Correct ‘Attitudes’ for Proper Giving

Correct ‘Attitudes’ For Proper Giving

Chapter Two

Correct Attitudes For Proper Giving
The Attitude And The Offering – Part I 27 "Life's Treasures… Fitted Into A Suitcase" – Part I 34
The Attitude And The Offering – Part II 29 "Life's Treasures… Fitted Into A Suitcase" – Part II 36
Sacrificing Our Treasures – Part I 31 "You Can't Afford Not To Give!" 38
Sacrificing Our Treasures – Part II 32 Questions 40

Genesis 4:1-16

The Attitude And The Offering – Part I

Her hand was in the cookie jar. She caught a glimpse of me around the corner and, not certain whether I had seen her act, quickly removed her hand and ran around the corner to me. With a questioning look on her face, she said, "Daddy, let me give you a hug and a kiss!"

It was a welcome offering but the offering was prompted by questionable motivations and attitudes. In essence, it could be explained as self-service offering.

Very early in the history of mankind is an intriguing story of two offerings being brought to the Lord, but with vastly different and disastrous results. Cain and Abel were the firstborn sons of Adam and Eve. The Book of Genesis records their own catastrophic failure in stewardship which resulted in a curse and banishment from the Garden of Eden. There are some very interesting questions about the actions of these first two children physically born into our world.

The birth of these young men is reported along with the announcement of their chosen means of livelihood. The very next thing reported is they each brought an offering to the Lord. This is amazing! Who taught them to give? Where did the concept of an offering to the Lord' originate? What prompted these offering?

One thing is quite obvious. Adam and Eve and family had developed a healthy respect for God and a vital awareness of His involvement in their lives. They had apparently learned some serious lessons in stewardship as well, since there is no other visible explanation for their sons having learned to bring offerings to the Lord. However, this early historic offering has some very informative clues as to the way in which offerings become acceptable to the Lord.

Cain brought an offering of "the fruit of the ground." The essence of his offering was a 'gratitude' or 'thank offering' whereby Cain gave evidence of his belief in God as the Lord of the universe and the dispenser of material and earthly blessings. But, the Word says God did not look with favor on Cain's offering. There was something about the offering which did not meet God's expectations.

Abel's offering was "of the first-fruits of his flock." It is believed by many scholars that Abel brought a thank offering just as Cain did, but, in addition, he also brought the 'fat portions' or the best of the firstborn of his flock. By this additional offering he acknowledged himself as a sinner and professed faith in the promised Messiah. God was obviously pleased with both the essence and the attitude of Abel's offering.

"God loves a cheerful giver." The attitude with which we give a gift to God is just as important as the gift itself that we present God.

"Dear Lord, help me to be a cheerful giver and recognize You as Lord over all my life and resources."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: A gift to God is pleasing to Him only if it is given with the right spirit and attitude.

– Edward Rickman –

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Genesis 4:1-16

The Attitude And The Offering – Part II

There is a significant contrast in these two offerings which results in the response of Cain. He was angry at God's response to his brother's offering as opposed to his own. But instead of applying his response to his own problem he applied his anger toward his brother. God clearly pointed this out to Cain in Genesis 4:6: "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?'"

God, in His mercy and grace, brought Cain to a realization of his sin, warned him of its danger, and clearly indicated the way of escape. But Cain's misguided attitude was set. His anger led to the first murder recorded in human history.

On the other hand, Abel's offering included another dimension. As is recorded in Hebrews 11:4, Abel's offering was brought in 'faith', and because of his faith he was commended as a righteous man.

The contrast of these two attitudes was dramatized in the action of an unrepentant and angry Cain against his brother Abel who was a righteous man because of his open recognition of his own need, and his faith in God as providing righteousness to replace his sinfulness.

There are several vital lessons to be gleaned from this early historical drama. First of all, there is a right and a wrong attitude toward the relationship between God and the material universe.

The very professions the two brothers chose are indication of their focus. Cain's focus was on settled possession and enjoyment of the earth. On the other hand, Abel's focus was on the temporary nature of life and the need to sacrifice some of the possessions of this life to prepare for eternal life.

Jesus illustrated the two contrasting attitudes in Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

Secondly, there is a right and wrong relationship to God and our fellow man which will determine the acceptability of our offerings. Jesus illustrates this well in Matthew 5:21-24 when he talks about anger with one's brother. He makes a very conclusive statement in verses 23 and 24: "…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." The acceptability of our offerings is dependent on right relationships with our brothers and sisters. Right relationships with brothers and sisters are directly connected to right relationships with God and attitudes toward His provision for our salvation.

