Exodus 25:1-2 “The Lord said to Moses,“Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.””
Isn’t it amazing that God, who is omnipotent, doesn’t force Himself upon us? He is looking for willing followers, not coerced ones. Look around the world at government leaders today. Once someone is in total control as a dictator, they typically intimidate, coerce, or threaten into obedience those under their control. Watch the faces in the crowds when North Korea’s Kim Jung Un is present. They wildly cheer and clap their hands, for if they don’t, they may find themselves in a gulag somewhere. That’s the way it’s always been with rulers that have absolute authority.
Back at the time of Daniel, praying to anyone but the king resulted in one being thrown into a den of lions. Refusing to bow down to a statue of the king got Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego a date with a cookout, and they were the ones to be cooked. In contrast, in the verses above, God is giving instructions to the nation of Israel regarding contributions for the construction of the tabernacle. He told Moses what the people were to contribute from their own possessions, but He only wanted these things to come from those whose heart moved them. Even though every single thing that any Israelite could call their own was nothing more than a gift from God, God didn’t force them to give Him back what was needed for this task.
You see, the Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). God’s work isn’t to be done by twisting arms, begging for money, or scheming to coerce people to give. Although God alone can say “Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine (Job 41:11)” He doesn’t force us to use the gifts that He has given us for His purposes. We are essentially free to do as we wish. We can spend a lifetime keeping it all and spending it all on ourselves, or we can give unto God willingly to use as He sees fit. It’s the willing heart, alone, that brings God glory by giving. It’s the heart that gives to God out of a love for Him that brings pleasure to God’s heart.
On the other hand, giving with wrong motives, e.g., motives to bring glory to ourselves by showing others how good and philanthropic we are, or giving to get some benefit for ourselves (because otherwise we would give little or nothing), brings absolutely no glory to God. It’s not what He’s looking for and such giving does nothing to gain favor with God. Indeed, the Bible tells us that “If I give away all I have . . . but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).”
Neither does the Lord force us to believe in Him, follow Him, or listen to His words. He urges us and promises great blessings to those who do, but He never forces. He is polite – He stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20), but He doesn’t force His way in. He doesn’t force Himself on us. No, He invites, encourages, and woos, but He doesn’t force. So, if you are one who is truly following the Lord, you are doing so because you want to, not because you have to. And if you think you have to, you should probably ask yourself why you think that way, for a true believer follows with a willing heart. It’s a heart of gratitude, not a heart of obligation that brings glory to God.
That’s the difference between a believer in the Lord Jesus and a believer in any other so-called “god.” When a person puts his or her faith in Christ, one of the things He certainly gives them is a willing heart. Such a person is transformed in their inner being from wanting to do their own thing, to wanting to glorify God. Their heart cries out “I delight to do your will, O my God (Psalm 40:8).” You see, Jesus willingly gave Himself to us on the cross. He wasn’t forced into it. He did it to glorify God, no matter the cost. And He did all this “to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14).”
I had someone ask me one time how much I thought a person had to do to truly follow God. That’s the wrong question, however. For the one who loves God, their question centers around how much they can do to follow the One who first loved them. They are thankful that they get to give, rather than feeling that they have to give. Any motive of obligation, coercion, or giving under duress is evidence that a heart has yet to be transformed, i.e., transformed into a heart like Christ’s, ready and willing to obey with a motive only of love, no matter the cost.