Giving as a Part of Worship?

Question
Is giving a form of worship? Help me with the giving in Philippians 4.
Answer

Giving as Worship:

In the New Covenant we are no longer under the Ceremonial Law. There is no longer a mandatory obligation to "tithe." When the Priesthood changed, so did the Law (Heb 7:12). See "The New Testament Tithe?" below.

Instead of Law-Tithes we now have Grace-Giving, or Love-Giving. While not being a set percentage, this is a lavish joyful giving to the Lord (Matt 25:31-46; 1 Cor 16:1-2; 2 Cor 9:1-7: cf. Acts 2:42-45; 4:32-35, etc.). The Christian has the privilege and opportunity to give freely, voluntarily, lovingly, and in faith. We can help the poor, the orphan, the widow, the homeless, and give to support the church, its officers, and other organizations. This is our obligation, but also privilege.

However, many do not take this opportunity. It is a neglected duty. Why? In part, it is a worship problem!

We go to Church. We worship in Word, prayer, praise, fellowship, and through the sacraments. How wonderful it is. It is wonderful to have the Spirit touch our souls with his riches. However, many do not realize that "giving" (inside and outside the Church) is also worship.

Proper giving is a part of biblical worship! Worship is not complete without giving!

What is Worship? The Westminster Confession of Faith XXI.I states:

The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.

So, the Church is not free to worship God as it pleases. We can't skip giving and say we have worshipped!

Throughout the Old Testament God regulated the worship of his people. He gave architectural plans for his buildings (Tent in the Wilderness, the Temple, and his furniture - even the sanctuary of Noah's Ark). He set up the Levitical priesthood and prescribed a particular way to administrate various sacrifices. Old Testament worship was not a design of man, but God.

In the New Testament there is continuity and discontinuity. We are no longer under the Law (civil, ceremonial). The Temple sacrifices and offerings have disappeared, but we still celebrate "the Sacrifice." We no longer have an ordained Temple order to follow, but the Church is supposed to continue to do all things decently and in order.

The Presbyterian Church has a Book of Church Order to assist it to worship correctly - according to Scripture. As Thomas Ryken writes, this regulative principle "helps to assure that God - not man - is the supreme authority for how corporate worship is to be conducted, by assuring that the Bible, God's own special revelation (and not our own opinions, tastes, likes, and theories), is the prime factor in our conduct of and approach to corporate worship" (Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship: Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003, pg. 24). Only the Bible can reveal to us what is true and false worship.

A proper Church liturgy includes "giving." This is nothing new. Even in the first century we see a similar worship pattern. Justyn Martyr (c. 100 -165 AD), an early Christian apologist, described worship as:

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. (First Apology, 92-93).

Did you see that? Church members "gave" as part of worship! They cared for the orphans, widows, the sick, even strangers - all who were in need. What an opportunity. What faith. What love.

Worship in Philippians:

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:10-20:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Now what we can do in seconds by a bank transfer, then took a longer time. Epaphroditus traveled some 1200 or so miles to carry a voluntary gift from the Church at Philippi to Paul at Rome. The Philippians showed their love to him through their generosity.

What was Paul's reaction to this "voluntary" gift? Philippians 4:10 says, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly." He adds "it was kind of you to share my trouble" (Phil 4:14). Paul (1) rejoiced in the Lord and (2) was thankful. He celebrated because they demonstrated genuine love and faith that "increased to [their] credit" (Phil 4:17).

However, Paul was not finished. Not only did he "rejoice in the Lord greatly" (Phil 4:10), but he also recognized the "voluntary" gift as "a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God" (Phil 4:18; cf. Jas 2:14-26). The Philippians gave to Paul, to support his ministry and in doing so, the Scripture says they offered a sacrifice, acceptable and pleasing to God. This is acceptable worship! Gordon Fee says:

The imagery is that of the burnt offering, which was understood as a fragrant offering to God. The picture is that of the aroma of the sacrificial fire wafting heavenward - into God's "nostrils," as it were. Properly offered, it becomes "an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to him." This, Paul says, is what their gift has amounted to from the divine perspective. Their gift, which has met Paul's material needs, has by that very fact pleased God. (IVP - NT Comm., Phil.)

Giving voluntarily, generously, joyfully, and sacrificially is worship God accepts. This type of worship pleases God. What a joy. What an opportunity.

While love was their motivation in giving, opening their wallets was their step in faith. Good intentions alone isn't faith. They gave sacrificially and God who seeth in secret (Matt 6:4) rewarded in his time. Paul says, "My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:19). What a blessing!

Fee says:

Although he cannot reciprocate in kind, since their gift had the effect of being a sweet-smelling sacrifice, pleasing to God, Paul assures them that God, whom he deliberately designates as "my God," will assume responsibility for reciprocity. . . .

The Philippians' generosity toward Paul, expressed lavishly at the beginning of Phil 4:18, is exceeded beyond all imagination by the lavish "wealth" of the eternal God, who dwells "in glory" full of "riches" made available to his own "in Christ Jesus." God's "riches" are those inherent to his being God, Creator and Lord of all; nothing lies outside his rightful ownership and domain. They are his "in glory" in the sense that his "riches" exist in the sphere of God's glory, where God "dwells" in infinite splendor and majesty, the "glory" that is his as God alone. It is "in keeping with" all of this - not "out of" his riches, but in accordance with this norm, the infinite "riches" of grace that belong to God's own glory - that God's full supply will come their way to meet their every need. The language is deliberately expansive; after all, Paul is trying to say something concrete about the eternal God and God's relationship to his people. That is why the final word is not the heavenly one, "in glory," but the combined earthly and heavenly one, "in Christ Jesus."

The Philippians did not give in fear, but in faith to the One that owns all (Psa 24:1: cf. Rom 8:32). Paul also operated by faith. He did not depend upon a certain set amount for funds to be present every week (i.e he did not teach a 10% tithe), rather he depended upon the Lord alone - "My God will supply."

2 Corinthians 8.9 says, "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." It is because of Jesus' sacrifice that Paul is certain of God's covenant blessings. Our hearts too should be assured of his goodwill toward us when we follow his Word (Rom 8:32). We can love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19) and we are empowered by the Spirit to give (and receive - which is also a lesson that can be difficult to learn) because he first gave (2 Cor 8:9).

Giving - giving properly that is - is part of true worship.

Related Resources:

The New Testament Tithe?
The Old Testament Tithe?
Canceled the written code - Colossians 2:14

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).