Few occupations in the world have the built-in position of dependency on God quite like the farmer. When the rain comes, the crops grow. When drought appears, they don’t. But very little can be done to change which of two occurs on a given day or season. Most farmers fret and worry together, filling conversations with what their crops are currently doing and what they need in order to make the harvest worthwhile.
Dad’s friend, C, no longer owns a rain gauge. “Ever since 1988 I stopped keeping one. There’s nothing I can do to put more rain in it.”
My eyes just went buggy.
At the end of the year, when the beans are cut and the corn is shelled, C knows within him that the crop is a direct result of what God did and provided, not necessarily his good work. Don’t get me wrong: the farmer’s job is to get the seed in the field. To make sure the ground is healthy. It’s all preparatory. And then to harvest when the plant is ripe. What actually grows, however, is out of the hands of the farmer.
C’s rain gauge has changed the way I view an offering.
Today I read Romans 12, a chapter that I could nearly recite by memory because I enjoy it and it retains a popularity due to the imagery. “Offer yourself as living sacrifices…” usually comes partnered with the reminder that “living sacrifices can crawl off the table.” Thus we who offer ourselves up to God must continually choose to be there.
But what if we didn’t put a rain gauge on our lives? What if our offerings – both of our time and talent, but also our checks and support – were a result of the realization that God did something, as opposed to the typical what we have to offer? What if we stopped looking at ourselves and our lives as something that we somehow made good in the first place?
Later in the chapter, it says (MSG), “…it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you.” When we show up to fulfill our volunteer duties, when we make good on supplying educational bags for poor children, when we do our part to make sure the lights stay on and the pastor is paid, this isn’t our goodness. We might be portraying an element of obedience and faithfulness. But our offering isn’t from our goodness. It’s a reminder of God’s goodness that we even have something to bring.
I imagine the farmers who for a few years had nothing to offer due to drought. But the year the rains came? He bundles up the first round and takes it to the temple. “See God? This is what you did this year. Thank you.”
Take that in comparison to the farmer who surveys his crop and says, “Well, God, if you need it, you can have *this much* as I do enjoy coming here and I’d like to see a bigger feast.”
The farmer without a rain gauge knows that it doesn’t matter how much is in there; what’s important is that God was good enough to send rain in the first place. His offering is a reflection of his gratitude, not an attempt make things right. His offering exemplifies God’s goodness, not his own.
“The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” (12:3)