Summary: Worship the Lord with "Offerings" not "Surrenderings" 1) Because He chose us; 2) Because He saved us; 3) Because He blesses us
Last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, marked the beginning of Lent. It’s traditional in many circles to give up something during these forty days before Easter. Some people give up coffee. Others give up meat. Catholics in Germany are being urged to give up driving this Lent. What have you given up? Perhaps you’ll continue to give up your money when we pass the plate after the sermon. But is that a good way to think of Christian stewardship? Are we "giving up" money or do we "offer" it? There’s a difference. "Giving up" money is something done grudgingly, like surrendering your wallet to a mugger, while "offering" it implies a willing act of worship.
Our text this morning gives us three reasons why we want to put our money in the plate as an offering and not a surrendering. We’ll happily carry out this act of worship because God chose us, he saved us, and he blesses us.
Our text is taken from the book of Deuteronomy, which records Moses’ last words to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land. In our text Moses told the Israelites that once they were settled in their new home they were to bring God a firstfruits offering. In the same way God has commanded that we give him our firstfruits. That means before we spend our money on anything else, we are to set aside some of it to give to the Lord. What will motivate us to do this? Well, as the Israelites gave their offering they were to confess: "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous" (Deuteronomy 26:5b).
The Israelites were to give their firstfruits in an act of worship because God had chosen them in spite of their humble beginnings. The Israelites were not descended from people who were known for their military might. Their forefathers were not inventive geniuses who developed new ways of farming or building cities. They were not even spiritually superior to the people around them. Take the patriarch Abraham, for example. He was a man of faith - even willingly offering his son as a sacrifice because God told him to - but Abraham was this way because God had made him this way. Abraham hadn’t always been so trusting. He lied not once but twice about Sarah being his wife. He even slept with Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar, in an attempt to fulfill God’s promise that he would have a son. Even though God knew Abraham would act this way he still chose him as his child.
Like Abraham God has chosen us to be his children in spite of our failings. Sure, we too have moments where we show brilliant God-given faith in the Lord’s promises. Maybe you declined, at great social cost to you, an invitation to a party where you knew alcohol would be served to those underage. Or perhaps you turned down a promotion so that you could continue to be close to your family and your church. But then again we also have moments of tremendous unbelief like when we added hours to our timecard so that our paycheck would be higher, or when we gossiped about our classmates so we could get in with the cool crowd.