The Lord's Day Morning
November 6, 2011
“The Reasons for Giving”
1 Chronicles 29:9
The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan
If you’d take your Bibles in hand and turn with me to 1 Chronicles 29, we have been working our way through the gospel of Luke and we're going to take a break this morning to look at the passage that our Deacon's Stewardship Committee has chosen to be the theme during our stewardship season. We do that because this is a teaching moment, not because if I preach a good sermon you give more or pledge more, but because this annual time of commitment to the support of the work and worship of the church for the year to come is a teaching moment, and you’ll see even from the content of the passage that the deacon's have chosen that their emphasis is on our heart attitude in giving. Interestingly, as we were just singing, once we got down to what — about the fourth stanza? We started singing about taking my silver and my gold, but before we ever got there we were singing about taking my life. “Lord, take my life and let it be consecrated to You.” Well, that is the emphasis that the deacons want to bring to bear. They want us to ask about our hearts which we've just sung about in the final stanza, about our lives, about being consecrated in the whole to the work of the Lord and to look at our giving in that light. And so I want to ask again the question that I asked you before the service — What are the reasons that you give? Now be ready because in your head I want you to be giving me some answers after we read this text of Scripture. But before we read it, let's pray and ask for God's blessing.
Heavenly Father, this is Your Word. It is inspired. You breathed it out of Your own mouth. It is infallible. It is the inerrant, authoritative, final rule of faith and practice for all believers. It is profitable, it is edifying, it is sufficient to guide us in the living of the Christian life, so guide us in our stewardship and in our giving from Your Word and open our eyes to behold wonderful things in it. We ask in Jesus' name, amen.
This is God's Word in 1 Chronicles 29 verse 9:
“Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
So what were your answers? What are the reasons that you give? What are the reasons that you give to the church? There are many good and legitimate and Biblical answers to that question. One may be that you believe that the Bible teaches that it is the responsibility of the believer to give to the work of the Lord to support the work and worship of the church materially. And that's a good answer. I can remember earning a dollar as a seven or eight year old boy and my father giving it to me in dimes and putting those times in a stack and asking me which one of those dimes belonged to the Lord. And the right answer that I was to give, almost like a catechism, was “The first of the dimes belongs to the Lord.” And I'm appreciative of that emphasis of my father. He wanted to emphasize to me that as a member of the church I had an obligation to give to support the work and worship of the church and it wasn't the leftovers that I was to give to the Lord; it was the firsts of the blessings that the Lord had given to me that I was to give back to the Lord. And I appreciate that; I never approached that as some sort of a burdensome duty because that wasn't his attitude in giving, but he did want to emphasize that it wasn't an option for me. It was something that was a responsibility that I had as a church member and I'm thankful for that emphasis. But if that were the only emphasis or reason for giving, our reasons for giving could be imbalanced because the Bible says a lot about our reasons for giving.
Another reason you may have answered in your own mind is that you give because the church has need of the material support of its ministry. That is, if you don't give money, the church cannot pursue its mission of the gathering and perfecting of the saints. That's good old Presbyterian language. It's found even in our Book of Church Order. That is, the mission of the church is to reach out with the Gospel to evangelize the lost and so gather them into the church, and then, once having evangelized the lost, to build them up, to sanctify them, to perfect — so to gather and to perfect the saints. And the church wouldn't be able to pursue so much of what it does in the gathering and perfecting of the saints if the members of the church were not generous in their giving. And so that would be a good answer as well.
You might have answered that there are certain ministries of the church that are particularly important to you and that you take great delight in. You may be one of the people in our congregation that has a great zeal in your heart for missions and you may love the fact that our congregation supports many missionaries all around the world and you delight to give, and one of the reasons that you give is because you know this church supports missions. Or it may be that you have a particular heart for the ministry of the Day School. It may be that even in your own family life you saw young people, perhaps even your own family, come to faith in Christ because of the Day School, or because of Twin Lakes or some other ministry of the church that means something to you, and for that reason you give to the church. And all of those are legitimate in their own way.
