Benjamin C. Maxson, Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries
Summary: In this Concept article, Elder Maxson reflects on what we can do to truly make our offerings an act of praise and worship. And in his helpful, practical style, he lists seven ways to do this.
We know the story well, but do we understand it? God speaks to Abraham and tells him to go to a mountain and offer his son as a burnt offering. Abraham obeys, and begins a journey of faith that will end with an offering of praise. When Isaac asks about the offering, Abraham responds that God will provide. When they reach the top of the mountain, Abraham explains God’s command.
This incredible story triggers a number of questions. How could God ask this of Abraham? How could Abraham agree? How could Isaac submit? What would we do if placed in a similar position?
The book of Hebrews helps us understand Abraham’s response. ?Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death? (Hb11:19). And somehow, Abraham’s faith is contagious. Isaac also trusts God enough to place himself on the altar.
We know the rest of the story. God provides the offering in the form of a ram caught in a thicket (Gn 19:13). This account points to the reality that God always provides the offering, whether it is a ram on the top of a mountain or a Savior on a hill called Calvary. God always provides.
In fact, if we stop to think about it, God even provides when we give our offerings to Him. All that we have comes from His hand and belongs to Him. So when we offer Him something, we can only give back to Him what we received from Him in the first place. What gives the offering any meaning? Our attitude!
The fruit of love
Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Each brought an offering, but God only accepted the offering from an obedient heart.
God does not receive the offerings of any because He needs them and cannot have glory and riches without them, but because it is best for His servants to render to God the things which are His. The freewill offerings of the humble, contrite heart He will receive and will reward the giver with the richest blessings. He receives them as the sacrifice of grateful obedience. He requires and accepts our gold and silver as an evidence that all we have and are belongs to Him. He claims and accepts the improvement of our time and of our talents as the fruit of His love existing in our hearts. To obey is better than sacrifice. Without pure love the most expensive offering is too poor for God to accept. [2T 652-653]
Offerings are only meaningful when they reflect who we are in relationship to God. They express our worship and praise to God, and our willingness to admit that He is the Owner—that all we have comes from Him. The Psalmist challenges us: ?Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth? (Ps 96:8-9).
When it comes to offerings, God demands the best. He asks that we give Him what is most precious to us, for anything less would be a form of idolatry. For our own good, He must first reside in our hearts and lives. He calls us to give ourselves to Him in a lifestyle of worship (Rm 12:1). Only after we have given ourselves to Him can we truly worship Him with an offering.
This makes me wonder about the times I casually place an offering in the plate. Is it worship? Have I given myself, or am I just following a habit begun in childhood? Have I reached the place of trusting God with all that is precious to me? Have I recognized that He is the Owner, and that all I have comes as a blessing from His hand?
As I quietly reflect on these questions, I am compelled to confess that far too often my giving is mechanical and without thought. Often it is based on the perceived need, and not as a response to God’s blessings. ) Sometimes, it is even given grudgingly, from a sense of duty.
Acts of worship
What then can I do to make my offerings truly an act of praise and worship? Here are a few thoughts that come to mind:
· I can keep my walk with God fresh and intimate. I can spend time with Him and daily remember He has saved me through His grace.
· I can reflect on what God gave for me—all that was most precious to Him—His Son! As one man has said, ?When Jesus died on Calvary, God’s pockets were empty.?
· I can reflect on the reality that all I have comes from and belongs to Him. God only asks us to give after we recognize that He has provided everything.
· I can thank Him for the many blessings He brings each day and live with the awareness of His provision.
· I can seek to daily praise God and joyfully acknowledge who I am in light of who He is as Creator and Redeemer.
· I can take all that is precious to me and place it in His hands, trusting Him to care for it far better than I can.
· But most of all, I can give Him my heart, for that is all that is truly mine to surrender: ?The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise? (Ps 51:17).
Isn’t it time that we gave god the offering He wants?