Is it Inappropriate for Christians to Be Assertive?
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Is it Inappropriate for Christians to Be Assertive?

When You Have Nothing Left To Give

I sat on a mattress on the floor of an empty room, resting from the bleak task of helping a friend move residences under unfortunate circumstances. The gloom and emptiness of our situation covered me like a blanket as I scrolled through my daily Bible reading. And there I read a prayer of David: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chr. 29:14).

These words of gratitude poured forth from the shepherd boy-turned-king as he and the people of Israel presented offerings to God during the building of the temple. David highlights that it’s the Lord who raises kings and kingdoms; it is God who gives wealth and bestows blessings. So, as he delivers his song of praise before the assembly, it’s fitting that he asks, “Who am I? And who are we?”

The question contrasted poignantly with the one I asked myself that week as my friend and I picked through the remnants of a difficult season–despairingly, “Why me? Why us?” In the midst of such sadness, with my own worries and wants looming about me too, I felt like I had little left to give to the needs of my friend.

This prayer of David shook me gently with renewed understanding of God’s provision and why that shapes how we give, trust, and obey.

Give in Faith

David’s prayer continues: “Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you” (1 Chr. 29:16).

In a time where the affluence of the age leaks into even the most modest lifestyles, it can be a struggle to connect wealth and provision with its source. We don’t always recognize that our time, talents, opportunities, and resources are from God, and that we have been called to use them diligently, generously, and cheerfully (Rom. 12:6-8).

The attitude of David’s prayer has two facets. It’s firstly a reminder not to hoard our abundance and, secondly, it should encourage us to share our blessings even when they are few. Neither pride nor fear should stop us from giving back to God’s people what he has given to us.

Perhaps this looks like setting aside time in your week to fellowship with those in church who are isolated or needing particular encouragement, or offering your home on Sunday afternoons for the college students who need a stand-in family to be a part of. Maybe it’s offering to take a meal to someone, help babysit, or cover the cost of a car repair or a textbook. Or maybe it’s helping a friend scrub windows and floors for a few days so they can get their safety deposit back.

The same God who gave his own Son for our salvation has authored both our lives and their seasons of want and plenty. If we worry that we won’t have the time or the strength or the emotional fortitude to spare, we can take courage that those who water others will themselves be watered (Prov. 11:25).

Give With Integrity

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (1 Chr. 29:17).

It’s too easy to give selfishly–no good deed goes un-Instagrammed. Like Ananais and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10), we give to the body of Christ with pomp and show, but there’s dishonesty in our giving. There is selfish gain. There is works-righteousness. Peter challenges Ananias, reminding him that he was not required to give an offering from the sale, but that his dishonesty reflected the state of his heart (v. 3-4). Ananais did not give humbly, but in vanity.

Compare this to the widow who gave two copper coins to the temple treasury. Jesus says she has given more than all the rest because she gave all she had (Mark 12:43-44).

I often have to ask myself, do my offerings reflect a heart that knows all things come from God?

Obey the Lord

Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” (1 Chr. 29:18)

Although David’s first words were what initially caught my attention on that dusky evening in an empty room, this is the verse that has stayed with me.

In my twenties, I became a master of disingenuous Christian living. I tithed faithfully from my poor little student salary. I organized church youth events and sat down in the front pew with my family every Sunday morning. I prayed eloquently in Bible studies and made time to encourage other saints in the Lord. But my heart wandered. It was not loyal to the God who made me, and while my hands and lips offered up service, my heart erected secret idols.

I needed to hear the words of Samuel when he scolded Saul for his disobedient sacrifices, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22)

Hope In the Lord

David’s prayer includes the reminder: “We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” (1 Chr. 29:15)

My friend and I spent the better part of a full week packing up that apartment, selling what we could and giving away what we couldn’t take with us on the long drive toward a new beginning. What a strange weight it is to be between homes, preparing and waiting and hoping.

I suppose the Israelites must have felt that way very often–in the wilderness or even in the passing of their days in the Promised Land, for the true Promised Land has not yet come. And though our days are indeed like a shadow, we know we are not without hope. God has provided even that.

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Mary Van Weelden

Mary Van Weelden is a writer and a journalist, and is currently working on a double M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies at Westminster Seminary California. She and her husband are actively searching for the best taco place in Escondido, CA. Come talk to her about practical theology and comma placements on Twitter at @agirlnamedmary.