I was reading the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel recently, when I came across an illustration that really spoke to me. It is the story of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and the situations that led to Samuel’s birth and dedication to God’s service. It spoke to me of the importance of putting everything we have into God’s hands, and holding nothing back.
Hannah was a good woman, but she was without children, a fairly disgraceful situation for a woman her age in that society. She poured her heart out to God, promising Him that, if He gave her a son, she would dedicate him totally to serving the Lord. God answered her request by giving her a son, and Hannah kept her word, dedicating her new son Samuel to serve the Lord. This was a pretty substantial commitment—it meant not actually raising her son, but rather giving him to Eli, the priest, as soon as he was weaned. Samuel was raised by Eli, and served under him in the Temple.
This must have been a hard promise for Hannah to keep. After all those childless years, when she finally DID have a Son, she didn’t get to keep him and raise him normally. It must have been awfully tempting to Hannah to just overlook the commitment she had made, and hold on to her son. Rather than cave in to those selfish temptations, Hannah kept her promise and gave her son to the Lord’s service. This faithfulness produced great joy and satisfaction in Hannah’s heart—just as obedience to God always does.
God responded to Hannah’s faithfulness. In place of the one son that she had given to God and His work, God gave Hannah 5 children—3 sons, and two daughters. I’m personally convinced that, if Hannah had backed out of her commitment and kept Samuel for herself, he would have been an only child and Hannah would have been miserable.
Hannah didn’t “demand” God’s blessing for her faithfulness. She didn’t try to manipulate God, or remind him how faithful she was, and lobby him for rewards and blessings. Hannah just kept her promise and remained faithful to God. God responded to Hannah’s faithfulness with blessing. I’m convinced that, if Hannah had tried to manipulate God into giving her that blessing, God would not have done so. Samuel would have been an only child, not because God wanted it that way, but because Hannah would have blocked God’s best blessings for her life, while trying to manipulate His hand.
The scripture teaches us that people will “reap what they sow.” It’s all too easy to take the concept of “sowing and reaping” and pervert it until it becomes “God, I’ve been faithful, so you’d better pay off!”, or the “give to our ministry and God will make you rich” philosophy that’s popular in some circles today.
God is faithful. He does reward our unselfish faithfulness—just ask Hannah. God even promises to bless us with riches and wealth in response to our unselfish faithfulness.
But His definition of “riches and wealth” isn’t as shallow, short-sighted, and self-serving as ours.