A Worn Out Yellow Bag
One Sunday, I visited a Presbyterian church in Rhino refugee settlement. It was full of people from the Nuer tribe in South Sudan who had been displaced by war. Unfortunately, I didn’t speak the Nuer language, but one thing I saw there required no translation.
After a very tall and slender young man brought a word of encouragement to the congregation, then they began to sing. I promise you have never heard singing like this. The hair stood up on the back of my neck as these refugees sang with profound devotion and hope. Such faith is rarely seen in western churches but seems more common among people enduring suffering and hardship.
Next, they pulled out a bunch of baskets from under a table. If you have ever been in church, you know what came next. It’s offering time.
But this offertory was different from most that I had seen, and it caused me to consider how the church should work. Maybe there is something here for all of us to learn.
An older woman reached into one of the baskets and pulled a worn-out yellow bag she placed in the front of the church underneath the colorfully woven offering basket. I noticed people were walking forward with teacups filled with corn and pouring them into the old yellow sack.
By the time the offering was over, about 25–30 pounds of dried corn had been collected. It was reminiscent of the Old Testament tithe, which was more practical than the modern corruption of tithing.
In the Old Testament, tithes were usually food, and God used them to provide for the needy. (Duet. 26:12) It provided for widows, orphans, strangers (refugees) & Levites who by law could not own land to farm for themselves.
Such an offering was very touching in a refugee settlement because most people only receive about ten days’ worth of food a month. It was a sign of great sacrificial giving. But it was also highly practical and would provide for those trembling under the weight of hunger and malnutrition.
It is time for us Chrstians to reconsider how we use our offerings. Do we use our resources to provide for the people Jesus concerned himself with while on this earth? It is shameful for a church to take up a sizable monetary offering on Sunday while its members sleep hungry on Monday.
Let us demonstrate God’s love for the downtrodden by providing for their spiritual and physical needs.