Christian Giving Is All about Our Hearts!
Lord God, we come before You today and pray that our hearts might be filled with Your Holy Spirit. Move us humbly to repent of our sins, to listen attentively to Your Word, to praise You joyously for Your love, and, finally, to leave Your house this morning committed to live our lives to the glory of Your name. Amen.
St. Paul used the example of the Macedonian Chrsitians to encourage the giving of the Corinthian congregation. What was so special about the example of the Macedonian Christians? Their hearts had been moved by the grace of God in Christ Jesus first to give themselves to God, after which they freely and generously gave of their material possessions to help their fellow Christians and glorify their God!
The offering of the poor widow was not remarkable because of its size, but rather because the widow’s heart was moved to give all she had. In this she demonstrated complete trust in and love for her Savior God!
Text: 1 Chronicles 29:10-18
Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: "Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might, in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now, therefore; our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You. For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, as were all our fathers; our days on earth are as a shadow, and without hope. O LORD, our Lord, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all your own. I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You. O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You."
In Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself for us so that we might in return give ourselves back to Him, dear fellow redeemed:
The summary of the Quarterly Voters’ Meeting found in our bulletin this morning reports that our voters authorized borrowing up to $40,000 to cover current operating expenses. This was done in view of our $39,000 general fund deficit. Members of Immanuel, shame on us! Shame on us for letting this problem grow for so long. Shame on us for putting our Treasurer and our Board of Finance in the position of having to make such a recommendation. Shame on us for placing our own wants and desires ahead of the kingdom work entrusted to us by our Savior! I realize that there are many among us who are practicing excellent Christian stewardship, but there are also many among us who are not. Individually we may be faithful, but collectively we are not. If we would all be practicing faithful stewardship, I am convinced, in view of all of the blessings God has showered upon us, that we would not have to discuss how to pay for our deficit to our shame, but rather how we might best spend our surplus to God’s glory!
This morning, we are going to talk about "Christian giving." In order to do so we will focus on David’s words in our text--a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving to our Savior God. What is so interesting about David’s prayer is that while it deals with Christian giving, it does not mention money. Rather David focuses upon something much more important--our hearts! That is where every problem involving Christian stewardship lies, and that is where all solutions must begin!
In order to understand David’s prayer, let us first review the circumstances leading to it. David spoke these words near the end of his life. David had always wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but the Lord had forbidden him to do so. David was a "man of war." God’s temple was to be built by his son, Solomon, who would be a "man of peace." David, however, being a man of action, spent his final years gathering building materials for the temple. In addition to general collections through the state, David gave large gifts to the future temple from his own fortune. He did so, the Bible tells us, because he had “set (his) affections on the house of (his) God.” He then called together his people and informed them of what he had done. He told them, “I have given to the house of my God...my own special treasure of gold and silver: three thousand talents of gold, ...and seven thousand talents of refined silver” (1 Chronicles 29:3-5). Then he challenged them to join him. He asked them, “Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?” (1 Chronicles 29:5) Do you know what happened? The people were so moved by David’s actions and challenge that we are told they too “offered willingly (and) gave for the work of the house of God” (1 Chronicles 29:6-7). Afterward we are told, “The people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the LORD” (1 Chronicles 29:9). Notice why the people rejoiced! It was not because large amounts of money had been given. Large amounts of money can and are given to God for wrong reasons. The people rejoiced because God had moved them to “offer willingly.” He had given them “loyal hearts.” What was given had been given from the heart. This was the reason for rejoicing and for David’s further prayer. You see, CHRISTIAN GIVING IS ALL ABOUT OUR HEARTS!
Let us, then, consider David’s prayer. We see, first of all, that we needhearts which understand that everything belongs to God and all we possess has been entrusted to us by God! David says in his prayer of blessing, “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours in the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”
Think carefully about what David is saying. “All that is in heaven and in earth is Yours...riches and honor come from You...in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” Dear friends, we need to understand that everything--that includes ourselves--belongs to God. Everything that we possess in this life is entrusted to us by God. But, our sinful flesh objects, "I work hard for what I own. It’s mine. I can do with it what I wish." Not so, dear friends, for we are but stewards of the gifts of God. We are responsible to Him for what He has given us and how we then use it. When we give offerings to our God, we are not giving Him what is ours, but rather a portion of what is already His! David emphasizes this later in his prayer and explains the nature of our true situation when he says, “Of Your own we have given You. For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, as were all our fathers; our days on earth are as a shadow, and without hope.” David was king of Israel, and yet he wisely understood that all that he was, all that he had was the result of the gracious good will of God!
