GIVE TILL IT HURTS?

In the days of my childhood, i recall the minister preaching about giving our money, time and talents to the Lord and His Church.  One of the phrases that he repeated was that we were to give to the Lord “until it hurts”. 

I suspect that the scripture he was using for this thought was Jesus’ comparison of the rich men giving to the temple treasury with that of the widow.   Read Luke 21:1-4. In short, the rich were giving out of their abundance while the widow, in her poverty, gave all that she had.  Giving to the Lord did not “hurt” the rich men but it cost the poor widow everything.  

But, does scripture require us to hurt when we give to the Lord?  I don’t think so.

In 1 Chronicles 29 we read of the freewill offerings that the Israelites provided to the house of God.  The figures of their gifts that we find recorded for us to consider are truly staggering.  In verse 7 we read that they gave 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze and 100,000 talents of iron.

I am not an accountant nor am I a math whiz, but research tells me that these figures equate to approximately 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze and 3,750 tons of iron.  (See the New Living Translation for these figures)  And this does not even consider the precious stones that were given to the treasury of the house of the Lord.  

When God created our world, He did not skimp.  He did not say “they are going to sin and cause heartache for me so I’ll give them a dump to live in, that’s all they deserve!  They are going to mess up my creation anyway, so they don’t deserve to have my beauty around them.” 

That’s not the way of our God. He created a beautiful world full of abundance and reflective of His glory even though it is now marred by man’s sin.  

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Snow-capped Grand Tetons 
Ocean verticle sun going down
Sunset over the ocean.
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Frozen Head State Park, Morgan County, Tennessee.
Yosemite 2011 WRM 095 Overlook of Kings Canyon National Park (C)
King’s Canyon National Park Overlook, California
Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

David said it this way:

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.  He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Psalm 33:6-8 

God displayed His incredible beauty, power, majesty and glory through His creation which He provided to us.  We should stand in awe of our God, because He is the Almighty, the one true God.  Of course, God’s display of His beauty in our world does not even begin to encompass what God has provided us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  God’s steadfast love, mercy and grace is abundantly evident in Christ’s atoning death on the cross.  

God gave us His Son to satisfy the judgment of death that sin brought to us.  Praise God that Jesus rose from the dead and now intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  There is nothing that we can do to earn salvation.  We are sinful creatures and have no good within us.  Even our best is equivalent to filthy rags in God’s eyes.  So we have no ability to bridge the gap between sinful man and a holy God.  Through Christ’s death and resurrection, He provides us with His righteousness. 

This righteousness is a gift from God. We can do nothing to earn it.  But, what is it worth?  What would you pay for it if you could do so?  In thankfulness, give God your life, your plans, your dreams, your abundance.  Love Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and then love your neighbor as yourself.  Obedience to God is the sacrifice that He desires.   

Of all people, we as Christians should be honoring the Lord daily, giving thanks to Him for this great gift of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, and glorifying God by obeying His word.  Give until it hurts?  No.  Give to Him in praise and thanksgiving, with joy and gladness.   

Going back to 1 Chronicles and the gifts that the people gave to the house of the Lord, what I find beautiful is not the amount or weight of their gifts, but the fact that they rejoiced in their giving.   Here is the record in 1 Chronicles 29:9-13:

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.  Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever.  Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.  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.””

Be like the Israelites of old. They they didn’t grouse about how poor they were!  They rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD.  

When was the last time you rejoiced in your giving?  When was the last time you gave with a whole heart offering your resources, time and energies freely to the Lord?   When was the last time you rejoiced in being of service to the King of King, the Lord of Lords, and the Redeemer of your soul? 

Give until you hurt?  No.  Give until your giving reflects your thanks to the Lord for all that He has done for you through Christ as well as on a day-to-day basis. 

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Eruption of White Cone Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

Give willingly and freely.  Give obediently and rejoice in the Lord.  Let your thanks erupt into giving from a full heart devoted to our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I praise Your name for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord and my Redeemer.  Forgive me when my giving has been skimpy and unfeeling, when I cared more for what I wanted to do with my money than what I could give to You in thanksgiving for all that You have given me.  May I rejoice in Your steadfast love and may that find expression through joyful giving with a thankful heart.  

The Giant Sequoia, Cicada, and Me

Several years ago, an experience and a news story prompted me to start thinking.  First, the experience.  This was an incredible trip out West where my husband and I had the opportunity to visit the Yosemite National Park, Giant Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon.

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Kings Canyon National Park.

The scenery was jaw‐dropping.

