Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.
(1 Chronicles 29:12-14)
We are a funny people, aren’t we?
Just the other day, my 12-year-old was telling me that she remembers giving me a dollar for my birthday one year when she was very small. In her young mind, she was giving me a tremendous gift; one that she was very excited to bestow. Of course, the dollar had likely been a gift from my husband and I in the first place, but the heart behind it was precious.
When it comes to giving to our God, I know He wishes our hearts were just as eager.
Sacrificial giving is nothing new. In the Old Covenant days of Levitical worship at the temple, the people of Israel were instructed to make several types of sacrifices from their flocks, first fruits, and so forth. Some of these were offered as peace offerings, others for sin offerings, and still others were offerings for cleansing or purification, to name just a few.
Now, under the New Covenant, animal sacrifices are no longer practiced – which is something of a relief, because the currency of today is no longer measured in multiples of four feet or by the bushel. Tithes and offerings are the non-agrarian equivalent, I suppose.
In my own case, although I manage the bill paying and writing of checks for our family, I do not currently earn an income. Let’s just say that you are unlikely to find “homeschooling” on a list of get-rich-quick schemes, so I cannot really speak to turning over ten percent of my own hard-earned cash.
However, the thing I find I am often required to sacrifice is time: time spent visiting or praying with someone who needs encouragement, time spent preparing to facilitate and host our small group, time spent for the sake of my kids… most of my own “sacrifices” fall into this category.
And this is why we are a funny people…
Thinking about tithing and sacrifice recently, I realized that in every single case – from the days of the Old Covenant to my own days of forfeiting a career in order to homeschool- not a single hoof, second, or nickel has ever been offered to God that was not first His gift to us!
To put it another way, when our family tithes, we are not really giving up ten percent of our income: we are giving God back ten percent of what He gave us.
I guess it kind of makes me laugh at myself. I have nothing to offer God. Nothing whatsoever. Time, money, talent, ability – all of it come from Him in the first place, so it is not possible to truly sacrifice, because there is nothing that truly belongs to me. All I can do is offer a portion of His own gifts back to Him.
When I think of it that way, it is much easier to be a cheerful giver!
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(2 Corinthians 9:6-7)