A biblical reflection on Exodus 35:1 – 36:7
All over the world, many organisations and companies are looking for ways to develop more resources. Many are eager to post more profit for the benefit of their shareholders and not-for-profit organisations are sourcing for more resources to meet their goals and fulfil the purposes for which they were established. Christian organisations are not left out in the desire to have enough, even more than enough resources to meet their needs and accomplish great things for God. Foundations that are set up for the purpose of giving to Christian causes are also looking out for avenues to increase their donor base in order to have more resources to give out for good causes. What percentage of these organisations can at some point say to their donors, “STOP GIVING”?
Since the economic recession of 2008, a number of mission agencies have either scaled down their operations or closed down completely due to inadequate funding. Are we likely to ever experience the situation that Moses and his leadership team found themselves in Exodus 35 & 36 when they were mobilising resources for the building of the tabernacle? What are some of the lessons that we can learn from this passage that will add value to our approach to resource mobilisation today?
The first three verses of Exodus 35 talks about the Sabbath, at first, it may look unconnected with the session on offerings for the tabernacle. However, looking closely at vs 4, we noticed that the congregation that Moses spoke to, is the same congregation that was gathered together in the very first verse. There are two issues here for our consideration. In vs 1, Moses gathered the entire congregation. Crowd funding has become one of the most recent approach to fund development. The era of focussing only on major donors is giving way to this new approach. Looking at this passage, we then realise that crowd funding is actually revisiting an old time technique to resource mobilisation. The second issue here is as crucial. God through Moses raised the concern for the observation of Sabbath. ….a Sabbath of rest to the Lord (vs 2). The weight and challenge of resource mobilisation can make many if not cautioned to work 24/7. There are more people to call, many more to visit, newsletter to write, website to design, conferences to organise and absolutely no place for rest! It is then instructive that God put the mobilisation for resources in the context of rest. Rest provides the environment for trust. A recognition that it is not altogether our ability to fundraise or otherwise that is important but our acknowledgement that every good and perfect gift comes from above.
God commanded the children of Israel to give. However, it was to be done with a willing heart. Willingness comes out as one of the main themes of this passage. The willingness of the donors is key to participating in God’s programme. They were not compelled to give! Some Christian organisations make giving such an issue that members are constrained to give through the setting up of different structures within the system. Membership cards with log tables are printed and circulated to monitor the giving of members with a view to enforce defaulters.
It is worthy of note that giving is not restricted to cash with respect to the building of the tabernacle. (Vs 5 – 19). All the different forms of giving were encouraged in this passage. While some gave material resources, other gave through the availability of their human resources. Skills for designing and building all the different aspects of the tabernacle were in abundance. Once the people have been mobilised to understand what needs to be done and the amount of resources needed to complete the task, they were allowed to depart from the presence of the leader (Moses). They were given the opportunity to freely decide their level of involvement. Nothing suggests that they were under any pressure to act immediately or else…! Having created the right atmosphere, the resultant effect shocked Moses and the entire leadership. Everyone whose heart was stirred and whose spirit was willing brought a gift (vs21 – 28). Everyone? Yes, everyone. No one wanted to be left out in this amazing opportunity to be part of something glorious as building a tabernacle for God, the almighty God.
How do we cast a vision for the people that we expect to make their resources available for God? Moses shows us some powerful ideas in this passage. He brought them together, he reminds them of the importance of rest and he tells them of how they can get involved in what God is doing. We notice in Exodus 36:2 -3 that Moses made the resources available to the artisans to begin the work. One of the reasons why many organisations are not enjoying continuous provision of resources is this whole challenge of credibility. Many resources are diverted from the original purpose for which they were sourced for and used to meet other pressing needs. When donors can no longer trust you, they cannot fund you.
We then come to this amazing revelation in Exo 36:4 – 7, when the workers suddenly realised that they have no space left for storage of the materials. “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do” Exodus 36:5. More than enough materials have been brought, yet the people are still bringing! In fact, they have to be restrained from bringing because the materials were sufficient, indeed too much! What an encounter we have in this passage. Effort was now being spent on stopping the people from bringing not on encouraging them to bring. How did Moses under God’s leadership and command achieve this feat? He rallied the people to a vision, he got everyone involved, he challenged them to bring any and every kind of resources and he created a structure of accountability. Not long, he had to find ways to restrain the people from bringing! What if Moses did not stop the people from bringing so that he can channel the extra to other ‘good’ causes? My guess is that Moses and the workers will become preoccupied with distribution of gifts rather than building the tabernacle which was the primary purpose of the gift. It is important that organisations recognise the way and manner in which God has made provision for the vision He has given them and work diligently to ensure that they take responsibility for the part they are meant to play.