Deuteronomy 26:11 And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.
Once again we have instructions that giving to God is to be a joyous occasion. It strikes me that this specifies that both the Levites, who were the religious professionals, and the “aliens,” who were the welfare recipients, were to rejoice. After all, they both were to benefit from the offerings that were given. We have trouble getting it through our heads that we give to God by giving to people. Those who receive offerings need to treat them as holy, dedicated to God, but that is their responsibility, not that of the person giving the offering. When we give to God we aren’t to do it carelessly, but neither are we to try to control what is done with it after it is out of our hands. Probably every church has people who try to control how their offerings are used. That is between the recipients and God. A fairly extreme, but not unheard of, example would be someone who wants to control what kind of car the pastor drives. If they have a car and want to give it, that’s one thing, but getting upset over the brand or model the pastor chooses to buy is another. That takes the joy out of it all the way around. We are to rejoice that we are able to give. If we put strings on our gifts, we haven’t really let go of them, and so haven’t really given them.
This is of practical importance to me as a pastor. We do have envelopes for designated offerings, which I don’t think is bad, so long as there aren’t further stipulations. It comes down to an issue of control. If we haven’t relinquished control, then we haven’t really given. There are assorted nuances to that. I remember one time my mother gave a rather valuable vase to be sold in a church bazaar, but when the people setting up the bazaar failed to recognize the value of it and priced it at $10, my mother bought it back. She didn’t want her gift to be wasted! I don’t think that violates what I’ve been talking about, because it wasn’t a matter of the use of whatever funds might have been gained from her gift, but of the valuation of it. Just yesterday I had a call from a man living in a group home for the handicapped, asking about giving to people in need. I told him what has been coming out in the readings recently, that we give to God through giving to people, and he seemed satisfied with that. It is a sign of his spiritual growth that he wants to give, even though his resources are quite limited. For myself, as one who receives offerings, I need to recognize them as holy and use them carefully. But then, I’m to be a careful steward of all the Lord places in my hands.
Father, thank You for what You’ve been saying recently through the readings. Guide me in helping the believers recognize and understand what they’re reading, so that we may grow in understanding and obedience in all areas, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!