Greetings in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7
In a world driven by transactional exchanges and give-to-get mentalities, genuine, unconditional generosity can seem like an anomaly. Modern philanthropy, more often than not, carries an underlying expectation: be it a tax deduction, a name on a plaque, or a returned favor down the line. But as we turn the pages of the Bible, we are reminded of a purer, selfless form of giving, a generosity that seeks no return.
The Exodus 35 narrative provides a profound glimpse into this. Here, we see a community coming together, not out of compulsion or expectation of reward, but out of a deep, heartfelt desire to give willingly. This wasn’t about grand gestures or seeking recognition; it was a genuine outpouring of love and devotion. Their gifts, diverse and heartfelt, were emblematic of an inner commitment to something far greater than themselves.
Yet, as striking as this account is, it pales in comparison to the unparalleled act of generosity showcased by God Himself. In sending Jesus Christ to us, He gave freely and unconditionally, not because we earned or deserved it, but out of sheer, unadulterated love. We were neither ready nor worthy, but God, in His boundless grace, saw past our inadequacies. Just as the Israelites in Exodus gave from their hearts, God gave us His very heart in the form of Jesus. This timeless narrative serves as a beacon, reminding us that the true essence of giving isn’t in the magnitude of the gift, but the motive behind it.
The Call to Generosity: Giving Not Out of Obligation but Out of a Willing Heart:
The introduction’s resonating theme of a pure, heartfelt form of giving continues to unfurl as we delve deeper into the backdrop of Exodus 35. The Israelites, having been recently delivered from the shackles of Egyptian bondage, stood at the threshold of constructing something profoundly divine — the Tabernacle, a dwelling place for God amidst His people.
The construction of such a sacred edifice required resources. But instead of imposing a tax or a compulsory contribution, God, through Moses, made a clarion call: “From what you have, take an offering for the LORD. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the LORD an offering…” (Exodus 35:5). The keyword here is ‘willing’. The Lord was not looking for a begrudging donation; He was seeking a joyous offering from a grateful heart.
This verse, subtle yet revolutionary, challenges the norms of ancient and modern philanthropy alike. Instead of mandating a contribution, God opens the floor for voluntary giving. It’s a poignant reminder that God values the condition of our hearts more than the content of our wallets. It recalls the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Let’s pause and reflect on the depth of this truth. God, the Creator of the universe, who holds the riches of the world, is seeking not the wealth but the heart behind the offering. It mirrors His own nature, where His giving is driven not by necessity but by love. The psalmist aptly encapsulates this sentiment in Psalm 50:10-12, where God declares, “For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills… the world is mine, and all that is in it.” If God owns it all, then why the call for an offering? Because it was never about meeting a material need. It was about an invitation to participate, to collaborate in God’s divine purpose.
Drawing parallels, we can’t help but juxtapose this with the monumental act of generosity showcased in the Gospel. When God gave His only Son, it wasn’t out of a deficiency or lack on His part. John 3:16 beautifully articulates, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The impetus behind God’s gift was love, pure and boundless.
Christ, in His time on earth, epitomized this form of selfless giving. Whether it was imparting wisdom, healing the sick, or ultimately laying down His life, His acts were undergirded by love, not obligation. In His teachings too, Christ continually emphasized the essence of genuine, heartfelt giving. The story of the widow’s mite in Luke 21:1-4 serves as a testament. Amidst the large contributions of the rich, a widow’s humble offering of two small coins, all she had, caught Christ’s attention. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
The narrative in Exodus 35, coupled with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, sets forth a profound template for generosity. It beckons us to examine not just what we give but why we give. It nudges us to transition from transactional giving to transformational giving — where the act of giving becomes a joy, a privilege, an outpouring of love, rather than a mere duty or obligation.
The Diverse Offerings of the People: Everyone Had Something to Give, Whether Gold, Silver, Fabrics, or Skills:
Diving further into Exodus 35, there’s a palpable air of excitement and anticipation. As Moses relayed God’s invitation for offerings, the people responded with an outpouring of generosity that was both vast in its diversity and profound in its sincerity.
“Everyone who had blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen, or goat hair, ram skins dyed red or the other durable leather brought them.” (Exodus 35:23). “All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments.” (Exodus 35:22). The offerings were not limited to tangible goods. “All the women who were willing used their hands to spin and brought what they had spun—blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen.” (Exodus 35:25).
These verses paint a vivid tapestry of a community coming together. From the artisans to the shepherds, from the young to the old, everyone had something to contribute. It wasn’t about the grandeur of the gift but the heart with which it was given. Here, in the middle of the desert, a divine tapestry was being woven with the threads of diverse offerings.
This act of collective giving draws a beautiful parallel to the New Testament teachings, especially in the body of Christ. Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, draws a poignant analogy. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Just as every believer has a unique role in the body of Christ, every Israelite had a unique contribution to the construction of the Tabernacle.
Jesus, in His ministry, celebrated this diversity of offerings. Think of the young boy with the five loaves and two fish in John 6:9. In a vast gathering of thousands, it might have seemed like an inconsequential offering. Yet, in the hands of Christ, it became a feast for multitudes. It underscores a profound truth: It’s not about the size of the gift but the surrender with which it’s given.
In the diverse offerings for the Tabernacle, we see a reflection of God’s creativity and inclusivity. Each person’s contribution, regardless of its nature or magnitude, had intrinsic value in the grand scheme of God’s plan. It reminds us of how Jesus valued every individual, from the influential Nicodemus to the ostracized Samaritan woman, whom Jesus found and gave , recognizing the unique gifts and perspectives they brought to the table.
