Hip-Pocket Worship

I like money. There! I’ve said it. (Hopefully, I don’t love money). If you were honest, you would more likely than not admit that you like money too.

Why? Money makes life more comfortable and convenient. It helps you meet your basic needs, but can also supply you with some of life’s luxuries as well, depending on how much of it you have.

Money in itself, of course, has no value. In most countries, it’s a crumpled piece of paper with special ink printed on it. In more sophisticated countries, it’s difficult-to-tear plastic. But even then, it’s inherent value is negligible. It’s value lies in what it can be exchanged for.

At cell group last week, we were discussing why God puts so much emphasis on money, giving and tithing. One person thought that it was important for us to bring our tithes “into the storehouse” to support those who do the work of ministry within the church. Now, I admit that there are some verses in the Bible that talk about collecting funds for the priests, leaving things behind for the poor etc.

But if we think of money just as resource, i.e. a means to fulfill God’s work, then I think we underestimate just how powerful and unendingly resourceful our God is. Put simply, God doesn’t need our money to accomplish His work!

I believe that, at its core, God puts a lot of emphasis on money because it goes to the root of who or what we put our faith in, and therefore, it is entirely an issue about our worship.

We can put it another way: money is the currency of the world. Faith is the currency of heaven.

The writer of Hebrews tells us plainly: “without faith, it is impossible to please God” and that God “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb 11:6).

In Luke 16:13, Jesus puts money into the frame as far as worship is concerned. He said:

No servant 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.

The last sentence there is almost a non-sequitur. Why didn’t Jesus just say you can’t serve God and your career, or your comfort or your self-image? Instead, he posits money right in the centre of the issue, and no less, “Money” with a capital “M”.

The reason is this: the more we rely on money, the less we will need to rely on God.

I had a friend who recently left a salaried job to start his own ministry. My immediate concern for him was how he was going to support himself and his family. I’m sure he wrestled with that issue at a greater level than I ever could imagine. But at the end of the day, he decided he would live by faith; he would put His trust in God to supply his needs. His job was to simply answer God’s call and to obey.

Since stepping out into this new ministry, my friend has had all his needs met. He was sponsored on a holiday, invited to speak at various events, asked to provide consultancy services to a church. God lined up all the work for him without his having to solicit money or opportunities from people. God is paying him to do a job he loves (or we could say, as the writer of Hebrews says, God rewards those who seek Him).

In 1 Chronicles 21, David had just sinned against the Lord, and a great plague had broken out against Israel. The Chronicler describes how David went to Araunah to buy his threshing floor so that he could offer burnt offerings to God there and arrest the plague. Here’s what transpired (vv 23ff):

Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.”

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

Now, I don’t think that 50 shekels of silver really made a dent in David’s hip-pocket. After all, he was the most prosperous king Israel had ever had. But David knew that giving wasn’t all about the hurt and the pain of sacrifice. David understood that giving went to the heart of worship.

After the sacrifice was made, God answered with fire from heaven and the plague stopped. But more importantly, this site, the threshing floor of Araunah, would be the designated site for the temple which David has blueprinted and which Solomon was to build. The foundation of worship is giving.

This same site goes by another name: Mt Moriah. Generations ago, in Genesis 22, God tested Abraham’s faith by seeing if he would sacrifice his son, his only son, whom he loved, on the mountain. When Abraham demonstrated to God that he was prepared to freely give, even the thing most precious to him, God provided a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. And Abraham called the place “the Lord will provide” (Jehovah Jireh).

Isaac, the only begotten and beloved son, and the substitutionary ram caught by the thicket are, of course, types of Christ. Our giving to God can never overshadow His generosity towards us in giving us His Son to die in our place. And so, our giving is rooted in God’s overwhelming generosity. Freely we have received, so freely we give!

And God makes it abundantly clear. When we are prepared to give, He stands ready to provide for us and to reward those who seek Him.

At the heart of the issue of money, giving and worship then is this: will Money be our provider, or will Jehovah Jireh be our provider. Who do we trust more?