My mother shares a tale of growing up and playing church often with her younger brother, who we affectionately called, “Uncle Brother.” When it was time to pay offering, they found themselves mocking what was modeled in church for them as children. Apparently, during service the role was called, and every member in attendance was expected to announce how much money they were contributing. When members reached lets say a “particular age” they were allowed to say, “exempt.” Essentially this equated to the notion that they’d given enough money over the years through offering and tithes, and were no longer required nor expected to give. So, as my mother and Uncle Brother played, calling out numerous imaginative names, including, “Sister Cockeyed,” they shouted, “exempt” often. Isn’t it fascinating the manner by which we construct rules to fit our fancy? The Word of God says nothing about exemption in relation to giving. In fact, we are shown the epitome of giving in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” So besides Sister Cockeyed, are you guilty of exemption? What are you withholding from yourself, from your purpose to impact others, from God?
Our giving should not be contingent upon what we anticipate to receive. In a world driven by selfishness, and the “meattitude,” it’s difficult to find space for affirming the practice of giving. There is an insistent call to constantly be on display, but not for activity that could potentially be a blessing to someone else. What makes us ignore need? What makes us exempt from giving? What does giving cost? I would suggest that each of us have encountered such questions in our own existence. Often we may feel as though we are overstepping our boundaries, or we are waiting, assuming someone else will step up. What if like the poem goes by June Jordan, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for?” How might that realization spark us to act, to speak, to give?
On last evening, I listened to my sister in Christ, Minister Latangela Hyman who preached and reminded the congregation that Jesus went to the cross and assumed all our wrong, our past sin, our present sin and our future sin. He intentionally ensured that nothing we did, are doing or will do would be exempt from his redeeming blood! He gave his life unapologetically for us, even though he was sinless, blameless and very well was likened unto Sister Cockeyed, exempt! Thank God for Jesus that he saw our need and elected instead to give albeit the fact that he was not directly responsible for what he assumed.
Each of us have a purpose and destiny to fulfill during our time on earth. Our existence is inextricably linked to others. Proverbs 3:27 affirms, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it.” The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16:13), and as we seek God we will know where to exert our energy, through our purpose, our presence and our prayers. If we choose to exhibit exemption, it should be toward negativity, gossiping, abuse, harshness, ignorance and disruption. I’m sure if we put our heads together, we can expand this list, and you are encouraged to create your own. Easy? Not necessarily. The enemy invites me to a party daily; one with myself or others and either way, neither is pretty. However, the divine invites me as well, and the benefits associated with the receipt of that invitation are far greater. In my relationship with God, I am afforded everything I need because his love for me surpasses my decision of whose party to attend. His love is not exempt no matter what I’ve done. That result alone propels me to spaces of giving, because not a day goes by that he has not given to me. As believers, we are not exempt. As we are afforded breath, we have opportunity to begin again, and we have it in our power to practice forgiveness, even if not restoration. What needs your attention? Who needs your attention? Let us remember, exemption is not an option. It wasn’t for Jesus and it isn’t for us.