“Give to God what is right and not what is left,” many spiritual leaders remind their congregations. People are generally reluctant to give away their money. Saint Mother Theresa always persuaded her listeners to love and to give till it hurts. But, when it comes to giving until it hurts, most of the ordinary people have a very low threshold of pain. Often the priests have to convince their believers of the reasons and rewards for responding generously to the financial needs of the church. Several Christian communities insist on tithing, and their communities oblige and claim that they pay their tithes. Interestingly their pastors do agree that the people pay tithes – tithes of what they ought to give ! People do not easily believe that if they do not give according to their income, God will make their income according to their giving.
We have a lovely picture of the people of Israel generously offering their wealth in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 36. In all likelihood, most of us have a rare chance to go through this incident frequently as it is found in the midst of a very repetitive narration about the building of the tabernacle. Exodus, Chapters 25 – 31 deal with the plan of the house of God. God gives detailed instructions to Moses about how to make the tabernacle. It is so meticulous that many will be tempted to skip those passages, especially if they are reading these texts for a second time. Chapters 36 – 40 narrate how Moses built the sanctuary. Once again we find here most of what is said in Chapters 25 – 31! May be the author of Exodus wanted to show that Moses executed exactly what God commanded. By reporting that Moses meticulously followed even the minutest detail of God’s plan in the making of the tent, the writer illustrates how carefully we should observe the ordinances of God. It also highlights God’s interest in having an abode with his people.
So excited were the people of Israel that every day in the morning they brought whatever is needed for the construction of the sanctuary. It is amazing to note that the people contributed without any compulsion from the part of Moses. It was all free will offering. They brought gold and silver, precious stones, oil, spices, rams’ skin and whatever is needed for the construction of the tent. They did not hesitate to part with their precious possessions for the interest of the sanctuary of God. Soon the supply was so surplus that the workers asked Moses to stop peo-ple from bringing any more items, and Moses complied.
One can imagine what would happen if people respond with
such generosity in constructing a church today.
Wouldn’t some leaders be tempted to change their original plan and
go on with additional beautification and extensions!
Those who cheat the public are the vilest cheaters because they cheat not one but all.
How frustrated those who had delayed their gifts until then! Now, God does not need their resources any more. They will not have a share in the precious tent where God himself will dwell. Also it is remarkable that the workers and Moses were so honest that they did not want to make a fortune for themselves from the generosity of the people. They did not take advantage of the good will of the people. One can imagine what would happen if people respond with such generosity in constructing a church today. Wouldn’t some leaders be tempted to change their original plan and go on with additional beautification and extensions! Those who cheat the public are the vilest cheaters because they cheat not one but all.
It is noteworthy that neither did God miraculously pile up the necessary materials for the construction of the tabernacle, nor did he altogether create a fitting abode for himself. Rather he chose human workers for the project and relied on human good will for the required materials. In order to house the holy, a material building was necessary. The rich brought their materials and the skilled brought their ingenuity for the tabernacle. God chose Bezalel, the master craftsman, and filled him with his wisdom and spirit. By entrusting the wok to a master workman, God put an order to the entire project. There is only one person to command and instruct the people regarding the work. He did not choose Moses or Aaron or other priests for making the tent. In that sense God used “secular service” for the divine worship.
More than the gold and silver, precious wood and stones, the first “church” or dwelling place of God was adorned by people’s generosity and the leaders’ accountability.