1 Chronicles 29:10–20comment (0)
June 2, 2011
By James Strange
Related Scripture: 1 Chronicles 29:10–20
Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University
What Do You Own?
1 Chronicles 29:10–20
Southern Baptists receive guidance from Article 13 of the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), which contains a statement giving credit to God for all of life’s blessings. James agrees: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights” (1:17). Reworking imagery from Genesis 1:3–4, James reminds us that the creation is good, and God intended it for a blessing. In this way, James enters the great stream of Israelite, Jewish and Christian traditions that remind us that our generous God alone is the source of good.
As a result, when we act generously, we take up God’s ways.
The first step in living a life of generosity is to realize that all of creation belongs to God, and that we are not its owners but only its stewards.
Furthermore, we must remember that the whole setup is temporary, for only a small part of God’s creation is under our stewardship and only for a little while. “For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you,” says David (29:14).
God Owns Everything (10–11)
Verses 1–9 tell us that although he himself did not build God’s House, David provided lavishly out of his own wealth for the objects made of precious metals and stones. When the assembled people heard his pledge, they too were inspired to give out of their own wealth.
We are so used to hearing these ideas that we might not give the verses a second glance: David owns great wealth, and he gives of it freely; the people also own wealth, and they too give.
It is not until we read verses 10–11 that we realize that human’s “own” nothing; rather, it is God who owns all that is. Therefore, when David and the people give, they give not of their own wealth, but of God’s.
David’s prayer flies in the face of attitudes that claim, “I earned this money, and it’s mine to do with as I please.”
God’s answer is: “I own everything, and you should do with it what pleases me.”
God Gives Us What We Have (12–16)
That point is reiterated here. Because God gives us what we have (that is, what we have stewardship over, for a brief time), to give to God is to give back to God what is already God’s. By that same token, to give to others is to give out of God’s abundance. I am suspicious that this is one reason that giving is so important to the biblical authors. It is certainly true that it is good to build beautiful testament’s to God’s glory, and it also goes without saying we must clothe the naked and feed the hungry, as Jesus commanded. However, it is also important to act generously because to do so is to become that much more like God. Giving helps the one who receives, and it provides visible testimony of God’s greatness, but it also transforms the giver.
God Examines Our Hearts (17–20)
When David prays, “I know, my God, that you search the heart, and take pleasure in uprightness,” he lays the foundation for the great Jewish and Christian thinkers to come, including Jesus Himself. The biblical prophets, the Rabbis, Jesus and Paul will agree that when God requires anything (in the Ten Commandments or in the Law as a whole), what God really wants is the human heart.
That is why, according to the Jewish Sages, one can fulfill the obligation to stand while praying by “directing the heart” to God. That is also why it is not enough, according to Jesus, to avoid adultery if you lust in your heart or to avoid murder if you hate. Similarly, we might add that it is not enough to give much if one gives grudgingly or fearfully or reluctantly. As David did, God wants us to give — whatever we give and to whomever we give it — freely. God wants our hearts. This is, after all, how God gives to all of creation.
The answer, therefore, to the question that forms the title of this lesson is, “Nothing.” Paradoxically, the answer to the question, “What does God want?” is, “The most important thing.”