May 17; March Offerings

I Chronicles 27:1-29:22; I Kings 1:1-27

King David had arranged to purchase everything needed to build the temple – from the sturdy foundation to the eating utensils – including hiring skilled workers in every area. Then he did something that spoke to me today:

He reached into his own pockets, took out his personal checkbook, and gave treasures of gold and silver; 3,000 talents of gold and 7,000 talents of silver to be used for the finishing touches of the temple. Not from the nation’s treasury. From his own pocket.

Then he challenged the nation’s leaders to give, too. The result was that the leaders, the commanders, officers and officials, reached into their own pockets and followed David’s example. They gave over 5,000 talents of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze, 100,000 talents of iron from their private funds. Then, on top of that, they threw in the precious stones they had lying around their houses.

The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord… (I Chronicles 29:9)

Now I know that we are very private givers these days. We quote the account of the widow’s mite and, with Jesus, condemn the showy, public giving of the rich. But it occurred to me today, the widow’s offering was every bit as public. In fact, Jesus drew attention to the dollar amount she gave.

I remember the occasional March Offering when I was a kid. The congregation, usually singing a familiar hymn, would get out of our pews, and form a line, following one another to an offering plate at the front of the sanctuary, where one at a time, we’d all put in whatever God laid on our hearts. No one announced individual dollar amounts like Jesus did. But the act of public giving was celebrated. The total dollar amount received, usually for a special project or mission, was announced at the end of the service, followed by praise and thanksgiving.

I recently heard someone reject that idea for their congregation because “that only tempts prideful giving and jealousy.” This person has a general negative view of people anyway, but I wonder if that congregation missed out on something here.

The people we read about in I Chronicles 29 got excited about giving when they saw David giving. I know for myself, as a young girl in my church, those march offerings spoke to me. I watched an example of giving by my elders. And I remember the first time I marched around the sanctuary and put in my own  offering, a dollar I’d earned babysitting. I didn’t feel bad about the small amount. I wasn’t jealous that someone else was able to give more. I was excited to be a part of the giving.

I’m wondering if we’ve become too private in our giving. If no one knows that I give, they don’t know that I don’t. And yes, what I give it is between me and God. But are we missing the opportunity to be an example of giving to others?

Are you a church leader? Do people in your fellowship know you tithe? Do they see you denying yourself certain things in order to give a bit extra? Are you a parent? Do your kids know you give, how much you give, and why? I think they should know.

Let’s be an example of joyful, sacrificial giving to our families and our church fellowships. Let’s not make giving such a taboo subject. It’s a responsibility to give. But it is also a privilege, and a blessing. Maybe others, if they see our example, will want to give, too.

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