We give thee but thine own,
whate'er the gift may be;
all that we have is thine alone,
a trust, O Lord, from thee.
May we thy bounties thus
as stewards true receive,
and gladly, as thou blessest us,
to thee our firstfruits give.
The captive to release,
to God the lost to bring,
to teach the way of life and peace—
it is a Christlike thing.
And we believe thy word,
though dim our faith may be:
whate'er we do for thine, O Lord,
we do it unto thee.
The first verse of this hymn was sung every Sunday in the 1950's as the offering was carried to the altar in our small country church. So the offering was about returning to God what belonged to God ("We give thee but thine own"). What I didn't catch was that in the daily living of life the true offering pleasing to God is in the hymn's final phrase: "...whate'er we do for thine, O Lord, we do it unto thee."
In the Old Testament narrative those in power among God's people were constantly reminded to show hospitality to the orphan, widow and sojourner (i.e., "For you were sojourners in Egypt"). The prophets warned of consequences that the wealthy and powerful would face if they did not attend to the needs of the poor. Old Testament theologians are fond of the phrase, "God's preferential treatment of the poor."
And then of course there's the New Testament end-time scene where what really matters to the cosmic Christ is the reality that his needs were identical with the needs of the disenfranchised. "I was hungry and you fed me..." Finally there's the book of James with the line: "True liturgy is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction."
"Whate'er we do for thine, O Lord, we do it unto thee." It's a good hymn, isn't it? A very good hymn.
Risen Lord, it's all gift, isn't it: Your redemption at the cross and your gift of the church, thus meeting all of our needs. Help us to truly worship you this day. Help us to "remember the poor." Amen.