Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 93, 96, 34
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
What role does giving have for Christians today?
Like Gideon, I struggled with the message from the texts today. When I first read the passages, the texts struck me as being all over the place topically. Normally, on the first reading, I recognize a theme and meditate on it as I re-read the passages. Confusion reigned through the first few readings. Finally, the Gospel passage came into focus and the remaining scriptures illuminated.
All three Psalms today focus on the praise of God. In that praise, they offer a guide for good and right worship (Psalm 96) and good and right living (Psalm 34). They put the law in language that applies to daily life and reminds us that worship can be a joyful experience, not something confined to stuffy ritual.
Whenever a passage begins, “The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord,” prepare for trials and tribulations. Judges 6 starts off with Israel being captured by the frequent foe, Midian. The occupation forced the Israelites into hiding in the caves and remote reaches of the mountains. They were unable to raise their animals or crops. As often happens in the history of Israel, God anoints a leader to save his people. God holds his 1:1 meeting with Gideon. While Gideon does not recognize God, he accepts the message and offers a gift of food for the Lord. Even though they were starving, Gideon presents food to the stranger. He follows the rules of hospitality and is willing to give what his family desperately needs. The response of the angel of the Lord confirms the message Gideon received and begins the process releasing Israel from its punishment.
“God loves a cheerful giver!” comes directly from the 2 Corinthians passage this week. Paul explains the value of giving to the work of God around the world. The passage is as much about evangelism as it is about offerings. When we give, we are rewarded so that we can continue giving. Sharing and offering comes from generosity rather than compulsion.
The difference between the Holy Spirit and Satan provides the focus of the Gospel passage. While the leaders attempt to discredit Jesus by accusing him of using the power of Satan to do the miracles. Jesus, as he so often does, uses the power of the parable to counter the charges. He explains the difference between God and Satan. While the passage does not directly address giving, the Holy Spirit – a gift from God, which we accept and receive salvation, or reject (blaspheme) and receive damnation, is presented as the force which allows the God’s work to be done.
Giving, whether commanded as the tithe or voluntary as an offering, has been the source of much conflict – to the point of murder - in the Bible. It has led to blessing and cursing. Nevertheless, we continue to misunderstand what God wants from it. Ultimately, God does not “need” a single contribution from any of us. Our giving, though, connects us intimately to the work of God around the world. He wants us to be a part of it and gives us the opportunity by giving both monetarily and spiritually.
Let us examine our hearts that we may give in ways that glorifies God and connects us to his work around the world.