‘Christ’s Love, Our Calling’ Stewardship Series – #2

September 18, 2016

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church

Sioux Falls, SD

Rev. Norman F. Seeger

 

1 Chronicles 29:1-9

Then King David said to the whole assembly:  “My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced.  The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for man but for the Lord God.  With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God — gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble — all of these in large quantities.  Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple:  three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings, for the gold work and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the craftsmen.  Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord today?”

Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly.  They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron.  Anyone who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the Lord in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite.  The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.

 

1 Chronicles 29:1-9

“God-Pleasing Gifts for God’s Work are…”

  • Personal, yet not a one-person project;
  • Generous, open-hearted, yet expected/requested;
  • Thankfully Received with appropriate praise to the Lord

 

Dear Servants of our Savior,

‘Lord God, everything in heaven & earth is yours.’  David’s subsequent prayer – as we look at our offerings for God’s gospel ministry through Good Shepherd in light of David’s gifts supporting Solomon’s construction of our Lord’s original temple in Jerusalem — leaves no question God has every right to offer us instructions for the way we manage money because our money is not really ours.  ‘Wealth & honor come from you’ David notes; then marvels, ‘Who am I, Lord; who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this?’  Whenever we bring offerings to help support God’s work, I pray we will rightly say with David, ‘Everything comes from you, Lord; we have given you only what comes from your hands.’[1 CHRON 29]

Looking at our gifts in light of David’s gift, I understand, David’s setting is a bit different from financial challenges we face today.  Building the Lord’s temple is a special project for which David gathers special gifts similar, on a much larger scale, to our ‘Growing by Grace’ project recently building an Early Childcare Center aiming to reach more families in our community with the message of the Savior, while at the same time updating our church – a little like repaving our parking lot – or the closest comparison might be building our church/school facility way out here in this expanding corner of our city some thirty-seven years ago.  Despite different circumstances, principles of Christian giving David illustrates do properly apply to regular offerings we bring to help support a planned, ongoing ministry of God’s gospel truth.

For your information as we prayerfully look at our offerings, our Church Council is currently challenged to pay ongoing costs we consistently incur in our ministry – salaries for our pastors & teachers, lights & air conditioning or heat for buildings; mission offerings helping support our high school & our synod’s gospel outreach around the world.  For a fact, we are wrestling with expenses outpacing income, as we regularly do when summer gifts, for some reason, are smaller (in total) than gifts we bring other times of the year.  We also wrestle at this time with the fact regular offerings this year are 10% less than they were at this time last year – a unique fact, since memory tells me gifts at Good Shepherd over the last thirty years have regularly exceeded gifts we offered the previous year.  None of which is a reason for me to bring a church offering.  Understand, God never asks us to bring gifts to balance a budget.  Our Lord always simply instructs us, as David notes, to bring gifts responding to gifts God first gives us – responding to the saving love our Lord Jesus first pours upon us.

What can we current gift-givers learn from David?  God-pleasing gifts for God’s work will be personal, yet not a one-person project.  Explaining, ‘My son Solomon, the one God has chosen, is young & inexperienced,’ David is not disrespecting Solomon in any way, as if he, the father, could have tackled a task too large for his son.  David, we remember, decided to build an appropriate house for the Lord when he felt it improper for him to live in a luxurious, king-sized palace while the Lord’s tabernacle is a tent.  Altering his intentions, God says David, the warrior, will not build a house where the Lord’s peace is proclaimed.  David can plan, but his son Solomon will build the temple.

Will Solomon be able to build?  David does not imply Solomon is inept, but notes no one man (younger or older) is able to build our Lord’s magnificent temple.  It will take a united effort.  ‘The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for man but for the Lord God.’  Today, building God’s Church – building Christ’s kingdom by sharing Jesus’ eternal life-giving Word — is not a one-person, not a one-pastor; not even a two-pastor task.  Paul will tell us every member, every believer must use various gifts God gives us – including the gift of giving, the gift of encouraging; the gift of teaching – for the ‘body’ of Christ to function effectively.

Funding our Lord’s work is not to be a one-person effort, but David will be personally involved, will offer personal gifts; David will not, as some souls too often seem to do, simply urge others to give generously without swiping his own credit card.  David’s gifts come two ways.  ‘With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God – gold, silver, bronze, iron & wood, as well as onyx, turquoise; all kinds of fine stone & marble’ describes what David will provide in his position as the king who allocates Israel’s resources.  David will not stop here, a point we specifically note.  ‘Besides — over & above everything I have provided for this holy temple – in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold & silver for the temple of my God.’  Gold & silver kings often set aside as a ‘rainy day fund’ to provide future needs, if they should ever be deposed, will be tapped by David for personal gifts to help build ‘my God’s’ temple.  Now, if David donates some (he does not specifically say all) of his ‘financial security blanket’ to help build the temple, what will be left to insure David’s future?  ‘My’ God will – the same God who promises to provide needs no amount of money can insure for us!  David, we notice, has no doubt the Lord will never leave him wanting because he gives God too much.

