“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God – this is a reasonable act of worship for you.”
Romans 12:1 (MOUNCE)
Iam stirred by the above verse each time I read it. It makes me reflect and examine again the meaning of offering, serving, and worship.
Paul points out that we present or offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God out of our own will and choice, and there is neither coercion nor pressure involved. If there are regrets subsequently, the sacrificial offering can still get off the altar, as it is a living sacrifice after all. To me, the principle here is that our service and offerings of cash and kind for church or ministry ought to be unconditional and given willingly, and rightly so, for it is our thanksgiving response to God for His blessing and grace.
Usually, besides our offerings being in thanksgiving to God, we also offer in response to appeals from those in need. For the person who offers, it is a matter between him and the Lord, and he does not mind if no one knows about or remembers it. Hence we often hear of good acts performed anonymously.
I would like to state, however, that no matter what offerings we make to God, our Lord is never our debtor.
A choir leader once requested from the church free tickets for choir members to attend its year-end dinner, as a token of the church’s affirmation of the choir’s service during every Sunday worship service. There were different reactions to this proposal.
Some were concerned that this might encourage an attitude of expecting reward for service. Besides, there were also many others who served at every Sunday worship service, officially or otherwise. They too would need to be given tokens of appreciation, and even then some might still be inadvertently left out. Others questioned whether it was right to use offerings from believers to reward or show appreciation to those who offer their service willingly.
However, there were some who felt that people who offer service freely should be given affirmation, and this culture of appreciation will encourage more to come forth to serve. Those who are affirmed in their service can become role models for others.
The church finally decided against the proposal for free tickets, but acknowledged the need for frequent affirmation of good deeds, as this would encourage others in loving the Lord. After all, believers need encouragement in doing good deeds, and examples for them to emulate.
Even as we serve, we are in fact worshipping the Lord. The phrase “reasonable act of worship” (MOUNCE) used by Paul in this verse can also be translated as “reasonable service” (KJV). It has been said that service for others should follow upon our worship of the Lord.
We are reminded in John’s epistle that anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). Let us remember what Jesus told His disciples: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:40) Worship of the Lord is not limited to our serving in church on Sunday; this worship ought to be extended to our daily living.
The Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung was re-elected President of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) in 2012 for the quadrennium. He has been a Methodist pastor for 30 years and has been a guest lecturer at Trinity Theological College since 1996.