Giving what belongs to the Lord

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In 2012 I had just arrived to work for JPC and I was given the rather daunting first task of organising a street party to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. If you were here then, do you remember it? We closed the streets for a thousand people to gather together for food, games, puppet shows, ceilidh dancing, inflatables, we even had a flypast by a Sea King from RAF Boulmer – it was a great time of celebrating together as a church and with our community. Of course we look back on something like that today, in lockdown, and find ourselves longing to organise a gathering with just one other household to share a simple meal, let alone a street party for 1,000 people.

Why do I mention that? Well this contrast between the good times and more trying times is very much the context of our passage that we’re going to look at from 1 Chronicles. By the time whoever wrote Chronicles does so, he is looking back, probably from a period of obscurity and comparative austerity, and he’s looking back to the high point of David’s reign: a time of national celebration, incredible selfless giving to facilitate the building of the temple, hard work, blessing and much, much joy. And part of what the Chronicler wants his readers to see and understand, is that whatever their current situation (for them probably exile) and indeed whatever our current situation (whether locked down, furloughed, in work or out of work) the joyful experience of giving need not be a thing of the past, nor indeed a thing only possible from a position of abundance. So, let’s ask God for his help to discern what he is saying to us today, through this passage:

Heavenly Father, please would you speak to us tonight by the power of your Holy Sprit through your word. In Jesus name, Amen.

So, first things first – and for David…that was God.

1. First things first: God! (1 Chronicles 29.10-12, 17-18)

1 Chronicles 29.10:

Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly.

If you tuned in last week, you’ll remember what the therefore in 1 Chronicles 29.9 refers to. Just look back a verse and there you’ll see that the people had given willingly and wholeheartedly. David’s response? To praise God in front of everyone. In fact it’s like he’s setting them (and us) an example to follow. We know from the start of 1 Chronicles 28 that this gathering or assembly includes his leaders, his officials and even some of his elite soldiers. He’s teaching them to put God first and to recognise he is the source of everything: 1 Chronicles 29.10:

Blessed are you, O Lord

David’s first and instinctive reaction to all this is to bless the Lord. We might say ‘praise the Lord’ or ‘give thanks to the Lord’ – that’s what bless in this context means. But ‘praise God’ and ‘thank him’ for what? First things first: who he is and what he does for us. And there’s so much in 1 Chronicles 29.10-12 to help us know and to remember the incredible nature of God.
Take a look with me (1 Chronicles 29.10):

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.

We see that he is our God for ever and ever. So, this is a God who will care for his people eternally. 1 Chronicles 29.11:

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory

In other words. God is all-mighty which means that ultimately, we are safe in his care – nothing can overpower him and therefore nothing, if we’re trusting in him, will ultimately overpower us. No virus, no political movement, no financial instability. Nothing! 1 Chronicles 29.11 continues:

for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.

Does this not remind us that he is the Creator? Who therefore knows us way better than we know ourselves – intimately, deeply! And we belong with him. He is also the ultimate and supreme ruler – there is no one on earth or in the heavens with more authority than he has. End of 1 Chronicles 29.11:

Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.

Not some, all! And He is sovereign and in complete control too – 1 Chronicles 29.12:

you rule over all. In your hand are power and might

Do you see how rich David’s prayer is? And as if all this is not enough he is also a gracious provider. First part of 1 Chronicles 29.12:

both riches and honour come from you [and in his hand] is the power and might… to make great and to give strength to all

Friends, if you know this God, if you are being warmed by the reminder of his great and awe-inspiring nature. Then, as with everything in the Christian life – giving included, remember, this is where it all starts. First things first: a love for, and an appreciation of, our incredible God. So after ensuring that truths about God are at the forefront of their hearts, David’s prayer goes on to reveal how this should affect their minds – with a particular focus on the right perspective on giving.

2. The right perspective on giving: nothing I have is truly mine (1 Chronicles 29.14,16)

And the right perspective is best summed up in second part of 1 Chronicles 29.14:

For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you

and 1 Chronicles 29.16:

all this abundance…comes from your hand and is all your own.

In other words, nothing that we have is truly ours. Everything (and I mean everything - be it much or little) is a gift from the Lord. That’s the perspective we need when it comes to anything, but especially so when we think about our giving. Too often we Christians can look at our income and think “how am I going to spend my money?” but actually, a better question would be “how does God want me to use what he has entrusted to me?” You might think the difference is subtle, but actually it’s massive. One has ‘me’ first and foremost. “It’s my money. They’re my needs. It’s my decision.” The other has ‘God’ first. “It’s his money, he’s blessed me with it for now. How does he want me to use it?”

