Enough is Enough
1 Chronicles 29:14-18
Pastor & Christian leader Gordon MacDonald shared the following story about how God transformed him from “giving as merely an institutional obligation” to a cheerful giver: “The process began when my wife, Gail, and I made a missions trip to West Africa. On the first Sunday of our visit, we joined a large crowd of desperately poor Christians for worship. As we neared the church, I noticed that almost every person was carrying something. Some hoisted cages of noisy chickens, others carried baskets of yams, and still others toted bags of eggs or bowls of cassava paste. “Why are they bringing all that stuff?” I asked one of our hosts. “Watch!” she said. Almost every person in that African congregation brought something. Soon after the worship began, the moment came when everyone stood and poured into the aisles, singing, clapping, even shouting. The people began moving forward, each in turn bringing whatever he had brought to a space in the front. Then I got it. This was West African offering time. The chickens would help others get a tiny farm business started. The yams and the eggs given could be sold in the marketplace to help the needy. The cassava paste would guarantee that someone who was hungry could eat. I was captivated. I’d never seen a joyful offering before. Obviously, my keep-money-under-the-radar policy would not have worked in that West African church. Those African believers, although they never knew it, had moved me. I began to understand that giving—whether yams or dollars—was not an option for Christ-followers. Rather it was an indication of the direction and the tenor of one’s whole life.[i]
In a moment, the rest of the board of elders will join me up here to share with you a snapshot of how we are doing as a church and the direction we have sensed God leading us as we move forward as a congregation. Some of you might remember that we held a congregational meeting after worship back in the early spring to share some of the things we were looking at regarding this facility especially, and we’ve looked more closely at some of the more pressing matters and have incorporated some of the concerns you shared with us as well. Then, after we share we’ll be receiving communion together as a congregation and then concluding the service and moving out into the lobby for the pancake breakfast. But before we do all of that, I want to look just briefly at a passage in the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles. David is near the end of his reign as king of Israel. He has defeated Israel’s enemies and established Israel’s borders, built cities, and established a booming economy. His desire was to build a magnificent temple in which God would be worshipped in the capital city of Jerusalem, but God had used David as a warrior to defend his people and establish for them a place in this world, and so God refused to allow David to build his temple. We each have our role to play, and David’s would be to build the house of Israel, but not the house of God. His son, Solomon, would do that. But before David appointed Solomon as his rightful successor and then died, he received a massive collection from the people in order to supply Solomon with all he would need to build the Temple. David started by giving sacrificially himself, and then the rest of Israel followed his example and gave from what God had given to them. Some gave much, some gave little, but all sacrificed greatly. And the Chronicler tells us that “the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD” (1 Chron. 29:9). And then in 1 Chronicles 29:11-14, David prays over the assembled offering, dedicating it to God. Let’s read this passage.
You know, in our culture, we tend to get uncomfortable when people start talking about money in church. We view money as a private matter, something between us and God, and we’d just as soon that the pastor and other church leaders not bring up things like being a good steward of what God has given us and giving with willing, generous, joy-filled hearts, and we certainly don’t want to hear sermons about tithing. Unfortunately, Jesus refuses to stay in the boxes we try to stuff him in. Do you realize that outside of his number one topic, the Kingdom of God, Jesus talked more about money than anything else? Sixteen of his 38 parables dealt with how to handle money and possessions. And while the Bible has 500 verses dedicated to prayer, and another 500 verses on faith, it has over 2,000 verses on money and possessions! And Jesus said that our attitude toward our possessions, toward money, is the leading indicator of the state of our souls. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also: (Luke 12:34). So if we’re going to be at all faithful to the Word of God, to the teaching of Jesus, we should talk about money in church. Jesus isn’t as concerned with our comfort as he is with our willingness and ability to follow him and place our faith and trust in him.
So let me draw just a couple of principles out of this passage. The first is that we can learn to give with willing hearts. The people didn’t have to be cajoled or guilted into giving. David didn’t have to twist their arms, any more than someone had to twist his. From the person who gave the most to the person who gave the least, they all gave willingly. They were honored to present their gifts of gold and silver and bronze and other items to build the house of God. The writer tells us that the people rejoiced, they celebrated, because they had given willingly. No one was prying anything from anyone’s hands. We can give with glad hearts.
And we can give with joy, with gladness, willingly, when we recognize that all that we have really belongs to God. Look at Vv. 14 and 16. If I think that what I have, whether it be much or little, is MINE, I got it, and it’s for ME to do with as I please, what little I do give will be given out of a sense of duty, not love and joy. But when I really recognize that all that I have comes from God, and ultimately belongs to God, for God to do with as he wishes, that I am a caretaker, a steward, to use an older term, then I can give with joy and freedom because I know that it’s all God’s anyway, and he’s asking me to use some of it in a specific way.
I think the reason many of us, and I include myself in this, have a hard time giving generously and joyously is that we have a theology of scarcity, of lack, rather than abundance. If there is only so much to go around, I’d better get, and keep, as much as I can, because if I don’t, my family and I might not have enough. But in the Kingdom of God, where I must acknowledge that all that I have comes from and belongs to God, I have a theology of abundance, because in the Kingdom of God, somehow we always have what we need when we need it. Not more. But not less. Whether we are a church of 20 or 200 or 2,000, God will give us what we need and who we need to be the people of God and do the work of God today. And tomorrow, we’ll have what we need for tomorrow.
Think about the Israelites wandering in the desert wilderness. They complained because they didn’t have enough food. They wandering itself was discipline from God for their lack of patience and faith. But they wanted their discipline to be more comfortable, and so they complained. Talk about brats. But God provided for them. Manna from heaven. A bread like substance that they found on the ground every day. And there was always enough for everyone to have enough. But you couldn’t hoard. If you took more than what you and your family really needed, the rest rotted before the next day. Always enough. Never too much. Truth be told, God entrusts some with more than others. Wealth itself isn’t sinful. Wealth is a good thing. When we’re wealthy, and by this world’s standards we all are, and yet live frugally ourselves, we are free to be generous in meeting the needs of others. And we do that by creating margin in our lives. You know what margin is? The blank space on the edge of a page? It’s the margin that makes the rest of the book readable. And we need margin in our lives in two areas. We need margin in our finances. If we’re not frugal, always living at or beyond our means, we cannot give with willing, generous hearts. We aren’t being good stewards of what God has given us. It is when we live within our means that generosity becomes possible. And we need margin in our time. Most of us live with as little margin here as we do financially. It’s okay to say “No” to requests for commitment of time sometimes to keep time free to bless others with a listening ear, which leads to a helping hand. It is when enough becomes enough that we are free to bless others.
May we be a people who rejoice, for we give with willing generous hearts, recognizing that all we have belongs to God, and we are the caretakers of what he has entrusted to us.
[i] Gordon MacDonald, “Transforming Scrooge,” Leadership Journal (Summer 2013)