MONEY, MONEY, MONEY! MONEY!
It's an attention getter, all right. Jesus knew what was close to folks heart, and He was all about getting at someone's heart, so He'd hit that money theme in a hot minute.
I'm fixin' to back door your mind on a concept that we give little thought. Ya ready?
(OK, hip talk exhausted...back to hick talk. I tried to be cool; I just ain't. My bad.)
Peep this (still tryin'):
So, according the minds that be, which, in this case, is the editors of the English Standard Version of Scripture, this passage is about Anger, and I believe that and I'm cool with it (like I need to be cool with it for it be cool, right?). However, I think this passage reveals many other things, and one of which I'd like to tap into is our attitude IN giving. So, read this a couple times and let it sink in. Trust me, you'll learn a lot more than you thought and a lot more than I'm thinking, but I want to touch on this attitude deal, so read the passage and then we'll get on with my thoughts.
Matthew 5:21 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. (http://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/matthew/5.html)
Sure, Jesus is talking about the heart, and we know that's what this whole discourse known as the "Sermon on the Mount is all about...the heart...things of the heart...sin of the heart...strength for the heart. Right here, plain and simple, Jesus connects murder to being an issue of the heart. We've all heard someone say "Hey, I ain't ever killed anyone." Jesus says the issue of sin is in OUR HEARTS; our hands/mouth are the valve of the sin, but it's born, raised and lives in our heart.
What an interesting way Jesus engages the listeners. "You heard it said..." That's a hyper-polite way of saying, "Y'all didn't get what We meant by 'Thou shalt not murder!' so let me set your brain waves to a new shore line." See, we need this, right? We need to know it's not just that we keep the bullets in the gun, but we must have a heart that keeps the hate out. Wow...this really is transformational stuff, IF we take it to heart.
How does Jesus drive the point home? Interestingly enough, He attaches the discussion to resources. Remember, Jesus is talking to Jewish people who understand offering as a privilege, lifestyle, act of culture and worship, and, basically speaking, a very normal part of every day life. When Jesus says "if" you are offering He is not speaking in a hypothetical sort of way, like we think of making an offering. What He is doing is placing a deep lesson in the middle of a normal discipline.
Let me say this...I have NO IDEA who does or might read my blog...I am writing this because it was stirred in me and I had to let it out. I'm feeling like the prophet who said, "there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot" (Jeremiah 20:9).
Here's where I get to this one little minor point I feel the need to hit on.
That being said...you may or may not have a discipline of giving. Truly, ALL of us have a discipline of giving, but what I mean is the discipline of making offering to the Lord. It seems what Jesus is talking about is a very "spiritual" activity, not just pulling something out the pocket and dropping it in a passing plate. There's some thought and interchange indicated here. IF you are giving AS you are interchanging with the Living God and HE shows you that YOU HAVE SOMETHING against someone....
Whoa. Wait. Hold up.
It's almost like Jesus is advocating deep thought with giving. Could it be? Is He advocating something spiritual about giving? Is He saying it could be a platform for sin-analysis? You tell me.
I know this much. The average offering collector is afraid for offerings to become God-honoring-spiritual in nature because the average church-pew-sitting-giver is not really interested in discipleship-worshipper godliness, so the collector is afraid they'll stop giving if we make this a "spurutchel" endeavor.
I think such thinking makes for better offerings because it makes for better offerers. Jesus is challenging hearers to resist going through the motions of doing religious formation and get into motion with relational transformation.
This little thought opens up so many other avenues, such as, wise giving, generous giving, conflict resolution, the principles of reaping and sowing, judgment, reconciliation, humility, obedience, bondage, freedom, and O SO MUCH MORE!!!! (Man, God's word goes hard!)
I have a simple encouragement today: EXPECT offerings to be an exchange between yourself and God; one where the Holy Spirit speaks to you and one where you obey. IF it's an issue of sin; repent. IF you've done wrong to your brother, or ANYONE, get it right. Clean your vessel before pouring something out of it for the Lord.
Think of Cain and Abel...that ol' boy had something against his brother, for sure! Where did that start, ironically? At the time of offering. It went unresolved, and what was in Cain's heart made it to Abel head through Cain's club (or some device). The murder in Cain's heart was made murder in actuality when it went unchecked and the issue went unresolved.
Listen, you know it and I know it, we have all kinds of things in our heart. It doesn't have to be murder to kill our walk with God. All sin is death. Before we offer, while we offer, when we offer, if we offer...a dime, a prayer, a bit of service...whenever we offer, whatever we offer, let's meet with the Lord and listen to what He says.
If we give rashly, and even if it's a mad amount of cash, but we don't bash the quarrels in our hearts then we'll be lashed in sin and our unresolved sad past.
Let's take the teaching of Jesus to heart.