Why do people make religious gestures? I define a "gesture" broadly as any action, courtesy, or communication intended for effect or as a formality. For example, an "offering" taken during public worship is a religious gesture, which the church teaches is an expression of stewardship, by which we return to God a part of what God has given us. This is a seriously flawed idea, however—God doesn't need money! A former seminary professor saw the flaw and described monetary gifts to the church as supporting what he called the "gospel enterprise." Personally I have come to think of money contributed to the church as "paying my church dues." The value of such a gesture, however defined, certainly benefits the church by keeping its doors open, but it only indirectly benefits givers. In many cases paying church dues strains their budget, and to that extent the contributor is harmed, unless one believes they get credit with God for the gesture.
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University