Giving Compelled by Grace Not Guilt
Introduction: Timothy Keller writes, “Once upon a time there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. So he took it to his king and said, ‘My Lord, this is the greatest carrot I've ever grown or ever will grow. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.’
The king was touched and discerned the man's heart, so as [the gardener] turned to go the king said, ‘Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I own a plot of land right next to yours. I want to give it to you freely as a gift so you can garden it all.’ And the gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing.
But there was a nobleman at the king's court who overheard all this. And he said, ‘My! If that is what you get for a carrot—what if you gave the king something better?’ So the next day the nobleman came before the king and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, ‘My lord, I breed horses and this is the greatest horse I have ever bred or ever will. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.’ But the king discerned his heart and said thank you, and took the horse and merely dismissed him.
The nobleman was perplexed. So the king said, ‘Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.’
Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (Dutton, 2008), pp. 60-61; submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky; http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/weekly/09-03-30/1033009.html; last accessed on 11-22-09
Transition: Much of the giving we do is actually taking. We are not unlike the nobleman Keller writes about. We give to ourselves and not really to God. Exodus 25 provides a pattern for giving that pleases God - giving that is compelled by grace and not by guilt…
Scripture: 1Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2“Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.
3And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, and bronze; 4blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; 5ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood;
6oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; 7onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.
8And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
Transition: Tonight, we will look at three proofs that giving is compelled by grace…
Giving Compelled by Grace is Directed to God (25.1-2, 8)
Verse one points up the fact that the LORD spoke to Moses. Giving compelled by grace is based upon the authority of God’s Word. It is not directed toward man or a building, but to God Himself.
In verse two God says to Israel, “Bring Me an offering” and in verse three, “…You shall take My offering.” We should remember that Israel did not have anything to give God other than what He had already provided for them - namely, provision from the Egyptians as they left.
Five Hebrew words comprise verse eight: “They will make me a holy place and I will locate among them.” God will not dwell among them unless they invite Him by preparing a house for Him. God does not need a building or temple complex; He desires the people make a home for Him and then locate their houses/tents around His own. All was directed toward God; He was and is central.
· We give at church but are really giving to God. We express our worship to God when we give at offering time during each service. Remember that God owns it all: “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness” (Ps 24.1a).
· My son cannot afford to buy me a birthday gift. He has no money of his own. But I may give him an allowance with which he may use it to purchase a gift for me. He does so because he loves me. I give him the ability to express that love.
· While God is able to provide a completed tabernacle, He chose to provide the raw materials for one instead. He allowed His children to express their love by constructing a house for Him.
· Can we repay God with our tithes and offerings? Can we repay Him with an extensive missions’ budget? No, but we can use what He provides as a gift of gratitude for Him. This is why we extend the opportunity to give to those that understand the purpose of giving in the first place (it is why we note to our visitors that they shouldn’t feel obligated to give).
· God will use what we give Him to push the parameters of His kingdom. Verse eight indicates that Israel gave so that God could dwell among them. But a sanctuary is a holy place. We cannot draw near the blinding, radiant, and holy presence of God. He is transcendent because of His holiness.
· A sanctuary and a tabernacle communicate the transcendence and closeness of God. No tabernacle could contain the God of the Universe. Yet He has chosen to indwell believers; to tabernacle among them.
· God is not just within the four walls of our auditorium. He is in each believer this evening. We come together in this place this evening to hear from God. Our church is an outpost from which we gather and strategize to fulfill the Great Commission under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
· If we are using this building to for such a holy work, then we ought to support it with our own offerings. We will need a building soon. We need to renovate this one. Do you believe that it is more spiritual to give to the missions’ budget than that of the building fund? Does not the building provide for the training of future missionaries under the tutelage of God’s Word? Is preaching and preparing to reach our own Jerusalem holy work?
· What do tithes and offerings do for the staff of our church? They provide for the pastors’ physical needs so that he may preach, pray, and provide spiritual care. They provide for our worldwide outreach through various missionaries. They provide for materials for discipleship and the promotion of local evangelism. They even provide opportunities to plant more churches in California.
· We are doing a holy work here. We need not be ashamed to ask for the resources to continue to do it. What would you give to see lost men and women come to Christ for eternal life? Our whole purpose for being here in this place at this time is so that lost and dying people will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. By grace we are saved through faith. By grace we give our very best so that others may come to know and live what we already know and live!
Transition: Giving compelled by grace is directed to God. It is one of the most God-centered things we do…
Giving Compelled by Grace is Prompted by the Heart (25.2)
Offerings were collect “from everyone who gives [them] willingly with [their] hearts” (25.2). The New American Standard Bible translates the Hebrew, “From every man whose heart moves him…” The offering was required only from those willing to give – those who were prompted to give with their hearts. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9.7).