CHRISTIAN GIVING IS A MATTER OF THE HEART
But I want to look at the passage that the deacons have chosen and I want to focus on four particular things that we learn here. And the first thing I want you to see is quite obvious. Look again at 1 Chronicles 29:9. “Then the people rejoiced because,” listen to this, “they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely.” Did you hear the emphasis? They had given willingly; with a whole heart they had offered freely. There is an emphasis on the fact that they gave because they wanted to. They gave because they desired to. They did not give under some burdensome compulsion. They actually wanted to give what they gave and this was important to David. David made it clear, as he was preparing for the building of the temple, that he wanted the people to give willingly. He wanted their attitude of heart to be one of a desire to give not, “Oh no, not another hand out that I have to put something in.” And sometimes we feel that way. You know, you’re in a restaurant and you’re getting something to eat and somebody's trying to get you to make a donation to something and you’re put in the position of having to say “No” and you didn't want to say “No.” Or maybe you’re looking something up and you’re finding out how many hidden taxes and fees there are in it and you think, “Not another tax that I have to pay!” I was looking up flight information on a particular airline flight a few weeks ago and I noticed that the taxes and fees were twice the cost of the ticket itself and I grumbled inside as to how much taxes and fees were involved in buying that ticket and I had a conversation with myself about that, complaining about it. And David doesn't want the people of God to think about that in terms of what they give to the building of the temple. He wants them to actually want to give what they are giving for the building of the temple.
And that's what Paul says about Christian giving, isn't it? He tells the Corinthians what? “Don't give grudgingly as under compulsion, but with a whole heart, give with joy. Give cheerfully because God loves a cheerful giver.” That's a principle. Christian giving is a matter of the heart and therefore it is giving that we ought to delight in and desire to give. That's very, very important. You know, in the Christian life — and by the way, that's not a contradiction of the fact that Christian giving is a responsibility. The Old Testament makes that clear but Jesus makes that clear in the New Testament. He makes it very clear to His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount that His followers will give. They will give benevolent giving to help the poor; they will give to support the work and worship of the church that He is building.
But that giving that is a responsibility is also to be giving that is desired. One of the keys to the Christian life is the understanding that we are to want to do what we ought to do. In fact, Christian freedom consists not in the fact that Christians no longer have any commands to obey, but that by the work of the Spirit in our lives, more and more we want to do what we ought to do. That is one of the key aspects of Christian freedom and some of you can identify that. There may have been areas in your life that you struggled with a long time, either wanting to do what you ought not to do or not wanting to do what you ought to do, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit you can say now where you are in the Christian life you've come to the point where you actually want to do what you ought to do. And when you get there, you’re free. You’re free from a struggle that's been going on in your heart and that's the kind of freedom that we're to have in giving. We’re to want to do what we ought to do. And that's why Christian giving is a matter of the heart. One reason that we are to give is because we want to. Our hearts are whole, we delight in the Lord, and we want to give to His work. That heart attitude is very important. You will miss the blessings that are involved in giving if that heart attitude is not there. So that's one of the reasons we give – because we want to give.
CHRISTIAN GIVING IS A PART OF OUR DISCIPLESHIP
But the second reason that we encounter in this passage you’ll actually find back in verse 5. If you look up just a few verses to 1 Chronicles 29:5 and look at the last sentence in that verse, you will also see that Christian giving is a part of our discipleship. It's a part of our consecrating ourselves to God as His follower. It's a part of our following Christ and being His disciple. In 1 Chronicles 29:5, in the middle of a section where the amounts of the gold and the silver that the people gave to the building of the temple are being listed, there's this very interesting exhortation from David. “Who then will offer willingly” — there's that language again that you find down in verse 9; they’re going to offer it willingly — “consecrating himself today to the LORD?” Now that is very interesting language. Consecration is the language used of the ordination of Old Testament priests. You’ll find it in Exodus 28:41, for instance. When an Old Testament priest was ordained, he was consecrated into the service of the Lord, indicating that everything he had — his life, his gifts, his skills, his competency — all were to be devoted to the Lord. But in the Old Testament, the only people who could be priests were of the tribe of Levi, so not everyone in the Old Testament could be consecrated to be a priest. But here, David speaks of those who are giving to the temple as offering willingly and consecrating themselves to the Lord. It's almost an Old Testament version of the priesthood of all believers. He's saying, “When you give willingly to the building of this temple, it is as if you are consecrating yourself to the Lord. You’re going to serve as His priests.” No doubt the idea is through your giving to the building of this temple you are actually facilitating the priestly work of the priests who will actually work in this temple doing its services and administering its sacrifices and ministry.
