Then Moses said to the whole community of Israel, “This is what the Lord has commanded: Take a sacred offering for the Lord. Let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord… Exodus 35:4-5
It’s been happening as long as God’s followers have been gathering. God has always been calling on his people to give money. Maybe it’s simply because we live in a world that costs money and so to do God’s work we need to fund it. Or maybe it’s because God knows our hearts and so he starts with what we value most, knowing that once we are willing to give money other things won’t be so hard. I’m sure we could come up with a hundred different explanations, but the real point here is that we are consistently called to give.
The Israelites in the wilderness are no exception. Moses, by God’s direction, calls on them to give for the building of the tabernacle. And so they all return to their tents to prepare to give an offering.
So the whole community of Israel left Moses and returned to their tents. All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the Lord. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments. Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing. They brought to the Lord their offerings of gold—brooches, earrings, rings from their fingers, and necklaces. They presented gold objects of every kind as a special offering to the Lord . Exodus 35:20-22
I’m not sure what our aversion to giving and talking about money is, but I suspect it has to do partly with the fact that we have seen so many swindlers and money hungry people using guilt and emotional manipulation to try and get us to give them more of our money (All while using God as their justification). And it also probably has to do with the fact that we still do really love it just a little too much.
But here we find the Israelites being called on to give—from the heart. For the Old Testament this is a little less common. Giving in the Old Testament is typically relegated to the tithe (the 10 percent), but here God calls for a giving that is heart-felt and generous and something pretty amazing happens.
Finally the craftsmen who were working on the sanctuary left their work. They went to Moses and reported, “The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the Lord has commanded us to do!” So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: “Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!” So the people stopped bringing their sacred offerings. Exodus 36:4-6
They were told to stop giving. Stop giving. When, in the history of the churches you have been a part of has this ever happened? For me, it never has. One, because I have never seen generous, heart-felt giving on this kind of scale—a whole community giving so generously. And two, because if it did we as Christians often still live by the mentality that if a little is good, more is better. Even if enough had been given would we ask people to stop or just figure we’ll take all we can get?
For these Israelites at this moment in their journey giving was an act of worship. And so they gave generously and freely and they gave so much that finally they were told to stop. Can you imagine what that would look like today? What it would be like to be in worship and be told, “The giving this month as been so generous and so free that we now have more than enough money to accomplish the things God has called us to. Today we are not collecting an offering.”
I would imagine you’d be able to hear a pin drop. It would be an unprecedented event since the days of Moses. And it would speak volumes about the generosity and free sharing of God’s people. But it doesn’t happen. Ever.
What does that say about the state of our own hearts? Why are we so reluctant to give our money—not to mention our time and service? What could be accomplished for the gospel of Jesus if we truly explored the depths of what generosity looks like when it’s genuinely lived out? Are we even brave enough—or selfless enough—to consider this kind of living?
But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity. Isaiah 32:8
Perhaps it’s time for us to stop thinking about the duty of giving and start considering what it would look like to become generous—with our money, time, and service.