Thirdly, an offering alone, no matter its value, will never appease a Holy God. It must be accompanied by a repentant faith in God and right relationships to be acceptable to God.

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Lastly, the Biblical concept of stewardship, as illustrated in the beginning of time, requires a faith relationship to the giver of all resources and a demonstrated recognition that God is owner of all we possess.

"Dear Lord, make me aware today of any areas of my life that are not absolutely consecrated to You and Your service."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Our focus on the stewardship issues is inexplicably intertwined with our eternal destiny.

– Edward Rickman –

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Genesis 6:9-22

Sacrificing Our Treasures – Part I

Moving is painful experience! Every move seems to become more painful. Some of the things we have collected over the years and counted as absolute treasures begin to lose some of their value when you learn it will cost more to move or ship them than they are worth.

On the other hand, there are some things we possess which have such strong sentimental value that we can't bear to part with them. Some of them we have protected at great cost to ourselves. We have given of ourselves and our resources to protect and insure some of the valuable assets.

But what if God asked us to give them to Him?

I am reminded of Noah's experience. Just imagine what Noah and his family had collected for 600 years! When God recognized the righteousness of Noah and the wickedness and violence of the world in which Noah lived, God instructed Noah to prepare for a major move.

The first thing Noah had to do was listen to God's instructions for constructing his own moving van (commonly called ARK). The ramifications of accepting this assignment from God were absolutely breathtaking!

First of all, Noah recognized that there was only one way to save himself and his family. The only other alternative was to take his chances that God wouldn't really carry through with His judgement on the earth. Perhaps God would overlook the circumstances and provide another means of escape. In that case he and his family could go on living their lives normally and determine their own course of action.

On the other hand, Noah recognized that if he believed God and obeyed God's instructions, it would require him to commit his life, his family, his time, and, and yes, all of his resources. The commitment was irrevocable.

For literally decades, Noah labored and committed and gave of his resources to complete the construction of his "moving van" which would ultimately be the last and only means of salvation for himself and his family. It's hard to imagine the ridicule he experienced. It's also difficult to fathom the depths of his faith to be building a "moving van" which would float on water when it had never rained and there was certainly no way to get this ship to a dock for launching. When we can't see the future, it's important to believe God and exercise our faith in His direction.

"Dear Lord, by faith I give myself, my family, and my resources to You to be preserved and used by You!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "When you can't see very far ahead, walk ahead as far as you can see." (Dawson Trotman)

– Edward Rickman –

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Genesis 8:18-22

Sacrificing Our Treasures – Part II

When all the preparations of decades of work were finally completed, imagine the faith it took and the ridicule to which Noah was exposed when he took that menagerie into the ark and then took all his family into that "moving van" and then waited for 7 days for it to rain.

Then the rains came – for 40 days they came! And then the waters stood on the earth for 150 days.

For a year and 17 days, Noah had his family in this sealed "moving van" with an unbelievable collection of animals – and the ventilation was likely less than adequate!

Now, here's the most dramatic and shocking part of the whole story.

When they all left the ark, "Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it" (Genesis 8:20)

Here was Noah sacrificing the best of his resources after having spent most of his long life building a vessel to save them! What a turn of events!

He and his whole family had lived with and protected those animals (resources) for over a year in that unique environment in order to protect them from certain destruction! And, now that he has saved them, he is sacrificing them! If this isn't a paradox, I've never seen one!

Consider a few stewardship lessons that become apparent in this event:

  1. God planned and Noah implemented the salvation of his family as well as preserving the resources of the earth which provided the means for sustaining life.

  2. Noah recognized that these resources were God's gift to him and his family and needed to be preserved.

  3. Noah was willing to sacrifice even that which he had spent years preserving to honor God and express his worship and thanks!

These are principles which should be applied to everything we have. God was so pleased with Noah's sacrifice that "…he said in his heart: Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every indication of his heart is evil from childhood; and never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done." (Genesis 8:21)

Noah's example of stewardship has preserved life for all these centuries. May we be faithful to assure that the treasures in our "moving van" are also available to give to God for His purposes and Glory!

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"Dear Lord, my family is so precious to me, I want to give everything to You and ask You to preserve their souls for You."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When God talks to me about the way to save my family, it will likely require total commitment.

