Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? (Hag 1:4)
From the history of the building of the second temple in Jerusalem, we find the repatriated Jews have laid the foundation (Ezra 2:10). It was quite some time before the construction continued on, all the while, they were building themselves "paneled homes of cedar" instead of the temple. They had their excuses and their reasons, but they forgot one very important thing - God had commanded them to do it and He would make a way for its completion. Once again they needed to be reminded.
Aren't we the same? We know what it is we are supposed to be doing, yet we make sure that we have all we need first! We live in excess comfort while our neighbor has no lights. We wear designer clothes while our neighbor picks through the bins at the second hand store. We dine on fast food 5 times a week while our neighbor eats food from a local food pantry. We have 15 pair of flip flops (it's a Jersey thing) and our neighbor is barefoot. We make sure we are very comfortable before we do anything the Lord commands us to do. No where in the Word of God does it say to fulfill all your wants before you meet the needs of the poor.
God does not ask us to deprive ourselves. He asks us to help one another. If you feel that that check you wrote for the performer that came to your church is helping the needy - and that is all you do - good for you! A true love offering is one that comes from the heart, to help those in need without them having to do anything to attain it other than being a child of God. A true giver gives because there is a desire to help one less fortunate. There are no strings attached and there is no gain that comes from the giving. There is no "exchange of goods or services". A true giver does so because their heart tells them to, not their Pastor.
Somedays I wish I had thousands of dollars to just give to people who needed it, especially when I lay my head down at night in the comfort and safety of my bed, which is in a townhouse and protected by a double lock on the front door. We keep up appearances for our neighbors and family - "oh, it has to look perfect when they come to visit" -- who are we pleasing? What airs are we putting on and who are we putting them on for? It's certainly not for our Father in heaven! Isn't He the only one we need to impress? And fancy furnishings and beautiful clothes isn't going to do it!
So those of you who live in your mansions here on earth, those of you who drive your expensive cars, those of you who eat gourmet meals nightly and drink those designer coffees - remember that for each of your "toys" there is someone who lacks the basics. God has blessed you abundantly -- share what you have with those around you who have not! Make it a true love offering. Love your neighbor - help him out! When you're in the grocery store and the woman in front of you is counting out change for her groceries - dig into your own pocket and help her pay for them. When you see the person on the side of the road with the cardboard sign - don't think scam artist - think Christ -- would it really kill you to toss a dollar out the window? Those gifts of love mean more to the Father than the check you write (that is tax deductible). Share Christ with others - not just on Sunday mornings, but all the time. Give from your heart - make it a gift that counts! Do it out of love!