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On Preparing Your Hands for Church

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Sometimes I almost prefer not to tell who I am quoting. Sometimes people see the name and either tune out altogether, or they respond so enthusiastically they fail to exercise due discernment. But in this case, this quote is so good and helpful that I wanted to share it with you. I will even tell you where it’s from, but read it first, and I will tell you at the end. I hope it provides you a suitable challenge as you think about worshiping with the Lord’s people on this fine Sunday.

The proper use of all the good gifts we have received is the free and generous sharing of those gifts with others. No more certain principal or more effective exhortation for keeping that rule is imaginable than this: Scripture teaches us that all the gifts we utilize are given to us by God. And they are given along with this law of our faith—that they be put to use for the good of our neighbors. But Scripture goes even further than this when it compares us and the gifts we’ve been given to the members of a human body. No member of the body exists to serve itself, nor does each member exist merely for its own private use. Rather, it puts its abilities to use for the other members of the body. Nor does any member of the body alone receive any advantage from itself outside of that which belongs to the entire body.

Whatever, therefore, a godly man is able to do, he should do it for his brothers. He should consider his own interests only in so far as he sets his mind on the general edification of the whole church. Let this, then, be our rule for kindness and benevolence: We are merely stewards of whatever gifts God has given to us in order to help our neighbors. We must give an account of our stewardship, and right stewardship is that which is fueled by the rule of love. Consequently, we must not merely join zeal for the good of others with concern for our own well-being, but we must submit concern for our own well-being to the good of others.

To help us better understand that this law of stewardship rightly applies to whatever gifts we receive from Him, God applied this law to the smallest gifts of His kindness in former times. For He commanded that the firstfruits of His people’s produce be offered to him. “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God” (Ex. 23:19). In this way, God’s people of old testified that it was wrong to secure any profit from their produce before it was consecrated to God. Now, if God’s gifts to us are ultimately sanctified to us after our hands have offered them back to their very author, any use of those gifts that is not perfumed by such an offering will be a corrupt abuse of them. But we would strive in vain to increase the Lord’s wealth by offering our gifts to Him. Since, therefore, our kindness—as the Prophet says—cannot reach Him, we should practice it toward His saints who are on earth (Ps. 16:2-3). Thus our charitable gifts are compared to holy sacrifices, since they correspond to those sacrifices that were required by the law (Heb. 13:16).

This sweet little quote is taken from The Little book on the Christian Life by John Calvin as translated and published by Reformation trust. Please do yourself a favor and read the whole book (which, to be fair, is all of 120 small pages).

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