Now, there's something we don't hear nowadays, huh? When was the last time your pastor stood in the pulpit and proclaimed, "Now, I'm going to have to ask each of you to stop putting so much money in the offering because it's simply too much, and we don't know what to do with all of it"? Or how about "It's great to have so many volunteers to help with this church project, but to be honest, there are just way too many here, so I'm going to ask two-thirds of you to go home"? Or maybe "I've had to plan out our singing schedule clear into next year because we have so many willing to share their musical talents with us"? It doesn't happen, or at least not anywhere that I've heard of. How about you?
On the contrary, most of our churches are barely scraping by. There aren't enough funds to pay the bills, let alone start new projects. The only volunteers are those that seem to wear so many hats, they're growing weary and burning out. And as for sharing talents, well, it's easy to think that we have nothing to share as long as someone else can fill the position. And so, we hold back.
We hold back our tithes because just like the church, we're barely scraping by and a quick glance at the checkbook tells us that if we pay the tithe this week, there won't be enough money to pay the power bill. Surely God doesn't want us living in the dark, so He'll understand. We'll make it up next week. Unfortunately, next week brings about the same plight, and we find ourselves holding back once again.
We also hold back our time. I mean, seriously, there is so much to do, who has time to get it all done? Just meeting the needs of our own individual households takes up a huge chunk of time, so where are we supposed to find time to read our Bibles, pray, visit the sick, bake cookies for the shut-ins, help out at the church work day or even have lunch with a friend? There just isn't time for it all, so we hold back, making sure we conserve enough time and energy to meet our own needs.
And then we hold back our talents. After all, the use of talents is risky and takes a concentrated effort. It also usually takes time and practice, two things that are in short supply. Besides, Sister Solo sings much better than I do anyway, so I'll just let her occupy three weeks on the singing schedule. But what if Sister Solo needs a break? What if she begins to think the same way I do? Then what happens to the singing schedule?
It's bad enough that we hold back our tithes, time and talents from our family, friends and church, but the sad part is that we hold back from God too. Somehow, in the midst of our warped thinking, we've gotten the idea that we have to take care of ourselves first and foremost, then if there's anything left over, we'll give it to God and others. But that's not how it works. God said that if we'll give to Him and then to others, there will be plenty left over for us. Could it be that so many of us are struggling because we have our order of giving out of whack? Could it also be that our attitudes about giving are warped as well?
And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the Lord. - Exodus 35:21-22
Oh, wow! Did you catch that? The men and women were willing hearted. Their hearts were stirred up to give of themselves. They were more focused on others than they were on themselves, and such an attitude brought abundance, not only to the work but also to the people who gave. God rewarded their generosity and willingness to give, and He will do the same for us. It's time to stop holding back. God deserves our all, and it's not only our responsibility, but also our privilege to give. So, let's get busy!
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. - Luke 6:38