We Share: Intentional

Here's a quick recap of the story of Nehemiah so far:
The people of Israel have been exiled to Babylon, then Persia.  The exile lasted about two full generations!  Imagine: if that happened to you, what would it take to continue your family or cultural traditions?  Would you or your children or grandchildren become assimilated to the surrounding culture?  What would it take to preserve your people's way of life?  Intentionality.  

Intentionality is essential for anything we value.  After all, why do we fall away from our resolutions? Why do some fail to uphold their vows?  Actually, in several instances the Biblical authors use marriage as a metaphor for the relationship between and God and God's people. The love within a healthy marriage has two important "types": involuntary and voluntary.

Involuntary love: Let's face it.  This is the experience of love we see and hear about in songs, movies and TV shows.  It's exhilarating, dramatic, and makes for great stories.  And in faith, we experience involuntary love with God, too!  The sense of awe at that sunset, the uplifting song, even the calming presence of a loving pet -- there are numerous ways we don't have to "work at" loving God and what God has created and given the world.   But as w/people, so it is with God.  We must be intentional with love.  And when we don't want to work at it, the work is all the more important.  

Voluntary love: Our cultural message often gets the equation backward, insisting that the feeling of love must precede intentional acts of love.  But if that's the case, we are always at the mercy of our all-too-fickle feelings.  The truth is, the practices of love make the feelings of love possible.  A seasoned married couple might have the habit of always opening the car door for their spouse, or even picking up their spouses dirty socks!  These acts of love, when done sincerely and without ulterior motives, lead to a greater feeling of affection and appreciation.  Soren Kirkegaard wrote that the tone of love is the works of love, and Jesus entire life was his work of love.  

This practice-to-feeling reality of love is why GIVING is such a cornerstone for our relationship with God.  When Nehemiah and Ezra reestablished the people of God in their capital city, it was crucial that they be intentional about their giving.  Not as an emotional response to what God had already done, but as a voluntary, intentional act of love for the God with whom they lived in a covenant relationship.  Intentional giving fuels our love for God.

Finally, it should be noted that the people gave to the temple, and their giving was managed by the priests.  As Christians, we understand that is the role of the church.  But when you give in the context of church, remember: we do not give TO the church; we give THROUGH the church.  And then we set the stage to experience God's loving provision for us, and for our community.  

God doesn't actually need our intentional giving.  We need to intentionally give in order to discover our love for God, and God's love for us.  

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