When I give to major fundraisers I often will research online to find out the percentage of the donations that go to the work of the charity. However, giving is not always about efficiency.
In ancient Israel offerings were not money. It was the best of their livestock and grain. They were put on the altar to be burned. Some of those considered wealthy then, would be considered poor by our standards. These offerings were truly a sacrifice. If God did not help them replenish their food they could starve. They truly understood that giving to God is an act of worship. That was the important point – to trust that God would provide.
What would happen if our ushers brought the offering plates to the front of Zion, dumped them out on the altar and set fire to it? If you had written a check you might not be too concerned. But what about cash? Aside from the federal issue of burning legal tender, what would you think? My first response would be what a waste! That money could have been used to pay the electric bill or buy food for the poor. But paying bills is not why we have an offering during Sunday morning service.
The offering is an act of worship – we give up something we value, money, as a sacrifice to God. In many important ways it is the high point of the service. We come to church to worship God and at no other point in the service are we provided with so pure an opportunity to give something of tangible value to demonstrate our love and trust in God.
That is how giving to church is fundamentally different than giving to other charities. We give of ourselves in devotion to God. In that regard the ancient Israelites and modern Christians are the same. There is more to it, but the first thing to learn is that the offering is an act of worship that shows our trust and love for God.