– Edward Rickman –

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Matthew 6:19-24

"Life's Treasures… Fitted Into A Suitcase" – Part I

She looked tired and somewhat dismayed. As she furtively looked around for a place to sit in the crowded area of the Chicago airport, she caught my eye and noted there was an empty seat beside me. She quickly moved to sit beside me with a sigh of relief. I greeted her with a comment about the weather. She immediately replied that the weather was certainly better here than from where she had come. It was an opening to inquire of her travels which led to her telling me of her trip to a town in Ontario, Canada, which was very familiar to me. After we had shared some mutual knowledge of the Ontario town she had visited, which was also her birthplace, she began to share the purpose of her visit.

With an obviously heavy spirit, this newfound acquaintance began to share that she had returned to her hometown for the difficult task of moving her aged mother to a nursing home. The pain in her voice indicated the trauma of her experience. Just before the call to board the plane, she ended the conversation with this very poignant statement: "You know, it's so sad! You spend your whole life collecting and treasuring your possessions, and you end up with everything you have in a little suitcase."

As that statement began to sink into my consciousness, I started to develop a new awareness of the North American "mind set" about the accumulation and use of the treasures we call "OURS".

Some years ago, I began to notice a popular phrase appearing on T-shirts, placards, and other places which read, "He who ends up with the most toys WINS!" However, more recently, I saw a T-shirt which read, "He who dies with the most toys STILL DIES!" What a grim reminder that the accumulation of things does not prevent or alter, in any way, the inevitable stages of life which culminate with death and eternity.

Yet, even though there is that conscious awareness that the day is coming when we will experience total separation from our treasures, and, that the size and amount of those treasures will have absolutely no effect on our ultimate destiny, the majority of people are still clinging to their treasures. The tendency continues for us to evaluate our lives on the basis of these possessions.

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with having possessions. After all, God created all things for our use and enjoyment. He gave us the skills and the abilities to create beautiful things and produce wealth of every kind. He endowed us with the privilege of producing as much as our capability win allow.

Our problem, however, is maintaining a right perspective on the meaning, the purpose, and the ultimate use of all the products of our skills, abilities, and labors. Without that right perspective, our happiness, fulfillment, hopes, dreams, visions, and aspirations all ride the roller-coaster of the waxing and waning of our economic worth.

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"Dear Lord, help me understand that my worth to You has nothing to do with the things I possess. They all belong to You."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My worth and value are not dependent on how much I have, but on who owns what I have.

– Edward Rickman –

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Matthew 6:19-24

"Life's Treasures… Fitted Into A Suitcase" – Part II

The Word of God is so practical and pointed in steering us to maintain the right perspective on our treasures let me suggest some of the ways in which we lose a proper perspective:

  1. By placing our treasures in the wrong place.

    No, I'm not talking about which bank you use or which properties you buy. It's much more basic. Jesus said it like this, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven…" Matthew 6:19-20.

    We need to internalize the concept that the depository of our treasures will determine both the integrity and balance of our earthly life and the ultimate destiny and rewards of eternal life. Living by this concept would free us from the mad scramble to accumulate treasures and find the temporary happiness they bring when they are used to indulge our pleasures.

    We also lose a proper perspective:

  2. By prizing our treasures for the wrong reasons.

    Some of the happiest and most productive people I know have the perspective that their possessions all belong to God. They plan to use only a necessary portion for their own use and all the rest belongs to and is available to God. They treasure their possessions for the right reasons. They have experienced the fulfillment and joy of using them to enhance God's kingdom work.

    We also lose perspective:

  3. By protecting our treasures for the wrong time period.

    We have been taught in many ways that there are certain time periods in life for which we should concentrate our economic planning:

    • For marriage and establishing a home

    • For the education of our children

    • For retirement

These appear to be the highest priorities. They are all very important. They should all have their proper place in our planning and living our lives. However, the essence of scripture is that our over-arching plan for life, and even our treasures, must include eternity. Otherwise, the use and treasuring of all possessions take on a self-indulgent value which we hope will see us through to the end of life.

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The perspective we demonstrate in viewing and using our treasures will determine whether we come to the last days of our lives with "everything we have in a little suitcase" or an "eternal reward in heaven" because of our investment. Which are you planning for?

"Dear Lord, give me a new perspective on what I am doing with my earthly treasures and give me a new love for giving to you. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Not only is it true that "Where your treasure is, there will be your heart be also," but it is equally true that where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.

– Edward Rickman –

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Haggai 1:1-11

"You Can't Afford Not To Give!"

