Monday, June 2, 2008

All That I Have is Yours, O Lord

"But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?" prayed King David as Israel dedicated its contributions toward the future Temple. "Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand" (1 Chron. 29:14, NIV).

There are quite a few Christians today who could learn from David's attitude. Research consistently shows that as many as ninety-seven percent of us give less than ten percent of our income to Christian causes. And when we do put money in the offering plate--or spend part of our free time volunteering at church, or donate our old clothes to charity drives--we act as if we're doing God a big favor by deigning to notice Him. When we hear of someone who gave away her new clothes, or gives ninety percent of his income to the church, or left a thriving business to become a career missionary in a country that doesn't even have indoor plumbing--and who is brimming with joy over the privilege--our reaction is as likely as not to be, "This person must be a little weird in the head."

We could remedy part of the problem by cleaning up our language a bit. Instead of legitimitizing selfishness by constantly saying "my income, my car, my time, my life," we might adopt the philosophy attributed to entrepreneur and lay evangelist Robert LeTourneau: "The question is not how much of my money [or any other resource] do I give to God, but how much of God's money do I keep for myself." It's not simply a matter of how much we drop in the church plate, either; we can donate twenty percent of our income and still effectively keep it for ourselves, if we treat it as a "tip" to ensure God will prosper us in return, or if we expect human applause for our generosity. Likewise, we can spend part of our income on simply enjoying ourselves and still give it to God, if we enjoy ourselves in thankfulness to Him.

But let's start by giving the "firstfruits" directly to God's people and their work. If Christians took this responsibility seriously, there'd be no complaining that "the church is always asking for money."

The worst problem would be the one recorded in Exodus 36:3-7--that people were giving too much.

All that I have is Yours, O Lord,
For all has come from You:
You give the strength that drives my hands--
The brain that guides them, too;
So how can I say all my wealth
Was earned as rightful due?
You gave me all my property--
I give it back to You.

All that I have is Yours, O Lord,
For all has come from You:
You preordained each year I live--
Each hour and minute, too;
So how can I say I have right
To choose what I should do?
You gave the precious gift of time--
I give it back to You.

All that I have is Yours, O Lord,
For all has come from You:
Your very life was paid for mine--
For all I proved untrue,
For all my pride and hardened heart,
That pierced Your own heart through,
Your mercy gave me back my life--
I give it back to You.

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