“I would like to give more, but . . . .”
Ah, to that question there may be a multitude of answers depending upon the person to whom you address the question. There may, indeed, be those as the widow who cast in her last two mites. In sincere gratitude to God she would have cast in more than those two mites as a thank offering. But she had no more. She gave all the money she had. Therefore she gave more than those who gave a larger sum and had a mite left for other purposes. And she was a widow who had no income as the laboring man. She gave all that she had even though she had no assurance of receiving other in the immediate future for her earthly need. Did we say that she was a widow? Indeed, but she was far more. She was one of God’s royal priesthood. And she not only knew her calling as priest to be dedicated unto God with all which she had, but also she was living according to it. It was not simply that external gift, those pieces of coin that she offered. She offered her heart and its love unto God as a sweet smelling savor of thanksgiving.
How few such priests we see today.
All too often we hear that expression, “I would like to give more, but . . . .” And after that “but . . . .” there are so many silly and wicked things added. They all fall into this category, however, that they are the ambitions of one who does not recognize the fact that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. He divorces God from Him own creation. He refuses to be God’s royal priesthood but insists on living in God’s world and using His goods.
Shame on us that we so behave!
God gave to Israel a fundamental principle when He demanded that they bring to the priest the first fruits of their land. Before the Israelites touched any of the fruit that God caused to grow upon their fields, they had to bring to Him the first ripe grain from off these fields. God IS first, and His royal priesthood does not simply give lip-service to this truth, it lives according to that principle. That royal priesthood does not look at the end of the week, month or year to see whether there is something left for God and His kingdom. That royal priesthood says, God IS and always WAS first. Before I touch for my own use that which He gives me, I set aside that which is necessary for the maintenance of His cause here below. He does not get what is or might be left after I have satisfied my flesh; but I take what is left after I have offered up to Him my firstfruit of my paycheck, my income and material wealth. I do not tell Him to try to get along and adjust Himself to the pennies I might or might not have left after seeking the pleasure of my flesh; but I pray for grace to adjust myself to what may be left after I have rendered unto Him that which is already His and which I have received as a steward and priest. I make sure that the fire on my altar, as His priest, does not go out, but that it burns brightly every day, and that a sweet odor of praise and thanksgiving ascends to Him through my gift. Not He it is who takes the back seat. I do. It is not my earthly needs even that I seek first. I seek His kingdom in the confidence that these other things will be added to me.
Is it not true, as one of the members of one of my congregations once said to me, that to those who want to give towards the cause of God’s kingdom, to the cause of His Church, the Christian Schools, the institutions of mercy and the like, God always gives something to give? Indeed, but not because He does not give means to the others. Those who desire to give always find there is something to give—sometimes their last two mites—because God gives them grace in their hearts to know themselves as His priests over all that which they have. And it is usually those who can best afford to give that answer your request with, “I would like to give more, but . . . .” And then the full answer is, “I would like to give more, but the demands of my flesh, my pleasure, my name and lust are so great that I cannot see God. Maybe I am His priest, but I am a business man, a father who must support a family, a citizen with social obligations: and I need this and that and a few hundred other things.”
Shame on us, I say again, that we so behave!
The royal priesthood of God lives by the principle that he seeks first, last and always the kingdom of God and its righteousness, resting confidently in God’s promise to add to him all these other things that He needs in order to seek God’s, kingdom. For what other purpose does he live on this earth? The priest of God, because he is also God’s prophet, knows that his only calling on this earth is to serve the living God in Whose creation he lives. It is indeed an age-old sin that we seek first, not our actual needs and the actual necessities of life without which we could not live, but the satisfaction of our sinful lusts and ambitions before we think even of God’s cause and of its earthly needs. The prophet Haggai had to rebuke Israel for building their beautiful ceiled houses while the temple of God lay in ruin. O, there was gold and silver and plenty of beautiful woods for these houses of man. Far beyond the limits of what was actually needed as a place of shelter, men could spend thousands and thousands of dollars even in that day for a beautiful home with a beautiful ceiling. But when the call was there every day for funds to restore the temple, the answer was there, “I would like to give more money and of my time, but . . .” But what? I have no interest, or at least, not enough interest in God’s cause, not as much interest in God’s cause as I have for my own cause. I do not find any joy in being His priest. It costs too much.”
