“And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him . . .”
I have been asked a number of questions about the capital campaign over the past few weeks. Some questions have to do with the specifics of the building and the land itself, (almost all of them can be answered here). Most questions have to do with the progress of the campaign, and whether we are close to the $3.25 million goal. My answer to that question is that we have a ways to go, but I am hopeful. The reason I am hopeful is that we have had relatively few commitments so far (about 25% of the total number of families in our church), but they have been generous. If the majority of the rest of our families commit this Sunday with generosity and sacrifice, I have no doubt we will get this project cranking right quick.
I was asked one question that I want to answer here: Why ask people to walk forward and give this Sunday? What is the purpose of having families actually walk up (masked and distanced by the way!), in front of the rest of the congregation and during the livestream, to place a commitment card in a basket? The critique behind the question is worth exploring, because Jesus warned that ostentatious shows of religious-type activities – praying, fasting, serving the poor, giving – end up availing us little. Sure, we might get is a few comments like, “great job you spiritual giant, you selfless wonder-worker of good deeds;” but no commendation from the only One who matters.
Matthew 6:1-4 — “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
So, no one should come forward and put a pledge in the basket simply to garner praise from the people around them. We are doing this, in person and on the livestream, to joyfully (and if we are doing it right, with a little fear and trepidation) offer to God a sacrificial “first fruits” kind of gift. One that that says, “Money has been placed where my mouth is; I believe with my words and my resources that the mission of this church is eternally important.”
A communal commitment like this has long Biblical precedent for accomplishing much, creating joy and fostering unity. When the freed Hebrew slaves were commanded to build the Tabernacle, a massive and ornate tent for the presence of God, people responded with gusto, together.
Exodus 35:4-5,20-29 — 4 Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. 5 Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution . . .
20 Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. 23 And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. 24 Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. 25 And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. 26 All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. 27 And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, 28 and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.
This is hard to believe, but they gave so much that Moses had to tell them to knock it off.
Exodus 36:3-7 — They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, 4 so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, 5 and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” 6 So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, 7 for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.
[sidenote: if this happens Sunday, I won’t complain.]
About 450 years later, when God’s people built the Temple, they also responded with gusto, together.
1 Chronicles 29:6-9 — 6 Then the leaders of fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work. 7 They gave for the service of the house of God 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. 8 And whoever had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord, in the care of Jehiel the Gershonite. 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.
And in the effort to bless the early church in need, Paul was not afraid to ask for an offering, a call to which the Christians of Macedonia (the Philippians!) responded gladly.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 — We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
In each of these situations, separated by centuries, hearts were placed in God’s Kitchen-Aid and stirred up (if the analogy isn’t the best, you know what I mean). They were moved to give, not out of duty or because someone asked them to (those motives might have helped), but because they wanted God to be glorified and they wanted to obey Him.
And so, I am hopeful that when we make this commitment together on Sunday, the same thing will happen. May God be glorified through our generosity and our commitment to His gates-of-hell-crashing church.