Summary: If we have not experienced God’s blessings of security and abundance, maybe we need to examine our giving.
... Running Over
We are fond of telling our Children "It is more blessed to give than to receive." We try to teach them that generosity is an important value and as long as they can, they should be free handed with their own blessings from God and pass them on to others. We try to teach them to share and keep them from being selfish.
There is something wonderful and mysterious about giving. Most of us felt quite helpless on September 11 when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. People were uncertain what could be done. One man said, "I feel about as useful as a Belgian Chocolate."
The one obvious way to help occurred quickly to many people and to the news services, giving blood. Everybody has some and it doesn’t cost to donate. But the gift is a little painful and is very personal. On Tuesday September 11 alone, the American Red Cross received over 60,000 pints. And when the Casino in Atlantic City that was collecting closed at 8:00 that night, they still had a two hour waiting line.
By the next afternoon, News services told people to wait or make an appointment to donate blood. The Red Cross had all they could use at the time and wanted people to stop coming to the collection centers and consider coming later when the supply had been depleted.
But people did not quit giving. More blood was donated and people began sending food and bottled water for the rescue workers. Finally the Red Cross asked for people to send cash donations instead. The word went out over the news stations that people should make no more donations of stuff. There was no where to go with them. The generosity of a nation had been taxed to its limit and the giving kept on coming. By Friday night, a Red Cross fund raiser was on almost every channel.
Again on Christmas of 2004 when the tsunamis hit Asia, donations flowed. Eastern Mennonite Missions alone received over $120,000 in donations. At the same time, EMM’s other ministries are suffering and creative work is being done in the board to find ways to come up with money to support the church planting, development, and medical missions that are part of the ongoing program. As long in the past as I can remember, and now again the Red Cross begs for blood donors. There have never been adequate supplies to cope with much smaller emergencies. The week of September 11 and Christmas 2004 are the only times in my life that I have seen living examples of the passage that describes the building of the Tabernacle.
They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled craftsmen who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left their work and said to Moses, "The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the LORD commanded to be done." Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: "No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary." And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.
Exodus 36:3-7 (NIV)
They were not always so generous. Occasionally a wake-up call is necessary.
In today’s passage, God is giving His people a wake-up call.
"I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty.
"But you ask, ’How are we to return?’
"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, ’How do we rob you?’
"In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:6-12 NIV)
Compare this state of affairs to the passage we read earlier. The people were so excited about worship that they gave till there was a surplus. This was during the time of the beginning of the program. Not only did they have to begin paying an entire twelfth of their population, they had an extravagant building program to fund. It was the most expensive stage of the endeavor, the launch. Now there isn’t even enough to support the ongoing program.