Summary: After almost a century of exile, the Jews returned to find Jerusalem in ruins. They were spiritually unplugged. Ezra is a great story of how they plugged in to what God had for them. Giving an offering was an important step in getting plugged in.
Are You Plugged in to Support God’s Work?
by Dr. David O. Dykes
Before I get started, I just remembered we are taking some friends out to lunch, and I’m out of cash. Can anyone help me? ... Will you loan me some money for lunch? “How much do you need?” How much do you have? “I’ve got $100.” Well, I guess I could get by with $10. “Okay” On second thought, that won’t be enough, can I have the whole $100? “I guess so. When can you pay me back?” Well, would you be willing to just give me the money? “Do you think I’m an idiot?” No, but I know you’re a nice guy. “Okay, because I like you, you can have the $100.” Thanks!
This month we’re talking about getting plugged in. If you weren’t here last Sunday, I hope you’ll get the tape or CD about getting plugged in to a Sunday Morning Bible Study group.
Today, I want to share with you the joy of getting plugged in to support God’s work through your financial gifts. If you are here for the first time, you’re probably thinking, “I knew it! I pick one Sunday to come and the preacher speaks on giving money. Money, money, money, that’s all they ever talk about at that church.”
Well, truthfully, I only speak about giving one Sunday a year–I don’t announce it in advance, because there are some folks who just don’t want to hear about it. For the past few years, I’ve spoken on giving on Super Bowl Sunday. In case some of you have figured that out, I thought I’d confuse you by preaching on giving a Sunday early!
If you are a guest, this message is not directed toward you. We tell guests we don’t expect you to make an offering. You may not be ready to make a financial gift to support this ministry because you don’t know much about us yet. So this message is directed toward members and regular attendees of our church.
You may wonder, “Pastor, why are you teaching on giving? Are we short of funds here?” No, in fact, we just finished 2002 with a healthy budget surplus. We paid off the cost of this building last year ($27 million), and we exceeded our World Mission Offering goal. We aren’t in financial trouble.
The primary reason I talk about giving is not so you’ll give your money, so our church can maintain our ministry. No, I teach what the Bible says about giving because I love you and I want you to discover the great joy that comes when you honor God with your income. I don’t want you to miss out on the blessings God has for you.
These three “plugged in” messages are taken straight from the Old Testament book of Ezra. After almost a century of being exiled, the Jews returned to Jerusalem to find the city in ruins. They were spiritually unplugged. Ezra is a great story of how they plugged in to what God had for them. Today we’ll learn that giving an offering was an important step in getting plugged in. The noun or verb form of “give an offering” or “sacrifice” appears ten times in these three verses. See if you can find them:
“After that they presented (1) the regular burnt offerings (2) , the New Moon sacrifices (3) and the sacrifices (4) for all the appointed feasts of the Lord, as well as those brought (5) as freewill offerings (6) to the Lord. On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer (7) burnt offerings (8) to the Lord, though the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid. Then they gave (9) money to the masons and carpenters, and gave (10) food and drink and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyler, so they would bring cedar logs by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, as authorized by Cyrus king of Persia.” (Ezra 3:5-7)
If you really want to receive ALL the blessings God has for you, you must understand and obey what the Bible says about giving. “Give” is a verb. Let’s attach four adverbs the Bible attaches to giving.
1. GIVE SACRIFICIALLY
When you read the word sacrifice in the Old Testament, you may think of animals slain on the altar. In biblical times, livestock was traded like money. A lamb or a bull may have been the most valuable thing a family owned. It was truly a sacrifice when they gave it to God. A sacrifice means giving God something so valuable that offering it will change your lifestyle. There is no such thing as a cheap sacrifice–it is always expensive.
In I Chronicles 21, when King David was looking for a place to build a temple, God directed him to buy the land Araunah the Jebusite was using as a threshing floor for his wheat. When King David offered to pay Araunah the full price, Araunah insisted he wanted to give it to David at no charge. Most of us would have jumped at the offer of free land, but David refused to accept the gift. Instead he said, “...I will not sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (I Chronicles 21:24) Then David paid the full price for the land that would be used to build the Temple. It’s not a sacrifice if it cost nothing. Many Christians only give on a level they can comfortably afford; they seldom make a real sacrifice.