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We walked 1/2 mile to an overlook and emerged out from the wooded mountainside to see this incredible vista.

For this story though, the majesty of the scenery takes a back seat to the Giant Sequoia Trees.  These trees are beautiful and to say they are tall would be an insult … they are huge … no, they are gargantuan!

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Giant Sequoia Trees in the Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park. So tall that their branches begin at a height the other trees can only begin to reach.

While no one really knows how old the trees are, the National Park Service says that it is estimated that the Giant Sequoia Trees are between 1800 and 2700 years old.  Some of the trees have even been given names of states, presidents and influential people in our country’s history.

In 2002 the National Park Service measured the trees and found, for example, that the tree named General Sherman is 274 feet in height and 102 feet in circumference.  The tree named General Grant is 268 feet tall and 107 feet in circumference.  The tree named Washington was 254 feet high and 101 feet in circumference.

Now to the news story. The headline was something like “17 years in the making” [not an exact quote].  The article discussed the upcoming, expected cicada invasion.

Cicada
Cicada

Now, if you don’t know what a periodical cicada is, you might not think this is a big deal, but the word “invasion” might tip you off to the significance of this event.  Those of us who have experienced these bugs in person know that they are hard to ignore.  [How do you miss tens of millions of grasshopper‐looking, flying, chirping insects whose collective sounds, magnified by the sheer incredible number of them, sounds like a very loud hum?  That’s not really a question that needs an answer!]

I know that as a species, the cicadas have been around for millennia.  While I do not do this (yuck), many people in our world eat cicadas as a source of protein and calcium (I shiver as I write this!).  Further, records show that they were eaten in Ancient Greece, China, Malaysia, Burma, and Latin America.  (By the way, female cicadas are considered to be meatier than their male counterparts! Who knew?) And cicada shells are not uncommonly used in Chinese traditional medicines. (Shiver!)

The periodical cicada’s life can be summarized by the statement that it lives underground sucking on tree roots for 17 years, emerges and mates for 4 to 6 weeks and then dies … all of the cicadas doing this at essentially the same time.  The female lays her eggs in tree limbs from which, after hatching, the future cicada drops to the ground, and burrows into the dirt where, during the next 17 years it matures and then emerges to do this ritual all over again.

What do the cicadas have to do with me, other than that I can’t stand the sight, sound or thought of gazillions of cicadas dive‐bombing me when I am outside?   In short, they don’t have much to do with me at all, personally.  They are outside and I am inside when they are around!

But, when I considered the comparative difference between the giant sequoia trees and the cicadas, I was prompted to think about all of God’s creation, including me.  Although the species has survived for millennia, why are these insects so short‐lived while the Giant Sequoia Trees have grown and survived for over 15 centuries — and where do I fit in?

God created all of us, you and me as well as the sequoia and cicadas and we each have our own specific God‐given role in this world.  I am much more like the cicada than the sequoia in terms of life‐span.  If I survive to 100 it will be a miracle, but the sequoia tree is not even out of its proverbial diapers at that point in time; whereas the cicada will have had almost 6 generations when I reach 100 years of age.

In the book of Genesis, we read:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26-28.

On the basis of creation’s history in Genesis, I can affirmatively assert that I am different, unique, separate, from the sequoia and cicada because God said so.  Mankind is viewed by God as being the paramount creature in the creation story — we were created in God’s image, something that does not apply to any other creature.  And, God said that we are to have dominion over all the rest of creation, because that is how God ordained it to be.

Of course, we know that Adam sinned and we are not in the same state of grace that applied at the time of creation.  But the sin of humankind does not reduce or eliminate the sovereignty of God.

The Psalmist says that we are to measure our days because they are numbered by God.  (Psalm 39:4‐5) God’s sovereignty even extends to His knowledge of how long each of us will live.  Each of us has a specific purpose that God has ordained, and we will only find our true happiness, comfort and peace in God when we fulfill that purpose.

We are told in Scripture that He has given His Son’s life as an atoning sacrifice for us … not for the cicadas or sequoia.   We can be assured that we are of infinitely more value to God than either the Giant Sequoia Tree or the cicada because, as a result of His grace and Christ’s death and resurrection, God has made a way for believers in Christ to be with Him for eternity!

Praise Him.  And may I use the days that He has granted to me for His glory.

Father, I praise You for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, your Son and my Savior.  I praise You for the gift of life and for your sustaining presence, grace and mercy towards us.  I pray that You would conform me to the image of your Son so that I would glorify You.