Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stop Giving!

Have you ever heard the command to stop giving in church? Have you ever heard the minister or pastor or elders say, we've got enough now, you don't need to bring any more? Probably not! Yet as Israel camped in the wilderness of Sin, at the foot of Mount Sinai, having escaped from Egypt, that was precisely the command of Moses.

Moses, you may recall, went up to meet with God and was given the Ten Commandments, the Law and all those things. As well, he was given the plans for the Tabernacle, the tent of meeting, the visible sign of God's presence in the midst of his people as they journey towards the Promised Land. Everything is to be made according to this pattern, and if you're not crafty, as I'm not (at least in the making things craft sense), then the descriptions of curtains and poles and altars and poles and cherubim and lampstands and rings and hangings and hooks and pegs and (my personal favourite) calyxes.

To make all these things (an early church building project, if you will), there was a need for gold and linen, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, acacia wood, and many other materials. So an appeal was established - a Gift Day of sorts:

Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, "This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD's contribution: gold, silver and bronze; blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats' hair, tanned rams' skins, and goatskins; acacia wood, oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, and onyx stones and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. (Exodus 35:4-9)

Quite a list of different things that were needed. Yet within a few verses, people are coming with their freewill offering, bringing the needed materials to Bezalel and Oholiab, the skilled craftsmen, such that eventually, they have to tell Moses:

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." (Exodus 36:5-6)

The people who had experienced the salvation of God, the liberation from slavery in Egypt had their hearts opened to respond in grateful thanksgiving. Much better than their giving gold earrings to make the sinful golden calf idol a few chapters before. So how do we reach the same grateful giving? Can we imagine a time when for a specific project, we have to issue a plea to stop giving?

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