Summary: Give willingly.
Series: Resolutions Worth Keeping
Text: Deuteronomy 15:1-11
Truth: Give willingly.
Aim: To produce a spirit of generosity.
Jeff Anderson said it was a plastic donut that changed him forever. He had been taught as a child to budget, save, and tithe his money. He had financial peace but not spiritual peace. This sparked a hunger to understand how God views giving and how his giving could actually get God’s attention.
Autumn Joy toddled across the room and stood at the edge of my lap-top view. I was in task mode, typing away while sitting in the living-room recliner. With Shirley Temple curls bouncing around her face, my eighteen-month-old daughter looked up at me. I looked at her. Then she handed me a Plastic Donut from her kitchen play set.
I looked at the Donut and back at my daughter. She stood waiting for a response. So I put the Donut up to my mouth and said with great animation, “Yummm, yummm,…Thank you, Autumn! This is soooo good!”
Then something beautiful happened. Her big brown eyes widened, and her lips pushed a giant smile against her puffy cheeks. She stood up on her toes, shrugged her shoulders up to her ears, and let out a high-pitched squeal.
After soaking in the experience for a few seconds, she ran back to her kitchen and brought me a little pink spoon. Again I responded, showing her my pleasure and approval. The cycle continued a few more times as I collected plastic pieces from her kitchen set.
For Autumn, this exercise in giving gifts kept bringing her back to Daddy. For me, it kept me looking for my child to return to my side. I was moved by the exchange. I loved the interaction and connection. I was so pleased.
I didn’t see it coming, but at that moment it occurred to me: this is how our giving must feel from God’s perspective. Our gifts to Him are like Plastic Donuts. God does not need our gifts or our money. But like a child’s gift that moves her father, our gifts can really get God’s attention.
For my daughter, the feedback from our interaction inspired continued giving…Could it be that God desires a similar Plastic-Donut experience when I give to Him?...I had never before pictured the act of giving as something that elicits such delightful reactions. Had I been missing opportunities to connect with God in deeper ways?
In that beautiful picture you see the little girl’s love for her father in her gifts to him. It was her gifts which revealed what was in her heart. Our heart and our stuff are connected. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). A primary way we speak from our heart is through our gifts. A gift helps your heart say what it really feels. The gift and the heart work together.
The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy is a collection of the last sermons of Moses. After 40 years of wandering in the desert while the unbelieving and disobedient Israelites die off, the nation is soon to enter the Promised Land. Moses reminds them of God’s commandments and encourages them to faithfully obey God. If they will obey, God will bless them and allow them to stay in the Promised Land. If they disobey, God will judge them and drive them out of the Land. One of those commandments was to be generous so as to provide for the needs of the poor. God promises if they would be generous to meet the needs of other Israelites, they would not have any poor in the land.
Chapter 15 is about generosity. Generosity is illustrated with the law of release of debts (verses 1-3) and the law of the release of slaves (verses 12-18). Every seven years all the debt one Israelite owed another was to be forgiven if it had not been paid in full. The Old Testament recognized that occasionally people have to borrow money in order to survive or succeed. Lending to the poor was not looked down upon. In fact, it is commended. What the Bible commends is responsible borrowing and lending scheduled over a reasonable length of time so it can be repaid. Debt was not to be everlasting. Debt was to have limits. It is not debt the Bible condemns but the exploitation of debt.
Some scholars suggest that the word “Hebrew” in verse 12, where it is talking about releasing slaves, at this early stage might not represent an ethnic group but a social and economic group. It may describe people who do not own land. They lived by selling their labor and services. Moses said such people were to be treated fairly. At the end of six years they were to be set free and sent away with a generous severance package, or they could volunteer to permanently commit themselves to their owner. If the slave decided to stay a hole was punched in the ear.