The last two Stewardship for the 21st Century emails for 2011 will continue the series on generous people in the Bible. The two emails look at the generosity and leadership of King David, recorded in I Chronicles 29.
May the blessings of Advent fill your days.
Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders
Generous Person in the Bible—David
Part 1: David's Invitation
Imagine that you are a church leader raising money to build a church sanctuary. This will be the congregation's first, stable building. You and the congregation have longed for this place to call your spiritual home, a place where the community can gather, a place where God can dwell. This building project has been a burden on your heart throughout your time in leadership, but now it is time for you to step down as a leader. This is the situation in which we find David in 1 Chronicles 29. In his last act as king, David chooses to assist his son in the daunting task of constructing the first temple by taking up an offering from the people. In his invitation, David illustrates the importance of leadership in fundraising as well as the fact that giving is a spiritual matter.
David begins his invitation by telling the whole assembly of all the resources that he has collected not only from his own kingdom but also from his personal house. He can confidently tell the people, "I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able" (1 Chronicles 29:2). David leads by example. He feels the stretch of his generosity, showing his personal dedication to the cause of building the temple.
As Leslie C. Allen writes in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary, "David led with his own pocket, giving not public money but his own (v. 3), thus setting an example of generosity." Only after he has illustrated his dedication to his cause, can he genuinely ask: "Who then will offer willingly, consecrating themselves today to the Lord?" (1 Chronicles 29:5, NRSV)
In response to this invitation, the leaders of the people come forward with their freewill offerings. The response begins with the "leaders of the ancestral houses," "leaders of the tribes, the commanders of the thousands and of the hundreds, and the officers over the king's work." The leaders of the people mirror the king's example of generosity. Only after these examples do the people come forward with their offerings of precious stones. It is the responsibility of leaders to lead not only with their mouths, but also with their pockets. They cannot ask the people to be generous, when they themselves have not also been generous.
Secondly, David's invitation illustrates that he views giving as a spiritual activity. He sees giving as an act of worship not just a monetary exchange. He does not invite the people to give material possessions; rather he invites the people to give themselves wholly to the Lord. He asks, "Who then will offer willingly, consecrating themselves today to the Lord?" (1 Chronicles 29:5) Through their generosity, not only the gifts but also the givers are consecrated to God.
As Allen writes, "In the end, the offering was more than a material one, for its substance already belonged to the Lord. The real offerings were spiritual, matters of 'the heart': a sincere motivation to honor God and a readiness to give." At the end of the offering, the people can wholeheartedly rejoice "because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the Lord" (1 Chronicles 29:9).
This emphasis on generosity as a spiritual act mirrors the collection of offerings for the tabernacle in Exodus. In both cases generosity begins with the heart and spirit rather than the wallet. The leader, whether Moses or David, solicited gifts not from those with great means but those with generous hearts. In both cases, the gifts are called "freewill offerings" because they are just as spiritual as the gifts offered as sacrifices before the Lord. In giving of their possessions to the construction of the tabernacle or the temple the people were offering themselves to God.
This passage reminds us that any invitation should begin with the leaders and that giving is first a matter of the heart. David's public display of generosity in this passage challenges leaders to ask of themselves before they ask of others. Leaders should lead with their own gifts, not just their words. This kind of servant leadership not only encourages the gifts of one's followers but also illustrates personal dedication to one's cause.
More importantly, David teaches us that soliciting gifts is about the heart first and then the wallet. When we give to God's mission, whether to a building, program or a specific person, this is a spiritual act of worship that emerges from a generous heart. When we give of our possessions we offer our whole selves to God, dedicating ourselves to God's mission in the world.
Grace Duddy is a senior M.A. student in the Congregational Mission and Leadership program at Luther Seminary. She also works in the Center for Stewardship Leaders.
I have recently read two Alban Institute publications that I missed when they were first published. I found each of them very helpful. This space doesn't allow for a review, but it does give me a chance to recommend them to you. If you are looking for some winter stewardship reading, I encourage you to consider "Offerings of the Heart" by Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit (2005) and "Ministry and Money" by Dan Hotchkiss (2002). Happy reading!
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.