Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Altar of Araunah

1 Chronicles 21

Have you completed your taxes yet? Some of us will be able to deduct charitable giving to churches or humanitarian organizations. How wonderful it is to know that you can contribute to something larger than yourself. But, what has your gift cost you?

Jesus famously commented to his disciples that a widow who gave two coins surpassed the man with the bag of money because she gave all while he gave out of his surplus. The same thing goes on today, though checkbooks make it harder to detect. Many wait to give to God till the end of the month when everything else they've had to or wanted to spend is gone. If there's some left over then they will give. This attitude goes something like this, "I'll give, as long as giving doesn't keep me from affording anything I've had my eye on."

I believe giving to God is a gift he has given to us. There is a subtle human understanding that a mere "thank you" is an insufficient response to a generous giver. And who has been more generous than God?  Compounding the problem is the fact that God needs nothing from us. All this makes me grateful to know a God who accepts gifts from those he has saved. When I give it becomes an act of worship insofar as it costs me something. Without giving I would feel like the man who has words to say but cannot say them.

In 1 Chronicles a poignant account is given of a great sin on the part of King David. God told him through the prophet that he must choose between three punishments. All affected more than just him. What a horrible choice! David chose what he thought was the least of the three evils and had to throw himself at the mercy of the death angel. David was ordered to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah (vs18) which was privately owned. When the owner heard David's request to buy his property for a sacrifice to end the plague he begged David to take it for free and to allow him to provide all the supplies to make a sacrifice. David's reply is relevant,
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.

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