Giving as Worship
Giving As Worship
'Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offerings for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give.' (Exodus 25:2)
'All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds...they all presented their gold as a wave offering to the Lord. Everyone who had...Those presenting an offering...every skilled woman spun...all the Israelite men and women who were willing brought...' (Ex. 35:22,23,24,25,29).
Think of the cost of obedience for Israel. There was the sacrificial system which required animals and crops (Dt. 12), then tithes (Ex. 23:19; 34:22,26; Dt. 14), the remitting of debts and slaves and generous gifts in association with that (Dt. 15:1-18), the Feasts and the feeding of the needy (Ex. 22:29-30; Dt. 16:9-12,16-17), the support of Levites (Josh 21:41-42 as well as tithes and sacrifices), lending without interest (Ex. 22:25-27 but not just on money, see Lev. 25:35-37; Dt. 23:19-20), leaving crops and fruit unharvested (Ex. 23:10-11; Dt. 24:19-22), paying servants wages (Dt. 24:14-15).
But the obedience called for in the Covenant Law is not the “legal response to a legal demand” kind of obedience. There is so much talk of 'free will' offerings, there is tireless encouragement to generosity rather than a tight-fisted approach (Dt. 15:7-8,10). Running throughout all the covenant law is the idea of self-denial, self-control and generosity of spirit. The concept of giving! Behind that runs the theme that God has been giving to them generously. They know what it is to be debtors, helpless and needy. God came to their rescue and continues to give to them. They are shaped and encouraged to give in response to the blessings they have been and continue to be given. They are to treat their neighbor, fellow-human, as God has treated them. See Ex. 22:21; 23:9.
The land is God's (Lev. 25:23) and he causes it to be fruitful (Gen. 1; Dt. 8:6-9,17-18; see Hos. 2:8-9; Jer. 14:22). And when he calls them to give, give, give, he assures them that he will provide all that they need and more. See Dt. 14:28-29; 15:4-6,10,18; 16:16-17. In Dt. 24:19, if they miss a sheaf in harvesting they are to leave it for the poor 'so that your God may bless you'. Generosity ensures a source for the future it is 'so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life'. It is the promise of God to Israel that He will recognize and bless those who honor him in obedience.
But God is no slot-machine. The mechanical use of scripture which says, 'so much in, you get so much out' is bad. This 'health and wealth gospel' is no gospel at all. It bruises the hearts of sufferers and innocent victims in the economic crashes. Israel was called to be a caring and giving community because there would be those among them who needed to be cared for! It's tough enough that people go through the fires of pain and loss, but it's worse still when over-dressed, over-fed, sun-tanned preaching dandies tell them their pain and loss is their own fault, the result of their faithlessness. Away with that whole system of interpretation!
No, the Jewish nation was taught that they were to give sacrificially in a world where Sin has cheated and robbed people. They were to work with God to ease the burdens of the less fortunate and in this way, point to their sovereign and gracious Lord who dwelled in their midst. All of this demonstrates that worship and giving for Israel were not divorced from each other. Giving was worship.
So what about us today? Giving of our material blessings – to the church “treasury” AND in our personal interactions with friends and neighbors and family – is part of the character shaped in us by the covenant we have with our Father. We can be more like Him when we deliberately and quietly sacrifice in order to give, even to suffer in order to give, IF it is in the power and name of our Lord Jesus!