Many churches today pass a collection plate during the service to collect money from the congregation. It may come as a surprise, but this is a relatively new custom, not being widely practiced until the late 19th century. Each church is free to decide how best to collect offerings from the congregation, and passing a plate during the service is certainly not a wrong way to accomplish that task. However, for a number of reasons, we have chosen to follow an old tradition of maintaining an offering box at the back of the sanctuary where congregants can deposit their gifts and offerings—and now this, a sort of online offering box.
In 1 Corinthians 16:1–2, Paul urges the church, “Now concerning the collection for the saints... On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper…” Here we have a clear instruction from Paul to regularly put aside money at the church each week, and several principles stand out from this passage.
First, giving is an act of worship—a part of our regular Lord’s Day activities. In Philippians 4:18, Paul thanks the church in Philippi for their financial contributions and refers to their gifts as “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Second, every believer is called to put something aside, to give to the church, regularly. Third, the believer’s giving should be in keeping with one’s income—in other words, although giving is sacrificial and ought to be generous,
the goal is not to drive someone into poverty (see also Deut. 16:17;
2 Cor. 8:12–15).
In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul emphasizes that “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (see also Ex. 25:2; 2 Cor. 8:7–12). While Scripture makes clear that believers are to regularly and generously give to the church for the church, it is equally clear both that believers must not be coerced into giving, and that the act of giving is an act of worship in humble obedience to God’s Word. Thus, our giving ought to be something that is done wholeheartedly, cheerfully, and with gratitude for the privilege of taking part in providing for the ministry and the needs of the saints (1 Cor. 8:3–4; 1 Tim. 5:17).