When God Sings: The Relation of Pure Worship to Pure Giving

The foundation of any structure is its most critical feature. No building, regardless of how beautiful or how seemingly well-engineered, is any stronger than its foundation. A primary or “foundational” aim of restorative, apostolic ministry, then, is resetting scripture in its proper context so that doctrine can, once again, be rightly discerned and divided. In establishing or restoring doctrinal foundations (which is the purpose of apostles and prophets according to Ephesians 2:20), we often discover that there are “missing stones;” poorly understood or inappropriately appropriated scriptures that unsettle our faith every bit as much as a missing stone in a foundation. As a consequence, the contemporary church sometimes suffers from a shaky stance or unreliable footing, as if walking on an uneven foundation. We see this most prominently in two areas of Christian practice—worship and giving.

When we examine New Testament passages on giving considering Old Testament passages on worship, there can be little doubt that God relates the two closely.In fact, it would be fair to say that the two are hardly distinguishable from one another. Take, for example, the familiar passage on giving:

Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

We often cite this passage to encourage generosity during times of giving with the understanding that when we give liberally to God, he will give liberally to us. And while that’s absolutely appropriate, this scripture is getting at much more than the principle of reciprocity. God outlines that principle in the first few words of that section of scripture: give and it shall be given to you. It is as if he’s saying “Of course I will bless you. Why would I not?” It is not until the closing words of that section, however, that he illuminates the far more significant matter of the relation of giving to our motives and, ultimately, to our worship.

The words “for with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” take us straight to the heart of God—the desire for pure worship. The “measure” of giving has less to do with how much we give, as it does with the quality of our giving. Make no mistake, God clearly explains his expectation of the tithe and of offerings, but these are elementary matters. In this passage, he is urging us to consider the manner in which we give, and that is most intimately related to our motivation.

The Old Testament account of Solomon building the temple provides a clear example of this foundational truth.

II Chronicles 29: 15 – 16 and 27 says: And they gathered their brethren, sanctified themselves, and went according to the commandment of the king, at the words of the LORD, to cleanse the house of the LORD. Then the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and brought out all the debris that they found in the temple of the LORD to the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it out and carried it to the Brook Kidron…. Then Hezekiah commanded them to offer the burnt offering on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD also began.

The song of the Lord, the purest worship possible, begins when the burnt offering is offered. But neither the song of the Lord nor pure giving occur before the temple is purified and all the “debris” that is found there is left at Kidron. Kidron separates the Temple Mount, the place of Old Testament worship, from the Mount of Olives, the place most famous for Jesus’ first teaching on life in the Kingdom. There, he teaches his disciples the true meaning of pure worship and pure giving—repentance, or turning from established mindsets about either worship or giving and turning toward entirely new mindsets about both.

Change is a decision or an act of the will to literally turn the mind away from falsehood and toward truth. And so Kidron, the place where “all the debris that they found in the temple of the LORD” is deposited literally reminds us of the shift that Kingdom thinking requires. You receive nothing in return for the burnt offering, for everything is left on the altar. Offerings are places of altars. In demonstrating the heart of the giver, they reflect the degree to which the giver acknowledges and honors God. In foundational matters, we cannot skip steps or carelessly place stones. Worship has the capacity to change the atmosphere, and the Word of God corrects our understanding so that we are willing to change our attitudes in giving. But, only a disciplined, sacrificial application of both results in applying the truth which results in true repentance.