Cash Only Please!

The focus on money has become so great in many churches that sermons are preached on why you need to give in the way they want you to give. Giving of time, influence, hospitality, and sometimes even material goods, is downplayed as somehow inferior. One passage used to justify this comes from second Samuel.

2 Samuel 24:18-25 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, "Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." 19 So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. 21 Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" "To buy your threshing floor," David answered, "so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped." 22 Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the LORD your God accept you." 24 But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

It's amazing, and sad, how Old Testament passages are pulled from their context, and sometimes even held in opposition to other passages, to make some teachers' points. A few big "why?" questions need to be answered about this specific instance with David...


  • Why did David feel it necessary that this sacrifice cost him something?

  • Is there a command in Scriptures that it must be so for David, or for anyone (or everyone) else?

  • Why does this passage seem to contradict the actions of Abraham, the father of all those of faith?


For brevity, the verse immediately prior to this passage helps to set the context, though it would be better to read all the way from the start of the chapter:

2 Samuel 24:17 When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the LORD, "I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family."

David had sinned. He recognized that it was his sin. Under the Law of Moses - and David was under the Law of Moses - anyone who had sinned was required to make a sin offering, a sacrifice for their own sin.

Leviticus 5:5-6 "'When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned 6 and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the LORD a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

Under the Law, it was necessary for the sacrifice to cost David because it was David's sin. The one who sinned was responsible to bring the offering (read all of the Law!). For this reason the exact same would also apply to all others under the Law. If animals belonging Araunah had been sacrificed, the sacrifice would have been Araunah's and not David's. As a Jebusite, Araunah would not have been aware of this making it necessary for David to clarify why he must pay for them. Moving to the New Testament church, we are no longer under the Law. There is no longer any need for sacrifices for sin (see Hebrews 10:18)!

Hebrews 10:17-18 "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." 18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. [Emphasis ours]

Contrast David with Abraham, the man of faith, who lived prior to the Law. His freewill gift was quite different than David's compulsory sacrifice.

Genesis 14:16-20 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people. 17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley).

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Abraham voluntarily gave a tenth, of all the plunder he recovered, to Melchizedek as priest of God Most High. While Abraham hadn't paid for a cent (or shekel) of it directly, it had been through the efforts of people directed by him, namely the 318 trained men in his hire (see Genesis 14:14).

Giving does not have to be direct, or cash only. Giving through the efforts of people in your employ, or utilizing your influence with others, is all still giving. In this regards, giving does cost the giver something. A person only has so much influence to use, so many favors to call in, and so much time to give, etc. Using any or all of this for the glory of God is just as valid a charitable act as any cash gift. Another example, spanning three passages of Scriptures...

Nehemiah 2:6-9 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.

Ezra 1:5-8 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites - everyone whose heart God had moved - prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.

Ezra 8:24-30 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, together with Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, 25 and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God. 26 I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 2720 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold. 28 I said to them, "You as well as these articles are consecrated to the LORD. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers. 29 Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the LORD in Jerusalem before the leading priestsand the Levites and the family heads of Israel." 30 Then the priests and Levites received the silver and gold and sacred articles that had been weighed out to be taken to the house of our God in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah and the people returning to Israel from the exile all used their influence to bring gifts to the temple. Nehemiah even got a pagan king to donate lumber! Others had their pagan neighbors contributing goods and livestock along with monetary gifts. This was all for the Glory of God and all subsequently used by Him. This principle still applies, though we no longer have to take our gifts to a temple or priest (or church or pastor) to use them for God. Using what we have, or even directing non-believers to use their wealth and goods for good, is giving of ourselves in service to the Lord. Since it all belongs to God, we are merely being faithful stewards in His command. And yes, God can (and does) use things belonging to non-believers!

Psalms 24:1 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

Matthew 24:45-47 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

As God has blessed you; give through your time and use your goods, your finances, your influence, your life for Him. Use them all where most needed to accomplish as much as possible for God's kingdom. Buying lunch or coat may do more for the kingdom than writing a check to your church.

Luke 14:12-14 Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

1 John 3:16-20 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Matthew 25:34-40 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Not everyone is in a place to give directly to the poor or hungry, or to visit the sick or those in prison, or to directly help the widow and fatherless. Nor is there any indication in Scriptures that we are all called to do the same things and have the same ministry opportunities. In fact, God gave (and gives) a diversity of gifts and callings so that every aspect of His kingdom is cared for. The principle of Scriptures is that the one enabling someone to minister will be just as blessed as the one doing the ministering.

Matthew 10:40-42 "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

3 John 5-8 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.