Why do some assemblies pass around the money basket immediately after passing the bread and wine? Is there any Scriptural basis for this? Does it not distract from the focus of the Breaking of Bread? I know of some assemblies that pass it around at the end of the Remembrance meeting. Is it better to do it at the end? Does it matter?
For those who find this a very strange question, let me first provide some context.
When I was young (in the 1950s) we went to a church in which the pastor and deacons organized and carried out a service that recalled the Lord’s last meeting with His disciples, the Passover supper. At the end of this meal, Jesus passed bread and wine to them to commemorate His sacrificial death for their atonement (Lk. 22:14–20). This was common practice in most churches and is often called a communion service, or some similar name. This was usually a special service often held in the evening once a month or quarter depending on the particular practices of the church.
During the early 1800s some christians felt that the “remembrance” of the Lord should be more central and gave it a prominent place as the sole focus of a special meeting every “Lord’s Day” (Sunday) morning. In addition, it was felt that it should not be ordered by an individual but that it should be open to every brother to offer a prayer, read a portion of Scripture about the Lord and His sacrificial work, request a song, and most importantly to give thanks for the bread and wine and pass it to others. A significant feature was that the requirement for one special person (a “pastor” or “priest”) to bless and distribute the “emblems” was discarded. This was based on recognizing the “priesthood of all believers” (1 Pet. 2:5).
Today this fellowship continues. The question asked is whether this “remembrance meeting” should include a time when the offering basket is passed or whether this should be done at the end of the meeting or at a separate time.
This question has several parts. Let me answer the last two questions first: “not necessarily” and “no”. The reason for these answers is simply that Scripture does not give specific details about this meeting. The actual details are left to the spiritual convictions of the local church or “assembly.” The question identified two practices and so I will endeavor to give a reason for each point of view.
The decision to pass the basket right after passing the bread and wine, which really makes it part of the ceremony, depends on the interpretation of Hebrews 13:15–16; “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” These verses describe both the “fruit of our lips” and “share what you have” as “sacrifices.” Thus, the reasoning is that since in Christianity all of our actions are devoted to God (“sanctified”) our material giving should also be recognized as worship to God. Associating the giving of our material possessions with the praise in the worship meeting is a way of recognizing this principle. See also 1 Corinthians 16:1–2.
Alternatively, many feel that the passing of the offering basket is a distraction as was mentioned in the question. So, in some assemblies, the basket is passed after the meeting or not at all. In the last case, it is left in a conspicuous place for an offering to be inserted at any time. Which procedure one prefers depends on how much one appreciates the argument for its inclusion in the breaking of bread meeting.