I’ve been reading back through the book of Exodus this month, and there’s a passage near the end that always grabs my attention. It’s in Exodus chapter 35, and it’s the first place in the Bible that mentions people being given special gifts or abilities by the Holy Spirit.
Here’s the context: After rescuing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and establishing a covenant relationship with them, God instructs the people to make a special tent (the Tabernacle) that will function as a sort of mobile temple as the nation travels toward the Promised Land.
The Lord gives detailed plans for its construction and then identifies the master craftsmen who will head up the building project — two people said to be especially gifted by the Spirit of God himself for the task:
“Then Moses told the people of Israel, ‘The Lord has specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft. And the Lord has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach their skills to others.'” — Exodus 35:30-34 (NLT)
The end of verse 34 especially stands out to me. Notice that God not only equipped the master craftsmen with skill for their own work; he also gave them the ability to teach and supervise others.
These men had a spiritual knack for guiding other people in getting the job done. As anyone who’s had to lead a team project can attest, it can often be a superhuman task to get everyone on the same page! So when it came to building the place where God himself would dwell, God made sure the leaders were especially gifted to delegate the load.
In other words, their gift wasn’t just for them.
Their supernatural talent wasn’t given to them for their own fame. Rather, it was so that the whole community of God’s people could experience God’s purposes for them through what they made.
Backing up earlier in the chapter, notice how these craftsmen acquired their building materials:
“All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the Lord. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments. Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing. They brought to the Lord their offerings of gold—brooches, earrings, rings from their fingers, and necklaces. They presented gold objects of every kind as a special offering to the Lord. All those who owned the following items willingly brought them: blue, purple, and scarlet thread; fine linen and goat hair for cloth; and tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather. . . . All the women who were skilled in sewing and spinning prepared blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen cloth. All the women who were willing used their skills to spin the goat hair into yarn. . . . So the people of Israel—every man and woman who was eager to help in the work the Lord had given them through Moses—brought their gifts and gave them freely to the Lord.” — Exodus 35:21-29 (NLT)
The inventory was amassed through the willing generosity of the people, sharing whatever they happened to have that could be useful for the project.
If you’re familiar with what’s gone before in Exodus, you know that the reason these desert-wandering Israelites even had all this wealth in the first place is because the Lord had given it to them from the Egyptians (see Exodus 12:35-36). They were simply sharing what had already been graciously given to them by God.
Their gifts weren’t just for them.
And so it is for us Christians today.
God gives every one of us special gifts, resources, talents, and abilities (see 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 2 Corinthians 9:8-11). And he gives them to us “for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7), to “build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). We’re to use them to spread Christ’s kingdom and bring glory to God (1 Peter 4:11).
Our gifts aren’t just for us.
Just like the Israelites, everything we have is ours simply by the grace and generosity of God. As 1 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT) says, “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?”
Just like the Israelites, we’re called to willingly share our gifts for God’s purposes. This includes our talents, our money, our time, our efforts — really everything we have. We’re to meet the needs of those around us, build up the church, and bring glory to God.
And just like the Israelites, God will see to it that we have all we need to get the job done. Look at what the craftsmen ended up saying to Moses in Exodus 36:4-7 (NLT):
“Finally the craftsmen who were working on the sanctuary left their work. They went to Moses and reported, ‘The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the Lord has commanded us to do!’ So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: ‘Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!’ So the people stopped bringing their sacred offerings. Their contributions were more than enough to complete the whole project.”
God had ensured they had more than enough. When God calls his people to do something, he doesn’t skimp out on the budget.
But he does want us to be faithful stewards of what he’s given us. He doesn’t force us to give, but he invites us to. He wants our willing participation. Notice that only those Israelites who felt led to give were to offer their supplies for the tabernacle project.
God doesn’t want us to give or serve out of guilt or manipulation. And it’s not that he’s an “Indian giver” — he’s not juking us when he hands us blessings. It’s just that everything we have is given to us in trust, and we have to surrender it back to him in order to accomplish anything meaningful with it.
The alternative is to squander the gifts on ourselves, and in the process close our hearts to the joy of participating in God’s mission. When we clutch too tightly and selfishly to our blessings, they become burdens instead.
God is inviting each of us to participate in his work with him, but he wants it to be willing, from the heart. Because at the end of the day, he’s far more interested in our hearts than in our money or talents.
When God’s people willingly share God’s gifts for God’s work, there will always be more than enough and there will always be an impact.
Will you share what God has given you? Will you offer it back to him as an act of worship today?
Will you squander your gifts, or will you put them to good use?
The choice is yours.
See you down the path.