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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!
“Giving from a Generous Heart”
Exodus 35:20-29; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2014 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original tounless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes, musings, and thoughts that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
– Mother Teresa (Quote Source: Goodreads.com)
The root of everything we are and everything we do grows from the heart. Proverbs agree, saying, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life,” (4:23). Every action and word proceed from a planted seed in the heart. Even right down to our giving.
God wants people who, from their heart, are happy they can help and are willing to do so. God doesn’t want to twist an arm to get people to move. He wants people who don’t mind giving from a generous heart.
One of the ways we worship God is in our giving. In today’s lesson, we will explore two biblical examples of what true giving from the heart looks like. One example will come from the Old Testament, and one from the New. May they open our eyes and cause us to not only pay more attention to our giving but our attitude and motivation that is involved in our giving as well.
Exodus 35:20-21 “And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments.”
In order to understand fully our lesson this week, we must backtrack a few chapters to see how we got here today.
In Exodus 25, God spoke directly to Moses with this message in mind. He said, “Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them,” (Exodus 25:8). While God is omnipresent and “the heaven and the heavens of heavens cannot contain thee,” (1 Kings 8:27), there’s something special about God’s people gathering as one in one place to draw close to Him. The tabernacle and all its special care and glory were going to be used not only as a meeting place; a place for God and man to experience fellowship and reconciliation, but it would stand as a symbol that God is with His people, dwelling among them.
For this to happen, God’s command to Moses was to, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering,” (Exodus 25:2). After the which, He spoke of all the essential elements and things that would be needed for this special place to be built (see Exodus 25:1-8).
With those materials, God said, “According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it,” (Exodus 25:9). In the chapters following God showed Moses how those materials were to be used in the making of everything the tabernacle would need as the symbolized dwelling place of God among His people, the items that would be used in the service, and the attire for the priest who would minister there (see Exodus 25:10-31:11).
After other events occurred such as the instructions given for the keeping of the Sabbath, the worshipping of the golden calf and the consequences that followed, the obtaining of the second set of tablets which contained the Ten Commandments, and instructions for keeping the feast, we land back in the text of our current chapter of study, chapter 35.
Opening in chapter 35, Moses is relaying to the congregation of Israel what God commanded. First, on the keeping of the Sabbath, and then on the offerings and materials needed to construct the tabernacle and everything else needed for the service thereof.
Moses breaks down the list as God told him to the people. And, when the people heard about everything that was needed, they “departed from the presence of the Moses.”
They weren’t leaving him in a sullen state like the rich young ruler did (see Mark 10:21-22). They weren’t mad at what God asked of them. And, they were not indifferent or dispassionate about the opportunity to give and pour into something God had asked them to participate in. None of those negative attitudes could be found among the people. Rather, it was just the opposite.
“And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing.” The “heart” and the “spirit” are the compasses of man, leading him where to go and what to do. Amazing things happen when the heart and the spirit of an individual are fully engaged in the causes of God and His work.
Here, that engagement is defined as “stirring” and “willing.” These words are beautiful when put together in this fashion. When they heard what was needed they were moved on the inside to do something about it. Of their own volition, they put action behind what they felt, stepped up to the plate, and “came” back to where Moses was, ready to contribute the things and services necessary “to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments.”
True willingness is not about what one says they will do, but in the actual doing. Their obedience in what they brought showed their heart was truly tied to God and they wanted to please Him, even in this.
Therefore, “They brought the LORD’s offering.” They were doing this for God, and God alone. They made Him a priority. They made giving to Him a priority. Proverbs instruct us to, “Honour the LORD with thy substance…” (Proverbs 3:9). And, that’s what the children of Israel sought to do.
Exodus 35:22-23 “And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the Lord. And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers’ skins, brought them.”
The call to help was answered by whoever was “willing hearted.” These people had the mind and the heart to do something for the Lord and the tabernacle. “Both men and women” contributed and didn’t hold back from the Lord.
Gender or social status didn’t matter then and doesn’t matter today. Whoever’s heart was ready and eager to give, gave. They donated out of what they had and blessed the Lord and worshipped Him in the gifts of materials they brought. To them, it was an honor to give of their possessions to the Lord. Everyone, no matter what walk of life, can do something to further the causes of God in this world.
“Brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered an offering of gold unto the LORD.” Now, for a people who not too long before this lesson, came out of over four hundred years of slavery and bondage, one might wonder how the Lord can ask such riches and expensive materials from this previous subservient nation who were considered only good enough to bear burdens and work laboriously like animals.
Simply put, before their total deliverance from Egypt, God instructed Moses to tell the children of Israel to ask for certain items from the Egyptians such as gold, silver, jewels, and the like (Exodus 11:2-3). Due to the favor of God on them, the Egyptians happily supplied it all.
After what has now become known as that first Passover, where all the firstborn in Egypt were slain and the people were commanded to leave, when the children of Israel exited the land of their bondage once and for all, they plundered the Egyptian nation (Exodus 12:35-36).
