When ever it comes time for the collection at Church, taking up the tithes and offerings, people often use the passage “God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7. Whilst this may be a standard passage used at the offerings time at Church, there are a few good lessons about God’s purpose for offerings in the book of Exodus:
- God prepares hearts – In Exodus 11:2 God tells Moses that the hearts of Egyptians are being prepared to give the fleeing Israelites gold and silver. So each Israelite is to ask their neighbour for gold, silver and clothing before they leave Egypt. At this point the purpose of this “treasure” is unclear.
- God provides abundantly – true to God’s word when the fleeing Israelites ask for gold, silver and clothing the Egyptians hand over these items. In Exodus 12:36 it reveals that the Israelites were able to “plunder” Egypt as they left. Again at this point the purpose of this “treasure” is unclear.
- God invites people to give an offering – after the Israelites have been “on the road” for some time, still carrying the gold, silver and clothing, God asks Moses to give the people an opportunity to make an offering. They should make their offering if their hearts are “prompted” Exodus 25:2. At this point Moses collects and offering of gold, silver, bronze,yarns and linen, skins and leathers, oils and spices. Whilst the purpose of this “treasure” is unclear to the people, Moses knows that God is about to use the items.
- God uses the offering for His glory – In the rest of Exodus we read how God uses these gifts to build the tent of meeting, the ark of the Covenant and the Mercy seat. None of the materials needed to create these would have been found naturally in the desert. It seems that God had an intention for these materials that had a higher purpose than making the Israelites rich.
Exodus provides us with three important lessons about giving offerings to our local Church:
- God provides – how often do we think that we earn the money that we give to the Church. Exodus reminds us that God has a plan to provide us resources long before we have earnt them.
- God prompts us – sometimes we know we should be giving more in our tithes and offering but we don’t. There were probably Israelites who held back their items from the offering, they wouldn’t have received a blessing that God promised. Whilst God may prompt us to give an offering it is not forced, an offering without free will is not an offering at all.
- God knows the plan – often we don’t give in our tithes and offerings until we know the plans for how they are to be spent. Churches find it easier to get offerings if they identify the plans before taking up the offering. In Exodus 25 we are reminded that God asks for the offering before revealing His plan.
So God does like a cheerful giver, but perhaps there is more to offering than just being cheerful. Perhaps there are bigger plans for our tithes and offerings than we can image.