-up camper. After we were settled, we told each of our daughters that they could have $20 spending money for the three days we would be in and around Jackson Hole. We then went to the gift shop before heading out on a walk around a small lake. We had no sooner walked into the gift shop than Rebecca started looking at ball caps. She found one, tried it on, and said, “Dad, what do you think of this hat?” I said, “Becca, it’s really cool. But all you have is $20, and that hat will take all of your money. Why don’t you wait and make your money last for the next few days.” But she said, “Dad, you told me it was my money, and I could get whatever I want. And I really want this hat!” As hard as I tried to talk her out of it, and to convince her that she would have other opportunities to buy a cap in town, she would have no part of waiting. Finally, exasperated, I said, “Okay, Becca—but this is it. You’re not getting any more money the next three days.” I gave her her $20, and she bought the hat.
We went for a walk around the lake, and then came back to watch the sun set from a park bench. That’s when Becca handed me the hat and said, “Daddy, I bought this for you. I love you. Happy birthday.” I sat on the bench, took her in my arms, and started to cry. That hat is among my most treasured possessions, my most often worn hat to this day because every time I wear it, I think of Becca’s sacrifice for me. All these years later it still touches me to think about how my little girl gave up all her spending money because she wanted to tell her daddy that she loved him.
That’s how God looks at your offerings. They are not financial transactions or business deals. Your offerings are a way of saying, “God, I’m returning to you a portion of what I have and what I’ve earned to say thank you and I love you. I hope you’ll use this somehow to make a difference in the world.”
Becca didn’t give me the hat to get something from me. There was something in her heart that prompted her to give up her spending money for her dad, and that something was pure, selfless love. Our offerings, when given to God in this same spirit, are received by God in this way. They bless the Lord.