Buried amid chapter after chapter in the Book of Exodus of tedious instructions concerning the building materials, dimensions, and craftmanship required to construct the Tabernacle for worshipping God, you will find one of the most amazing stories in the Bible. Moses had appealed to the Israelites to bring offerings of silver, gold, precious gems, fine linens and acacia wood to build a sanctuary suitable for housing the presence of God. The Israelites responded with such great enthusiasm that even after enough material to do the job had been gathered, they still kept on bringing more every morning. Finally, the alarmed artisans asked Moses to instruct the people to refrain from giving any more materials! Moses found himself in the highly unusual (and enviable) position of having to order the people to curb their generosity. “So the people were restrained from bringing; for what they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work.” (Exodus 36:6b-7)
I don’t know of any pastor who has ever felt compelled to follow the example set by Moses in this story. Yet, here I am writing this message. In my first year here, I renamed the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund (or Parson’s Purse) after a New Testament Deacon named Phoebe who was commended by the Apostle Paul for her generosity to those in need. Since that time, the “Phoebe Fund” has benefitted from the amazing generosity of you all to the tune of a 500% increase over where it stood when I arrived. I am extremely grateful that this bounty has been “more than enough” for me to assist church members and strangers who find themselves in desperate financial need, without concern for depleting the Fund. And still, like those Israelites, the giving keeps coming!
While I am not suggesting that you “restrain your giving” to the Phoebe Fund, I am recommending that in the future prayerful consideration be given to redirecting some of that giving to other areas of need, such as wider church missions (One Great Hour of Sharing, Neighbors in Need, the Christmas Fund), the Westminster Food Pantry, CROP Walk for Hunger, the Giving Tree, or special disaster relief appeals. I feel confident that the Phoebe Fund will continue to fulfill its purpose for a good while, even with lesser contributions. And if that ever changes, I am equally confident that this church will respond as generously as it has until now.