This morning, I preached about thoughts on money from the perspective of a king, a prophet, and a savior. The whole message gets pretty lengthy in written form, but here’s a rough version of the first portion regarding King David.
The entire message will be available in video form midweek at HillcrestCov.org.
Gleaning thoughts on Money from a King
In roughly 960 BC, King David was nearing the end of his days. He was seventy years old and his later years had been full of excitement and anticipation regarding the building of a temple.
Thirty years earlier, he had brought the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. At that time, he fully intended on building a house for God, but he was confronted by Nathan the prophet, who tells him point blank that he’s not the man to do the job. In I Chronicles 17, Nathan explains that the temple isn’t his to build, and then goes on to explain God’s plan for a Davidic covenant. Even though he wouldn’t have the honor of building the temple, God would make a promise that there would always be someone from the line of David on the throne.
Incidentally, this is the same Nathan who calls David on his sin with Bathsheba 10 years later. It actually speaks volumes about King David that he’d even allow Nathan continued access – perhaps one of the smartest things a leader can do is to keep an honest critic close at hand.
20 more years pass, and now it’s 960 BC. David is right at 70 years old. He is a man of unusual experience and tenderness before God. During his life, he’s been a shepherd, a musician, a fugitive, and a king, and all of it contributed to where he is now.
He is wealthy almost beyond measure, and as he prepares to hand off his life’s work – his desire to build the temple – along with all the financial resources to do so, these are David’s observations about money to the people of God and his son, Solomon.
Ownership is the Lords
1 Chronicles 29:10-12
“David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 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. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.”
King David was wealthy beyond measure, but it wasn’t always that way. David grew up the youngest son of a herdsman in a nearly feudal type system. He did not come from means. He has wealth at the end of his life that his own father could not have dreamed of and it colors David’s perspective.
No one understands the value of wealth like the first generation of a wealthy family. Going from the have nots to the haves is a formative experience in the life of any family but only those who lived through the transition fully get it.
David – a man who’d gone from nothing to everything – recognized that the everything he had came from God above. When David prays that the kingdom belonged to God, he wasn’t making some vague reference to the kingdom of God, he was speaking of the kingdom that David himself ruled. He looked around and said everything at hand is clearly God’s – it’s not mine.
One of the most dangerous ideas in the world is embodied by children everywhere – it’s the idea of “mine!”. Scout turned two years old this week. He understands MINE. My toys. My sandwich. My remote control. He’s recently laid claim to a decorative tray that sits on our coffee table. He grabs it and yells “Mine!” When I correct him, he’ll fling it off the table. It’s not cute.
It is the pinnacle of irony that the thing we dismiss as foolish in children is something we tend to display ourselves on a grand scale.
We say things like “My company. My money. My investments.” David warned us, “No, all of that belongs to God and because it belongs to God, even when it’s in our control, we give Him the glory for it, lest we ever think we earned it outside of His grace. We may have worked for it but even that was in partnership with Him.”
David understood that even work was a blessing from God – ask anyone who has been unable to work for a season. Our work and the money it generates all belong to God.
There’s an unexpected downside to “mine, mine, mine.” The minute we begin to think of things as ours, we are fully responsible for them. With stuff comes responsibility. Admitting things are God’s actually relieves us of the burden of ownership.
There is a small but growing movement among millennials called minimalism. Oversimplified, it means getting rid of stuff so you don’t need to worry about it and you’re free to do what you want. They recognize that ownership is responsibility and they don’t want responsibility, so rather than giving it to God, they’re giving it away…but at least they’re free of it.
David who had a rags to riches story fully understood where the riches came from and he was passionate about his son, Solomon understanding that because he didn’t want Solomon living under the curse of having to be responsible for it all on his own.
David had more to say about money in this passage.
It is a blessing to give
I Chronicles:29: 13-16
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.”
There is a collective eye roll when the church talks about giving, and this is one of those times it’s good to be the interim teaching pastor. I think it buys me a little grace – hopefully I won’t be proven wrong.
People fail to understand what David understood – that it’s a blessing to have it to give. David had the luxury of generosity and he recognized that some had very little to give. He found joy in it giving big.
Do you know who gets the most out of your giving to the church? You do. Yes, it enables the church to do things, to hire staff, to pay the utilities, but God will find a way to do that with or without you. He can get along without our giving – the question is can we find a way forward if we don’t live in the blessing of giving?
There is a joy that comes with radical generosity.
About twenty years ago, my friend Steve was sitting in Singapore, enjoying a cup of coffee. Back home in Cincinnati, his church was busting at the seams with seven or eight services every weekend. As he sat there feeling good about things, the Lord spoke clearly to him and told him that they should give away their church building.
This did not fit well with the fiscal plan. They had some equity in the church and the plan was to sell the building and use that equity towards their new building. Instead, the church raised $600,000 to pay off their old building and give it to another congregation debt free.
That was 20 years ago – today I meet people in their forties who were in their twenties back then and emptied their meager checking accounts to give generously and give their church building to a struggling congregation that could never have afforded it. To this day, they look at that event as one of the most joyous times of their life.
If you can give – and we all can give something – we are among the most blessed on earth, and if we can give, we need to follow David’s example and and ask “who am I, and who are my people that we are in a place to do this?
David knew everything belonged to God and he knew that there was joy in giving, but he wasn’t done – and his final words were directed towards Solomon, his son.
There is a connection between giving and devotion.
Your grandmother probably had a way of saying things without saying things. In regards to your cousin who was forty years old and pursuing a career as a professional video game athlete, she would say things like, “He has a good heart….”
In saying that, Grandma was detaching sincerity from action. It’s what she said about everyone when she thought they weren’t doing what they should be doing.
Grandma was not helping, and King David would have called it nonsense.
I Chronicles 29:17-19
I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now 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. And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.””
David tied generosity to wholehearted devotion. He knew that if Solomon was whole hearted for God, he would follow through with the family plan, invest the fortune and build God a temple. He also knew that if Solomon went through with all that, he would fortify his devotion to the Lord.
It’s not clear what comes first – generosity or devotion – but the clearly develops side by side. It is difficult to maintain a life of generosity without a growing faith, and a growing faith trends towards a generous life.
The prayer must have worked, because later in life when Solomon is offered anything he asks from God, he doesn’t ask for money – he asks for wisdom. That’s the mark of a boy raised right.
King David told us that everything is the Lord’s, that it’s an honor to give generously, and that our generosity and our devotion will walk hand in hand.
Those are strong words from a man who lived a rags to riches story.