Article Contributed by
Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
As a pastor people often apologize to me for the things they haven’t done. I’m sorry I haven’t been to church. I’m sorry I couldn’t give more. I’m sorry we didn’t volunteer this year. I’m sorry our kids missed that event. I’m sorry we didn’t contribute to the campaign. My response to nearly every confession is the same…
I’m not keeping track.
I worry about a church and a world in which we keep stats on our faithfulness. Our faithfulness cannot be measured like a batting average. Our commitment to Christ cannot merely be correlated with our financial contributions. Now certainly there is a connection between faithfulness and giving and participation. But I fear that when we boil it merely down to our numbers we miss the point of belief in the first place.
In certain parts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) God explicitly states that he doesn’t need our worship or offerings. In some cases, God asks that we take them away. For instance, in Amos the Lord says,
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.” Amos 5:21-23
The point of this reading (and others like it) is that God doesn’t merely want us to go through the motions or check a box. God wants our hearts. God does not want a percentage of your life. God wants us all of us. In Amos, God says, I don’t need you to go to church. I don’t need your envelope. I don’t need that hymn of praise once a week (my modern paraphrase). What does God want then?
“But let justice roll down like the rivers
and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Amos 5:24
God does not demand perfect attendance. God wants justice. God does not want a modest offering. God wants righteousness that overflows.
In Ephesians St. Paul writes that we should, “live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (5:2).” What this teaches us is that the stat that matters most is our love for one another. Moreover, whereas in Amos God says our worship stinks. Here in Ephesians, Paul suggests that love is fragrant.
Let’s stop keeping track of the wrong stat. Instead, let us live in love. Let us seek justice for all. Let us seek righteousness until it overflows. Let’s keep track of that.
In the Way,