Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cheerful Giving

Read 1 Chronicles 29:1-21; 2 Corinthians 9:7

Have you ever given to God cheerfully? I can remember times when I was delighted to give to God, but if I'm being honest, I can also remember times I have given out of duty. Many times, I have given because I feel obligated, and I don't feel "cheerful" as I do so. 2 Corinthians 9:7 is a verse many of us know by heart, but how often do we see this verse lived out? The verse says, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." When we give to God, we shouldn't reluctantly fork over some change because we will feel guilty if we let the offering plate pass by. Rather, we should be delighted to give back to the Lord a portion of what He has so graciously given us! Let's look at 1 Chronicles 29:1-21, for an excellent example of cheerful giving.

In this passage, King David has called upon the Israelites to help him gather up all of the materials and resources needed to build God's temple. Though it was David's original idea to build a temple for the Lord, God chose David's son Solomon to do the actual building. In this passage, David is doing some preliminary work to make preparations during his reign, so that Solomon can build the temple during his own reign. In verse 3, David says, "Moreover, in my delight in the house of God, the treasure I have of gold and silver, I give it to the house of my God, over and above all that I have already provided for the holy temple." Did you catch that? David has given his riches to the temple-building project, out of his delight for the house of God. He wants to give to God, because he genuinely delights in doing so!

In verse 6 we see that the people "offered willingly," and in verse 8 we see that, "whoever possessed precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord." Not only was the king a cheerful giver, but the Israelites responded to David's call by willingly offering up their own resources for the temple fund. I absolutely love verse 9, which states, "Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they had made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly." The Israelites were so eager to give, that they were rejoicing that they had the opportunity to do so! Can you imagine if people started rejoicing as the offering plate was going around during our church service? I don't know about you, but I don't see a ton of rejoicing during that time...rather, it's generally a solemn time. I wish I had a heart like that of the Israelites in this passage, who celebrated their offerings to God with great joy!

Now, as you read this, you may be thinking that an offering to God that is celebrated and rejoiced over might be a display of arrogance. You may point out that the reason we don't rejoice in our church while the offering plate is going around is because we don't want to draw attention to ourselves. After all, God makes it very clear that we are not to make a show about our giving, and Jesus says in Matthew 6:3 that we should not even let our right hand know what our left hand is doing when we give to the needy. Clearly, we shouldn't rejoice about our offerings in order to call attention to ourselves...right?

While I definitely agree that we shouldn't make a show about our offerings and call attention to ourselves when we give, I also can see that there was nothing arrogant or showy about the Israelites' offerings in this passage. In fact, the opposite is going on...their rejoicing is aimed at God, not themselves. In verse 12, David cries out to the Lord, "Both riches and honor come from You," and in verse 16 he says, "O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for your holy name, it is from Your hand, and all is Yours." David and his people are giving every single ounce of glory from their offerings to God alone. Their time of rejoicing during their offering is one of humility. They realize that everything they own is already God's, so they are just giving back what He has already given them! Verse 14 is wonderful...David says, "But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You." The Israelites are humbled that they even have gold, silver, and precious stones to give to the Lord...they know the only reason they have any of that is because God gave it to them in the first place.

What a refreshing passage on giving. Far too often, we (myself included) give out of obligation or guilt, rather than out of joy. I think what we need is a perspective change. We view our paychecks as ours. We feel that we have earned that money by working hard and that we deserve it. We give a small portion of our income to the church, and then we feel good about ourselves for giving over our hard-earned money to charity. In actuality, we need to view that money as God's. Everything is His. We need to realize that we wouldn't have a paycheck unless He gave it to us. We're not giving Him our own money...we're giving Him money that is already His. Do you see the difference? Let's pray that God will change our perspective on giving and help us to see that everything we have is His. Once this happens, we will rejoice at the opportunity to give back to Him and offer our money and resources with willing hearts~