December 4, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the Lord.”—Exodus 35:20–22 (NIV)
In Exodus 35:4–29 (NIV), we see the words “offering,” “freewill,” and “moved” to describe those who “brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments” (Exodus 35:21 NIV). How should we interpret the usage of “freewill” when it comes to describing the people’s desire to give? Perhaps it’s drawing our attention to the heart attitude behind giving.
Have you ever received a gift from someone that made you feel icky when you received it? Not because it was a bad or inappropriate gift, but rather because you knew it came with an expectation or “strings attached” to it. The Bible describes this type of giving in Proverbs 23:6–8 (NIV), which says, “Do not eat the food of a begrudging host, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. ‘Eat and drink,’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments.”
Even though the host has the appearance of generosity, this passage lets us know their “heart is not with you.” Imagine that same icky feeling and compare that to how God might receive our begrudging generosity.
Maybe you’ve never experienced a begrudging gift or gave begrudgingly, but perhaps you’ve felt better about yourself when giving. Just a little boost in the old self-confidence tank. Perhaps you’ve wondered to yourself why other people aren’t as generous as you are.
Here’s how Jesus addresses his disciples, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:2 NIV).
Ok, one more and then I’ll stop. Perhaps you’ve heard some person in a position of spiritual authority say that God will bless you when you “sow a seed” (a financial offering) of faith into their ministry. I’d like to refer you back to Exodus 35:4–29 and point out that God did not force, coerce, or manipulate the Israelites to give. There was no specific promise or guarantee that anyone who gave would be blessed because of their giving.
When giving, we should examine our intentions with what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV): “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Pause: Reflect on your reasons and intentions for giving, whether they’re through gifts, offerings, tithing, etc.
Practice: Pray and be honest with God about your experiences with giving and how you view giving. Then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any areas that have hindered your ability to give freely.
Pray: Lord, You are “the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—You remain faithful forever” (Psalm 146:6 NIV). You are Jehovah Jireh, my provider, and You are a generous God! I pray You would change me and transform me to be more like You in the way that I give. Amen.