May 13

Leaders Set an Example in Giving (I Chronicles 28)

Daniel Watts

The message of the gospel finally sunk in, and I came to Christ as a young man. Shortly thereafter I got involved in the children’s ministry at the megachurch where I had accepted Christ.

The church first met in a high school gymnasium and eventually grew to several thousand people. The gym was crammed for three services each Sunday, and the children’s ministry met in the high school classrooms. (I remember each Sunday having to tape a piece of paper over the Time magazine cover that featured Marilyn Monroe. I’m not sure why she was on the bulletin board, but she definitely distracted the boys!)

The church grew so rapidly that, before long, a building project was in order. The church contracted with a fundraising consulting company that specialized in building campaigns, had an architect draw up the plans, shared the vision with the congregation, and launched a capital campaign.

But before the project was completed, the church was near the end of its funds due to cost overruns. So the senior pastor—an excellent communicator and visionary leader—called a meeting at the building site after our third service.

Standing before the hundreds of people who had gathered, the pastor described the situation and asked for ten families to commit $20,000… each.

That definitely sounded like a lot of money to me who was, at the time, making $200/month as an intern in the children’s ministry. (In fairness to the church, a church family was letting me live in a room in their home.)

The pastor was asking for eight years of my salary! To my amazement, more than ten families did exactly what the pastor asked. Over $250,000 was raised that afternoon, and the building was completed.

A Different Approach to Raising Money

Raising money

Years later I was serving at another church that was also growing, and they decided to launch a building campaign to construct a new sanctuary. Their fundraising campaign, however, was significantly different in one specific and significant way.

The elders of the church identified the leaders in the church. That group included all the current and past elders of the church as well as the pastoral staff, small-group leaders, Sunday school teachers, youth workers, and administrative leaders.

Then the elders gathered together all these church leaders and presented the vision for the church, details about the building project, and the financial commitment that building a sanctuary would require. The elders then asked each leader to prayerfully consider making a commitment of any amount, no matter how small. The goal was 100% participation.

After several days, the elders collected the responses, including their own. Sure enough, there was 100% participation, and the total amount pledged was very generous. The next Sunday the elders presented to the entire congregation the church’s vision, the building project, and the financial need.

In addition, the elders announced both the 100% participation of the church’s leadership and the fact that their pledges added up to an enormous portion of the fundraising goal. Filled with joy and excitement, the congregation gave generously.

In fact, these people of God committed more money than was needed! The sanctuary was built on time and on budget.

This second approach seemed so much healthier to me, and I wondered what consulting firm this church had used. I later discovered they had consulted God’s Word, specifically the account of King David in 1 Chronicles 28 and 29.

King David’s Announcement

King David's Announcement

As David reached the zenith of his reign over Israel, he realized that he was living in a wonderful palace while God’s house was still a temporary tabernacle. David found this situation intolerable. Israel’s king couldn’t live in a palace while the Ark of the Covenant sat in a tent!

Greatly convicted, David started planning for a permanent dwelling place for God. This grand Temple would be built in Jerusalem and constructed to reflect as fully as possible the grandeur of Israel’s God.

God, however, assigned David’s son Solomon the task of overseeing the construction of the Temple. David certainly must have been disappointed, but we read nothing of the kind.

Instead, in 1 Chronicles 28, David announced to the leadership of Israel that Solomon would not only take his place as Israel’s king (v. 5), but he would also oversee the construction of the Temple. Chapter 28 lays out the actual architectural details of the project, and David closed with a word of encouragement and instruction for Solomon.

Then, in 1 Chronicles 29, David addressed—to use today’s terminology—the capital campaign. Having received from God a detailed vision for the Temple, David knew that it would require considerable resources (v. 1), and David was committed to gathering the finances and the building materials that would be needed.

It’s fascinating to see the two steps of David’s capital campaign: first he would make his own personal commitment to the project, and then he would ask Israel’s leaders for their commitment.

