1 Chronicles 29:14 : But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You.
2 Corinthians 9:7-8 : So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
Synod Armadale 1956 decided to advise the churches to arrange an annual service for prayer and thanksgiving for harvest and labour on the third Sunday of the month of February. That is 16 February for this year.
Thanksgiving, that is something that comes from the heart. We cannot be thankful on command: we are thankful because we know that we have something to be thankful for. Because we have received blessings. Then we see our blessings and rejoice.
Out of thankfulness we then offer to the LORD our sacrifices of thankfulness.
In Romans 12:1 the apostle Paul beseeches us to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. Our entire life is a life in thankfulness, because we know that we are saved by Jesus Christ and now want to live for Him.
There are moments that we show our thankfulness in a specific way, for instance by giving our financial donations. Many of us do so especially on the Thanksgiving Sunday. The Bible teaches and encourages us to do so.
I quoted two texts at the beginning of this meditation, in which the Bible emphasizes that those sacrifices of thankfulness must come from a willing heart and should not be imposed on the congregation.
In 1 Chronicles 29 we read a prayer of thankfulness of David.
After David had conquered the enemies of Israel and lived in his palace in Jerusalem, David wanted to build a temple for the LORD. But God did not allow him. The son of David, Solomon, would build the temple.
Solomon was still young and would face many challenges. David did not want Solomon to postpone the building of the temple. David already prepared the building of the temple. He brought together much of what was needed. Gold, silver, bronze, iron and wood. He gave much from his personal treasures.
Then he also asked the people to give their freewill offerings. He did not command them to give, because it should be a complete freewill offering.
In 1 Chronicles 29:6-9 we read that the people responded by giving abundantly.
When David saw this, He praised God.
God is the One Who worked the willingness in the hearts of the people. They came and offered and rejoiced together with him.
David expresses this, in his prayer of thanksgiving. “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this?”
None of the heathen people around them would understand these words. These words speak of a humility which was, in human eyes, not in accordance with reality.
But David and his people realize that without the blessing of God they would not have been able at all, to do this. Rather, all the riches, all their possessions, even their own lives and the willingness of their hearts is given to them by God. They did not earn it themselves, because it is not their work which made them rich and powerful, but only the work of God. And therefore, they were willing to give much for the temple of God. They realized, that if God was able to give this all to them, then He is able to give them much more than this.
David gave many gifts from his own treasures. Not just from the treasury of the government, but also from himself personally. He did that out of free will.
It was all because he wanted to worship God and serve God, in a suitable way
Although God did not allow David to build the temple, he wholeheartedly wanted to serve God in a way that is pleasing to God. Therefore, he set an example and led the people in preparing for the building of the temple, and encouraged the people to bring their own offerings to the LORD. So as godly leader of God’s people he led them by example, as good leaders should in Christ’s Church. Not by dictates, not by imposing taxes, but by teaching and by example.
We don’t have a church tax. We don’t have a set amount per communicant member that we have to contribute to the church, but each of us determines what is appropriate for him or her to contribute, knowing that it is a giving back to God a part of what you first received from the LORD. So the willingness of the congregation to give, and the willingness of individual members to give, shows the spiritual maturity of the congregation and of the individual members. The greater your thankfulness, the greater your willingness to show it to God.
That is what the apostle Paul emphasized in 2 Corinthians 9.
Paul was writing to the Corinthians about the collection for Jerusalem. Because there was a famine in Jerusalem, Paul was collecting among the churches to send help to the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give generously, but he emphasized in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that everyone should determine in his heart what he should give. Again, not an imposed levy. Not a tax. They were not told that they were expected to contribute and give so much. This is how it should go in the Church of Christ. We can read in the book of Acts, chapter 2 and 4, that people sold their possessions and gave to the apostles for distribution among those who had need. People saw the need and acted, out of their own free will.
Maturity of faith
The willingness of the people of Israel showed the maturity of their faith. That is what David was thankful for. It was not just he who wanted to offer for the LORD and build His temple, but it was also the people who wanted the temple to be built. They wanted to serve the LORD with their possessions.
It is not the sacrifice in itself that the LORD requires, but He demands our heart. So our hearts we offer to God, promptly and sincerely. Then our thanksgiving comes from the heart and is not an imposed thanksgiving or an obedience to expectations. Rather, it is a voluntary contribution. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
As he purposes in his heart
Then it is not important anymore how much each individual member gives. The one has more possessions than the other. The one can give more than the other. But let it be like in Israel in David’s time, and like in Corinth in the days of Paul. They did what they determined in their hearts was right, according to their ability. Then the small amounts from the poor families were for the LORD just as important as the large amounts of the rich families. As long as they all gave willingly and according to their ability. Together as the people of God they brought this huge amount together and praised the LORD by doing that.
The Lord Jesus teaches us that in Mark 12, where we read about the offering of the poor widow. The Lord Jesus saw many people there, offering large amounts to the temple. But a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
But the Lord Jesus said: “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
It is a matter of trust. A government has to impose taxes and make sure that everyone pays his or her share. Within the church that should not be so. Because there we live out of thankfulness. If we are convinced of the need of something, whether it was the temple in David’s days, the needs of the church in Jerusalem in Paul’s days, or anything else that we deem necessary in our days, then we will give willingly and abundantly. That is how the Spirit works. That also shows the maturity of our faith. If we do what we can, then God will make it abundant, as Paul writes: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
May we all celebrate our thanksgiving in this way and give out of the thankfulness of our hearts.
Rev. Anthon Souman