Time has gone by and those expensive items secured during the exodus is now part of the offering given “unto the LORD.” The gold and jewelry would be used in many areas of the new tabernacle that was to be built. Everything from overlaying the ark (Exodus 25:10-22), to the table of shewbread (Exodus 25:23-30), candlesticks (Exodus 25:31-40), just to name some of its uses.
When it comes to designing and building this wonderful place representative of where God would dwell on earth, only the best of the best materials was to be used. Cloth used, particularly with the colors of “blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen” were considered expensive items, but as pricey as the items were, the people didn’t hold onto them (compare Ecclesiastes 5:13). They gave them to God from the heart. Their only motivation was love for God.
“Goat’s hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers’ skin, brought them.” All these items are self-explanatory except the use of “badger’s skin” which some believe it to actually be from a porpoise or dolphin or seal skin. Each item was valuable and would be valuable in its place in the tabernacle. Without hesitation, the people who could, “brought them.”
Exodus 35:24-28 “Every one that did offer an offering of silver and brass brought the Lord’s offering: and every man, with whom was found shittim wood for any work of the service, brought it. And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair. And the rulers brought onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate; And spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense.”
Whatever the people’s ability to supply, they willingly brought it to the Lord. Not everyone can give on the same level. Some brought “silver” and some brought “brass.” But, none was looked at as less valuable than the other because both were for “the LORD’s offering.” It was a contribution they gladly relinquished to God.
Please Note: God doesn’t need our stuff. Isaiah lets us know that God is, “He that created the heavens, and stretches them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and the spirit to them that walk therein,” (Isaiah 42:5). Psalms let us know, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein,” (Psalm 24:1). And, I really could go on about how God owns everything, and us, nothing without Him.
But, what God does want is our participation in what He is for. God wants hearts who will respond willingly. God wants people who will purposely choose to get involved with His mission because they love Him.
With that in mind, others were able to give things like “shittim wood (acacia wood) for any work of the service.” Can I point out that the people who were offering the materials didn’t try to limit what they were to be used for. What they gave of this wood was used “for any work of the service.” Boards, bars, and pillars necessary for the tabernacle would be constructed from these materials and then overlaid with gold (Exodus 40:34, 36, 38; for greater details read Exodus 36:8-38). The altar of burnt offering would be made of this special wood and overlaid with brass (Exodus 27:1-2). And, even the ark of the covenant was made from this wood and overlaid with gold, to hold the Ten Commandments, manna, and Aaron’s budded rod (Exodus 25:10-22; Hebrews 9:4).
So, we see there was value in whatever was offered to the Lord. Everything that everyone had the heart to bring was used as a part of worship to God. Everything was important.
Even gifts of service were important. It would do no good to deposit a load of items if there were no capable persons about who could turn it all into something wonderful. Therefore, it is noted that “women that were wise hearted” who could “spin with their hands” were appreciated for what they could do for the Lord’s service.
Everybody had a part to play, from the least of the people to the greatest. Even “rulers brought onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate” which would fall along the line of the more high-priced things needed. These items would be secured from those likely able to afford it and used in a special way for the garments of the high priest. The “ephod” was a special piece of the high priest’s garment that held the onyx stones on the shoulders with the names of children of Israel engraved on them (Exodus 28:6-14), six on one and six on the other. And, the “breastplate” was worn on the front with four rows of stones, each representative of a tribe of Israel, each having their name engraved on one of the stones as a memorial before God. The breastplate also held the Urim and Thummim, which were used for times of judgment or casting lots.
Once again, we see that there are different levels of giving and all is according to each one’s ability. All that is freely given from the heart is gladly accepted as part of the service of the Lord.
Including, the “spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense” which would be used in special ways in the tabernacle and for the priest for the service. With pure olive oil as its base (Exodus 37:20), other spices were added in for the various functions it was used for. As for “oil for the light” it was probably used as is. But, for things such as the “anointing oil” we find some of those spices mixed in such as myrrh, cinnamon, cane, and cassia added (see Exodus 30:22-25 for specific measurements). It was used for anointing the tabernacle itself, the ark of the Testimony, the table and all the utensils, lampstand and its utensils, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and its utensils, the laver and its base, Aaron and his sons (Exodus 30:26-30, NKJV). It was forbidden that this oil is used for any other purpose because of its sacred nature (Exodus 30:31-33).
The spices needed for the “sweet incense” were considered holy and for use only for God’s specific purposes. It was also forbidden to be made for personal use (see Exodus 30:34-38). Everything that was asked had a holy purpose of use for God, and each item was needed for His service.
Exodus 35:29 “The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the Lord had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.”
Not to sound overly repetitious, but the subject of all these verses we have covered so far and of this lesson, and mentioned twice in this one verse, was the people’s “willing” attitude to gather and give this “offering unto the Lord.” Out of the abundance of their heart, they freely gave to God everything “which the Lord had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses,” nothing lacking.
