Summary: giving sacrificially, God is no man’s debtor
CAN WE GIVE GOD TOO MUCH?
This morning I am not going to preach on what was to come next in the sermon series on How people grow. The reason is quite simple – we all need to hear what I am going to say this morning about our finances and about our giving. Before some of you begin to groan ‘here he goes about money again’ let me say to you that in the seven years I have been your pastor I have preached on giving four or five times. Maybe that actually is the reason we find ourselves in need of addressing the financial situation of the parish this morning. Maybe I have not taught often enough or well enough on the topic. So this morning I want to address the area of giving to God. I have deliberately entitled this sermon: Can we give God too much?
Turn with me if you would please to Exodus 36 and at the same time put a marker or your finger at 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. I am going to look at each of these passages this morning as we examine this whole area of Giving.
Exodus 36 verses 3-7. I found these verses fascinating when I read them. I don’t ever remember reading them before or ever hearing of the incident before. Let me set the scene. The people of Israel are two years into their forty year wilderness wanderings. God has brought them safely out of Egypt through the Red Sea and he has provided water and manna for them to eat. He has given Moses instructions concerning the building of a Tabernacle – a wilderness dwelling for the presence of the Lord to be in the midst of his people. Moses has given instructions for the Tabernacle to be built and in chapter 35 he gives instructions as to how the cost is to be met.
Turn to chapter 35 verse 5 note will you what he says concerning a ‘generous heart’, turn then to verses 20-22 Read and verse 29 Read of the same chapter. Do you see what is at the very foundation of their giving? ‘A willing or generous heart.’ It is out of the willingness, the generosity of their hearts that their giving flows. Turn now to chapter 36 and what do we read in verse 2? Those whose hearts were stirred brought their offerings. Do you see the importance of your heart when it comes to giving here? Not every one in the camp of Israel responded but only those whose heart had been stirred. Why did they respond? Well I believe there were two major reasons:
1. They recognised the worthiness of God to receive their offerings and so responded. Turn back to chapter 35 and verse 20-29 – look at what was given. Each person gave their best. In material terms it was not of equal value but in spiritual terms and in terms of ‘the best’ each individual had they were of equal value. You see their giving was an expression of their worship. It was not a token, it was not to meet the bills and get the Tabernacle built. It was not so that their names would appear above a door post or something. It was a true expression and reflection of their worship of Almighty God – the one who had freed them from slavery in Egypt and who had provided for their daily needs in the wilderness.
2. They realised how blessed they were by God. They had wandered for two years in the wilderness. During that time God had provided water from a rock, manna from heaven and their clothes and shoes had not worn out. God had blessed them with the daily provisions of life and so they out of their blessedness return to God what they had previously received from His hands. You see these people, the ones whose hearts had been stirred by the Lord, knew that they were not self-made people. They knew that God had provided for their daily needs and so in thankfulness they respond to God’s command to build the Tabernacle.
THEIR GIVING WAS HABITUAL – 36 VERSE 3.
God had expressed through Moses a desire to have a Tabernacle, a place where he could dwell in the midst of his people as they journeyed to the Promised Land. The people responded, not to Moses, not to his words for we know from his own lips that he was no great orator. No, they responded to the Word of God – because it is only the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God that can stir up men’s hearts to this level of generosity. You see when you read the passage closely you realise that the first thought in their hearts each day was to build the Tabernacle. Their first thought was for the glory of God and their first desire was for the presence of God in their midst. Look at what the passage says – ‘day after day.’ Day after day they brought their offering to Moses for the Tabernacle. They had a habit of giving to God’s work. It was daily habit. They brought the best of what they had. They were not expected to bring what they did not have.