Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice…
The concept of making sacrifices to God (or a god) is an old one. In Noah’s day and throughout the Old Testament, they did it with animals because that was what represented their wealth and treasure. Today, we use currency for that same reason.
What do our offerings mean?
But what does “sacrificing” to God through our giving say? What does it actually mean? In this story, God had actually placed the idea in Noah’s mind and/or heart before the flood waters had even arrived (Noah reserved some animals specifically for the purpose of offering them to God). Once the waters receded, Noah knew what to do first, prior to anything else: build an alter and offer a sacrifice to the Lord. In doing so, Noah was saying to God, “You rule over everything I have. You have a right to say what I do with all that I possess, and all that I rule over. It is YOU who owns all that I have.”
This is also what I believe our tithes, offerings and other financial giving are supposed to signify–that ultimately, it is God who is the Master of my wealth, my possessions and therefore my life and what I treasure most about it.
In our culture, this notion is not a popular one. I remember when once, a non-believer friend asked me in disbelief if I actually gave 10% of my income to church. He couldn’t fathom the concept, and even seemed slightly indignant at it. I suppose to the person who’s not given his/her life to God, the idea of giving money to an entity because of faith conviction seems like naivety, idiocy, sheepishness or groupthink.
It’s funny, though–the Apostle Paul actually spoke against giving for disingenuous reasons in 2 Corinthians 9:7:
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
Quantity vs. Quality
In other words, God looks not at the amount that is given, but rather the heart behind the offering. That’s why with Noah’s offering, “the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice…” but others in Scripture–such as Cain, King Saul, and Ananias and Sapphira–earned God’s disapproval for how they gave their offerings. In all these examples, they held back from God, not giving Him their best. The message was clear: “Sorry, God. I am lord over my possessions, not You.” King Saul offered to God TONS of beautiful riches, and God rejected the sacrifice; yet Jesus lauded the widow in the Temple for giving two coins of the smallest denomination. Not because it was her last, but because it was her BEST.
More like Him
And isn’t that what God deserves from us? Our absolute best? We can never outgive him. Even when it means we give things up for His glory. He doesn’t hold back from us, He didn’t spare His Best for us, He knows what we need before we ask, He is ready to give us good gifts, and it is His delight to give us the Kingdom. And that’s the other side of the giving coin (see what I did there?): That our giving to God not only reminds Him and us that He is Lord over what we value, but it serves the equally nourishing purpose of making us more generous, just like Him. We don’t give to God because He’s in need of money. We give to God because in doing so, we follow His example of generosity and grow closer into His image. (This concept courtesy of Dave Ramsey.)
I write this post with some conviction. Not so much because of money…for me, generosity in giving (money) is not an especially hard concept; I earnestly cannot WAIT until I can give more and more of my wealth to build the Kingdom. But my time…that’s another issue, and truly an opportunity for growth for me.
What about you?
How do you view your giving? Your possessions?
Are you your own lord over what you have, or is He Lord over it?
Who is lord over your time? Your appetite? Your desires?
Do you think God owns you or owes you?