What do you give to someone who has it all? (October 27, 2019)

What do you give to someone who has it all? (October 27, 2019)

October 31, 2019
Benjamin Ehlers

What do you give to someone who has it all?

1 Chronicles 29:1-2, 10-18

How do you give to someone who has it all? You’ve seen that in cards, right? Maybe an anniversary card that reads, “How could I ever begin to describe you, the perfect wife?” Or a Father’s Day card that reads, “What could I ever do for the father that has done so much for me?” Or a birthday card that reads, “What do you give to someone who already has it all?”

King David had it all. Skimming through the history of Chronicles and Kings, you would see very quickly that David was a great and mighty king! He strategically fought the battles that extended Israel’s borders. He wisely stored up the wealth and supplies that fattened the storehouses of Israel. He ruled with authority and power. And yet, despite having all power, wealth, and glory David realized there is someone who has even more than him. The only reason he was able to do all of this is because “[the Lord] has given the inhabitants of the land into my hands, and the land is subject to the Lord and to his people” (1 Chr 22:18). That’s why, David rightly praised God, saying “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all” (1 Chr 29:11). Because, despite David being king, God’s is the power. Despite David winning many battles, God’s is the victory. And despite David offering such wealth for the temple and the praise and honor he could rightly receive for doing such, he gives credit where credit is due: God’s is the greatness, and God’s is the glory. David was content being a mirror. Everything he had been given from God, he reflected to the people. And any praise he received, he reflected back up to God.

That’s hard to do. It’s hard to see all that I have as gifts from God, when I worked hard for that paycheck, I’ve worked hard to put food on the table, and I’ve worked hard saving for my retirement. We practice it though. Before our meals we practice remembering that this food is from God when we pray, “Come Lord, Jesus, be our guest. And let these gifts to us be blessed.” During the offering, sometimes, we practice it by singing something like, “We give thee but thine own.” It’s easy to say… Much more difficult to believe. Especially when it feels so good to hear such words of praise – to be honored for the gifts we have and give. “Great sermon pastor!” Ahhh! Thank you! “Thanks for your help today. You have such a kind and generous heart.” Ahhh! Thank you! “Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Your advice is greatly treasured!” Ahhh! Thank you!

We are quick to take credit for these things, and yet quick to give away credit for those less than desirable things. When we are caught in a lie, we quickly give away the credit to someone else and feign innocence. When we’ve done wrong and hurt someone, we quickly give away the credit to someone else pressuring you to do it. When we are confronted with sin, we quickly give away the credit saying, “The devil made me do it!” Really, these are the only things that are rightly mine. These are the only things I can claim. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rm 6:23) – “the earnings of sin is death.”

Thankfully, the God who has it all, is also happy to give it all. Is it too early to talk about Christmas? I well remember the days leading up to Christmas as a child. I remember waking up on Christmas break to the sound of Handel’s Messiah playing peacefully in the living room. I remember going out as a family to find and cut down the perfect Christmas tree. I also remember my mom taking us one by one to shop for Christmas gifts. On our special day to go shopping, we’d pick out gifts for our parents and each of our siblings. Maybe even get a special treat or lunch. It was great bonding time.

As I got a little older, I started to realize, how generous my parents were for letting me buy a gift for my siblings with their money! And wow, each sibling did that for each of our 5 siblings! And then I got a little older still and realized the second part of the generosity, the gift I bought for my mom and dad was also purchased with their money. They let me pick it out, wrap it, proudly give it, receive all the credit – thanks and praise – when really it all came from them anyway. What an honor and a privilege they have given me, freely, without my own earning.

That must have been what David was thinking as he went over the accounting of the generous gifts both from him, and the Israelites for the construction of the Lord’s Temple. First, he recognized the monumental task it would be to build a physical temple for the one whom all of creation cannot contain. “The task is great” he said, “because this palatial structure is not for man but for the Lord God” (1 Chr 29:1). Then he gave an accounting of what had been given. From the royal treasury was give “gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze…” as well as precious stones – all of these in large quantities. Then, on top of that, David himself gave from his personal treasury “three thousand talents of gold… and seven thousand talents of refined silver” (1 Chr 29:4). David’s portion would amount to about 740,000lbs, which is pretty close to double the weight of the Statue of Liberty! On top of all of that, the leaders, officers, and commanders also all gave willingly, gold, silver, bronze, iron, and precious stones. Their gift weighing in at 5,000 tons, or 10,000,000lbs… about the weight of train with 45 fully loaded coal cars. This was a colossal gift, given willingly to be used for the construction of the Temple of God!

And yet, when he looks over this massive amount of gifts collectively given – whether line items on paper like we just read or all piled up in a storehouse somewhere like a freight train of precious metals, can you imagine the sight and how that must have felt to accumulate such a gift to God?! And yet, when David looks over this massive gift, he realizes, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (2 Chr 29:14). And maybe even with a tremble in his voice, he asks, “who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?” (2 Chr 29:14).” “We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors” (2 Chr 29:15). In other words, there’s nothing special about us that you should be drawn to us. There’s nothing we’ve done that deserves such favor from you. “Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope” (2 Chr 29:15).

But God gave for that too. “The wages of sin is death” yes, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm 6:23). Since I was talking about Christmas, it’s very fitting to talk about the gift of Christ Jesus himself. That God, who not only has all physical and material things in his hand, but also has all honor, glory, power and authority, and yet he gave that up to be born right along side you. To live in your shoes. To live in your place. And then stretch out his arms and give up his life – to take on the wrath of God and the death that our sins deserve onto himself, so that he could give you what he alone deserves. So he could give you eternal life, salvation from sin, honor to your name, and power over the devil. We are only unworthy servants, without hope. But by his death and resurrection, God has given the greatest gift of all.

So, the God who has it all, and gives it all, also honors it all. Just as my mom let me pick out a gift, wrap it, and proudly give it, so that I could receive all the credit, thanks and praise; so your God does for you. Because he gave you new life through faith in Christ, complete with a new heart and will, a new mind fixed on God, you are able to truly give to God with a right heart. Your coming here for worship is giving to God what he desires – worship and songs of praise. And I always say, the Bible says, “Make a joyful noise” (Ps 100:1 KJV) not, “Make a beautiful noise”. Your confessing of sins and believing the forgiveness proclaimed is the sacrifice God desires as Psalm 51(:17) declares. Bringing children, or yourselves, up to the font to receive a new life through baptism, encouraging and supporting one another. Supporting the work of the Church with your offering, all of this God gives to you, so that you can wrap it in love, proudly give it, and rightly receive honor for doing such.

Although David rightly gives God all credit, all glory and all honor, he says, “All this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and belongs to you” (2 Chr 29:16). And yet, God shares that with you and me. He gives us joy and satisfaction in our ability to give back to God what he has given to us! He honors us by giving us the pleasure of being a part of the gift he has, gives, and honors.

So, what do you give someone who has it all? Your heart. So that he may fill it with joy and integrity. I marvel at David’s prayer concluding this section, and it is my prayer for you as well. So let’s close with it. “I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you” (2 Chr 29:18). Amen.