"Just then [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all!” (Luke 21:1-4, The Message).
In the face of an outstanding effort, whether in sports, business, the school recital, we make comments like, “They gave their all!”
“They left everything they had on the field!”
“That was a one hundred and one percent effort!”
“They did their very best!”
“Bravo! Excellent! Encore!”
When someone has diligently prepared, invested hours of time and energy, and poured passion into a project, it shows. When serving in the Kingdom, God asks us for our first and best fruits (time, energy, talents, gifts, finances, etc.). Is that what we’re giving?
As a kid, often when something stopped working as it should, became a little worn, or fell out of fashion, someone asked, “Do you think the church could use this?” And the answer seemed to always be yes.
This is how church closets become cluttered with not-quite-but-mostly-useless stuff. While all things are new at home, the old, broken, and unwanted stuff too often shows up at church.
Malachi 1:14 cautions, “Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations” (ESV).
When we donate second-hand leftovers to the church and then buy ourselves a new replacement, aren’t we kind of doing the same thing? Sacrificing what’s blemished?
Or, far more importantly, how about when we offer our time and talent to some ministry at church and then do it when we get around to it? Or do it in a rush at the last minute, not giving it close attention? Or even blow it off altogether, claiming it’s not really as important as other things in our life that easily keep us away from church?
Imagine the Creation story in Genesis concluding, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, even though there was more that could be done this was good enough, given that he had only a little time leftover and an entire universe to manage, plus the big game between the Milky Way and Andromeda was about to start. He’d finish Creation when he got around to it.”
What if Jesus only sort of but not really died on the cross, forgiving us for just a few of our sins whenever he got around to it? We’d be in a real mess!
The Sunday school class you’re teaching, the small group you’re leading, the committee you’re heading, the soundboard you’re manning, the choir you’re in -- however you’ve been gifted and whatever you have signed-up for at church -- deserves your best efforts.
This is true even if you aren’t leading! Engaged participation is also crucial.
When a leader or any participant offers lackluster leftovers instead of their best, the whole effort is dragged down. People stop coming to Sunday school, fade away from the small group, remove support from the committee, and the church dies in drips and drabs.
Dr. Ken Priddy states, “Leaders must truly lead and people must sacrifice.” He points to Judges 5:2 that reads “...the leaders took the lead in Israel...the people offered themselves willingly...” (ESV).
Leading and participating fully in church requires sacrifice, commmitment, cost. Time and energy that could be put into other activities must be redirected toward ministry and worship. More than anywhere else, quality must be job one in church.
God is expecting our best. When we are serving in or gathering with the body of Christ, are we offering our best first fruits or stale leftovers?
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord...” (Colossians 3:23).
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