Scriptures for today: Numbers 6:1-7:89; Mark 17:38-13:13; Psalm 49:1-20; Proverbs 10:27-28. It is a lot of scripture, but it is for the read through the Bible in a year project.
There is a common thread through the readings today. Our Old Testament passage speaks of offerings – both of ourselves through the Nazarite vow and of monetary offerings. The New Testament tells the story of the widow’s offering, and the Psalm speaks of wealth being short-lived.
The Nazarite vow was one that Samson and John the Baptist were bound to for life, but others could take this vow of separation for a limited time. Once the vow was fulfilled, the one taking it would be released from its rules. Although it is not a Nazarite vow, I can’t help but think of this season of Lent where some in the Christian faith give up something in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. It’s a sacrificial offering of sorts; giving up something one enjoys and desires in honor of Christ’s sacrifice. I’ve heard of people giving up all sorts of things: coffee, chocolate, television, and so on. I do know that sometimes God does call us to give up things in obedience to him. If we desire to truly serve him, then we must be willing to give up those things that he asks of us. In this we have to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Further on in our reading, we see the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel coming before God with offerings. These offerings are material in nature: silver, grain, oil, and animals. Many of us think of offering in terms of money. Yes, giving money is an offering, but there are other ways to give offerings. When you give your possessions to those in need, that is an offering. When you bring food to the church food pantry, that is an offering. When you give your time to work in the nursery, clean up after an event, or pull weeds in the flower bed, that is an offering. There are many ways to give offerings to the Lord, but what strikes me most in this section of scripture is that the offerings given were listed in great detail. God tells us who presented each offering and exactly what was given. This tells me that God sees our offerings and he takes note.
In the New Testament we get a different glimpse of offerings through the widow’s mite. Here again, scripture tells us who gave and exactly what was given. This time the amount is far less important. The significance lies in the heart of the giver. The widow gave out of her need. God saw her gift and it was duly noted so that thousands of years later, we read about her. Little did she know that day, that her giving heart would be a lesson for believers who would come long after she was gone.
Contrast this thought with Psalm 49 which speaks to the fleeting quality of wealth. It shows us that the foolish rely on their wealth and riches. They trust in their money, but money can not buy redemption. They foolishly grasp tightly to their houses of grandeur, their fancy cars, and wads of cash. They boast in their lavish vacations and think they are secure in their future because of the grand balance in their checking account. But scripture makes it clear that when we die, we leave our wealth behind. No man keeps his wealth. Since we cannot keep our wealth, why do we hold so tightly to it? We strive to add to it and build a name for ourselves and when we die, it is remembered no more. Yet, the widow’s gift of two small copper coins is forever recorded in the pages of scripture. Through her humility and sacrifice of a seemingly insignificant amount, she leaves a legacy.
How can we offer ourselves today? What offering is God calling you to give? Is he asking for a monetary gift, or perhaps a gift of your time? Maybe he is calling you to give up a personal possession in order to help someone else in need. Whatever he is prompting you to give, will you be obedient to his leading?