Part of my daily routine that I’ve set up is going through the One Year Bible… I’ve tried starting this several times, but never made it past a couple of months. But I know that I need to add some discipline into my life, and this was a good habit for me to pick up. So August 1, I started in the middle of the year. This will sound so cliché, but it’s amazing how much these passages are relating to thoughts in my head re: ministry and life. It’s been cool.
A couple of nights ago, it was Ezra 1 and the rebuilding of the temple. I’d read these passages before, but something new struck me this time around.
When Ezra began was called to rebuild the temple, the Jewish exiles were expected to give towards the project. The passage lists several items required: silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. Then there is one more item on the list: FREE WILL OFFERNING.
Now, I maybe wrong, but historical context seems to tell me that as a person in exile, my possession may be quite meaningful to me especially if they are from my past. And regardless of being exiled or not, supplies and livestock are pretty much all a person had to their name, how wealthy a person was considered. They gave of their only possessions, and as if gold, silver, and livestock weren’t enough, they were required to give a freewill offering as well.
When I hear the phrase, “freewill offering” this is what comes to mind: a tired, old Southern Gospel singer who used to ride the tent-revival circuit and is now securing gigs in church. And “all he requires is a freewill offering.” I remember cringing, not just at the music (AAAH!) but the whole idea of “digging deep folks, it takes a lot to be on the road.” This type of freewill offering is, of course, above and beyond normal “call of duty” when it comes to church giving.
My question is this: Do you think that the Jews in exile cringed or complained that on top of paying for basics, which is understandable, they had to give over and above? We’re not told, but I seriously wish I knew.
We’re full in the volunteer recruitment season of church life. We bombard the congregation with all sorts of media and opportunities to respond to that media. We need them to fill vital jobs that make church happen week in and week out.
After reading this passage, I almost feel as if I’m calling my people to make a freewill offering of sorts to the church that is over and above normal giving. I want them to offer that which maybe is more precious to them then their money, their time.
Thank you everyone for giving us money to keep the lights on and pay the staff, but there is a part of giving to the church that you’re missing out on, the freewill offering of your time. I know people cringe when something like this is said. But God needs us to give more.
I have kids who need mentors and small group leaders. I’ve got stories that need to be told and people behind the scenes to make it happen. I need people to smile and welcome kids BY NAME into an environment.
I think that the Jews needed to give their freewill offering. In the offering of that which is above and beyond the normal call of duty, we begin to really own the project and the mission. It’s when we fall in love with Jesus in a deeper way as we watch our efforts multiply and build the kingdom of God.
I now see that in give more, God will do “exceedingly more than we could ever ask or imagine…” definitely in the church but also in our lives as well.
In what areas do you need to step up and make a phone call to sign up and give a freewill offering?