· The heart of each individual prompted him to give. They were not forced to give.
· It is an offering not a compelling (2 Cor 9.7).
· God did tell Israel what they should give specifically in this passage, but they were to give willingly all the same. It was the same with tithes. Israel was to tithe or give 10% back from what they were given as they labored (see Lev 27.30).
· We follow a similar pattern in our church today. 10% is a wonderful starting point for believers. It provides an opportunity for everyone at every point along the financial spectrum to give as they are able. I believe you should pray that God would lead you to give at least 10% of your gross income back to Him. If you’re already doing that, you should pray that God would enable you to give more as you grow in grace.
· Whatever we give toward missions or building funds, I think we should follow a regular plan. Believers in the early churches stored up offerings on every Sunday (1 Cor 16.2). We follow a similar pattern today at Heritage. The heart of every believer should be saying, “I’m going to give as much as I can as often as I can.”
· With the heart means prompted by the grace of God not compelled by the guilt induced in sermons.
· The grace of God compels generous giving. The guilt induced by man sows bitterness and legalism (giving because I feel that I will be in better stead with God).
· What had God done for Israel? He had redeemed them from Egyptian bondage! As they remembered His great deliverance, they would become compelled to give back their lives to Him.
· We ask for financial help all the time for many different projects. We understand that believers make a choice as to whether or not they will give. Our hope is that you will reflect on your deliverance from sin and the eternal life God has given you. Once you do, we believe that God will compel you to give out of grace and gratitude.
· “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence” (Eph 1.7-8).
· Many believe the economy will quell the advance of missions’ giving today. I included a handout in the bulletin this week that seems to point up just the opposite. Paul was aware of this. He knew that poor believers in Macedonia heard of the Jerusalem church withering under persecution. Out of their poverty, the Macedonian believers gave beyond their ability. “They were freely willing to give” because they had been infused by the grace of God.
· You can buy a house, a car, or new clothes. You may even save for a college education or retirement. But none of those things last like giving to missions or to the spread of the gospel through the local church. Jesus spoke of using money as an offering to purchase “a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys” (Luke 12.33).
· The reason church budgets suffer is church-goers have hard hearts. We spend money on ourselves and fail to see it as a resource for worshipping God. We all are tempted to keep what we have for ourselves - to give ourselves the horse instead of giving God the carrot. If God touches your heart to give, you should obey right away. If you don’t, your heart may harden and you will fail to obey.
Giving Compelled by Grace is in Accordance with Ability (25.3-7)
God lists some very specific items that should be given. They are grouped in categories. Some of the items were very costly and others would take good old-fashioned work to gather.
“And this is the offering which you shall take from them: gold, silver, bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.”
· Metals (gold, silver, bronze)
· Fabrics (blue, purple, and scarlet, fine linen and goats’ hair)
· Skins (ram, badger)
· Wood (acacia)
· Oils (lamp, fragrant anointing)
· Gemstones (onyx specifically mentioned)
· The materials listed would be used in constructing the tabernacle. The tabernacle represents the dwelling of God among His people.
· The items were precious metals, fabrics, oils, and gems. Not every child of Israel could afford to give gold or precious stones, but they could provide oil, wood, or the skin of a seal or dolphin (better translation than badger).
· God accepts the best we have to offer Him. He doesn’t expect that which we cannot give.
· We can do great things for God if we’ll just give as God has enabled us. If we would just do that, we would be able to provide for our missionaries next month.
Conclusion: A man went to professional baseball games and tried to get a souvenir baseball as far back as he could remember. A foul ball, a home run ball, or even a batting practice ball—anything would do.
He was taking in batting practice for the St. Louis Cardinals when Mark McGwire was playing. He got to know a five-year-old boy who was also trying to get a ball. His name was James. James tried hard to pronounce the players' names as he politely asked for a ball: “Mr. Timwin (Timlin), can I have a ball, please?”
Before he knew it, the man’s mission became getting a ball for James. For about 20 minutes, he told James the names of the players who had a ball near the fence they stood behind, and the players turned and smiled as James tried to say their names. Still, no ball. Finally the man told James he could have his ball if he caught one (the man had been unsuccessful in catching a ball for almost 28 years, so that felt like a safe promise to him).
Of course, I wouldn't be telling this story if you didn't know what happened five minutes later. The man caught a ball, and yes, he gave it to James.
I wonder how often God waits to give us something until we are willing to give it away? We must give because we are compelled by grace. Nothing else will do.
Mike Herman, Illinois; http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/weekly/00-09-18/12621.html; last accessed on 11-22-09
Hymn: I Am Thine, O Lord (314)