This email completes a two-part series on the generosity of King David, seen in the collection of the offering for the building of the temple in I Chronicles 29.
I wish you a blessed Christmas and some time of rest and relaxation with those you love.
Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders
Generous Person in the Bible—David
Part 2: David’s Prayer
When it comes to stewardship, what differentiates the church from every other nonprofit? In an age when we are constantly bombarded with opportunities to give, does the church have any unique claim?
We have all heard numerous temple talks and giving appeals in our congregations that tell great stories but ultimately miss the point that stewardship is not about us and our decisions, it is about God and our relationship with God. Stewardship is first and foremost a faith relationship and secondarily a financial relationship.
In the later part of 1 Chronicles 29 David follows his invitation to give with a prayer that frames the offerings of the people in the context of their relationship with God. In this prayer, David clearly articulates the relationship between the giver and God through praise, thanksgiving and petition.
David begins his prayer, in verses 10-13, by praising God for who God is. David names God’s attributes before the people, “Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.” (1 Chronicles 29:11) God is indeed a mighty ruler. David acknowledges God as the owner and ruler of all things whether on heaven or on earth.
God is not only the creator but also the possessor of all things. Everything belongs to God, including the material offerings that have just been given. God is the ruler over all things and God is the bestower of power, might and strength. God in God’s self is mighty to be praised!
David echoes this praise in his prayers of thanksgiving in verses 14-17. He begins his thanksgiving with a humble question, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering?” (1 Chronicles 29:14) The modest phrase “who am I” only appears seven times in the NRSV Bible with David speaking the phrase four out of those seven times.
David continually stands in awe of his relationship with the Almighty. Keeping in mind who God is, as he named in his previous section of the prayer, he realizes that it is a privilege for him and the people of Israel to come before God and serve as vessels for this offering. “For all things come from you, and of your own we have given.” (1 Chronicles 29:14)
David and his people can take no credit for their generosity. They are only channels for the resources that God has graciously given to them. This giving is not about the gift; it is about the relationship between God and God’s people. God is a God of abundance who gracefully shares God’s abundance with God’s people.
David continues by echoing his invitation, the offering is not about the gift, it is about the giver. “I know, dear God, that you care nothing for the surface—you want us, our true selves—and so I have given from the heart, honestly and happily. And now see all these people doing the same giving freely, willingly—what a joy!” (1 Chronicles 29:17, The Message) God doesn’t desire our money; God desires our heart. However, in returning our possessions to God, freely surrendering them for God’s service, and acknowledging God as the owner of all things, we connect our hearts with God. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
David ends his prayer with supplications both for the people and for Solomon. David asks God to keep these thoughts and purposes in the heart of God’s people forever. He asks God to direct the hearts of the people towards God. He asks God to give Solomon a single mind so that he may keep God’s commandments, decrees, and statutes. Only after all of these requests does David ask God to help Solomon in the building the Temple. For David, the offerings are more about the relationship between God and God’s people than even the Temple itself.
In his prayer, David clearly articulates that giving is not about the gift; it is about the relationship. God is the creator and owner of all that we have. Giving is an opportunity to praise God with our whole selves—our voices and our wallets.
This relationship is what separates the church from other nonprofits. It is the task of the church to focus on the giver’s need to give rather than the church’s need to receive. Giving appeals and temple talks should always reflect the importance of the relationship between God and the giver. Stewardship is a matter of prayer, faith, worship, praise and thanksgiving before it is ever a matter of finances.
Grace Duddy is a M.A. senior in the Congregational Mission and Leadership program at Luther Seminary. She works in the center for stewardship leaders.
2011 has seen a new development in these Stewardship for the 21st Century emails—the inclusion of short video resources. I recently received an email telling how a pastor has used three of these videos at church council meetings.
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