Exodus 36:7, "For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much."
This morning, problems abound in the world in which we live. Scripture declares that the root of all evil is a love of money. (I Timothy 6:10) With all of the economic problems today, can we doubt that this Scriptural statement has lost any of its vitality, freshness, or relevance? Indeed, many today indicate publicly that they care for "the less fortunate," but their mindset is to gain as much money, power, fame, etc. as they can for themselves. While it is not the Christian's duty to be entangled with the affairs of this life, we should be diligent to conduct ourselves honourably in all things, and the money question is no exception. Oftentimes, we might think that as long as we avoid the "rat race" of money-driven society that we will successfully ward off this problem. However, we can allow the "money question" to creep into our lives by simply having the wrong mindset about what we are doing or why we are doing it.
Admittedly, the subject of money drives emotions higher than any other subject. Therefore, let us approach this subject Biblically, and attempt to keep any emotional flair out of it. Our study verse above is set in the conclusion of a rather long context that stretches through the last chapter or so. The people are bringing money, supplies, etc. to build the articles of the tabernacle as the Lord instructed Moses in the mount. Others are bringing their skilful abilities to construct the items in question. So, people are sacrificing their goods, their time, and their abilities to accomplish the building according to God's pattern. Over and over again throughout this context, we find several phrases appearing again and again. I encourage the reader to peruse the 35th and 36th chapters in their entirety to number up the occurrences of these phrases. The people are called: 1. wise hearted, 2. willing, 3. cunning (skilful), and 4. understanding
Looking at these repeated adjectives to describe the people, we are left with little doubt as to the mindset and state of the congregation. They not only did all these things, but they wanted to (willing), had knowledge of what to do (understanding), were able to do what was required (cunning), and had the courage to see the tasks through to the end (wise hearted). This collection of characteristics will yield the results and conclusion from our study verse. Therefore, let us examine these characteristics in turn, apply them together, and find the point they arrived at.
As people examine the "money question" in society, family life, church life, and other venues, one of the shortcomings today is a lack of understanding. Whether one is describing giving in a church capacity or simply how to approach credits and debits in their monthly budget, they lack understanding or knowledge of what to do and how to do it. One of man's failings is to blame others for a lack of understanding, but the simple point is that God has not left us without sufficient knowledge about what to do – money included. Rather, most people have either failed to consider His teachings or have failed to even look for them to know the right way to go. The Bible plainly and simply states that we should work to eat (II Thessalonians 3:10), be content with food and raiment: the things we have (I Timothy 6:8), and not to be grudging with our means. (II Corinthians 9:6) If these items are followed, people will not live above their means, nor will they be without enough sufficiency to honour God in their spirit and body.
Once someone has the understanding of what to do, the next step is to be willing in their doing of it. One of the most important lessons about New Testament giving in a church capacity (but applies to all areas of Christian service) is that God loves a cheerful giver. (II Corinthians 9:9) When we render service to God willingly, it is a sweet smelling savour in His presence. Since Christ was willing and obedient in all that He gave and did, our model is to be likewise. Not only does it not follow the Scriptural command, but a forced service of payment, time, etc. does not lead to the harmonious outcome that our study verse shows. When people willingly give of money, service, etc. they do so in a way that can never be imagined under the forced method.
Another impediment to fruitful service and giving is the idea that "I can't really do anything." Sometimes, people feel insufficient in funds or talents to be worth consideration. If we have been blessed by God – and friends we have been whether we admit it or not – He has given us rich gifts and abilities to be used in His service. If we say we have not the ability to really serve, we are implying that He has left us without some necessary item to serve Him. Such is not and will never be the case. No, we have not all been given the same types or amounts of things. Some of us have less money than others. Some of us have less talents than others. The point is not how much we have, but the point is how much we do with the means that we have. He has given us things, and we need to be skilful and cunning in using them to best serve Him.
If we have the understanding, willingness, and abilities to serve and give, what could be left? Why would we need yet another item? Sometimes, people have the first three we discussed, but it takes wise heartedness (courage) to see it through. To follow the Lord's path of service in how we give and how we live, there will be times when we feel discouragement from without and within. It takes prudence and courage under fire to say, "This is what I'm going to do, and I'll see it through." Some today have no willingness to do these things, others have no understanding of what to do, and yet others fail to see their God-given abilities and means to serve Him. Yet others have all of these things but lack the internal fortitude to see it through in fruitful service to Him. Friends, the world discourages virtuous living, but to be virtuous, we must be courageous, especially since virtue has a connotation of courage (manliness) associated with its definition.
By putting all of these traits together, we get a glimpse to the noble efforts and hearts of the people of Israel on this occasion. They desired to praise God. They desired to erect what He said, just as He said to do it, and obey Him from the heart in all things. To do so, no one had to do a fund drive. No one had to raise money by pledges. No one sold goods in exchange for means to construct the tabernacle and the furniture in it. Rather, they all came forward as willing servants with their gifts in their hands and their abilities in their bodies. The result was not simply a sufficiency of means and services; they had more than enough (too much).
Oftentimes, men today neglect the willingness aspect of giving as they believe that without it, there will not be enough to make ends meet. In other words, unless someone has an "imposed minimum" of service, simply commanding willing and cheerful service will yield significantly lower results than the imposed minimum. This passage indicates the very opposite. Other men claim that there are not enough talents or abilities to get the job done, and again, this passage contradicts such thinking. If we apply the Lord's gifts to our service to Him with the understanding of His word out of a willing heart and with the courage to perform it, we will find the same conclusion that they found. Not only will there be enough to suffice, but the Lord blesses more left over than we needed. Consider a spiritual parallel to this. We oftentimes describe the miracle of Christ feeding the 5,000 as a literal story that illustrates the power of gospel preaching in filling God's sheep from His table. Does the gospel simply suffice our hunger? The miracle includes that there is more left over than when we started. The power and miracle of faithfully serving the Lord in giving is that even though we sacrifice our time and means, we actually end up with more of both to go around than we had before.
Finally, this passage does not prove – as so many in the world today promote – the idea that serving God will make an obedient disciple "healthy, wealthy, and wise." Rather, serving the Lord requires us to deny ourselves and endure hardships as so many New Testament examples show, but the true "pay-off" is that even though we sacrifice of ourselves in our service and devotion to Him, we will not be left insufficient, and more to the point, we will have more than enough in our service to Him. Looking back through the years of my short pilgrimage, I see quite glaringly that my times of spiritual coldness have coincided with my periods of greatest languishing. Whenever I have devoted my energies to serving the Lord, I have more energy, find more time, and seemingly have more left over than at other times. I am by no means a wealthy person, but the service of God has not left me destitute or impoverished of those things that I stand in need of. May we renew our sights upon His mark. As He was courageous and wise hearted, so may we be. As He was willing in His walk, so may we be. As He had abilities and talents that He employed with understanding, so may we do likewise. In so doing, we will find the sweet and fulfilling conclusion that we have everything we need to fulfill our service to the Lord and too much besides.