S (Scripture): Genesis 28:16 When Jacob woke from his sleep, he thought to himself, The Lord is definitely in this place, but I didn’t know it. 17 He was terrified and thought, This sacred place is awesome. It’s none other than God’s house and the entrance to heaven. 18 After Jacob got up early in the morning, he took the stone that he had put near his head, set it up as a sacred pillar, and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He named that sacred place Bethel, [or, House of God] though Luz was the city’s original name. 20 Jacob made a solemn promise: “If God is with me and protects me on this trip I’m taking, and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, 21 and I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone that I’ve set up as a sacred pillar will be God’s house, and of everything you give me I will give a tenth back to you.”
O (Observation): Jacob has fled Esau and is now in his way to a distant relative’s estate to lay low for a while. He was told to find a wife from his father’s homeland.
On the journey, God appears to Jacob in a dream, promising to remain with Jacob and to eventually bring him back to his homeland, so that God might keep good on God’s promise to make of Abraham many descendants.
Jacob’s response to God’s appearance is to set up a stone – an “Ebenezer – to tell the world and to remind himself that God was in that place. Jacob pours oil on it and promises to give 1/10 of all income to God as a result of God’s grace and mercy.
This offering is a way of giving back to God what God has given to Jacob.
A (Application): Why is giving an offering to God such a thing that is honored and expected of Jesus’ followers?
My family and I give 10% of all of our income. Even our kids give a tithe from their chore monies.
Jacob pours oil on a rock. What good is that?
Perhaps the acknowledgment of something that the world sees as precious – oil, a fine element in Jacob’s day, seen as a hearing salve amongst other things – can be poured out as if to say: “This expensive oil will not have such a hold over me that I dare not pour it out. No, I will pour out this oil, and show my thankfulness for my God.” (Remember the expensive nard poured out on Jesus’ feet, and how he said this was good and right???)
Today’s offerings are mostly financial, but donations of lands and estates are common, as well. We give out of a thankfulness, and not just out of obligation.
Today, we see more clearly how donating monies has an impact on the lives of those who receive assistance through these offerings.
The giving cycle is almost circular. A family or individual gives to the church. The church uses those funds to do God’s ministry to serve the community, train church leaders, and more. Those positively affected by the congregations serve their community and give back to the churches that once served them. And, we hope, new folks come along to know about our God of promises and mercy and grace.
How do you see God’s work helping us all to come full circle? What promises are you leaning on from our God? How are you giving? How do we respond to God’s faithfulness to us?
P (Prayer): Lord, you give so much. Help us to pay the gift of grace and mercy forward. Amen.