Dr. Bob Hatfield, our interim Minister of Music, was encouraging us during a particularly-long choir rehearsal recently. He said, "We don't want to offer to God something that hasn't cost us something. By working hard on our music and spending time practicing, our musical offering will mean so much more."
King David first said similar words in 2 Samuel 24:24b - “… I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24b)
In David's case, he had sinned against God by ordering a census that God did not want. As punishment, God sent a plague on the people. David begged God to have mercy on the people, and God told him to build an altar on Mount Moriah at the threshing floor of a man named Araunah. David went to Araunah and explained the situation. Araunah quickly agreed and essentially said, "Here. Take my floor and use it however you want."
But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the LORD my God that have cost me nothing.’ So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.” 2 Samuel 24:24 (NLT)
Even though David had sinned, his reply to Araunah showed repentence, remorse and wisdom.
I remember on several occasions when we were in Ecuador, volunteer teams brought in Bibles for us to give away in the places where we were trying to plant churches. Our leaders wisely advised us to charge a few dollars for the Bibles, knowing that in that culture paying something, even a small amount, for a Bible would make it more meaningful to the recipient.
When we spend hours preparing a Sunday School lesson, it matters to us.
When we buy groceries and cook all day for a special meal, it is a costly act of love.
When we save to pay for a special gift for a loved one, the happiness when they open it is multiplied.
When we arrive on Sunday morning for worship after praying, asking for and receiving forgiveness, and approaching the time with a clean heart, we are so much more likely to hear God's message. On the other hand, when we get up late, fuss with our kids, hurry to make it out the door and barely arrive on time, it is much more difficult to turn our hearts toward God.
There will be many gifts given in the coming days. Do we want them to be as "free" and inconsequential as the toys that come inside Happy Meals, or do we want them to reflect thought, time and genuine interest in the needs or desires of the one to whom we're giving?
I confess I'm preaching to myself.
Last year, I hastily picked out a gift for my sister. When she opened it, it was obvious that it was totally wrong for her. She tried to be nice about it but tactfully said, "What were your thoughts?" Yes, I returned it for something more appropriate. I want to avoid such a moment this year. I want to offer to God offerings that have cost me something, and I want to give gifts that reflect a real measure of care and love.
Do you agree with the title of this blog? Does something (a gift, an offering) mean more when it costs something?