Does God Demand Tangible Offerings?
Does the practice of giving tangible offerings to God benefit the worshiper as well as the church or temple officials? Or are those cynical agnostics right who declare that the practice was instituted, and is still encouraged, by priesthood and ministry alike, solely to increase revenues?
Students of comparative religions know that every religious group, from the most primitive to the most complex, has advocated material offerings-ranging all the way from a human life to a freshly cut flower. Often these are of little material use, and therefore their worth consists not in their value to the church, but in the service they render the worshiper by engaging his attention and centering it on God. An object offered in devotion thus serves the same purpose as the reciting of Scriptures, chanting, the use of prayer beads, etc.
However, it also expresses the giver's wish to lay a token of his devotion at the feet of the Lord. That is why a sincere spiritual leader-of any religion-always stresses the warning that it is not the size of the gift which matters, but the spirit in which it is given.
In many religions of the past and present some offerings are symbolic, and while the casual worshiper-motivated by fear, superstition, habit, family pressure or local social usages-gives what he is asked to give, indifferent to, or even unaware of, its symbolism, the true devotee centers his mind on the principle which the offering represents.
A good illustration of the use of offerings as symbols is found in the Jain faith, and may be of special interest to Western devotees who are unfamiliar with the rituals of this religion. Ajit Prasada-editor of the Jaina Gazette-says that eight kinds of offerings are used in worship. They are:
"First: Water, which cleans, and removes all dirtiness. The dirtiness which soils the soul and is the cause of birth, senility, and death, is the Karmic contamination, and water is offered as a token, instrumental in washing away such dirtiness.
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