King David’s Generous Gifts

King David's Generous Gifts

First, David’s financial commitment was enormous. First Chronicles 29:2-5 documents what David had given in support of the Temple’s construction:

"Now with all my ability I have provided for the house of my God the gold for the things of gold, and the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, onyx stones and inlaid stones, stones of antimony and stones of various colors, and all kinds of precious stones and alabaster in abundance. Moreover, in my delight in the house of my God, the treasure I have of gold and silver, I give to the house of my God, over and above all that I have already provided for the holy temple, namely, 3,000 talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and 7,000 talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the buildings; of gold for the things of gold and of silver for the things of silver, that is, for all the work done by the craftsmen." (1 Chronicles 29:2-5)

So what is a talent of gold or silver worth? If we convert that ancient measurement, we see that David donated about 100 tons of gold and 260 tons of silver.

At the 2020 market price, David gave well over $5.5 billion in gold and over $250 million in silver. Although these values are not particularly germane to the economy in David’s time, they do reveal the magnitude—the generosity—of David’s giving.

Second, it is fascinating that David chose to make the size of his gifts known. Most Christians are aware of the teaching in Matthew 6:3 where Jesus spoke about giving to the poor in a manner that does not draw attention to yourself as the giver.

This statement has been taken to mean that all giving should be done privately and is essentially nobody else’s business. However, Jesus’ intent seems to be different.

One commentator put it this way: “The followers of Jesus are to avoid all ostentatious display and quietly fulfill obligations in an unobtrusive manner. In carrying out religious duties, they are not to make a public display in order to attract attention to themselves" (R. Mounce, 53).

Yet David acted in a very public manner that could easily have been perceived as the king drawing attention to himself. In fact, if our pastor or another church leader were to stand up in front of the congregation and announce his intention to give this kind of enormous gift, that announcement might not be well received….

What King David Didn’t Say

King David's Giving

I was visiting a church in Kazakhstan. A growing church that had a small sanctuary. They had four services on Sunday morning, and I preached in all four.

The pastor introduced me four times and—in the Russian cultural tradition—kissed me right on the lips. That was awkward. (I believe that they’ve since realized that this Russian custom is not well accepted by guests from other countries. However, at that time having people visit Kazakhstan was a new and fresh experience… unlike the pastor’s breath.)

The church took an offering in each service, and I noticed two things when the little cloth bag was passed. First, the ushers passed the bag down the front row where the pastor and church leaders sat. In many churches I’ve visited, ushers often skip the pastors as though they aren’t expected to give.

I also noticed that in all four services, the pastor placed an offering in the cloth bag. I have no idea how much he gave, but he wanted to lead by example in each of the services. He could have given all his offering in the first or the last service, but he wanted to set an example in every service.

We see David also setting an example, and we discover his motive after he announced what he himself was committing to give to the building project.

After stating what he would give, David spoke to the leaders of Israel and asked, “Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?” (1 Chronicles 29:5). Noteworthy is what David did not say.

He didn’t say, “Who will match my giving to the Temple project?” or “We need 100 families to give 100 talents of gold!” David didn’t even mention the Temple, the project, or the need. He simply asked who would set themselves aside for God’s work.

You see, for David, giving was a spiritual response to God that began with consecrating oneself to the Lord. David had undoubtedly consecrated himself before he made his offering; he had already done what he was asking his people to do.

But what exactly was David asking his people to do? What did it mean to consecrate—translated from ( לְמַלֹּ֥א)—oneself to the Lord? This unique form of the Hebrew verb is used in Exodus 32:

"Moses said, 'Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.'" (Exodus 32:29 NASB)

The Hebrew word translated consecrate is understood to mean “to dedicate, ‘fill one’s hand with a sacrificial offering,’ and set oneself apart for service" (Holladay, 195). Consecration was a spiritual act on the level of a priestly ordination.

So, understanding how crucial it is for leaders to model for the people the act of giving to God’s work, David asked the Israelite leaders to consecrate themselves just as he had done. David’s motive was not at all to draw attention to himself or to the amount he gave. David’s motive was to—by his example—encourage other leaders in Israel to worship God by their giving.

Leaders setting the example in giving was a principle then and remains so today.

Several years ago, I was in a seminar on fundraising and the facilitator said that we would all be surprised by the large number of pastors and vocational Christian leaders who did not give to their own church or ministry.

I am not sure where he got that information but I do know that when I was a young pastor, I heard Christian leaders speak about “tithing their time” in lieu of giving financially.

Next week we will see how the road less traveled is a path where leaders set the example in their own personal giving.

Holladay, William L. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986.
Mounce, Robert H. Matthew: New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991.

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