The Missing Ingredients
This week as we continue our study of stewardship by focusing on offerings, we are reminded of some of the reasons why we give. Using some of the biblical examples of people expressing their gratitude to Jesus, we affirm that the best motivation for giving springs from a love of God. But there are two things missing from our discussion.
In Luke 7:37-47 we read about Mary’s anointing of Jesus. Her self-sacrifice to express her love and gratitude to Jesus is an example of someone who realizes all that has been done on their behalf. To those offended by her act, Jesus made clear the motivating reason for her sacrificial offering. It was not out of a sense performing a religious requirement – it was gratitude and love.
This same story is recorded in Mathew 26:6-13, and it gives us some additional light we will use for today. The disciples, influenced by Judas, murmured that it was a waste to pour out such an expensive ointment on Jesus when they could instead sell it and give the proceeds to the poor. Judas used the poor as his cover because it was in line with the priorities expressed by Jesus.
There was no greater champion of the poor than Jesus. He left us a legacy of service to those less fortunate than ourselves. This sentiment runs like a thread throughout the Bible.
If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. Deuteronomy 15:7-8
He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor. Proverbs 22:9
Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard. Proverbs 21:13
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Isaiah 58-7-8
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21
This focus on relieving the needs of the poor and needy is one of the things missing from our discussion on offerings. In many of our churches, especially in the US, our appeals for offerings are centered on maintaining or improving our facilities. If our primary goal of offerings is to improve our comfort when we congregate in worship, we may be missing the mark on offerings.
The second item missing from our discussion of offerings is a sense of mission. In a great measure, we (myself included) have lost a sense of urgency, not only in the second-coming of Christ but in the mission given to our church.
In our local churches, we hear little about expanding God’s kingdom outside of our walls. Our emphasis in our evangelistic thrusts is usually to increase the membership in our respective churches.
Missing from our appeals for offerings is the call to take the gospel to new places and to press into new territory. Our ministers are tasked with managing existing congregations. To hear of ministers throughout our denomination whose primary job is raising up new bodies of believers is quite rare. Rare is an appeal to support the building up of new congregations in our cities. This is not a criticism; but it is a cause for concern.
As we study this quarter’s topic of stewardship we have to ask ourselves hard questions. We have to examine our lives to see if we are walking in God’s will or our own. Likewise, the church as a body must ask itself the hard questions. Are we as a body walking in God’s will or our own will and traditions.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. 2 Corinthians 13:5
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does being a cheerful giver mean to you?
- Is it true that the most important thing is to be faithful in giving even if you are not happy doing so? Explain your answer.
- How does one become a cheerful giver?
- How can the church help those in the body to become cheerful givers?
- Is it true that our offerings (not tithes) should be given exclusively to our local churches? Why do you answer yes or no?
- How, if at all, does giving to others benefit us as much as it does to those we give?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: If I give faithfully to the church that is an evidence that my heart is in the right place. Explain your answer.
We close this week’s lesson on Offerings of Gratitude with this simple Bible text that gives clarity to our relationship with money and our possessions. It’s one worth reflecting on.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.1 John 2:15-17
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!
Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons