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 which cost her much. It wasn’t that the others giving was wrong, just that it required no sacrifice, and where there is no sacrifice, there is no merit in giving because there is no heart connection with the gift. This is the dilemma in Matthew 7:21-23 when Jesus says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
You see the individuals in this passage are doing the same thing my friend did. “Look at all the things I’ve done”. But it doesn’t matter because Jesus plainly says, “I never knew you”. There was never a relationship. Although the world would see their acts as generous, if those acts are given out of their abundance rather than their lack than there is no real sacrifice. There is no heart connection. There is no relationship because the truth is there still exists other ‘gods’ in their life that come before God.
For each of us those ‘gods’ might look a little different. I know some people who value their careers above all else. Others who value relationships above all else. Others still that value money above all else. All these things are blessings from God and are not wrong in and of themselves. But what makes them wrong is when they are elevated to a status above that of God. That’s when they become idols. That’s when they become “other gods”.
I have had many other gods in my life. From the military, to contract work, to relationships I held dear. In God’s grace and mercy He has gradually revealed these things to me in much the same way intelligence professionals locate in individuals primary motivating factor, by pressure. You see its easy to give out of abundance. It’s hard to give out of lack. It’s easy to say, God is first in my life, when there is no real pressure to choose. But its hard when we’re faced with the choice and we know what His Word says, and we compromise, justify and otherwise excuse ourselves. For over 20 years I did this and it was only by God’s grace that I still walk with Him.
I sometimes wonder where I would be if I had just been obedient. If I would have just surrendered to God the sacrifice of my heart the same way Abraham did with Isaac. But instead I hung on, I excused and justified my way in my own self-righteousness. Always focused on all the good I was doing while excusing the fact that there were things in my life that took precedence before God. Things that I would absolutely compromise on to get what I wanted regardless of what God said. But God destroyed my idols, often painfully. Not because He was punishing me… but because I refused to let go.
So now I look at things differently. A year ago I felt like RBC was becoming an idol in my life. I saw it as something that was consuming my interest and was starting to take precedence before God. I remember working on our property on the tractor when this became apparent to me. I knew social media was the bedrock of all I was doing and without it RBC would likely collapse. But I couldn’t shake the feeling. So I prayed and God responded. Shut it all down… This was extremely hard for me but I can say, I trusted Him and turned off all the social media and walked away. I resolved myself to the fact that if God wanted to bless it, He would, and He didn’t need me to do it. I surrendered something that was of great value to me… and He blessed it.
After being off the grid for a couple of months, I came across a solicitation for Dave Boon Benton doing a free self defense class in my area. I figured it would be cool to go meet one of the Benghazi contractors so I went to check it out. I was surprised when he greeted me and knew exactly who I was. I was even more surprised when he encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing that there wasn’t a lot of guys out there putting out legit stuff. I turned the social media back on afterwards and within a short time I had made connections with Cecil Burch and Craig Douglas. Both guys are like celebrities in the combatives world. Both encouraged me in the same way Boon had. Shortly after, I got to attend a class with Craig and hang out with him and Fletch Fuller and both began to promote what I was doing. Shortly after I started getting requests to travel and teach and last month we sold out our first class and had to turn sign ups off.
My point is this. When we resist giving to God that which is rightfully His it demonstrates that we have an idol in our lives. That moment is the most painful thing a follower of Christ can endure because it’s the moment when our flesh and spirit go to war inside us. We know what we should do, but often times lack the strength to do it. We have two options at this point. We can be Abraham or the rich man…. We can offer to God that which we value and trust Him to give us back more than we sacrificed. Or we hoard that which we have and go away sad. I would strongly encourage you as someone who has often failed in this respect and only been preserved by God’s grace (although He stripped my idols from me), to surrender to God. Not because he needs your money, your relationships, your career or whatever your vice happens to be. But because He desires your heart and without it there is no relationship.