When I stayed with my grandmother as a child we would always go to church on Sunday. On the way, she would hand me a few dollars to put into the offering plate. It wasn't hard to give up. Actually it was nice to be able to take part in the offering. I felt so proud to be able to hold the plate and put my money in instead of having the grown-ups pass it over my head like some of the kids around me. But as I got older and "earned" my own money, it got harder and harder to put it in the plate. I guess when we feel we earn something, it is harder to give up. But, God is the source of all our gifts no matter if we think we earned it or not.
Today we call the gifts he gives us blessings. He blesses us with our daily bread and every other thing we need in a day. He blesses us with talents and children. Why does God bless us? What does he expect us to do with the gifts he gives? My grandmother expected me to put it in the offering. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that God wants you to put all your money in the offering plate; but he does want us to bless others with the blessings he gives us.
An Old Testament example (and my favorite OT story) is Rachel, Jacob's wife. Jacob was also married to her sister Leah and the two of them were having "baby wars". Leah, who was plain-looking, had many babies but Rachel, who was Jacob's favorite, had none. So Rachel prayed and asked God to please give her a son. God did and she named him Joseph. I know you're probably thinking, Joseph must mean "thank you God! You answered my prayer. You're awesome!" But, although she may have said these things, Joseph actually means, "may he add" and she prayed for another son. And again, God heard her. He gave her another son. Now it is this son that really shows what God wants us to do with our blessings. Rachel died because of this blessing the Lord gave to her. She died in child birth. She never got to enjoy this blessing she received. And I think this is the point. Our blessings are not for our own enjoyment. Just like Benjamin, Rachel's second son, was not for her enjoyment. Saul, the first king of Israel, came from Benjamin. We also have Benjamin to thank for 13 (possibly 14) books of the New Testament. That's right, the apostle Paul was a Benjamite.
James 4:3 says "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."
The word for spend in this verse can also mean "waste", which I think really emphasizes the point. If we just use God's gifts to glorify ourselves or to satisfy our own pleasures, what a waste that is! Instead, God asks us to use our talents to further his kingdom.
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