Giving from the Heart
In Exodus 25:1, God says, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.” He goes on to give a sort of shopping list of supplies that will be needed for the tabernacle. And he asks for contributions from those whose hearts move them. He wants them to want to give. Later in chapter 35, we see Moses addressing Israel and he says, “Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution.” In verse 21, we see that those whose hearts were stirred gave.
God requires obedience but he doesn’t value "obedience" that lacks heart-level worship. It seems many earthly dictators are totally fine receiving the riches and homage of their people, even if their people secretly hate them and even desire their death. For them, getting the stuff—the wealth, the adulation—is enough. But for God, it isn’t. The stuff doesn’t ultimately last. He’s after the hearts of his people. Israel had served Pharaoh. Now they're going to serve Yahweh. Their service must be from the heart.
There's application here for us. Like Israel, we give of our possessions in contribution to the work of God, the work of his church, the work of bringing the gospel to our lives, our community, and the world. But as we give, it's worth asking, do we give out of worship? Or is our giving mostly from compulsion, guilt, begrudging obedience? Has giving lost its joy and become a burden, a bitter demand for us? God isn't pleased with that. He loves us. We have experienced his love. And so our giving, while sacrificial and at times even painful, must be out of thanksgiving for the generous gift he has given us in his Son. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
I think sometimes our cheerfulness in giving can be dimmed by a subtle belief that our giving earns us favor with God. That's not true. Let's be freed from that notion. The theologian J.V. Fesko says, The offerings [given by Israel] were not repayment for their deliverance from Egypt, nor were they an effort to purchase their redemption… their giving towards the construction of the temple was supposed to be an act of heartfelt gratitude and worship. Church, our giving does not earn God’s favor or the love of our brothers and sisters. It’s a response to the favor we've already been given in Christ. Let's give freely out of thanksgiving to God for his indescribable gift.