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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving..Generosity...Offerings

I'm reading through my Bible again. I never stop reading it straight through as part of my devotional life. Right now I'm hip deep into Numbers (chapter 20). I'm trying to make sense of all the offerings: grain, sin, burnt, fellowship, wave, guilt, etc. There are a lot of offerings to keep track of! Some are based on actions and events and others based on the calendar and celebrations. Poor Aaron and his boys have to keep track of them all.
As I read the book, I sigh a familiar sigh thinking about church budgets, year end giving, the stress of what the new year budget will be. Will we make it? Do we need to make more cuts in an already thin and lean budget? And at times leadership meetings are dominated by the financial concerns. Oh this is a part of pastoring that is not fun.
But in reading Numbers, I had the insight that God does not need the offerings. God is not in need of smoke and blood, grain and oil and wine. Israel needs to learn to give. These redeemed slaves are an ornery bunch. The start complaining and worrying before they even cross the Red Sea. They can hardly go a few days without complaining. And when God solves their need, they complain about God's solution (see Manna). They do not have, by nature, a generous heart. So God teaches them how to give through the offering system.
I think it's pretty interesting that at almost every event regarding meeting with God and worship, they are instructed to bring an offering. Bringing and offering should become built in to their rhythms and customs. It should become only natural to bring and offering. Like it should be only natural when invited to a home that guests bring a gift and send a thank you.
But our culture does not do that so much. Maybe part of our Protestant/Evangelical reaction to the legalism of both Judaism and the state churches of Europe is to lean so heavily on grace and spontaneity that we've lost the custom of giving and being generous. Maybe its part of the culture of shortage and scarcity that orients us to look at what we a re getting before ever thinking about giving. Maybe its our cashless society and credit card spending (and debt load that we carry) that squeezes generous impulses out of us.
The solution? Only one I can think of is to ask God to make our hearts and lives generous. God does not need the offerings, but we need to learn to give.

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