From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering...
Zooming through the book of Exodus this morning, working to catch up on my "B90X" (Bible in 90 Days) challenge, this verse brought me up short in both a figurative and literal sense. God was in the process of directing the newly freed people of Israel to construct a dwelling place for him. Obviously, the desert did not supply a great deal of building materials, so it was up to the people of Israel to furnish the supplies that would build and adorn this Most Holy of Holy places. God could have said, "Everyone bring me a pound of gold, 5 pounds of silver and 25 yards of dyed silk." Or, "Every household must bring me a case of your finest Shiraz along with your sterling silver flatware and any jewels you might have squirrled away." God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and fed them for forty years from the storehouses of heaven. Surely it would be within his right to demand elaborate gifts.
And yet, God did no such thing. Instead of demanding, God simply made an offer...if you are willing, then give to me from what you already have. Notice he didn't add, "It's all mine, anyway," at the end of that statement. Although it is, and he could have pointed that out at any point in this dialog. But God has never been interested in our compliance. Rather, God is seeking a relationship with his people, a relationship built on love and devotion and trust.
In verse 21 the author writes, "and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord." We give to God because our hearts are moved by his love. We give to God because our hearts are full of gratitude for the many things he has done for us. We give to God because our hearts yearn to share his love with others.
And what, exactly, are we called to give? We give from what we have. The ancient Israelites left Egypt with everything needed to construct the Tabernacle of the Lord so that God might physically dwell with them. God saw to it that they had plenty to give so that they might experience him. Likewise, God equips us today with everything we need to share the experience of God's love with others. Most of us have extra money that we can use to help those in need. Most of us have possessions, like clothes, gathering dust in closets or on shelves that we could give as an offering to others. All of us have gifts which God has endowed us with to use as an offering in ministry for and with others.
The problem is, we aren't always willing to bring our offerings to the Lord. Our hearts are not moved enough to give. I would like to say that I get up every day ready to pour myself out for the work of the Lord. In reality, I'd rather sleep in. I'd rather spend the extra bit of money I have on things like boutique shower gels and hand soaps, cd's, books, clothes, fancy coffee, and whatever else might catch my eye than put that money aside to give to someone struggling to make ends meet. Instead of using the new tablet my family got me to work on my writing (for which they got it for me in the first place), I play mindless games that suck away time I could spend on more important things.
It's not that any of those things are wrong in and of themselves, but when they prevent me from offering myself fully and completely to God's service, they do become a problem. God says, "Give me what you have." I say, "How about just one thing?" Or, "Mmmm....not today." What does that say about the state of my heart? What does your offering say about yours?
I want to close this blog with one final piece of scripture. In Exodus 26 we find that the people have brought so much to give to the construction of the Lord's tabernacle that the workers cannot use it all. The foreman went to Moses and said, "The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done." (Vs. 5)
Do you see it? If we, God's people, were to bring all we had to give to the Lord then it would be more than enough to do the work God has called us to do. Can you imagine what that would like? No more hunger. An end to poverty. Recovery from addictions. Forgiveness abounding. Peace. Love. Justice. Vibrant faith. "From what you have, take an offering for the Lord..." What shall we bring for the Lord today?
Blessings and Peace,