Wednesday, February 04, 2009

When Enough is Enough

I was reading in Exodus this week and stumbled on to something extraordinary. In chapter 36, verse 5, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.”

For the first time I can remember, I'm hearing pastors talking about the reality of the economic hard times. I've heard about churches who are putting expansion plans on hold, cutting spending on ministries, and even letting staff go. Our church is experiencing tremendous growth, but our offerings have not increased significantly. Every day we try our best to do more with less, empower more volunteers, work more efficiently, and to be faithful with what we've been given. The reality is that we have a lot of people looking for work, and our church is half college students. It is exciting to see God at work in our fellowship and lives being changed, but it becomes more challenging to minister to so many more people without additional resources. I haven't heard about any provisions for young churches in poor college towns in all the talks about the new stimulus plan.

All of that is why this verse jumped out at me. Could you imagine having to cut people off because they were giving too much? I've never heard of that in any church (though I do know of one in Dallas that only takes an offering every six weeks because, and I quote, "money's the easiest thing to find around here."). I've heard of churches doing series on giving when budget's not being met. I've heard stories of pastor's pleading for more money in order to not close the doors. At a conference a couple of weeks ago I heard about churches borrowing money to keep the bills paid. All of those scenarios make me sad. Is this story from Exodus unrealistic? How far are we from that happening.

I think even in a bad economy, this could be a reality. Over and over again in this part of Exodus, the people gave because their hearts were stirred to give. They weren't giving out of obligation, they were giving out of guilt, they were giving because their hearts were stirred, and they were delighted to be a part of what God was building. We also see that they gave as they were able. People who had money gave money. People that could sew offered sewing. Construction dudes built stuff. Artists and decorators gave their services to God. In beautiful detail, we have descriptions of the fruit of their labor. We contrast this with feeling obligated to give our 10% so that we will be "blessed" or "obedient." These offerings in this passage were not their tithe. What we fail to see in our time is that tithing is not some major sacrifice for the Kingdom of God. Tithing is the minimum. Tithing is "housekeeping" according to my friend Norman. When we see the generosity of our forefathers in Exodus, we should be challenged to not be content with tithing, but we should search our hearts to see what else we can give. Some can give a lot of money, others can give what they do, others can give time. We were created to glorify and worship God, and that opportunity includes how we give and volunteer.

I'm now praying that a day will come in our church where we can say, "that's enough." We really don't need any more money. Or, what if we were able to take most of our offerings and give them away because it was too much for us? That's the Kingdom. I pray that we would listen to our hearts and respond in generosity, respond in giving. I believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I believe that He still stirs our hearts today as He did then. I believe that even when it seems like we should be storing away for the tough times ahead that we would invest in the Kingdom with our money, talents, and time. I believe we could see it... "Thank you for your offerings, but we've got enough." How awesome would that be?


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