Love Fest ~ Gifts of Show or Love?

The bucket is passed every service; a plastic reminder of the call to give.  You can’t help but look in to see how many envelopes, checks or coins are in there as it passes your nose.  Of course you can roughly do the math… number of monetary items compared to number of people to your right.

Have you ever secretly questioned their lack of giving?  Or gawked at the large sums?

Coin Jar

Or maybe it was the opposite, you felt ashamed.  I’ve held the bucket, pausing long enough to have that entire conversation with God in my head.

“Lord, I balanced my check book last night and the light bill is due tomorrow.  I don’t have it, I just don’t have it.  {insert guilty glance at the bottom of the bucket} …Forgive me Lord.”  Soon to follow was the twinge of shame gnawing at the edge of my heart.

As the buckets are collected, the Pastor takes the pulpit and sings praise of an anonymous donor who gave $10,000 towards the Building Fund.  {insert vigorous applause and sweeping glances across the room}  Instantly I imagine that person to be full of godliness, tightly connected to the voice of God.  “They must be so spiritual and so well blessed!”

Those people may be honored, esteemed or even given positions of influence within the church culture, and rightly so.  But big checks aren’t a guarantee to righteousness or completeness in faith.

“If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. “  1Cor. 13:3 (NLT)

The Pharisees were prime examples of giving everything, being uber-spiritual and yet gaining nothing.   Jesus says in Matthew 23:5-6.  “Everything they do is for show.  On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels.  And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues.”  There is even discussion later in that chapter about their giving.  Rest assured they gave.  I imagine them having solid knowledge of the scriptures, eager to answer any question.  Do you suppose they’d get a little excited at the prospect of a debate over various verses?  I mean really, the scriptures were their passion.  History shows they were religious purists, enthusiastically committed to preserving and obeying the law, model Jews, widely respect.* Model Believers.

But they were untouchable.  You might imagine yourself dining at their table next Friday night or going with them to the concert at church next week, but it would never materialize.  Don’t even dream of laughing with them after service next week.  Connection with them was walled off by deeds of perfection.

Matt. 23:19  (NLT) How Blind! For which is more important — the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred?

Jesus brought us a different way.  He brought connection.  Within connection change can happen, truth can take hold and any deed will multiply.  It isn’t about the gift, but the altar.  It isn’t about the giving of all I have to the poor, but the love I use to bring the gift. 

Love is what connects the gift between giver and recipient, without it the gift is just an obligation.

Lord,
May your love melt my walls of obligation and duty.  Make me real God.  May my gifts and good deeds be more acts of worship out of love for You than any compulsion to religion.  I want to facilitate connection in all I say and do.
In Your name,
Amen.

 

*France, Dick (1999) Jewish Religion in New Testament Times.  Zondervan Handbook To The Bible.

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2 Comments on “Love Fest ~ Gifts of Show or Love?

  1. Hi babe!

    I’m so encouraged by your writings! Whenever I read your masterpieces I feel so blessed to be on this journey in life with you! Keep up the good work as we all get to hear about what the Lord is showing you and doing in your hear on a daily basis!

    I’m truly a lucky man! I love you! Sent from Paul’s iPad

    >

    Like

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