(I have been wanting to do a series of posts about friendship, and specifically about being a friend of God. This is the ninth post of the series. The previous posts are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here)
Anyone who has seen a church service probably knows what “offering” means. Some churches pass a basket or bowl to collect offerings. Some churches have a box you can drop an offering into. These days you can even do it online.
If you ever tried to make amends for a wrong you did, you know what it is like to make an offering of apology, remedy, resolution.
Reconciliations and compromises usually involve offerings.
We make offerings in friendships, too. My friends know I have only a few simple offerings:
- A safe place to get together
- Sharing life
- Acceptance and affirmation
- Honesty: my transparent self
- An occasional pizza
It seems safe to say: offerings are voluntary. If we give under duress or expectation, we are responding in a manner we identify as socially acceptable. That is different from an offering.
In terms of relationship, it isn’t the size or quantity of an offering that marks its significance; it is the quality, as determined by the motive or intent. The old saying goes, “It’s the thought that counts.” Remember the story from Luke 21:1-4?
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
If God sees more value in the quality than quantity of our offerings, perhaps we should too. We make offerings in several ways and locations: work, church, school, sports, volunteering, and other ways in our communities.
Consider this illustration of typical relationships:
stole borrowed the graphic from marniemarcus.com; credit belongs there)
We could say this graph represents relationships according to how we value them in our hearts. We can think of the inner circles representing our closest relationships, and less intimate relationships on the outer layers.
Moving from outer circle into the core circle, we grow increasingly more intimate with the other person – and our offerings grow in value and significance.
Let’s take an example: if two people said to me, “I need a place to stay. Can I sleep on your couch?” Without hesitation, I gladly invite people in my “Confidants” or “Friends” categories but I would experience some internal hesitation about doing the same for “Colleagues” or “Acquaintances”. The degree of hesitation is not related to the other person; it is directly connected to my perceived value of the relationship. Any evidence of reluctance points at me, not them. It isn’t that I don’t care; the truth is, I put less value on those relationships.
The closer a person is to the center of my relationship “dart board” (above), the more willing I am to give an offering. Coincidentally, the quality and quantity of the offering gets higher as we engage with people we have placed near the center.
When we view our offerings (that is, what we are willing to voluntarily give away without expectation) in this regard, our relationship priorities become clear. Conversely, if we believe the dart board looks one way but we give to strangers more than we give at home… well there’s something we should sit and think about.
A last thought on this topic: if we believe we are best friends with someone, and our real life offerings line up with our own relationship dartboard, but our supposed “best friend” does not demonstrate a similar level of offerings… we may be deceiving ourselves about the actual quality of that relationship. I have had more than one person tell me they love me, only to steal from me or lie to me. It isn’t a scale we have to balance but basic honesty should be a requirement.
Great relationships thrive and survive on the basis of give-and-take. We need others, and other people need us. Offerings between best friends need not be equal in quantity but a level of equitable quality is appropriate. Of course there are days when we give more; and there are days when we receive more.
Each Jesus-follower will eventually come to terms that the scales are way off-balance, and they always will be. It is a distinctly unbalanced arrangement: God gives and we take. We have nothing of value to give Him, other than our very selves – which He created in the first place. And what does He ask in return?
“… and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” — Micah 6:8
p.s. you might notice I favor Calvin and Hobbes quite a bit. The attraction, for me, is the excellent (albeit, imaginary) relationship between best friends. So many of the C+H comic strips epitomize my own attempts at friendship – with an eerily similar ratio of mixed results.