Do we say that too today?
Does it cost too much for us to be children of God? Is it too hard a task and too unpleasant a task for us to be His priests? How we contribute to the cause of His kingdom will surely reveal how much we enjoy the fact of being His royal priesthood. What we put first will show what we love the most. Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. Where, then, is our heart? Do we seek the kingdom of God first and wait for these other things to be added? Or do we first seek these things and hope that others will add up enough to take care of the needs of God’s Church and cause here below?
How often is it true that we can say in regard to the things of God’s kingdom, “I would like to give more, but I do not have it”? Yea, how often is it true even that we can say, “I would like to give more?” Is not all that which follows our “but” simply a denial of the fact that we would like to give more?
There is, indeed, a limit to what we can give. The widow could surely say also after she gave her two mites, “I would like to give more, but I do not have it.” Not everyone has the same amount to give, even though everyone is called to be a priest of God. Nor does God say that we should give all that which He gives unto us as an offering the next Sabbath. Jesus did not say of the widow that only she had performed her priestly duty and that all those who gave but a fraction of what they had performed a sin. No, He said that they gave of their abundance, while she of her penury gave all the living she had. Luke 21:2. And when Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of land and brought only part to the apostle’s feet, Peter did not rebuke him for bringing only a part. He charged him with lying against the Holy Ghost. And he declared unto him, “Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?” Acts 5:4.
But when we so freely spend so much of what we have received for the satisfaction of the flesh, and we have so little left to give grudgingly unto the cause of God’s kingdom, we had better be careful that we do not lie against the Holy Ghost when we say, “I would like to give more but . . . .” Do we really desire to give more than we do give? Do we husband our money as much for having a goodly sum to give to the support of the cause of God’s kingdom, as we husband that pay check to be able to buy this and that at some future time?
So much MUST be put aside every week or month for that payment on the ceiled house, that late model car, that vacation we intend to take next summer, that Christmas savings account so that we may buy Christmas presents, that insurance policy, the premiums of which are constantly soaring—and so my weekly contribution to the cause of God’s kingdom will have to be smaller. How much really do we FIRST seek the kingdom of God? How much are we really at the altar as God’s priests to offer up to Him that which He has so freely given us? Are we with all that which He has given to us dedicated unto Him? Or are we consecrated to the idols of lust, pleasure and vanity?
You know, we really do not need all that which we say that we need. You know as well as I do that when we say that we would like to give more, but we cannot afford it, that much of what we do buy with our money is luxury rather than need. What we need is that without which life is impossible. What we do need is that upon which life depends. But life does not depend upon two suits of clothes or two dresses. It does not depend upon a new suit of clothes or a new dress. It does not depend upon the choicest cuts of meat and the fanciest dishes. It does not depend upon the latest style of house with all the modern conveniences, labor saving (?) devices; filled with all the costliest carpeting and furniture, television set with the biggest screen, hi-fi or stereo set with the largest speakers, largest (or for that matter any size) deep freeze, automatic electric oven; and what more shall we add that we are constantly adding to our homes and listing as needs? Hear the Word of the Lord, “Is it a time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?”Haggai 1:4. No, we have beautiful church buildings and usually keep them in good repair. But when we so glibly speak of our needs and our inability to contribute to the cause of God’s kingdom in whatever form it is presented to us, and say that we “would like to give more, but . . . . ,” does this text not apply to us?
In many of our churches families do pay $300 to $400 in the church budget per year, another $100 in free collections for works of charity, $400 to $1400 in Christian School tuition, and another $100 to $200 in building fund drives and the like for such Kingdom causes. This is a sizeable amount of that weekly pay check. But if they are truly God’s royal priesthood, this is no burden. It is a freewill offering they put on the altar while declaring in their hearts, “Lord, the rest that I do not bring is also Thine. Help me to use it also in my daily life to express true thankfulness unto Thee and to serve Thee therewith.”
And he will understand and be ready to confess that his greatest need is not food and drink, clothing and shelter, but the grace of God to be able to be His priest in thought, word and deed.