'I will not offer ... unto the LORD my God ... that which costs
me nothing' (2 Sam. 24:24).
We have taken the liberty of making a slight change in the
above quotation to give a wider application. The actual wording
in the A.V. reads:
'Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I
offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth
cost me nothing'.
There is also an account of David's sin in numbering the
people of Israel in 1 Chronicles chapter 21. If we compare this
chapter with 2 Samuel chapter 24, we notice several differences,
and there are marginal notes in The Companion Bible which are
The record in 1 Chronicles 21:1 says that Satan stood up
against Israel and provoked David to number Israel. It is evident
that David made a serious error in numbering the people.
There is in Exodus 30:11-16 a law which lays down a
provision that, should the people be numbered, each person
should pay ransom money of half a shekel as an offering to the
When David realised his error (2 Sam. 24:10) he confessed
his sin to the Lord. The prophet Gad was sent to David and
offered three punishments so that David could choose the one he
preferred. David was in 'a great strait' and he decided to leave
the decision to the Lord, so the Lord sent a great pestilence (verse
15) which killed 70,000 men. The destroying angel was about to
destroy Jerusalem when the Lord stopped him and said, 'It is
enough: stay now thine hand'.
David again confessed his sin to the Lord and asked that the
people be spared any further evil. He asked that any further
sentence should apply only to his own house (verse 17). Then the
prophet Gad came again to see David and instructed him to build
an altar in the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. So David
went up in accordance with the Lord's command.
David approached Araunah and asked him if he could buy the
threshing-floor, so that the plague could be stayed (verse 21).
Araunah offered to give David the threshing-floor, the oxen for
the offering, and also the wood required for a burnt offering.
David could not accept this generous offer, for he was obliged to
make his own offering to the Lord. He could not offer a burnt
offering if he did not pay the cost; he could not make an offering
which cost him nothing. So we read 'neither will I offer burnt
offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me
He bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of
silver. If we read 1 Chronicles 21:25, we find that David paid
Ornan (which appears to be another name for Araunah) for 'the
place' the sum of six hundred shekels of gold. This is very
much more than the sum mentioned in 2 Samuel 24:24. The
explanation is that 'the place' was much larger than the
threshing-floor and covered a wide area. Indeed, afterwards it
became the area on which the Temple was built. The Companion
Bible refers to this on page 559.
This interesting story about David may cause us to reflect on
its application to us today. David was quite right in refusing to
accept the generous offer, and to pay for the floor and oxen. But
is it possible that we might make an offering to God which does
not really cost us anything? Consider the many collections, flag
days, and contributions that we make. How many appeals are
made! If everything that we do is done as unto the Lord, we may
ask whether our gifts are worthy for one who professes to be a
Christian. If a collection is made at a service, we may place a
coin in the plate, but do we miss it? Does it 'cost' us anything?
Is it a collection or an offering: and if it is an offering, is it a
Our Lord was sitting near the Treasury in the Temple and He
saw many rich men give substantial sums of money (Mark 12:41-
44). This was impressive, yet the Lord was not greatly
impressed. He knew that they could easily afford the sums
thrown into the Treasury. What did those gifts really cost?
Would their standard of living be affected by their generous
giving? But a poor widow threw only a couple of mites into the
Treasury and this was indeed a very small gift, yet the Lord told
His disciples that the widow had given more than all the others,
because she gave her all. The rich gave out of their abundance,
but she gave all that she had, even her living. The 'cost' to the
widow was enormous! One way of looking at the extent of giving
is not to ask how much is given, but to ask how much is left after
the act of giving. If our total assets are hardly affected by our
gifts, we can hardly claim that our gifts have 'cost' us much.
We cannot pretend to cover in this note all that the Scriptures
say about giving. In the Bible the verb 'to give' occurs at least
1,500 times. We might also see what references there are to
'cost' in the Bible. When material was collected for the building
of the Temple, stones were ordered for the foundations and they
were great stones. They were costly (1 Kings 5:17).
At Bethany, Jesus Christ was entertained by Martha and
Lazarus, and Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard to
anoint the feet of Jesus. The ointment was very costly, and Judas
Iscariot objected. He thought the ointment could be sold for three
hundred pence and the proceeds given to the poor. But really he
did not care about the poor. Being a thief, he was more interested
in obtaining control of the cash for he carried 'the bag'. Jesus
rebuked him and said that Mary was anointing Him against the
day of His burial (John 12:1-9).
The correct use of our money or resources does present
problems. We may have responsibilities to our family: there is
the expense of running a home. There is liability for income tax,
rates, water rates, etc. and we may feel an obligation to make
some provision for our future, or for some member of the family.
