Reading Numbers 7 this morning I came across a lot of lists. My natural inclination when I get to a section like this is to skip it, but since all Scripture is inspired by God, and useful (though in varying degrees), I persisted.
The narrative relates the offerings given by the leaders of Israel to the temple, to support the work of the priests, (the Levites). This is what each one gave:
One silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels
One gold dish weighing ten shekels
One young bull, one ram, one male lamb a year old, one male goat, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs per year
(there is no mention of a partridge in a pear tree)
What makes this chapter so challenging is that the author did not say, “The following 12 people (insert names here), gave the following items (insert item list here)… No, each one is mentioned, then exactly what they gave (which is the same in each case). As a person who likes efficiency, this seems to me to be a very inefficient way of noting these offerings.
But perhaps that’s the point. Each individual contribution is noted in detail, not the collective amount.
Now perhaps I am reading this through the lens of a book I recently read about giving (tithing) to the church, but it seems to me that God is very interested in what we give, and takes note. The New Testament evidence for this is this passage in Mark:
41 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. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44)
I mean, how rude! To sit there and observe how much people were putting in? The audacity!
I think there are a couple of things to understand here. Since God is the giver of all good things (James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows) it’s quite appropriate for him to be interested in what we are giving back. Second, this further accentuates our role as stewards, and these gifts to the priests were a reminder that our true life is based not just around physical stuff, but the even greater reality of the spiritual.
This has caused me to re-evaluate my giving and make some changes. Our stewardship is actually a pretty good indicator of our discipleship, though the two are often divorced in the teaching we hear from church. We are fine with our pastor challenging us on our Bible reading, our prayer… but if he should dare challenge us about our giving! Which, when you think about it, is quite weird. As though we can section off certain parts of our lives and say that God and discipleship do not apply here.
On Friday night (Good Friday) I took part in the Secret Church experience (David Platt) and the theme was The Cross in Everyday Life – which further made the point that the gospel touches every part of our lives, not just the religious bits.
So here are my challenges to you today:
1. Recognize that all of life is discipleship, and acknowledge if there are some areas that you are saying NO ACCESS to God. Surrender them and make the appropriate changes.
2. Specifically apply this to how you view wealth and giving. Are you as keen to honor God with those areas as with other areas in your life? What would that look like? What changes might need to be made?
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)