Exodus 35:5 – “Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord contribution…. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting…. All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering.”
“Today before I begin my sermon, I’m going to ask you all to do something with your offerings that you may not believe. After a thorough review of all our ministries, the elders have determined that we have plenty of space to expand and grow in our ministry and worship facilities for the next 20 years. All the carpet is new. The walls have fresh paint. All the church’s mechanical systems are new. The parking lot is freshly paved, and the building has recently been re-roofed. We are fully staffed; we have all the pastors we need, their ministries have more resources than they can spend, and they are all overpaid. Our vision to sponsor every child in Haiti, Kenya, and El Salvador is now a reality. There are no hungry or homeless people in our county, and we have planted churches in every major city of the world. In light of all these realities, I’m announcing today that until further notice we will not be accepting any more tithes or offerings. You’ve got it right. We want you to stop giving. We have too much money for the work God has called us to.” SAID NO PASTOR, EVER!
In a previous day’s devotion, we talked about the cost of doing ministry
, and noted that the more money you have, the more ministry you can do. Because this is true, I have never met a preaching pastor who is not aware of the expenses associated with ministry and the need for the gifts of God’s people to pay for them. I’m certain there will never be a time (until Jesus returns!) when our church’s tithes and offerings are no longer needed because the work of God has been completed. But the context of today’s verses actually tell of a time when a congregation gave so abundantly they were told to stop giving. Exodus 36: 5 & 6 summarizes it this way: “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do. So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp ‘Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.’ So the people were restrained from bringing (emphasis mine) .”
The contributions referred to in this instance in Jewish history were for the construction of the worship tent referred to as the Tabernacle. This dwelling, along with its courtyard, would be the place the Lord would dwell, his presence represented by a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud. It would be located in the exact middle of the Israelite camp, so symbolically and in reality it would be the center of all worship and worship experiences. In light of this, God gave Moses exacting specifications for everything from the dimensions of the tent to the design of every piece of furniture to the bells and pomegranates decorating the hem of the High Priest’s robe. God also chose, inspired, gifted, and called the two men who would be the lead craftsmen and designers for this project. Everything was in place except for the materials needed to construct such a worship facility. So Moses took up an offering. This was not just any offering --- it was a campaign of donations for the Tabernacle that involved every man and woman of the people of Israel. They worshiped by excessive giving and their actions show us how we, too, can worship like this. What made these people give until they were told to stop?
They gave because of a heart condition.
I wonder if Moses did what many church leaders have done when proposing a building campaign. Did he host manna banquets and talk to people leader by leader, tent by tent, and tribe by tribe? Did he give a rousing speech about how God was doing a great work with them and through them for his purpose? Did he share salvation stories from the camp or remind them of how God had helped them in the past? We don’t have any record of such tactics, but whatever he did, the people were moved. They were moved on the inside. They all had a heart condition that caused them to give like this. This offering required people with “generous hearts” (v. 5). This Old Testament outpouring of resources was from people whose hearts had stirred them (v. 21). These contributions came from “willing” hearts (v. 22).
What is your heart condition today? Are you excited about your church and the way God has used it to save you, grow you, and give you hope through Jesus? Are you moved by the way your congregation nurtures, raises, and matures future generations by ministering to the children and youth? Does your spirit stir within you when you see someone profess faith in Christ and be baptized? Do you have a generous heart? Are you convinced that the vision and mission of your church is advancing the kingdom of the king you serve? The kind of excessive giving we’re talking about begins with this internal movement of the spirit within. Give as you have been inspired.
They all gave something.
Our verses for today, along with the entire account of this offering in Exodus 35, are filled with all-inclusive descriptions of who gave: “everyone,” “every man,” “all the women,” “they all” brought some kind of contribution. Some brought olive oil, others brought gold, and still others brought handmade linen. But whatever the contribution, when the Tabernacle was finished, they could all worship there knowing that each of them had an investment in this great work. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about most American churches.
The often-repeated 80/20 church giving ratio that I’ve heard all my life remains true. This giving statistic reveals that in most congregations, twenty percent of the members give eighty percent of the finances to fund the ministries of the church. Two questions come to mind as I consider this fact. How much work could be done in Jesus’ name if 100 percent of God’s people contributed generously all the time? How much joy are people missing out on when they see the miraculous, life-changing, eternal work of the kingdom and know that they didn’t contribute anything to it?
Yes, I’m a dreamer, but I pray that this study will help us become a people who are so moved by the work of God that we all give, all we can, all the time until we have given so much we are told to stop. May God make us into a congregation who worship through excessive giving.
Pastor Mike Baker