Summary: We give out of what Jesus has done for us
Generosity isn’t always as generous as it might seem. There is a story out of Miami, Florida about six Royal Palm trees that had been vandalized and cut down along Miami’s Flager Street. Due to the expense involved in re-placing them Dade County wasn’t how soon if ever they would be replaced. Along came a generous donation of six new trees. Not only were the trees paid for but they were even planted by the donor.
The former trees had been 15 feet tall and formed a beautiful foreground for a “Fly Delta” billboard. The new trees were 35 feet tall and now hid the billboard completely. The donor of the trees was Eastern Airlines.
We can smile at the foresight of Easter. In one step they beautify their city, removes the eyesore of a billboard and undercuts the visibility of their competition. Yet as we look at Israel brining their gifts to the construction of the tabernacle—the dwelling place of God—we see genuine love poured out as an extravagant gift to their Lord.
Moses had told the people what God intended to do and gave them the “part” list that was needed. As we read last week the people responded and brought the things that were needed. They had listened to God and followed Him in faith. God not only gave Moses the “parts list” but He also told him who the lead craftsmen and teachers would be for the building.
As we read last week the people were willing to bring their gifts to God and God had moved their hearts do just that. Their gifts were brought to a personal God whom they had experienced in their own lives. They weren’t giving to a noble cause, a great project, a program or even just a good idea. They were bringing an offering to God and what they brought astounded the workers and even Moses. So great was their offering Moses actually had to tell the people NOT to bring any more gifts. It wasn’t a “pew tax”; “dues”, or even “their Fair Share” they were brining. Their giving even went beyond what we’d call generous. It was truly extravagant, hilarious giving. Here’s something you might find interesting. The only characteristic that the Bible says God Loves is cheerful giving. He loves the world, he loves Israel, but it is the cheerfulness, the hilarity of one’s giving, that God loves. Being touched by God and seeing the power of God made these people of God into the hilarious givers they were.
I would agree that the world we live in is far different than that of Israel as they left Egypt. The idea of wealth and monetary exchange differs greatly in the urban 21st century from the agrarian culture of the Ancient Middle East. Compare today with the turn of the century and you see the same differences. It wasn’t unusual in rural America to find gifts of livestock and crops given to God’s work as a regular part of worship. In light of the way we live, the current debt load so many of us carry, and the insecurities of our modern life it’s no wonder so many people feel that stories like this have no really meaning for us today.
I would agree with that but I would quickly point out that the underlying principles of giving haven’t changed at all. They are just as key for us as they were for Israel—maybe more so simply because of the way our lives have evolved.
Giving is first of all God’s work. It was God who moved the hearts of those Israelites in the desert. It was the Holy Spirit that resided in and challenged the artisans to do the work God had ordained for His tabernacle.
It is still God’s work today. We can be motivated by guilt, a sense of obligation, doing one’s part and the like but the type of giving that produces a deep sense of joy is that which comes from being moved by God to give what God asks. It the Holy Spirit that prompts us and speaks to us. Isn’t that great news on Pentecost of all days? The Spirit is in charge of moving our hearts to give.
Did you notice what the other verses I read today said about the Spirit? The Church has received ALL spiritual blessings. All, not most, many, average, some or a few but ALL spiritual blessings have been given to us by God’s Spirit. What’s more even in a church like Corinth that was being torn apart by factions who couldn’t agree on church leadership Paul is quick to remind them that the Spirit is the one who has blessed them. Later in chapter 12 we discover even spiritual gifts are given to unite us together, as a sign of how interdependent we really are on one another within God’s body.