Thursday, March 8, 2018

A True Gift

I have expressed many times how much I like teaching the Bible. One of the reasons is seeing God’s truths unfold before my eyes as I prepare a lesson or sermon. Other times, the insights come from reflecting back on what I have taught. For me, this week, the joy has been in seeing how well Matthew 6 truly fits together within the chapter and within Jesus’ overall sermon. I am very familiar with the passage, but God is opening my mind to understand something new and fresh as I study and prepare each week.

Of course, Matthew 6 transitions to Jesus revealing the importance of our attitude in giving, praying, and fasting before challenging the devotion of our hearts later in the chapter. And, of course, the section about giving (verses 1-4) speak of the act of giving money. But as I have said for years, God does not care about your money, He cares about you. You can give all the money in the world, but such an act will not bring you any closer to God or make Him love you any more (or less). When we give money, we give something, but God cares about us as people. If He gets us, then our money will follow, but the inverse is not necessarily true.

This principle is true throughout Jesus’ sermon, but is especially evident in Matthew 6. Jesus is calling for His followers to be righteous (begins in Matthew 5.6, then continues in 5.20, 6.1, etc.). Related to giving, Jesus wants our hearts to be involved when we give money, which is most easily accomplished when we have given ourselves to God. Certainly, the giving of our money shows an appreciation for the gifts God has given us, a proper understanding that we are truly stewards of those gifts, and a trust that God will continue to provide for our needs (the latter portion of Chapter 6). But again, it is not the money or financial resources God wants – it is us.

When we give ourselves to God, we are revealing in a larger way that we appreciate the gifts and talents He has given, showing that we are simply stewards of the body, the time, and other resources we have been given, and show a trust that God will honor us for placing our faith in Him (Hebrews 11.6). Of course, it is far more difficult to give up our thoughts, our dreams, and our purpose (let alone our resources), but it is only difficult because we treat these things as “ours” when ultimately they are His. (The previous sentence is easy to type, but not nearly as easy to live by on a daily basis – at least for me.)

If what I have just said is true, we can truly offer God what is already His. Thus, our money is truly not the most important item to be given. Sure, churches have budgets and ministries need money (we all do) to function. The monetary aspect should not be neglected! However, many people make a financial contribution and consider their work done. This understanding lacks a proper understanding of what God has truly done.

Jesus died for us. Did He have to die? Yes, the way God decreed it. But think about this, if God wanted to purchase our salvation, and if money were the primary currency for the transaction, it would not have been an issue for God to raise the necessary funds. After all, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50.10), but the hills belong to Him as well! So, Jesus gave Himself. Jesus was and is the inexpressible gift (2 Corinthians 9.15). Jesus is the true gift that God has given us. Not money, not a house, not a car, nor anything material – the gift was Him in the flesh.

The consideration we must make is that if God’s truest gift to us was personal (not material), then why do we consider our material gifts as significant to God. Again, the act of giving is important, but it is us – the person – that He wants. Each individual that gives himself/herself to God is significant. When we give ourselves to God, we give back to Him all of us – our time, our talents, and our treasure.

So, in learning to give from a perspective of righteousness, give yourself first to God, just as God gave Himself first for you. No truer gift exists. No greater gift is possible. But the choice is up to each one of us to make the decision to truly give as we have been given.

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