“From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take my offering” Exodus 25:2
From time to time we hear someone say that the church is only after our money. There are religious organisations and even some churches that seem to have this mindset but it is not God’s way.
Some church leaders manipulate people to give by appealing to their need or greed. People in extreme poverty may respond to the false doctrine that says that if you give materially to God He will give materially more back. I have witnessed church leaders who are financially well off fleecing their poverty stricken flock with this lie. Greedy people may also be taken in by this false teaching.
The context of the above verse is Israel’s recent deliverance from slavery in Egypt. God demanded nothing of Israel for their deliverance. God initiated it and He performed all the miracles without any requirement from Israel. At the time of departure the Lord put it in the hearts of the Egyptians to give of their possessions to Israel. So the slaves who had very little became materially rich by God’s gracious gift.
When it came time to create a place where God could dwell among His people as a place of worship He asked the people to be involved. Several points need to be clear:
- No offering was asked for Israel’s salvation. The blood of the Lamb pictured Christ offering Himself to redeem Israel.
- This offering was only to provide a place of worship and communion not for salvation.
- The offering came from the resources that God had given Israel through the Egyptians.
- The offering was to come only from those with a willing heart. No pressure was to be applied and no promise attached to the giving other than a place to commune with God.
Only those who give out of a willing heart are able to worship Him. When we give our offerings thinking it is our duty or that God needs them, there is the potential for pride to arise in the heart (cf. Luke 18:9-14). That might make us feel good but it does not please God.
The churches in Macedonia exemplified this attitude to giving and Paul records it in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7. Out of their poverty these Christians gave beyond what they could afford out of free will. They were already saved from sin and death by God’s free gift in Christ Jesus. As an act of worship they freely gave all they could muster. Paul summed this up when he wrote, “They first gave themselves to the Lord” (v 5). God wants our hearts.
Salvation is free to us because Jesus paid the ransom price to redeem us. However, when we give ourselves to the Lord part of our worship will be by giving to Him. Not out of necessity but out of a willing heart that worships the Lord. Giving of ourselves, skills and our possessions is our response when we have received God’s gracious Gift, namely Jesus Christ. Part of our worship is our freewill offering. If it is not freewill it has not been offered to God and it is therefore not worship.