Listing personal gifts – ‘three thousand talents of gold; seven thousand talents of refined silver for the overlaying of the walls, for the gold work & the silver work; for all the work to be done by craftsmen’ – does David sound like somebody proudly boasting; possibly asking people to praise his support for the Lord’s magnificent new temple?  Or does David sound like a godly soul offering his personal example as an encouragement for other souls to also give gifts God has first given to us?  Let me ask:  If I, as your pastor, tell you what percentage of our total income my wife & I give back to God in our offerings, are you more apt to critique, to criticize our gifts, or will you be encouraged to prayerfully examine your own gifts?  Your God-pleasing gifts, of course, are not to match, exceed or undercut your pastor’s gifts.  God simply asks that all of our gifts reflect appreciation for every physical & spiritual, temporal & eternal blessing he first pours into our life.  While numbers attached to a name are not what we normally hear as our offerings are discussed, I pray we hear in David’s words a friendly Christian encourager, not a praise-seeking boaster nor a guilt-inducing, arm-twisting fund-raiser, for God-pleasing gifts are to be generous, freely given offerings.  Paul reminds us, ‘Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; whoever sows generously will also reap generously.’  Illustrating ‘generous’ gifts as ‘open-hearted’ (attitude, not amount being a most critical element), Paul instructs us, ‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’  Paul also assures souls who too easily; too often worry about what we might not have, ‘God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.’[2 COR 9]

Generous, open-hearted gifts – not given reluctantly or under compulsion – are at the same time expected; even requested.  Let me ask:  Is it a sin for a pastor to preach about money?  Is it out of line for church leaders to ask for offerings we will use to help proclaim Christ crucified but risen to redeem our souls; to acquire full & free forgiveness for every repenting sinner?  Not at all!  Not as long as leaders, following David’s example, first offer their own gifts.  Will I quickly, perhaps silently, object when somebody asks for financial gifts to help build Christ’s kingdom, not realizing I irritate the Lord by waiting to be asked instead of stepping forward to bring gifts back to God who routinely feeds us & forgives us before we pray?

Does David hesitate to invite people to serve the Lord?  No.  Promising to provide his own personal gifts, David asks, ‘Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord today?’  Is David asking craftsmen to volunteer their skills – volunteer their time & talents to help build the temple, like we did with our Early Childcare Center; like we do with opportunities to clean, to usher; to sing in a choir?  Is David asking people to contribute financially?  ‘All of the above’ is the best answer.  Without discounting possible gifts of talents or time, monetary gifts are specifically recounted:  ‘Leaders of families; officers of the tribes of Israel, commanders of thousands & of hundreds; officials in charge of the king’s work give willingly toward the work on the temple.’  As with David’s personal gifts, amounts offered are staggering, allowing the Lord’s temple to be built debt-free; allowing us to observe a final truth about our offerings today…

God-pleasing gifts supporting God’s work are received thankfully, with appropriate praises offered to the Lord.  Sinful souls too often forget to say ‘Thank You’ today, but when leaders in David’s kingdom follow his example of returning some of their God-given wealth to help fund our Lord’s temple, ‘People rejoice at the willing response of their leaders, for they give freely & wholeheartedly to the Lord.’  Note an emphasis on the attitude of the giver, not just the amount of the gift.  Note how praise runs from greater to lesser worldly figures, as well as flowing from lesser to greater:  ‘David the king also rejoices greatly.’  Notice how David’s prayer of thanks ultimately gives God the glory as ‘David praises the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, ‘Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your holy Name comes from your hand & all of it belongs to you.  I know, my God, that you test the heart & are pleased with integrity.  All these things I have given willingly & with honest intent.  Now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.  Lord God, keep these desires & thoughts in the hearts of your people forever; keep their hearts loyal to you.’[1 CHRON 29]

As we believers look at our offerings helping to fund Good Shepherd’s ministry of God’s saving truth, may the Lord lead us 1) to personally bring those generous, willing gifts our Lord expects & enables, 2) to also thank & praise the Lord for gifts his people do give, focusing on the ‘full’ rather than the ‘empty’ half of the glass; 3) to pray the Lord will keep leading his people to faithfully use whatever money God gives us to manage, applying our Lord’s instructions to ’sow generously,’ knowing we will then continue to ‘reap generously.’

Amen.