What do you give to God who owns everything? Is there anything he wants that he does not have?
For many years I vowed to try harder, to do more, to be better. I knew I needed to change. I wanted to please God. I didn’t know how.
As I grow older, I have more and need less. I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. I no longer want some of what I purchased. My Christmas wish list grows shorter each year. That doesn’t mean I’m satisfied even though I’m more content.
I’ve learned to appreciate what’s valuable and not to value what is replaceable. Yet I want more of what is finite—time. And God wants more time with me.
God restores time; we redeem it. Jesus came to save what was lost. That includes time. We need to make good use of this gift.
We can’t make time or find more time. We can use it, abuse, waste it, invest it. But once a moment passes, it slips into eternity. Now becomes yesterday and tomorrow may not arrive. Until we live by the Latin phrase carpe diem (thinking less about what may never happen and what we cannot know, much less control) we can’t give God what he wants most. Until we make the most of the present we don’t live in his presence.
What We Shouldn’t Give
We tend to want what we don’t have. God is like that. He doesn’t desire what he already has stored up for those who love him. He values what he possesses only because those resources supply our needs. The apostle Paul reminds us, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
God wants us to be like him, not like Ebenezer Scrooge. God wants us to give to others as he gives to us—freely. We should love and comfort one another as he loves and comforts us.
He doesn’t want what he doesn’t need. He has no use for sacrifices. We often think in terms of debt—what we owe. We sometimes feel we should make reparations. We then make promises we can’t keep and vows we won’t fulfill. At this time of year, we call those New Year’s resolutions. But whether they pertain to doing what we haven’t done or not doing what we should have done, God cares nothing for sacrifices made after an offense. He prefers mercy.
Jesus referred the Pharisees to a Scripture they should have understood. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). God wants us to do more than obey rules; he wants a relationship with us. God cared enough to send his very best. We should give our best. “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:19, 20).
Tolerance is insufficient; forgiveness is requisite, especially for those who do not deserve to be pardoned, which includes us all. We are to love as he loved us—not only unconditionally but also lavishly. Not when someone is worthy or because we should, but because his nature becomes our nature and our character reflects his character.
What We Should Give
We cannot give what we have not received. We teach what we’ve learned. We frequently strive to convey what we think we believe. Too often we endeavor to give what we do not have because we are unaware of what we lack. The rich young ruler faced that paradox.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Mark 10:17-22).
The man knelt in worship before Jesus. He asked a question because he knew he had a need. Jesus commended him for knowing what he should do. He didn’t criticize the man for what he’d done. Jesus revealed the man’s lack and told him how he could gain what he wanted most.
The issue wasn’t money or even stewardship. The rich ruler lacked compassion, which flows from relationship with God. The young man did the right things, but because he thought he had to, not because he wanted to. He imitated God’s actions; he lacked God’s heart. And for God, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Our holy ambition should be to chase after him who relentlessly pursues us. We’re to deposit our hearts in the one we treasure. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
What God Desires Most
God wants us. All of us. He doesn’t need rule keepers. He wants family, not friends. He told us what we should do. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God” (Micah 6:8).
Jesus showed us how. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34, 35). He wants us to follow him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
When we follow Jesus, our whole ambition becomes our holy ambition.
Jeff Adams is a teacher, speaker, editor, and author. Go to https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/encouraging-words-jeff-adams/1127304887 to find his book Encouraging Words: Rebuilding Your Dreams.