David was encouraging his people to have the right perspective on what they had. Nothing was really theirs. So how did they respond? How should we respond to that clarifying perspective?For our remaining time I want to just point out:

3. Five faithful responses…

Firstly, our giving back to the Lord needs to be done…

a) …thankfully (1 Chronicles 29.13)

Have a look at 1 Chronicles 29.13:

And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

In other words, our giving is an expression of our gratitude to the Lord for all He is and what he’s done for us. Sometimes in life people do things for us or treat you in a way we could never repay. I remember a few years ago now, my brother-in-law he’s a sparky, and he very kindly came and did the electrics in our extension for us as a gift. Debs and I could never have done that, and our small gift back to him was just a token of our thanks for what he’d done. Likewise, we can never fully give back to the Lord all that he has done for us, but what we can do and give in response - should always be born out of genuine thanks. Secondly, David’s example shows that our giving back to the Lord should be done:

b) …humbly (1 Chronicles 29.14)

Because if anyone could say that they had worked hard it was David. He had organised and managed the collection of so much basic and precious material required to build the temple. In the world’s eyes he was in charge and the fruits of his labour surely belonged to him. But who am I, he says in 1 Chronicles 29.14 and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. Do you see how humility in giving is so closely linked to having the right perspective? If we really believe that nothing we have is truly ours, then there’s no place for proud, tight holds on our bank accounts, our possessions, our children, our achievements… A faithful response is thankful, humble and thirdly it is also generous.

c) …generously (1 Chronicles 29.16)

In 1 Chronicles 29.16 David talks of all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house. Abundant provision for God’s work comes from the generous giving of his people. And when you stop to think about it, generosity has to be a defining characteristic of God’s genuine people doesn’t it? I mean, if we claim to follow this generous God…if we claim to understand how generous he has been with us through the gift of his son for our rescue…if we claim to want to be more like him – how can we be anything but generous in return?

I thank God for the generosity of his people in the churches I have been part of in London, in Scotland (where I served as a Treasurer for many years), here – people have given generously to the church, to world mission, to each other, to their communities, and it’s a beautiful thing to be part of God’s generosity in action. And it’s not about how much we have. It’s not even about money. It’s all about the generosity of the heart, because it is perfectly possible to be generous with next to nothing and tight with an awful lot. Fourthly, we see David leading by example and giving back to God…

d) …willingly and not under pressure (1 Chronicles 29.17)

1 Chronicles 29.17 says:

I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.

Giving is happening freely and not under pressure. I think this is where we always tread a fine line with a giving review – that fine line between passing on essential financial information and pressure being applied to give in response to that information. Some of you may feel that we don’t always get that right, and if we don’t we’re sorry for that. But please understand, when you hear Ramzi in a bit, that at its heart the giving review is a chance to share the need – the response (between you and God) needs to be a willing one and not under any human pressure from us. Because finally, as with everything else, our giving forms part of our complete devotion to the Lord.

e) …with complete devotion (1 Chronicles 29.20)

This is 1 Chronicles 29.20:

Then David said to all the assembly, “Bless the Lord your God.” And all the assembly blessed the Lord, the God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and paid homage to the Lord and to the king.

Can I ask a question? How much do your see your giving as an act of worship? One of the downsides of not taking a regular offering is that we have no corporate opportunity to bless the Lord and bow our heads in thanks and homage to him. You see it’s possible to give thankfully, humbly, generously and willingly, but also in this day and age, forgetfully! Especially when we give by a weekly or monthly so, which we are encouraged to do by the way, because it makes the budgeting task and cash flow situation so much easier to handle for our small team. But when we do that the money leaves our accounts and we get used to that and often then we don’t even realise it’s gone. And with it has gone our chance to see our giving as a regular act of complete devotion.

So I just want to suggest that you get creative and work hard at alternative strategies. For example, one way I do that is to have Bible verses written out in my bank statement folder so that when I’m reviewing finances (normally monthly) I get a chance to praise and thank God then. And I try and change those verse every so often. Which reminds me. But these are just tools to help us ask the question we should all be asking whenever and however we give “Is our giving (in response to who the Lord is and what he has done) thankful, humble, generous, willing and done with complete devotion to the Lord?” Let’s pray:

Lord thank you that everything (including our giving) starts and ends with you! Please would you help us to have the right perspective on giving and remember that nothing that we have is truly ours. All things come from you and from your own do we give you. Please Lord help us to be give generously, thankfully, humbly and willingly. And we ask it for you names sake. Amen

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