June 24, 2012

Gifts without price

God’s blessings may cost us something, but we cannot obtain anything from Him with bargaining or by offering money.
I’ve not listened to the current batch of television preachers but know that some of them have a reputation for a false brand of religion called “name it and claim it.” This is a theology that assumes God wants His people rich, perfectly healthy, and having the best of everything. They forget that even the Son of God “had no place to lay His head.”

Another branch of false teaching is the idea that the more a person gives to the church, the more God will pour out blessings, usually financial gain. They quote verses like, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1) and “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10).

The assumption again is that God thinks like sinful man. He has His price and can be influenced by our generosity. This happened several times in the early church. One couple tried to enhance their reputation in the church through their giving. Another man tried to buy the power of God with money.
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. (Acts 8:18–22)
In the above story, Simon tried to buy what God offers freely. Is this not an insult to God? Peter called it wickedness and told this man to repent and ask for forgiveness. When a person’s heart is right before God, we will know that He gives freely, and that He also decides who gets what. We cannot name and claim anything, for if we are honest, we know that we do not deserve even the least of His blessings. A humble person, contrite before God and realizing our sinfulness, trusts God to bestow as He sees fit.

I’ve not thought too much about money in terms of its power. It does rule much of the minds and matters of humanity. People use it to impress and to gain control over others. Most of the news stories in today’s paper will be about money. 

This does not have to be true. A few weeks ago, we toured the Biltmore House, a grand estate established by the Vanderbilts as a place to provide hospitality to their friends. While money built the house, I am impressed by their motivation. Those with money can easily use it for less generous purposes.

Our son makes enough money that he could put on an impressive wedding, yet his motivation and that of his new wife was not about themselves. They did this to delight their friends and family, including babies and children. They had a balloon artist and craft tables for the kids and music at a reasonable volume so we could talk to one another without shouting. They wanted their guests to be relaxed and enjoy themselves. They used their resources to bless, not impress.

Lord, we had a grand day yesterday. Lest I get overly impress over the red carpet treatment, You remind me that Your blessings are up to You and cannot be bought or traded. None of us can claim special treatment because of anything we do. Any blessing we receive comes to us because Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive our sin and bring us into a right relationship with You. That relationship is the greatest gift. May it motivate me all day today.

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