I had a conversation a while back with a friend who was starting to get involved in a church. He did quite well for himself financially and has been involved in many charitable causes. During this conversation he was questioning giving financially to the church. His opinion was, that he gave his time and energy in many areas of his life and didn’t feel that it was necessary to give financially. To which my response is: the very fact that you feel tension and are unwilling to is evidence that you should.
Throughout scripture in both the Old and New Testaments in the principle of giving sacrificially. In 2 Samuel 24 David has sinned against the Lord and the Lord has punished him for it. The prophet Gad tells David that the Lord requires a sacrifice. He instructs David to go unto Araunah the Jebusite and erect an altar for the sacrifice. When David comes to Araunah and offers to buy the land to build the altar, Araunah humbly responds, “Let my lord the king [David] take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing of the oxen for wood.” Essentially Araunah was offering to give David for free, the land to build the altar, oxen to be sacrificed and his plows to be used for wood. Which David responded that he would buy all and would not offer to God “that which cost him nothing”. That is which cost him nothing… that is an incredibly important principle that is carried into the New Testament.
You see the Bible teaches that God owns everything. According to Psalms 50, God owns every beast, every forest. He goes on to say, “if I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you, for the world is mine and the fulness thereof”. So, what is it about sacrifice that means so much to God? Sacrifice is not about giving to God material things. It’s about surrendering our hearts to God. In a culture that was largely dependent on livestock, farming and agriculture for its survival, sacrificing such things was a way of showing that God was first in their hearts and they trusted Him for their provision. It embodied the very first of the ten commandments, thou shalt have no other Gods before me (Ex 20:3).
We see this over and over in scripture where God/Jesus are driving the point home that its not how much you give or even what you give in your sacrifice that’s important but where that gift comes from. I have another friend who was sort of a pseudo-Christian… if you can call him that. He claimed to believe certain truths of scripture but never had any interest is growing closer to God, fellowshipping with other believers, or anything of that sort. He ran an extremely successful business for many years and gave thousands to various charities. But when the well dried up and business began to suffer his response was, “look at what all I’ve done, why did God allow this to happen to me”. The truth? He doesn’t even know you (Matt 7:21-23). We think for some reason that an intellectual knowledge of God is what makes us a “christian”. But the truth is, what makes us a “Christ-ian” is that we follow “Christ” and Jesus Himself said that all the commandments hang on two very important principles: that we love the Lord God with all our hearts (commandments 1-6), and love your neighbor as yourself (commandments 7-10).
Jesus told a story to really drive this point home in Mark 12:41-43. He spoke of how each person was giving financially in the synagogue. But along came a widow who gave her last mite. Jesus said, she gave more than all the rest because she gave out of her lack, whereas the others gave out of their abundance. You see she gave sacrificially. She gave that w