Haggai, the prophet is speaking to people who have obviously allocated God's portion of their resources for personal use. It is illustrated in these words" Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses while this (the Lord's) house remains a ruin?" Following this very revealing question, the Prophet Haggai gives them a very direct message from God which demonstrates the principle of personal loss:

"You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it." (Haggai 1:6)

The principle is still there. They are going on with their lives and were obviously using every resource available for their personal pleasure, but whether they were aware or not, the resources they were allocating were being dissipated in interesting and strange ways. In Haggai 1:9, he continues with these words:

"You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? Declares the Lord Almighty. Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house."

There are many other scriptures "to be cited which illustrate the principle. Jesus stated the principle with convicting clarity in several different passages: What you keep you lose, and what you lose you keep.

It seems a strange paradox that "keeping" can cause "losing," but it's a principle that applies to every facet of life.

Throughout my personal journey, there have been tough times when I thought I couldn't possibly afford to give. Surely the Lord will understand if I use some of His resources for my personal use. What I have personally discovered, however, is that every time I did this I experienced personal loss in some area. There have been automobile breakdowns, unexpected home repairs, surprise bills, and a host of other unexpected expenses. For me, personally, I have discovered that the principle is very much alive – allocating God's resources for my personal use always results in losses that are as great or greater than what I had hoped to gain.

I suggest that the same principle works in your life. Even if you do not give God His portion of your resources, you still give it through "holes in your pocket". When you think you can't afford to give, remember this principle based on God's word: "You can't afford NOT TO GIVE."

"Dear Lord, help me to always respect the principle of Your ownership and Your expectations of my use of resources."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not take for granted that everything under my care is for my personal use. It all belongs to God and some of it must be designated for His purposes.

– Edward Rickman –

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Questions

  1. Do you agree that the attitude with which you give a gift to God is just as important as the gift itself which you present to God? What kind of attitude should you have when you approach God with your 'gift'?

  2. Why do you think Abel's offering was accepted and Cain's offering was rejected by God, as recorded in Genesis 4:1-16?

  3. Tell with what degree of conviction you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "The acceptability of our offerings is dependent on right relationships with our brothers and sisters. Right relationships with brothers and sisters are directly connected to right relationships with God and attitudes toward His provisions for our salvation."

  4. How would you describe the 'sacrifice' which Noah had to make in order to obey God, when he built the ark? How is Noah's sacrifice an 'example' to us of the kind of sacrifice that we (as believers) should be willing to make in order to obey God? Can you think of a committed person (Christian) whose great sacrifice (of material possessions, or of personal convenience and comfort and reputation, etc.) was necessary for him/her to demonstrate personal obedience to God's call to service?

  5. As a steward of the Living God, what are some of the 'treasures' of your personal life which you have made available to give to God for His purposes and glory?

  6. Why is it so foolish for you to evaluate your life on the basis of material possessions? (Note Luke 12:13-15; 1 Timothy 6:7; Hebrews 13:5)

  7. From a Biblical viewpoint, what is the right and proper perspective on the meaning and purpose and use of all the products of your skills and abilities and labors?

  8. Does your personal worth and value to God have any correlation with the amount of material possessions or personal achievements which you have? Why or why not?

  9. Share your interpretation and application of the following statement: "The depository of our treasures will determine both the integrity and balance of our earthly life and the ultimate destiny and rewards of eternal life."

  10. For what good and godly purposes should you 'prize' your personal material possessions?

  11. Beyond the legitimate use of your financial resources for earthly concerns such as (1) marriage and the establishment of your home, (2) the education of your children, (3) your retirement years, how can you use your financial resources in such a way that they will produce benefits which outlast time (with 'eternal dividends')?

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  12. Have you 'discovered' from your own 'sad experience' that allocating God's resources for your own personal use resulted in personal losses that were as great or greater than what you had hoped to gain by using some of God's 'tithes and offerings' for your own use? (Note Malachi 3:8-10)

  13. Give your explanation and application of the following Biblical principle: "What you keep you lose, and what you lose you keep." (Note Proverbs 28:27; Proverbs 3:9-10)

  14. What 'curses' did the ancient people of God reap from God, as a result of their preoccupation with personal accumulation of wealth ("living in paneled houses") and their neglect of maintaining the 'House of the Lord' in beautiful form? (Note Haggai 1:1-11) Do you think it is 'right' and 'proper' for modern-day Christians to spend great amounts of money to purchase beautiful houses while, at the same time, their own church buildings and missionary enterprises are in disrepair?

  15. Tell what is meant by the statement: "You can't afford not to give!"

  16. Tell to what degree you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "Even if you do not give God His portion of your resources, you still give them through 'holes in your pockets'."

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