Haggai does a fantastic job, in his first prophecy (chapter 1), of helping us realize that God’s kingdom deserves our first — and best — attention. In no uncertain terms Haggai rebukes the Israelites for spending so much energy on their homes while completely neglecting God’s. It was clear that they had a problem with priorities. Interestingly, his message is sort of a prequel to Matthew 6:33 where Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…”
We, too, often deal with the same predicament: a priority problem. We spend and spend and spend horizontally, yet rarely invest vertically (Matthew 6). And I’m not just referring to money. Our kingdoms too often get the best and first of our time and attention, while God’s kingdom scraps by on leftovers. If Haggai were here, he’d rightly rebuke as well!
That was the gist of what I laid out on the second Sunday of Advent. (Okay, maybe a little more, but that was the basic point. You can listen or watch here.) And, fortunately, with good responses; not only that day, but all week in our Lighthouses (i.e., our small groups). As people are making adjustments in attitude and action, I received a very perceptive question: Can you give too much time and/or money to God or the church? My answer? You bet!
You see, good things too often become “god” things. They morph from instruments we rightly use to idols we wrongly worship. How? The moment we draw from anything our core identity and significance, that’s the moment we replace the true God with our false gods (Jeremiah 2). At that moment, I’d say quite honestly you’re “giving” too much and need to rethink and refocus.
Consider money someone gives to God. And let’s even say it’s lots of it. No doubt generosity is a biblical value, a blessing to many for sure. But the minute that generosity becomes the reason someone senses ultimate significance, or the avenue by which they find their core identity, well, that blessing has turned into a curse. It’s a good thing that someone has elevated to a “god” thing.
Or take church. Investing time and energy in the body of Christ is not merely something extra we do as a member. It’s our scriptural responsibility to be involved. But when that involvement goes beyond giving and instead becomes the way we “get our fix,” a good thing has become a “god” thing.
So what do we do? Stop giving? Stop serving? Quit? No. Instead, stop giving and/or serving for the wrong reason. How? When you notice you’re crossing the “identity” line in your time, talent and treasure — “If I give or serve just a little more, that will finally make me feel better, worthwhile to others and even God” — stop there. Don’t volunteer that extra hour or give that additional dollar (I can’t believe I said that, can you?). Rather, rest in knowing you have given/served sacrificially and honestly before the Lord. Simply put, invest as much as you can of all you have up to that point, but no further. That’s when and where grace grows and guilt dies, and we find ourselves digging deeper than we ever thought we could for the kingdom that matters most — God’s!
P.S. For more Scriptural instruction about giving the right way, check out Matthew 5-7.