Revising the offering envelope

By John Pierce

How is faithfulness defined or measured? Can one’s commitments be counted? If so, which ones?

Some churchgoers of a particular generation or two remember the six-point offering envelopes that called one into account for certain actions considered to be evidence of faithfulness.

After placing one’s tithe and/or offering in a rectangular envelope, a good church member would check the little boxes printed on the front as an indication of faithfulness.

With variations, the envelope would include some combination of (mostly) these:

Present

On Time

Bible Brought

Bible Read Daily

Offering

Lesson Studied

Preaching (or Worship Attendance)

Contacts

Therefore, Christian faithfulness was marked by presence, punctuality, bringing a daily-read Bible and money to church, studying the Sunday school lesson (likely while polishing shoes on Saturday night during The Lawrence Welk Show), and not slipping out before the sermon to attend a family reunion or to get an early start on a Sunday drive.

Some envelopes even graded faithfulness — with lesson preparation counting 30 percent and giving an offering at 10 percent. (What were they thinking?)

Most envelopes asked about the “Contacts” one had made during the previous week — with varied specificity. Visits, letters and phone calls might be listed separately and then added together as “Total Contacts” on behalf of the church and the Kingdom.

All of these are good things, though not an exhaustive (though perhaps exhausting) expression of weekly Christian faithfulness. But perhaps some other “points” should have been added, such as:

Loved my neighbor (who’s a #$$%^^&&#**)

Treated people fairly this week regardless of race and social status

Late to church because I stopped to help a stranded mother and child

Paid the utilities bills for my neighbor who lost his job

Took a vacation day to build a wheelchair ramp

Tutored some challenged kids after school

Stood up to my co-worker’s racist rants

Gave my work bonus to disaster relief

The list could go on and on — as does the call to Christian faithfulness.

Accountability is good. However, care must be taken to not narrow the measurements of faithfulness so much that the most challenging aspects of following Jesus are missed.

In fact, Jesus called for a two-point system: Love God with all of your being and your neighbor as yourself.

John Pierce

About John Pierce

John D. Pierce has been executive editor of Baptists Today since 2000. Previously he served as managing editor of The Christian Index and as a Baptist campus minister at Georgia Tech, Southern Polytechnic and Kennesaw State. A native of Ringgold, Ga., he is a graduate of Berry College (B.A.), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Columbia Theological Seminary (D.Min.). He speaks frequently in churches, consults with congregations concerning communications and holds interim pastorates. He and his family are members of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Macon.

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