You know how it feels when you get more than you were expecting – more than you were hoping for.
Illustrations - New car mileage more than promised / server at Baskin Robbins scoops a huge scoop of ice cream
There’s just something that takes place inside of us when we experience “much more” – this wonderful combination of joy and appreciation and loyalty. It inspires us!
Now, imagine that feeling – on steroids, industrial strength. That’s what you get when you start thinking about the way God gives. God is the God of “much more.” His blessings are “pressed down, shaken together and running over.” His gifts are “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” When you start counting your many blessings, you realize pretty quickly that God specializes in more than enough.
It was an amazing time in the life of Israel. After 400 years in captivity, ten plagues and one long night of death later, they are free. They had fled Egypt and seen God deliver them from the Egyptian army by parting the water of the Red Sea and leading them across on dry land. He lead them by cloud during the day, by fire at night. He quenched their thirst with miraculous water (twice), and then fed them with manna and quail in the desert when they were hungry. He gave them the commandments at Mt. Sinai and then spared their lives when they rebelled against him. Now, it’s time to get down to business.
In Ex. 35:4, “Moses said to the whole Israelite community, “This is what the Lord has commanded: From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen,,,” vs. 20 “Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the Tent of Meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the Lord.”
Ex. 36:2-7 Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled craftsmen who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left their work and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the LORD commanded to be done.” Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.
I want you to notice a couple of things that are going on:
1) Vs. 5 – “everyone who is willing…” / Vs. 21 – “everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him…” / Vs. 22 – “All who were willing, men and women alike…” This isn’t being coerced or demanded. Nobody is being forced to contribute to this great work. This is a free will offering, done out of their gratitude and adoration for the Lord. It is in response to what God has already done in their lives – rescuing, delivering, providing, guiding. Everything they have and are is because of the Lord’s goodness.
2) This is a grassroots thing, not a Moses thing. Look at vs. 20 “Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence…” Moses didn’t go from tent to tent with a basket begging people to give, and scolding them for what they didn’t. The ones who were willing brought their offerings. Everyone decided for themselves what to bring.
3) This wasn’t a single day event - 36:3 “And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning.” Their motivation to give wasn’t that Moses kept getting up and whipping them with guilt or cheering them on to greater generosity. They were so carried away by the power of what God was doing among them that they kept bringing gifts and offerings. Every day, more and more, until something incredible happened.
4) Ex. 36: 4-7 When have you ever heard of people being told to quit giving because they had given too much? I want to tell you that only happens when you see people losing all sense of reality about their giving – when you see farmers selling their herds and business men cashing in their stock portfolios and widows signing over their social security checks. That’s when you step in and say, “Settle down now, don’t get so excited. It’s just the church.” It’s when people get so worked up and passionate about what God has been doing in their lives, that they lose themselves and get carried away by giving more than they can afford – more than enough.
I was trying to remember the times God has let me down. Do you want to hear my list? Hmmm. I don’t seem to remember God ever letting me down. I don’t recall being short changed or disappointed or undercut. In fact, just the opposite. I have always experienced abundance from God, blessings beyond measure – that “much more” that Jesus talked about. Now, if you’re assuming that means I grew up in a wealthy family – far from it. I didn’t know until years later how poor our family really was. If you think that means we’ve never known what it means to have too much month and too little money – we’ve known plenty of that. If you’re equating abundance with financial prosperity – you’ve missed the point completely.
We have faced some pretty lean years and some pretty severe financial setbacks during our life together. But even when we didn’t know how our bills were all going to get paid or if we could keep our car running another month we always had a sense of God’s abundance. We never doubted his goodness or his loving providence. Paul’s words became our words: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:11-13).
Thanksgiving is not a time of year, but an attitude of the heart. It is open eyes and open heart to the abundance of God’s grace. God does not operate on the principle of scrimping by. Listen to several scriptures that reveal God’s generous nature:
Matt. 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Matt. 6:28-30 “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
Matt. 7:7-11 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Matt. 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.”
2 Cor. 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
Eph. 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
John 10:10 “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
God is the God of “much more.” He is the God of the abundant life. Now, God promises that your physical needs will be met, but it’s more than that. Abundance is the way God fills our lives with joy and peace and happiness – sometimes because of the circumstances we find ourselves in – but even, at times, in spite of the circumstances in our lives.
It was a tragic misunderstanding of God when the Jews of Jesus’ day assumed that if your wallet was fat and your pantry was full that you were being blessed by God, but if you had fallen on hard times God had abandoned you, or worse, that he was punishing you. (It was that philosophy that prompted the question about the man born blind – “who sinned, this man or his parents?” And Jesus’ answer was telling – “neither… but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” Jn 9:3.)
The blessing is not that my bank account is full and my retirement investments are on the upswing. The blessing is being personally cared for by God. He feeds every bird in the air, he clothes every flower in the field, he knows the number of hairs on my head, he formed me in my mother’s womb. And he will make sure that I have everything I need. So whether that’s a lot or a little is stuff for my tax preparer to worry about. My life is abundant because it is filled by God himself – and there isn’t a line on Form 1040 for that.
Every now and then you meet someone who has grasped that – grasped the fact that abundance and wealth have nothing to do with each other. You meet them in the Bible in the oddest of places:
Matt. 12:41-44 “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
2 Cor. 8:2-3 “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
What makes people act like that? A deep sense of abundance in God – having experienced the “much more” that he promises to those who trust him.
The most miserable people I know are the folks who have plenty of money but are afraid that if they give some of it away they won’t have enough for themselves. And do you know why they’re miserable? Because their trust is back on themselves – it’s the rich fool syndrome – “my barns, my grain, my goods, myself.” And what were the final words in that parable? “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Enough is never enough. And you’re stingy when your giving to God is all about you – when what you give to the Lord is that much less you have for yourself.
Diana and I learned early on in our marriage that you don’t wait until you can afford it to start giving generously to the Lord. We were still in college when it struck us that God wanted us to give, not out of our current poverty or affluence, but in response to God’s abundance. We started giving, not what we could afford, but in relation to how God had blessed us. And we’ve done it ever since. There have been a lot of times that didn’t make a lot of fiscal sense – an accountant would have looked at our finances and said, “What do you think you’re doing?” What we have given to the Lord has always come off the top and in front of our other obligations.
I want to challenge every individual and every family to sit down in the coming weeks and intentionally think about whether you are living an abundant life – and whether your giving reflects that. You see, it’s not the deposit side of the check register that is evidence of abundance, it’s the spending side.
• Are you like the poor widow who put in everything she had?
• Are you like the Macedonians who gave out of their overflowing joy – beyond their ability, because they had first given themselves to the Lord?
• Are you like the Jews, in the building of the Tabernacle, who gave so much more than enough that they had to be restrained from giving any more?
I want you to experience that – not so we can meet budget, but so that you can experience the incredible joy that comes from giving from your heart.
Posted on Sun, November 7, 2010
by John Roberts