Giving Back to the Giver
Some time ago, some of the staff at our church decided to put stickers on everything in the building, announcing that it was “Property of Parkside Church.” Initially, I wondered if we really expected that someone wanting to steal a garbage can would turn it over, read the sticker, and suddenly decide to return it. It seemed like a fairly pointless exercise. I soon discovered, though, that I actually quite enjoyed turning things upside down and looking at these little stickers declaring, “This belongs to the church”!
Reminders of God’s ownership and gracious provision echo throughout Scripture. When King David was involved in making plans for the temple, he pointed to God’s providence with clarity and humility; he knew that as created beings in a created world, we can only give to our Creator what we have already been given by our Creator. In the New Testament, too, the apostle Paul writes, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
David’s words were not a new insight for God’s people. Generations before, when the Israelites were preparing to build the tabernacle, Moses had instructed the Israelites, “Take from among you a contribution to the LORD” (Exodus 35:5). What did they have among them? Only what the Creator had provided. Only what the Redeemer had granted them in their exodus from Egypt (12:35-36). Only what the Sustainer of their lives had made possible for them to do (35:30-35).
As with the church property that has now been labeled, we might say that everything we have—indeed, everything in creation—is stamped with the seal of God’s possession. Abraham Kuyper, an influential theologian who also served as prime minister of the Netherlands at the beginning of the 20th century, said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
This viewpoint is vastly different from that of our contemporary culture, which tends toward two false notions: either that we are self-made people or that everything in the earth, including ourselves, is god. Not so, says the Bible: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).
God is calling us to walk in humility as we remember that all we have comes from Him. Our very lives should proclaim, “I belong to God!” There is nothing you can offer to God that isn’t already in His possession. So give willingly and generously—money, time, talent—as God directs you, in response to His grace.
Encouragement to Give Generously
1We want you to know, brothers,1 about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4begging us earnestly for the favor2 of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you3—see that you excel in this act of grace also.
8I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”
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