According To Our Ability
Updated: Feb 21
Chan Gin Kai
When they arrived at the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site. According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 darics of gold, 5,000 minas of silver and 100 priestly garments. The priests, the Levites, the musicians, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns. (Ezra 2:68-70)
After a long journey lasting three to four months, the returning exiles arrived at Jerusalem. But before going to settle in their own respective towns, they did what they believed was more important than rebuilding their lives – giving to the reconstruction of the Temple.
Who would have blamed the Jews if they had tried to settle in first, repair their houses and get some crops planted before turning their attention to the Temple? They had just uprooted themselves and travelled to a new land. There must have been a lot of things to do. And they gave first to the reconstruction of the Temple? What if they don’t have enough for rebuilding their lives? Wouldn’t it have been more prudent to rebuild their lives first and see what they have left before giving to the Temple?
For the Jews, the Temple came first. Their devotion to God took precedence over their own lives. It wasn’t a shirking of responsibility or blind belief that everything would be okay. They desired to put God as their priority and trusted that God would provide for them.
Faith is not foolishness, but confidence in the highest Wisdom. Trust is not naivety, but belief in the greatest Love.
We often imagine ourselves to be smarter than we are. It is true that we should never blindly trust the words of man, and that indeed includes pastors, evangelists, reverends, priests or whatever titles church leaders adopt. But we can trust God absolutely. He is infinitely wiser than we are, and His motives are always pure. We mustn't allow the fallibility of human leaders to become our excuse not to trust God. Even though human leaders can sometimes be wrong or evenly intentionally misleading, the Bible is always clear.
The Jews gave “according to their ability”.
It wasn’t a goal to meet or a quota to fulfil, but they were “freewill offerings” – their heartfelt contribution to a cause they believed in. There wasn’t a human-imposed rule on how much each one should give. Instead, they all gave according to what they were able to.
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48b)
Uncle Ben gave a famous paraphrase of this verse to Peter Parker in the movie Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
God has blessed each of us with varying gifts – wealth, time, talent, energy, looks, knowledge, experience, wisdom, education, skills and more. These blessings come with expectations.
For those of us who are blessed with more, it is easy to contribute a lot in terms of amount, yet only a little when compared with what we have. We can effortlessly out-give those who have lesser, and feel good about ourselves. We may even hide behind the much we’ve already given, though we know in our hearts that we’ve not been sacrificial. Do we selfishly use our God-given gifts to enrich ourselves and not the Kingdom? God expects us to use our gifts to serve Him and His people.
For those of us with fewer gifts, do our lack of abilities become an excuse for not giving? And if we’re already giving and serving generously, do we feel insecure when we compare ourselves with others who are “giving more”? God sees and appreciates our sacrificial spirit, even if others do not.
We need to examine the gifts that God has blessed us with, and consider how we can use them to serve His cause. Let us all glorify God, according to our ability.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God". Gin Kai joined the Central Christian Church in 1988.