VI. THE WAY
1)“With much entreaty beseeching of us the grace and the fellowship of the ministry to the saints; and… they gave themselves first to the Lord, and to us through the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:4-5). The churches in Macedonia supplied their material riches to the needy saints in Judea, on the one hand, by beseeching the apostles for a share in the grace and the fellowship of such ministry, and on the other hand, by giving themselves first to the Lord and then to the apostles through the will of God. This shows us that the offering of material riches which is most acceptable to the Lord is the offering of ourselves first to the Lord and then to the apostles, who are concerned for us, eventually asking them for a share in such grace and fellowship.
2)“But take heed not to do your righteousness [giving alms] before men to be gazed at by them; otherwise, you surely have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. But you, when you give alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall repay you” (Matt. 6:1-4). For whatever use we offer our material riches, we must not do it intentionally for others to see in order that we may be glorified and rewarded by men; otherwise, we will not be rewarded by the Father, who is in the heavens. Therefore, we should not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. We should offer in secret that the heavenly Father, who sees what we do, may repay us, recompensing and rewarding us according to His promises to us mentioned earlier.
According to the Lord’s charge in these words, we should do our best not to let others know of our offering of material riches. Either named donations or open contributions must be avoided. For this reason, we have set up offering boxes in the meeting places in order to allow the saints to drop their offering into these boxes in a secret way. This matches the way God’s people in the Old Testament put their money into the chest (2 Kings 12:9).
VII. THE SIGNIFICANCE
1)Fellowship with the receiver—“the fellowship of the ministry to the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4). Supplying the saints with material riches is a fellowship which brings mutual grace to both the giver and the receiver.
2)Righteousness toward men before God—“He gave to the poor, his righteousness abides forever” (2 Cor. 9:9). Giving material riches to the poor is righteousness toward men before God. God cares for the poor and wants His people also to care for them (Deut. 15:7-8). “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord” (Prov. 19:17). This is a law established by God which regulates the relationship between human beings. Thus, if we practice according to this law of God, our righteousness toward men before God will abide forever. In the constitution of the kingdom, the Lord Jesus also considered our giving of alms as righteousness (Matt. 6:1-4). If we who live in the Lord’s kingdom of the heavens do not give alms and do not give our material riches for God’s use, we are breaking the highest law of the kingdom. Giving to the poor the material riches that God has given to us is not only goodness (Heb. 13:16) but also righteousness. We may or may not do good, but it is imperative that we do righteousness since it is our duty. If we fail to do righteousness, we are unrighteous toward men before God.
3)A sacrifice well-pleasing to God—“But do not be forgetful doing good and sharing with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16); “Receiving…the things from you, a fragrant odor, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18). Here doing good refers to the distribution of material riches to others, which before God is a well-pleasing sacrifice to God. Our offering of material things to God’s servants is also an acceptable sacrifice which is well-pleasing to God.
4)A fragrant odor well-pleasing to God—“Receiving…the things from you, a fragrant odor, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18). The fragrant odor here refers to the sweet savor of the burnt offering (Gen. 8:20-21; Lev. 1:9). The offering we give to God’s servants is not only a sacrifice to God, but also a fragrant odor of a burnt offering that is well-pleasing to God. This reveals that the sacrifice here is like a burnt offering that is satisfying and well-pleasing to God.
The four significances of the offering of material riches mentioned above should show us the importance and value of such offering. By being offered to God for God’s use by us who are of God, what was considered by God as “mammon of unrighteousness” (Luke 16:9), that is, as deceitful riches (Matt. 13:22) and uncertain riches (1 Tim. 6:17) which will “fail” (Luke 16:9), can actually become our “fellowship” with the saints, our “righteousness” toward men before God, an acceptable “sacrifice” to God, and a well-pleasing “fragrant odor” to Him. Riches that deceive men, corrupt men, and destroy men can actually become such transcendent blessings that we have before God! This is all a result of our offering of material riches.
(Life Lessons, Vol. 2 (#13-24), Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)