Monday, November 12, 2012

Risk All

Congregations all over the world are struggling to make ends meet. People in India are living in places we can’t even imagine. The people in Afghanistan and Iraq and Sudan and Syria are living in fear for their lives because they never know whether tomorrow might be their last. Christians living in nations where they are the minority worship in secret because it’s against the law in their nation to be a Christian.
          Yet, every day these folks risk everything they have to survive. And in some of these places there are folks who give the little they have to help their neighbors.
          So, I’ve been thinking. What do we risk? Did any of us wake up this morning wondering if a car bomber was going to be parked outside the church? Did any of us wake up this morning wondering if there was enough flour in the cupboard to make something to eat? Did any of us wake up this morning and count our pennies and decide that we could risk giving them to the church…even though they were all we had?  What chances do we take?
          We may drive too fast. We probably eat a few too many sweets or drink too many cups of coffee. We may choose not to exercise. But that’s not what I’m getting at today.
          Jesus took a seat in the temple and observed the people putting their offerings into the temple treasury.  Those who were wealthy were putting substantial chunks of change.  Then he called his disciples over because he’d noticed a widow coming in with her offering.  She dropped two small coins in the treasury.
          And Jesus said that she had given more than all the others put together.  What the others had put in they’d never miss but what she gave was all she had. She risked it all trusting in God.
          I don’t believe Jesus was saying that folks should give all but he was pointing out the kind of trust this widow had compared to those wealthy tithers who gave what they’d never miss.
          The prophet Malachi spoke God’s words to the people of his community. He spoke of how the priests were mistreating His people and how the people weren’t remaining faithful to their spouses and each other…and God.
          In chapter 3 he speaks of sending a messenger to prepare the way before Him. The people hadn’t been living as God had instructed them. They had reverted back to sorcery and idols, swearing falsely and cheating, and oppressing the laborers who worked for them by not paying them a fair wage.  They weren’t caring for the aliens in their country…and they didn’t fear the Lord.  God wasn’t happy.
          But God hadn’t changed. He still loved them. He desired them to return to Him. But how could they return when they’d been robbing God? They questioned how they were robbing God and he replied, “In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for robbing me—the whole nation of you!”
          Now you’d think that God would have had enough. That he’d want children who loved him and cared to be with him and wouldn’t cheat him. But no, He said, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test…see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”
          God was asking them to risk giving their tithe and then trust Him to bless them. Even though they’d neglected their offerings for so long God didn’t reject them he was willing to take them all back if they’d come back to him.
          So…when we hear God saying, “You have spoken harsh words against me,” do we wonder when and how we could have done that? God’s reply is the same today as it was in Malachi’s day. When we say it is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his commands…Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape. We risk nothing. It’s all about us.
          There is a day coming says the Lord when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes will burn them up.  But…for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
          Now, we might think that all of this was just for those folks back in the day but I believe God is speaking to you and me. He sees what we give. He knows what we’re thinking and saying…and his heart is breaking.
          There are hungry people in the world. There are children starving in the world. But they don’t need to. They could be fed. There is enough food in the world relieve the hunger and the starvation.  All it takes is for God’s children to give.  All it takes is for us to give our tithe.
          There’s not one of us here today who’d starve or miss a payment by giving our tithe…not one.  I say that because God isn’t asking us to risk what the widow did. He just wants us to remember the commandments to love him with all we are and to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. 
          What would the impact be if we committed to doing that? What kind of change would take place if we brought our tithe into God’s storehouse? I wonder.
          Friends, I believe God is reminding us of our duty to Him and our neighbors.  And we know who our neighbors are, don’t we?
            Thanks be to God for his loving grace. Amen.

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