Moreover, the broad spectrum of gifts for the Tabernacle hints at the boundless nature of God’s own generosity. James 1:17 elucidates, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Just as God bestows diverse blessings upon us, He gave the Israelites a platform to reciprocate with a miscellany of offerings.
What can we glean from this? In our journey of faith, it’s essential to recognize and celebrate the varied gifts God has bestowed upon us. It’s not about comparing or competing but about collaborating for the Kingdom of God. Whether it’s through our resources, talents, time, or skills, there’s a unique offering each one of us can bring to God’s altar.
The beauty of this narrative is its timeless relevance. Just as the Israelites came together, pooling in their diverse offerings for a divine purpose, we, as the body of Christ, are called to contribute our unique gifts for the expansion of God’s Kingdom. In doing so, we echo the generosity of Christ, who gave not just resources but His very life for us.
The Challenge for Us Today: Evaluating the State of Our Hearts and How We Can Offer Our Resources, Talents, and Time for God’s Kingdom
As we traverse through Exodus 35 and reflect upon the spontaneous burst of generosity exhibited by the Israelites, a pressing question surfaces for us: How do we, in our contemporary setting, cultivate such a heart of genuine willingness? An era marked by materialism and self-centered ambitions makes this quest both challenging and indispensable.
When Jesus walked the shores of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem, He often spoke of matters of the heart. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” He declared in Matthew 6:21. These words carry a profound truth: our earthly investments are often a clear mirror reflecting the priorities etched in our hearts.
One of the stark contrasts between the ancient Israelites in Exodus 35 and today’s society is the perception of abundance versus scarcity. Despite their wilderness setting, the Israelites gave out of a mindset of abundance, knowing that Jehovah Jireh, their provider, was with them. On the contrary, many today, despite material abundance, hold back out of a mentality of scarcity, fearing what they might lose.
Yet, the Gospels present Jesus offering a transformative perspective. In the parable of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44), Jesus highlights a poor widow who gave two tiny coins—her entire livelihood—while many rich people threw in large amounts. While their sizable contributions made no palpable dent in their fortunes, the widow’s offering was a profound act of trust and devotion. Jesus remarked, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
The widow’s offering was emblematic of a heart fully surrendered to God, trusting in His providence and mercy. It challenges us to ponder: Are we offering God our leftovers or our very best? Is our giving an act of genuine sacrifice, reflecting trust in His abundant provisions?
In the modern era, the offerings might differ. Maybe it’s not gold or silver, but perhaps it’s our time, dedicated to serving others. Maybe it’s not fabrics or skills, but it might be our expertise, utilized to further His Kingdom work by serving and loving — be it through volunteering, community service, supporting ministries through dedicating time and financial resources, or even simple acts of kindness that reflect Christ’s love.
The Apostle Paul, in his letters, frequently touched upon the idea of selfless sacrifice, reflecting Christ’s generosity. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:7. This underscores the notion that true generosity transcends mere action; it’s a condition of the heart.
So, as we stand at this crossroad of reflection, let’s challenge ourselves. Are we, like the Israelites in Exodus or the widow in the Gospel, prepared to give with a cheerful heart? Do we view our resources, talents, and time as God’s gifts, entrusted to us for a divine purpose?
In closing, let’s remember that at the epicenter of our faith stands the monumental act of generosity: Jesus Christ giving Himself up for us, not out of obligation, but out of sheer, unbounded love. As recipients of such immense love, may our lives become a perpetual offering, reflecting the heart of our Savior, as we seek to further His Kingdom on earth.
Conclusion & Life Application
The narrative of Exodus 35 beckons us with a poignant message, illuminating the corridors of time, challenging our understanding of true generosity. Amidst a culture fraught with transactional relationships and quid pro quo mindsets, this ancient tale stands as a beacon, shedding light on what it truly means to give out of a pure, undiluted heart of willingness.
The spectrum of offerings given by the Israelites – from tangible assets like gold and fabrics to intangible skills and crafts – underscores a profound truth: every individual, irrespective of their social standing or wealth, has something of value to offer in service to God’s Kingdom. Their generosity was a heartfelt response to God’s goodness, a recognition of His Lordship over all they possessed.
Reflect on this: The God, the creator of the universe, who spoke galaxies into existence, chose to create and prepare a space where our contributions, however seemingly insignificant, have divine purpose and consequence. He seeks not the grandeur of our offerings but the genuineness of our hearts.
But let’s venture deeper, beyond the confines of the Old Testament, into the narrative tapestry of the New. At its very core, the Gospel is a testament to unmerited generosity. God, in His infinite mercy, bestowed upon humanity the greatest gift of all: His Son, Jesus Christ. In the act of Christ’s sacrificial love on the cross, we witness the zenith of divine generosity, a gift given not for the worthy, but for the wayward.
Therefore, as beneficiaries of such boundless love and grace, our response should be a life drenched in generosity. Our every act, whether big or small, should echo the selfless love of Jesus. Generosity then becomes not just a periodic act but a lifestyle.
So, as we step into the forthcoming days, let’s challenge our preconceptions of giving. May our generosity not be confined to mere monetary donations but permeate every facet of our lives, from our time to our talents, from our words to our actions.
May we remember that in every act of genuine kindness, in every moment of sacrificial giving, we mirror the love of Christ. Through our generosity, may others glimpse the heart of the Savior, drawing them closer to the eternal wellspring of love, grace, and salvation.
As we depart today, let’s carry forth this divine mandate: to live generously, to give selflessly, and to love unconditionally, just as Christ did for each one of us to give eternal salvation, which only comes from God.
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7