In the end, the people had to be restrained in their giving because the overflow was just too much (Exodus 36:5-7). What an awesome outpouring of love to God from truly generous hearts.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
The concept of sharing what one has to further benefit the cause of God, His service, or His people wasn’t left to those who lived in the Old Testament times alone. This is a responsibility for those of the New Testament church as well, especially those who made the previous promise to help supply financially to others who were in need.
The church at Jerusalem found themselves in a time of need. Due to persecution, threats, and the like, many Christians fell on very hard times. If we turn back to Acts, we see some who took their giving campaign to the next level to help alleviate the need some faced. They went beyond just giving an offering, but they sold personal possessions to satisfy the great need of lack that was prevalent amongst its members at that time (Acts 4). They didn’t mind sharing from all that they had.
Now, the Apostle Paul is addressing those in the Corinthian church with the subject of giving and sharing their own resources. He wasn’t picking on them or pointing them out. The members there previously agreed to provide some financial relief to those at the Jerusalem church who were in need, and now, with over a year going by (2 Corinthians 8:10-12; 9:2) without seeing the fruit of what was promised, the Apostle Paul is encouraging them to continue to work toward that goal of giving, unless when they show up with others from Macedonia, whom they previously boasted of their giving to, accompanying them, find them “unprepared,” (2 Corinthians 9:2-4).
Therefore, Paul thought it necessary to send some brethren beforehand to make sure that “which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation,” (2 Corinthians 9:5, NKJV).
The Apostle Paul taught in the previous chapter, “As ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also,” (2 Cor. 8:7). The grace he was referring to was “giving.”
Giving can act as a “proof of your love,” (2 Cor. 8:24). That’s what it did in Exodus when the people were willing hearted to give. It showed the genuine love they had for God. We may not have the best of things, but what we do have can fill a void in another’s life or in another area of ministry, opening the idea that everybody can do something to help.
With that in mind, let’s explore some of the things the Apostle Paul further shares with the Corinthian church, and us, about giving.
You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). It’s something many have probably heard throughout their life, but few give real thought to unless they are throwing personal jabs at another. But, Paul is teaching the Corinthian church from an agricultural standpoint a very real principal about their giving, or the hesitation of following through with it.
He said, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” You don’t have to be a farmer to know that the more seeds you plant the greater the chance for an abundant harvest. It’s a very simple principle. The more you put out there the more you gather in. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again,” (Luke 6:38; see also Proverbs 11:25; 22:9).
Then Paul teaches them to give “as he purposeth in his heart… not grudgingly, or of necessity.” Don’t give because you feel forced or pressured. Give because your heart is telling you to give. Because there was a stirring of willingness that those in the Exodus text experienced when their hearts were moved to want to contribute to the cause of God. “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty,” (Proverbs 11:24).
“Grudgingly, or of necessity” means that which is offered, of the individual doing the giving, is just going through the outward motions while their heart is not in it and they are really quite unwilling to give with sincerity and the right motivation of love behind it. This is not what God was looking for in either example from the Old and the New Testaments. “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not,” (2 Corinthians 8:12; emphasis mine). If it’s not given of a “willing mind” it is not accepted by God.
“For God loves a cheerful giver.” God doesn’t want people to be grieved over their giving (compare Deuteronomy 15:10). He wants hearts that happily rejoice and are joyful about being able to give to the service of the Lord.
“God is able to make all grace abound toward you…” There is favor with God toward the giver. God will take care of the one who generously gives from his/her heart. “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself,” (Proverbs 11:24).
Giving will not diminish or take away from the giver. In fact, God promises, “that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” As the above verse from Proverbs states, when you water others, God will make sure you are watered in return that you might continue to support His work and His people. It’s a blessing cycle that goes around and around. When you take care of God’s stuff, God will take care of you that you can continue in “every good work.”
“Giving freely and giving with a good heart, will never go unrewarded.” – James Clear (Quotes Source: Inspirational Words of Wisdom)
Standard Print PDF: Giving from a Generous Heart Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Below are activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Word Scramble: Giving from a Generous Heart Word Scramble Answers: Giving from a Generous Heart Word Scramble Answers
Memory Verse: Giving from a Generous Heart Memory Verse
“Offering Craft”: Make this offering box craft with an empty tissue box, coffee can, etc, and this PDF: Offering Craft Activity Sheet
Coloring Sheet 2: Giving Joyfully Coloring Sheet_2
Printable Puzzle (Don’t forget to use cardstock or glue to cardboard or inside out cereal boxes. Enjoy!: Giving Joyfully Puzzle
Below are Activities/Resources/Links to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
“God Loves a Cheerful Giver” Memory Verse Coloring Page by Mssscrafts
“God Love a Cheerful Giver” Offering Plate Craft by Mssscrafts
“Make Your Own Money Sack Craft” from Mssscrafts
“Building the Tabernacle” (With an “Our Gifts to God” class collage idea. Enjoy!)
“Tabernacle Worship in the Wilderness” (Has great pictures describing the different items that needed to be built with the people’s offering. This allows your students to see the items. Enjoy!)
“God Loves a Cheerful Giver” (Activities, object lesson, and coloring page. Enjoy!)