Summary: Many people think all that’s involved in being a Christian is walking an aisle or praying a prayer. That might be how God called you to salvation, but that’s not the end of it. Responsibilities come with being a Christian.
1. The responsible example of giving
2. The responsible location of giving
3. The responsible attitude of giving
4. The responsible abundance of giving
5. The responsible priority of giving
In his book, The Quest For Character, Chuck Swindoll tells about a terrible thing that happened a few years back. It seems that a vandal ran into an art museum in Amsterdam with a knife. He ran up to a priceless Rembrandt painting and slashed it to ribbons. Just a short time later, another vandal snuck into St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome with a hammer. He took his hammer and began to smash Michelangelo’s beautiful sculpture of Mary holding the crucified body of Jesus called The Pieta. If you had seen either one of those priceless works of art at that time, you would have thought they were lost forever. The painting was shredded and tattered and torn. The statue was defaced and broken. The only thing they were good for was the garbage, right? Wrong. Because in the hands of the most gifted artists and experts available, those masterpieces were restored. Nearly 70 years before, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. To look at it then, you would have thought there was no way to restore it. But God had a plan. Even though the people had been disobedient and were now being punished for their disobedience, God had a plan for their restoration. Our text tonight brings us to the third of the four restorations God deemed necessary before His people were ready to rebuild the temple foundations. He has already restored His resources by transferring the things He had set aside for His worship from the Babylonians to His people. He has also already restored His remnant by providing all the different kinds of people He chose to perform His work. Now it’s time for God to restore the people’s responsibility. God’s restorations up until this point have all taken place in Babylon. But now it’s time for them to arrive in Jerusalem. It is interesting that Scripture says nothing of their journey. Even though it was a journey of around 1000 miles, Scripture is silent about the trip. As a matter of fact it boils the whole thing down to three words there in verse 68: “When they came.” Notice that just because they physically arrived in Jerusalem, they hadn’t really arrived. Just because they were done with the journey, that didn’t mean they were prepared for their task. A journey of 1000 miles was just a step along the way. As a matter of fact it was such an insignificant step along the way that it didn’t even merit discussion. It was only worth three words in the biblical text. It was the first step that flowed from their obedience to being called out as God’s remnant. But taking that walk wasn’t the extent of it. There were responsibilities that came with following God. It’s a sad thing that there are so many people today who think that all that’s involved in being a Christian is simply walking an aisle or praying a prayer. That might be the way that God called you to salvation, but that’s not the end of it. It’s really just the first few words in your Christian testimony. Just like the people in our text tonight, taking the walk isn’t the extent of it. There are responsibilities that come with being a Christian. That’s what I want for us tonight. I don’t want any of us to think we’ve arrived after the Lord’s taken us on that walk of salvation. I want each of us to eagerly and joyfully fulfill our responsibilities as Christians. In order to do that, we’re going to look at five restored responsibilities of giving. First is the responsible example of giving. Verse 68 points out “some of the chief of the fathers.”
The responsible example of giving. A pastor was standing and greeting people in the vestibule one Sunday when he finished preaching. It was the typical thing, where he was shaking hands and talking with the congregation, when a little boy came up to him. The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out a 5-dollar bill and put it into the pastor’s hand. The pastor smiled at the boy and said, “Son, I can’t take that from you. If you want to give it to the Lord, go ahead and put it in the offering plate.” The boy looked up at him and said, “I don’t want to give it to the Lord, I want to give it to you.” The pastor smiled again and asked him, “Well, why do you want to give it to me?” The boy didn’t bat an eye and said, “Because in Sunday School we learned that Jesus wants us to give money to help the poor. And my daddy says that you’re the poorest preacher he’s ever heard.” There were two examples at work there, weren’t there? The Sunday School teacher was being a good example and the Dad wasn’t being such a great example. It was the same way here in our passage. Notice in your text that the word some is in italics. That means the word isn’t there in the original—it was supplied by the translators. But it was put there for good reason. The preposition “of” that follows it is what indicates that it wasn’t all of them. It was just some of the chief of the fathers. So, in other words, some of the family heads lined up to give an offering so that the temple could be rebuilt. They did what the head of the family is supposed to do. They led their families the way they were supposed to. They led them by example. They stood up and accepted the financial responsibility of rebuilding the temple. Not much is made in the text of those who didn’t. We don’t know how many did or how many didn’t. That’s probably because God doesn’t really need our money. He doesn’t depend on our giving. But he still gives us the responsibility of giving. And these heads of their families fulfilled their responsibility. And by doing so, they were an example to others. By the way, there is a difference between being showy in your giving and being an example. These people are mentioned in the context of their families. There is no indication that their example was to people outside of their families. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that our right hand is not to know what our left hand is giving. That is because the religious leaders of the day would make a big deal about the amount of money they were giving. They would use the excuse that they were being an example to the people, but they were really doing it out of pride. “Look at how much more religious I am than you are. It’s quite obvious by the amount of money I’m giving.” That is not being an example in giving. Being an example in giving is doing just what these people were doing. Being an example in the context of their families. They were leading their families by their responsible example of giving. The responsible example of giving is the first restored responsibility of giving. The second is the responsible location of giving. You can see that in the middle part of verse 68 where they gave, “when they came to the house of the Lord.”