But it's a fascinating thing that David does not say, “Consecrate your gift to the Lord,” but “When you give your gift, you are consecrating yourself.” This is very important to understand. We give because we are disciples of the Lord, and disciples of the Lord are consecrated to their Lord. They follow their Master. They follow their Master in learning, in living, and in loyalty. They follow their Master in learning in that they want to learn, they want to be taught by the Master and they want to think like the Master thinks. They want to know what the Master knows. They want to believe what the Master believes. They want to live like the Master tells them to live and they want to be loyal to the Master as most important to them in this world. That's what it is to be consecrated into the service of the Master. That's what it is to be a disciple. And giving is a part of that discipleship. And we've already sung about it today. You sang, “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to You.” You used the language of 1 Chronicles 29 verse 5 when you were singing just a few minutes ago. And we sing that hymn often and we don't think about what we're saying. And it's a very, very Biblical idea.
Turn with me to Romans chapter 12 verse 1. We could turn to lots of passages but there's not one in the New Testament that's clearer than this one. What does Paul say in Romans 12:1? “I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies, a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” In Old Testament worship, what did you do? You brought a sacrifice. What is Paul saying to believers? Believers worship by offering themselves to God as living sacrifices. We’re offering our lives to the Lord in consecrating ourselves into His service.
Very often at communion we sing, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and I love the stanza, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” That stanza is speaking of self-consecration to the Lord. It's saying, “Lord, Your Gospel is so great, Your grace to me is so great, that the only way I can respond to that is to give myself back to You. If I owned all the stuff in the world, that wouldn't be enough to give to You. I have to give myself, my all, to You.” That's the kind of consecration that 1 Chronicles 29:5 and Romans 12:1 are talking about and our giving is a part of that discipleship. Understand that when we give, that giving is a token that reminds us that the whole of our life, the whole of our heart, the whole of our self, is consecrated to God. That's worth thinking about. It's worth thinking about when we give our tithes and offerings during the course of a worship service on a weekly basis to think, “Lord, this gift is a token of the fact that I'm Your disciple and all of me belongs to You. I give all of me to You. And the little that I'm giving here in my offering represents that I've given all of me to You by grace. In response to what You've done for me, I give myself to You. I'm consecrated to You.” And so Christian giving is a part of discipleship. We give because we are disciples.
CHRISTIAN GIVING IS A PART OF BEING A STEWARD
But we also give because we're stewards and that comes out in verse 14. If you’d look down just a few verses from verse 9 to 1 Chronicles 29 verse 14, you’ll see this phrase at the end of the verse. It's the last sentence in verse 14. “For all things come from Thee, and from Thy hand we have given Thee.” In other words, David is saying, “Everything that we gave to build the temple came from You in the first place, God. It belongs to You. So everything that we have to give is already what You've given to us. Therefore, we are only giving You what already belongs to You.” “We give You but Your own” — we're going to sing that. The idea behind that is, everything that we have, we have as a stewardship from God. Now that doesn't just refer to the money that we give to the church. Sometimes we think stewardship campaign and we think, “That has to do with the church.” But stewardship has to do with the way you use everything that God has given you because everything that you have is a stewardship from Him. But what we do give to the church we give just like we take care of everything else we have, as stewards, because that is what God has made us to be. Christian giving is a part of being a steward, so one of the reasons that we give is because we're stewards. And surely one of the things that a good steward would do would be to use the stewardship that the Lord has given to him or her to support the mission that the Lord has established in this world.
