Christianese 101 – “Love offering”
“Now we’ll have a special love offering for (a person/cause).”
If you’ve spent much time in church, chances are you’ve heard the above phrase. It usually comes at the end of a church service, often when there’s a special speaker or band or missionary who was a part of the service that day. And if you’re like most people, it is a phrase that can strike fear in already God-fearing hearts. We’ll explore why in the breakdown.
Love has a million definitions, so I’ll choose a few of the most likely.
love (n.) – tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection; affectionate concern for the well-being of others
love (v.) – to take pleasure in; to have love and affection for
Offering is a little more straightforward.
offering (n.) – something offered in worship or devotion, as to a deity; an oblation or sacrifice; a contribution given to or through the church; anything offered as a gift
Now, the real problem with the phrase “love offering” is that neither one of its component words are taken quite literally. The most logical literal definition would be, “affectionate concern for others contributed through the church as an act of worship”. Put simply, contributing to a “love offering” should mean, “I have expressed my affectionate concern for this person/ministry and wish them well”. If you’ve ever been in a church service where a “love offering” was taken up, you know that this is not the case. In reality, a “love offering” is really a “please give more money on top of your tithe and the offering you already gave” offering. Hence (especially in today’s economic climate), a “love offering” can easily become a fearful occasion for many – they simply may not have more money to give.
The other reason that a “love offering” can be an occasion for fear is because of the unstated assumption that goes along with it – if you have love in your heart, you will put money in the offering plate. As Jon Acuff of the Stuff Christians Like blog puts it, “By not putting a couple of bucks in the offering plate you’re actually putting in a big fistful of hate.”
Once again (I’m noticing a pattern here…) this phrase is not found anywhere in scripture. That fact, added to the above criticisms and the general misleading nature of the phrase, causes “love offering” to earn a grade of C. And the only reason it didn’t earn a C- is that, more and more, it is being replaced with the phrase “special offering”, which is way less ambiguous and misleading.