Is there some midway position between giving a little which we
would not miss, and so much that we would fail to meet our legal
liabilities? We may go back to Old Testament times and read
'Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field
bringeth forth year by year' (Deut. 14:22).
Other passages refer to a tithe (or a tenth) of the herd, of the
corn, of the wine, of oxen or of sheep. As the Levites had no
inheritance of land, the tithe was to be given to them. So we find
in Numbers 18:21 :
'And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in
Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even
the service of the tabernacle of the congregation'.
It is admitted that giving of a tenth of the increase of the year was
a law for Israel. We are not under such a legal obligation, but if
we are perplexed about finding a reasonable method of giving, it
might help us, as a start, to adopt any guidance that the tithing
method may give us. We could test what we give to the Lord in a
year by comparing it to a tenth of our income (either gross or net
after payment of taxes). If our income is small, and if we have a
family to support, we may be unable to spare a tenth of our
income for gifts. On the other hand, we may be in a more
favourable financial position and we might be able to devote
more than a tenth to the Lord's work. The calculation of the
tenth, therefore, may be only a guide line, although it may assist
us in solving our problem of deciding at what level we should
Does the apostle Paul have anything to say about this subject?
He writes about the poor at Jerusalem and we learn that some
saints at Macedonia and Achaia had combined to make a
contribution to help the poor. If the Gentiles share in spiritual
things, says Paul, they should also share 'in carnal things'. Paul
writes about collections for the poor in both of the letters to the
Corinthians. The passages are 1 Corinthians 16:1-6 and
2 Corinthians 8:1-21 and 9:1-15.
Are there any principles in these passages that apply to us
today? Paul does not lay down any precise formula, such as
tithing, for the amount of our gifts. He uses general terms, but
makes it clear that it is a matter of conscience. We quote
examples of the phrases he uses:
'as God has prospered him' (1 Cor. 16:2).
'according to that a man hath, and not according to that he
hath not' (2 Cor. 8:12).
'providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord,
but also in the sight of men' (2 Cor. 8:21).
'He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he
which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully' (2 Cor. 9:6).
'Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him
give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful
giver' (2 Cor. 9:7).
It is clear that Paul asks for generous giving, but he
recognises that in all our dealings we must be honest, both in the
sight of the Lord and also before men. Our Lord expressed a
similar balanced view when the Pharisees tried to trap Him on the
subject of tribute. In Matthew 22:21 it is recorded that Our Lord
said 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are
Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's'.
Paul asked the saints to be systematic in dealing with giving to
the poor. He gave instructions to the churches in Galatia as well
as those in Corinth. Note what he says in 1 Corinthians 16:2 :
'Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him
in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings
when I come'.
Everything must be done decently and in order. There must not
be a frantic rushing about when he comes. The gifts must be
collected each week and stored in readiness.
We have seen in reference to tithing that gifts to the Lord may
be in money or in kind, but we observe from 2 Corinthians 8:5
that the Corinthians first gave themselves to the Lord:
'And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own
selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God'.
As in giving, so in our service. The principle is set out in
'And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of
the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him'.
As we should do everything as to the Lord (Col. 3:23), so in our
giving we should regard ourselves as the Lord's stewards. We
belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, and all we have belongs to Him.
So we should act like trustees, and use all we have in accordance
with His will.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to do the Father's will. He was an
example for us, for He said:
'For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but
the will of Him that sent Me' (John 6:38).
Surely, as Christ lived to do the will of His Father, so our ardent
desire should be to do God's will.
This leads us to our concluding remarks. Let us again think
of God's great gift to us. How costly was that gift! First of all,
God gave His only begotten Son (so great was His love for us) so
that whoever believed in Him should not perish, but have eternal
life (John 3:16). Secondly, the Lord Jesus Christ came to fulfil
His Father's will and He willingly gave Himself for our sakes
that we might have everlasting life (John 20:31).
There are so many Scriptures we could quote. Here are a
'Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins' (Gal.
'For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and
men, the Man Christ Jesus: Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to
be testified in due time' (1 Tim. 2:5,6).
'For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord' (Rom. 6:23).
'While we wait for the blessed hope o the glorious appearing of
our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself
for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for
Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good'
(Titus 2:13,14 N.I.V.).
And we join with Paul and exclaim:
'THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS UNSPEAKABLE GIFT'
(2 Cor. 9:15).
As we gratefully accept God's wonderful gift, let us remember
that there are responsibilities:
'Neglect not the gift that is in thee' (1 Tim. 4:14).
'stir up the gift of God, which is in thee' (2 Tim. 1:6).