CHRISTIAN GIVING BRINGS US JOY
And Christian giving is a part of what brings us joy, and that's the fourth thing that I want you to see from this passage. We give, not only because we want to, we give not only because we're disciples, we give not only because we are stewards, we give because it is an important part of the joy that God wants us to experience. Look at the first and the last parts of 1 Chronicles 29:9. It begins by saying, “Then the people rejoiced.” Why? “Because they had given willingly.” The result of their free, willing, giving was that they rejoiced. And at the end of the verse we're told that “David the king also rejoiced greatly.” In other words, their giving resulting in rejoicing. They delighted and rejoiced in the giving that they had done. They counted it a joy and privilege to give to the building of the temple, and therefore they rejoiced having given. And our giving is intended to bring and to be a part of the joy that God intends for us. Jesus came that our joy might be made complete, and part of the joy that God intends for us is in our giving.
Look down at verse 14 again. We read the last part of that verse but look at the first part. David says, “Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer as generously as this?” In other words, David, upon reflecting about all that had been given to the temple, says, “Lord, who are we that we should have had the privilege and joy of being able to give to the building of Your temple?” And of course the answer is, there's nothing in them that made them deserving of that joy and privilege, but David was struck at the privilege that they had had to be able to give to the building of the temple of the Lord. And you know, that's how a believer looks at her, at his, giving.
After the service today, I was talking to a friend who said, “You know, I was reflecting today that in fifty years I've never ever regretted what I gave to the work of the church.” He said, “Every once in a while I regret that I haven't given more, but I've never ever regretted what I gave to the church.” And when he said that, I started thinking about all the things that I've spent money on over the last fifty years, or almost fifty years, that I do regret. You know, things that you've spent money on that just haven't panned out. And then I started thinking that too, I've never ever regretted what I've given to the Lord, and the joy that has come with giving. I have to tell you, that joy was probably not the main thing that I was experiencing in the early years of giving to the church, but I can tell you that in the last two decades that giving to the church has been one of the things that I have gotten most joy from. Why? Well it shouldn't surprise us. What does the Bible say? “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That is, there is a special blessing, there is a holy happiness, that is experienced in giving that is better than even receiving the help and the aid of others. There's a special blessing in being able to give. Instead of being destitute and impoverished and unable to bless others, to have been given so much that we are able to give back, to give to God, and give to others, is a special blessing and there's a joy in it. And that's what David is reflecting on when he says, “Who are we that we should be able to give so generously?” No wonder they were rejoicing at the thought that they had been given the privilege of worshiping God in this way.
So as we give, give because you want to. And if your heart isn't delighting in giving, and if you don't have the desire for giving as the Bible speaks about, pray that by the Spirit you would be given that desire to give and that delight in giving. So we give because we want to and we give because we're disciples. Realize that disciples have consecrated the whole of themselves to the Lord and our giving is just a token of that. Give because you’re a steward. Everything that you have has come from God. And so surely, part of what has been given to you is to be used for the mission of His church. And give because it's a joy. And if you haven't been enjoying what you give, pray that the Lord, by the Holy Spirit, would give you joy so that you would “be a cheerful giver,” as Paul says to the Corinthians, because the root of that is realizing that there is a special blessing in store for those who have been given the privilege to give.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word. We pray that You would enable us to take to heart the teaching of Your Word, to desire to do that, not grudgingly or under compulsion, but willingly and freely and with a whole heart. And Lord, I pray that You would grant to the members of this congregation a special joy in what they give to You. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
Now, let's take our hymnals in hand and turn to number 432 and sing, “We Give Thee But Thine Own.”
Please be seated. As we give our tithes and offerings to the Lord as an act of worship today, let me invite you to take your pledge cards and also present them in the offering plate as it is passed by. Do that as well as an act of worship. Let's worship God now in our giving and in our commitment.
Would you please rise for the benediction?
The Lord who has already so generously given to you, gives to you again this word of blessing. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.