May our hearts likewise ever understand our true situation, the fragile nature of our lives, and our total dependence upon our God. The news this past week has been dominated by the untimely and tragic death of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law. While our country mourns, let us not fail to learn how dependent we are upon God’s grace. That which mattered most to these three individuals in the moment of their death was not fame, fortune, success in business, or family connections, for by ourselves “our days on earth are as a shadow, and without hope.” That which was most important for these young people and for all of us is a right relationship with God--that we possess saving faith in Jesus Christ. God has loved us in Christ Jesus. He lifts us up, and gives us hope! Is it not proper that we join David in expressing our love for Him by recognizing His lordship in our lives?!
David says, “O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own. I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness.” Dear friends, we are living in a time of broad economic expansion. God has given many of us materials blessing far in excess of anything given to previous generations. Why? It is not because we are so much better, more fit, or morally superior, for we are plagued by the same sinful flesh of our fathers. No, this abundance is a test for us. It is a test of our hearts in order to see whether we are upright. Are we passing the test? God has told us that our primary purpose in life as His children is to spread the gospel--to make disciples of all nations. Are we doing that through our words, our actions, and our offerings?
We can talk facts and figures, but ultimately do we have upright hearts which understand that all belongs to God? In the Old Testament times God gave His people the tithing law. They were to give 10% of their earning--that which God gave them--back to God. That law is not binding on New Testament Christians, but dear friends, let us realize that this does not mean we are free to give far less. Such thinking fails the test! The Bible speaks about Old Testament Christians as being minors--under age and under the law. The Bible then speaks of about New Testament Christians as being of age--free from the Old Testament laws. Does God now expect less of adults than He did of children? Which of us in a business would hire youth during the summer and expect more of them than the adults on our regular payroll? Permit me to use an example that I used while discussing this issues with one of you this past week. When I invest a portion of my money, I expect a certain rate of return for the money I invest. I have asked my money manager to look for investments that will return 10% or better. If that is the rate of return I expect, should I then expect God to be satisfied with a lesser return on the money He has invested and entrusted to me? Of course not, for to have such an attitude would be to fail the test of uprightness of heart!
Dear friends, let us reevaluate our Christian giving! Does our giving reflect aheart which understands that everything belongs to God and all we possess has been entrusted to us by God!
For you see CHRISTIAN GIVING IS ALL ABOUT OUR HEARTS! Hearts which, secondly, are moved by God willingly to give back a portion of what we have been entrusted! David prayed, “Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You.” “God loves a cheerful giver!” He does not want offerings that are given with “grudging obligation” (2 Corinthians 9:7,5). What is the secret to being a “cheerful giver”? What is the secret to being “able to offer so willingly”? David and his people knew the secret. The Macedonian Christains knew the secret? The widow Jesus saw at the temple knew the secret? Do you and I know the secret?
The secret is that all of these are fruits of faith proceeding from hearts overjoyed by the grace of God found in Christ Jesus! When we by the preaching of God’s law come to realize that by nature we are lost and condemned creatures, frail and dependent upon God. When we by the preaching of God’s gospel come to rejoice in His love and grace--He forgives our every sin, He embraces us in spite of our frailty, He promises unconditionally the gift of life everlasting. He urges us to pray with the understanding that the most powerful Being in our universe is willing to listen and desirous of helping. When we realize these things and our hearts are truly touched, how can we not respond by giving back to God a portion of what we have been entrusted? How can we not willingly consecrate ourselves to the LORD?
My dear friends, as you will note in your bulletins this morning, I have returned my call to Luther Memorial Church in Fond du Lac. I will be continuing my ministry here in your midst. I am committed to my Savior and to this ministry--a joint ministry entrusted to us all. I would like to follow the example of David this morning in issuing a challenge to each of you to join me and my family in consecrating ourselves to our Lord from this time forward when it comes to our Christian giving. In view of the financial needs of our collective ministry, we have decided to increase our personal offerings eight percent to $300/month for the general fund and to $100/month for the work of missions. We have contributed an additional $100 for the black top fund, which needs to be addressed immediately, and we have decided that instead of ending our contributions to the debt fund with the $3000/family suggestion of our finance committee, we will continue for as long as I am pastor here at Immanuel to contribute $500/year until the debt is paid.
Members of Immanuel, join us in consecrating ourselves to the Lord. My most fervant prayer is that we too will be able to join David and the people of His day in praising God for moving us all to offer willingly to our God. David concluded his prayer by saying, “I know also, God that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to you. O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the hearts of Your people, and fix their heart toward You!” May it be so among us here at Immanuel! Amen.
— Pastor Paul D. Nolting