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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Free-Will Offering

An offering is something presented as an act of worship or devotion. It represents sacrifice for the one bringing it. Some offerings of the Jewish nation were required – God stipulated that they were to be given at certain times, with a certain purpose in mind. They were usually taken from what the Jew could raise in the form of crops, as with the farmers, or in the form of a member of the flock / herd, as with the ranchers, shepherds, or those that raised animals.

Some of the heads of families, on arriving at The Temple of God in Jerusalem, made Freewill-Offerings toward the rebuilding of The Temple of God on its site. They gave to the building fund as they were able… (Ezra 1:68)

The free-will offering was something brought without compulsion or demand. It was given from the heart, not because you had to, but because you wanted to. It was a sacrifice of a part of your assets, crops, herds, or self (as in your time or energies). These men and women were prepared to go, to give and to work. Theirs was a sacrifice of their comfort, their belongings, and their time.

God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything; more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one writer of the New Testament puts it, "He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out. This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God." (2 Cor. 9:7-11)

Paul describes the extreme delight God experiences when giving is done in the spirit of willingness, joy and abandon. These Jews gave to the rebuilding of the Temple of God in such a manner: 
  • Willingly – readily, as a matter of their own personal choice and without any reluctance. They were not giving out of a sense of compulsion or demand. They gave because they were burdened to be a part of the work.
  • Joyously – with great pleasure or delight. They knew what they desired and had a hope of possessing once again that which had been such an integral part of their lives – and they were moved to acts of sacrifice because of this prospect. 
  • With abandonment – giving up what once they had a claim to, but would no longer place claim upon. Theirs was a sacrifice of unrestrained support. They had an enthusiasm in their giving that stirred them from within. 
The promise to those who give in this free-will manner - whether it is of their means, their talent, or their time - is that God will pour out blessings in astonishing ways. I want to be “astonished” by God – held in awe by his greatness, his love, and his acts of deliverance. I want to be “surprised” by God – truly captured by his awe, taken unaware by his grace. God give us the heart to give with this freedom of heart. 

  • They stood ready to go – they were ready to put feet to the yearnings of their heart.  What is God calling us to "put feet to" in our lives?  What is he asking us to "stand ready" to do?
  • They had hearts responsive to give – not out of their excess, but out of their daily provisions. They were living in exile in a foreign land. They had no lands of their own from which to replenish their riches – yet they gave.  What emotional, spiritual, or physical assets is God asking for us to be willing to give?  Remember - to give out of our excess is really not sacrificial.
  • They had the willingness to work – not as a labor of necessity or burden of compulsion. It was a sacrificial desire to be involved in the work of the Lord. To be part of something that they believed in so deeply that they were willing to dig in, investing time, talent and the work of their physical bodies to accomplish.  Dig in and see what God can do with your free-will offering today.