Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king's work gave willingly. They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. Any who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the LORD in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.
David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, "Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
"But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you,” [1 Chronicles 29:1-18]
I read the words of the above chapter, taken from 1 Chronicles 29, and I wish there were a way that I could somehow put myself in the middle of the occasion. Now, I know that’s not possible, because that event took place about 3000 years ago. But still, after reading the words, don’t you wish you could experience a bit of the excitement, the joy and the powerful wave of spiritual refreshment that seemed to be flooding God’s people at the time? Don’t we all love to be part of something that is greater than ourselves? It’s is truly awesome to be in the middle of something that only God could do. And while we are not in need of a temple in the classic sense of what the Hebrews were building, I think we are in desperate need of a revival of generosity. As a culture, as a social group, we have grown too “self sufficient” and bankrupt in our dependency on God. We have turned to a selfish, self-serving view of life, away from serving one another and finding true freedom. We need to learn to be overwhelmingly generous all over again. And, yes, times are tough. But let me speak a little from experience if you will allow me to do that. When times become financially difficult for the Christian, it is the best time to remind myself of what really matters, of what is really important. We also need to be reminded that the Church cannot stand alone. We stand alone as individuals if we call Jesus “Savior.” We are meant to learn the lesson of dependence on God and dependence on one another. And if David can do it, then why can’t we? In all truth, David lived under the Old Covenant –he lived under Law. In other words, if David can find such joy and spiritual commitment to God under Law, which condemns the soul because of our sinfulness and yet causes people to reach out to God, then why can’t we be generous under grace (which remits our guilt and condemnation?).
We have fixed our gaze upon the cross for the past three weeks –and it is always a powerful and moving experience when we focus on the cross. But, while we are moved, are we moved to respond to the Savior of our souls? To the Savior who sacrificed absolutely everything so that we could truly live? Let’s look at David again and see what those who were under Law did to express themselves to God:
Notice that David does not appeal to the people to do anything that he wouldn’t first do himself. He reminds everyone of what he has personally sacrificed, which may have actually emptied his personal wealth. He gave exceptionally first before he appealed to the people to give. And while we are supposed to keep our giving to ourselves, I want you to know that I would not try to teach you about giving, unless I was giving myself. I learned early on in life that tithing (giving 10% of your gross income) is a privilege, not a burden. And believe me, I am not bragging, I am sharing my own personal testimony with you about what God has done. There were times when I was tempted not to tithe, but I did it anyway. There were times when we (as a family) literally didn’t have a dollar to our name (and those moments are the most grievous, because I love God and one of the ways I love to express that love is through tithing). But I would pray that God would provide what I did not have, and sure enough, the money would show up from somewhere and we could always give to cover the Sundays when we couldn’t! God is so completely faithful, so why shouldn’t I try to be as well? This has moved us to give more than a tithe, which the Bible calls an “offering.” An offering is what is given above and beyond the tithe. It is wonderful, it is an amazing experience when I give and I give in the right spirit with which God intended me to give. He loves me and I love Him and I can never give Him enough! I think that’s the way he feels about us, especially when we love Him in the same spirit that He loves us. I’m telling you the truth, I’m not lying, God is always faithful, but He fulfills His promise to me personally when I am faithful. Notice three important points we can take from David’s situation concerning giving:
Consecration. David equates giving with consecrating (giving oneself over to, committing or pledging oneself in a holy manner). The concept of consecration is the same level of dedication that exists in a marriage ceremony. In essence, we commit to belong wholly and completely to God first. David asks the people, “Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the LORD?" Notice that giving generously is acquainted with belonging to God. In effect, David was asking, “Who here belongs to and loves the Lord? Who is therefore willing to give generously and prove his love and devotion to God?” Giving reflects devotion, deep love and affection for the Giver of all good things. When God is put first in our lives (and we all desperately need to learn the lesson of putting God first in our lives) we rearrange our priorities and reflect right commitment. When times get tougher, the worst thing we can do is put God last! That doesn’t reflect trust. It would be like saying to a spouse, “You know, times are tougher, so I’m bumping you to the bottom of my priority list.” Now, seriously, how well would that go over? God is calling us to trust Him and to His great wisdom. And speaking of wisdom, have you ever done a personal family budget? A budget really can be a life saver. And when budgeting, if you put God first, where do you think God will put you on His “to do list”? Testimony after testimony verifies the fact that tithing and sacrificial giving ALWAYS results in personal blessing. It’s the only occasion in the entire Word of God when the Lord actually asks us to test Him (Malachi 3:6-12). He’s saying, “Just try Me and see if this doesn’t happen.” There are also many attestations in the Word of giving resulting in a return of blessing. It really works.
Maturity. People who reflect maturity and become leaders for God are always the first to respond to a call for commitment. If the people bearing the title of leader never respond to God’s leading, then they are not leaders. Leaders follow the Master and do what He says because they love Him so much. And leaders are leaders because they lead others in proper behavior as Christians. In David’s day, the leadership gave generously –and all the people rejoiced and were also inspired to give. Giving reflects a great deal of maturity, and who doesn’t rejoice when leadership does things right, well and good? It is my understanding (and I share this with you with great fear and trembling) that the elders of this church give generously. They do so because they love God first in their lives, and hope and pray that you will follow them in generosity. If they are out of town, they still make sure that their tithes and offerings are given to this church because they are committed to you also. They love you and they love this church. Please consider following their example, because if your heart is not here, if your interests are divided, then Kouts Christian Church will be crippled, instead of having the ability to run, as she should.
Loyalty. Notice that David prays that the level of commitment, generosity and joy would always remain in the hearts of God’s people, that they would remain completely loyal to Him forever. Please, please consider how loyal God has been to you. Would you consider being as loyal as you can be to Him? Remember that the Church was God’s idea. When we give to the Church, we are giving to God, and He accepts it as such. I have often heard people say, “Well, I give to the church, but I also give to other organizations too.” While that is between you and God, I would argue that a lot of those organizations wouldn’t even need to exist if the churches performed the way God intends. And the Church of Jesus is not just an organization. It is the place where God invests His presence and power. Do not focus on individuals and personal flaws; remember that God is behind it all, and He chose imperfect people to reflect His glory –and NONE of us are perfect… yet. He knows all, sees all and remembers all. He is safeguarding our treasure in heaven until it’s time for us to receive the return on all of our investments. And he sees the heart behind our gifts –to Him, that is true treasure. He loves a cheerful (hilarious) giver. And He wants us to bring our offerings to the church that we might help one another and others and share in the blessings together. This is one of the reasons that the church is losing steam in the United States of America. And likewise, America is losing her salt and light. If we love our Savior and desire to do all we can for Him, then it’s time for us to follow God’s instructions all over again. Otherwise, we had better close the doors, foreclose the property, and forget about any presumptions of existing as a second-rate, non-committed church –because those don’t exist. We need transformation as individuals and as a group. But this only happens when we fall completely in love with God and rejoice in what He is doing. We can’t do that very well on our own. Some of you need to fall in love with God completely for the first time, and some of you need to fall in love all over again.
Once again, if David can do it, then why can’t we? Couldn’t God bless us beyond anything we could ever hope or imagine, even in the middle of a depression? Of course He could –if we believe Him and allow Him to bless us. I’m in. Are you?
Love in Jesus,