As was discussed in last week’s article, humans are naturally creatures of habit. This is problematic, for if you do something one way long enough, you begin to think it is the only way. Couple this mentality with religion and you have a perfect storm for dogmatism.
If a routine is tied to religious practice you begin to believe that not only is it the only way, and the best way, but it must also be the Godly way. When you observe a religious practice that differs from your own, your engrained response (articulated or not) is “that must be condemned in the Bible somewhere!”. The stress you feel when “things are different” is to be expected, but we cannot let our “stress” cause us to form unscriptural doctrines regarding what is ok and not ok in regards to worship and other religious activity. We must only proclaim the truth. Let’s consider another habitual practice in light of Scripture.
Most reading this article are probably accustomed to having an offering collected every Sunday. In fact, you are probably used to hearing a specific type of prayer before a collection plate or basket is passed. Do we have to take up a collection every Sunday? Does a person have to say a prayer before a collection is taken? Before you reply “yes, of course”, ask “what does the Bible say?”.
Did you know that although the New Testament shows several examples of Christians collectively gathering funds to do good works, there is no prescriptive formula on how this is supposed to happen? The passage we often use to talk about giving on Sundays was for a specific situation not inherently relevant to our own. The Apostle Paul was not laying out a universal eternal pattern, but instead was organizing a fundraising drive to collect funds for Jerusalem. Note what the text says,
Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
Giving on Sunday was practical for the Galatian and Corinthian churches because that was when the people came together. Now with digital options, dependable mail service and online drafts, there are ways to give that are more practical than just waiting till Sunday. We often are taught that giving is a required act of Sunday worship…is it? What does the Bible teach? Do not just assume something different “must be condemned in the Bible somewhere”!
Over the next few weeks we will continue to challenge ourselves by comparing our practices with Scripture to make sure we are not just inheriting generational opinions (hereditary orthodoxy), and calling it doctrine. This struggle is not new, the dangers of growing up with a particular belief system is even common in Scripture (consider Jewish religious leaders during Christ’s ministry). But as this article closes, note what the Restoration Movement preacher Alexander Campbell wrote almost 200 years ago:
“Hereditary orthodoxy, or fortunes of sound doctrine, made and bequeathed by our fathers, are still more fatal to their heirs than large inheritances…If sons are generally ruined in this world by large inheritances from their parents, they are, perhaps, as often ruined in the next world by large inheritances of orthodox sentiments and opinions, of which they are possessed by the wills of their ancestors, without the trouble of reading and thinking for themselves. There are not more helpless cases on earth than the heirs of orthodoxy; for they are infallibly right without evidence, without examination, without any concern of their own. These per sons are wholly unapproachable. They are right by necessity, by prescription, by inheritance, because they are right; and you are wrong because you are wrong, or because you dissent from them.” (A. Campbell, 1839 “Bible Reading” Millennial Harbinger)