Monday, December 16, 2013

What Would Jesus Eat? or, How NOT to Teach about Generous Fast Offerings

In a post to which I linked last year, the author described a speaker who said the following:

At a church meeting a little while back, a priesthood leader was encouraging young couples to pay a generous fast offering. “You may eat really cheap meals or beans and rice or ramen,” he said. “If you make your fast offerings based on the cost of those meals, you will not be paying a generous fast offering. What would you serve the Savior if he came to your house for dinner? Would you give him beans and rice? Or would you buy a good steak and make a nice meal?” Then he encouraged us to make our fast offering calculations based on the cost of the meal fit to serve our Lord.

I cringed when I read, “If you make your fast offerings based on the cost of those meals, you will not be paying a generous fast offering.

Um, I’m not asked to pay fast offerings based on what rich people spend on their meals. I’m asked to give on what I and my family spend on our meals. “Generous” to me means more than the cost of two of OUR meals – which can be significantly lower than the cost of one meal eaten by a gluttonous rich person or one meal served by a professional chef to an honored guest.

That rant aside, what I would serve depends on how much notice I have and how close to payday it is. I can’t imagine Jesus would want my kids to eat less for the rest of the month because I spent more on his food that meal (or that we not attend church the next Sunday because we spent our gas money on his food) – so he would get the best we would prepare normally for any other special occasion.

I am sure he would understand and approve. 

(Honestly, I don’t know what we would feed him, since that decision likely would be by committee – and my wife and daughters would out-vote me in the end, anyway.)


Anonymous said...

Ooh, excellent points.
I have heard similar comments from ward leaders but never thought about it the way you ranted about it. :)

I used to have a very hard time seeing families getting their church welfare and eating so much better than my family was eating...and knowing that my family was sacrificing to give them their "bounty'...but then I had to tell myself that once I turned that fast offering check into the bishop, it was no longer my money.

Still - this was an excellent post. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Creepy. To insist that if Jesus came to dinner we wouldn't serve him the food we normally eat.
And completely wrong to teach that a fast offering isn't good enough if it is paid by poor people on poor people's food budgets.
An honest fast offering should not cost you anything. If you don't eat the food (or you didn't buy the food you would have eaten) you donate that and you are financially the same.
Hey, nothing against giving extra. But the point is you can sacrifice those meals to be able to give even if you can't afford to give otherwise.
A beautiful system. It is great to give extra if you'd like to, but the counsel that you have to donate meals fit for a God is silly.

Justin said...

Love it Ray. Two thoughts:

1. I'll tell you what, I'm pretty worried about what Jesus would bring as a side dish! ;-)

2. Like tithing, this is about sacrifice. I'm frustrated that we continue to judge each other's sacrifice in an effort to prove our righteousness. In this culture we're not just judging what we think of as "sin"; we're also judging the amount of righteousness.

To put it a different way, it's no longer "us vs. them" where "we" are all equally united; we're splitting ourselves into tiers of righteousness. That is very unfortunate.

Papa D said...

I agree, Justin, that the worst aspect of this is the tendency to take something that is good (really good) and say, "It's not good enough." It's especially bad when it comes from a position of relative luxury and comparison.

When someone says, in essence, "Your offering is not as good as my offering, simply because mine is bigger than yours" . . . we have moved into the realm of bathroom urinal discussions that are immature and ought not be within our religious conversations.

Papa D said...

"The point is you can sacrifice those meals to be able to give even if you can't afford to give otherwise."

Amen!! The beauty of the concept is that everyone can give something - and those who can give more are free to do so simply for the service it provides and not for comparison of any kind.

"I had to tell myself that once I turned that fast offering check into the bishop, it was no longer my money."

I believe we could criticize or critique something about almost every instance of someone receiving fast offering assistance, so I agree completely with that view. It's the only healthy way to see it, imo.

Camille Hollinger said...

It is sad, especially when we are supposed to be examples of what Christ would do. When someone is looked down upon because their 'offering' isn't 'big' enough (be it tithing, F.O., or whatever), it seems to me we are no longer practicing what we preach. (speaking overall not to anyone in particular)

Amy Fitzpatrick said...

I enjoyed that.

If all I could afford was beans and rice, then I would feed Jesus beans and rice, and I'm sure he would love it. To tell someone else that their offering isn't enough is never okay. You're offering is between you and the Lord.

From personal experience I know that if you prayerfully consider how much you should give for a fast offering, He will let you know when your offering is acceptable to Him.

Bryan said...

I found it ironic that steak was suggested when the WOW says we should eat very little meat.

Patty said...

I agree with your position, that we should give according to what we can, and I also agree that if the Lord were to come to my house we would serve the best of what we have on hand and I think He would be happy with that (I don't think his emphasis is on the food anyways.)
But..I can also see where your priesthood leader is coming from. In society today, and even within the church, there is a pervasive selfishness that often has people putting themselves and their wants before the needs of those they are in a position to help. I think this leader was trying to encourage his audience to give generously and not just try to figure out the cost of the least expensive two meals they might eat.
Since I wasn't there, I can't say what the spirit of his advice was given in and whether or not he meant it as a judgment of whether or not an offering was good enough, but for us to blindly judge him by assuming that puts us on the same level as him (possibly) judging an offering and finding it lacking.
As with most things spiritual, we have to rely on the Spirit to help us discern true motives and counsel, but it never hurts to give someone the benefit of the doubt when it's possible that they're trying to do some good, even if they don't use the "right" methods. (Who's to say that a few of those young couples might now think twice about what they really can afford to give and give more generously? The way he put it might have touched hearts that wouldn't have gotten it any other way.)