From The Root To The Fruit
Honor the Lord with your wealth And with the first fruits of all your crops (income);
The way we handle our possessions speaks volumes about the content of our hearts. There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, but there’s something terribly wrong about the greed to have more and more. The first step in honoring God with everything we own is to realize that, in fact, God owns it all – we’re just borrowing it for a short while.
We bring a smile to God‘s face when we express thanks for what we have instead of complaining because we don’t have the latest version of a toy we want. We give God joy when we take care of what he has loaned us instead of trashing things. We make God‘s heart glad when we use our possessions to help others who are less fortunate.
In agricultural communities the “first fruits” are the first crops of the harvest. As a statement to God and a reminder to ourselves. We don’t spend the first part of any increase (raise, bonus or gift) on ourselves. We take it to God and give it to Him.
Full hearts and open hands – they are the marks of someone who truly loves God and uses possessions to please Him.
“Plant a kernel of wheat and you reap a pint; plant a pint and you reap a bushel. Always the law works to give you back more than you give”.
Jesus taught that where our treasure is our heart is. In other words what we treasure holds and controls our very being. What keeps us in balance is coming to understand that we possess nothing through our own knowledge, skills or abilities. There are those who boast of their accomplishments as though they somehow did it on their own, not realizing that everything we are was given to us by God as He formed us into what we have become. Wise people recognize that all their abilities and possessions come from God and they walk in gratitude for all His blessings. They have learned to be content with what God has blessed them with knowing that God truly does supply all their needs.
We express our gratitude to God in visible ways by being generous and through our gifts to the church through offerings. In biblical days the people brought gifts of wheat or sheep because they were an agricultural society. When Proverbs instructs us to bring our first fruits it is saying that we give to God first our very best. In our culture today money represents our time and talents so as we give our money we are literally giving ourselves. In the same way when we use our God-given skills to work in the kingdom of God-the church- doing the work of God we can also honor God.
Proverbs instructs us to make sure that God receives first our best. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of putting everything else first. We all have to manage jobs, family and all the other things that compete for our attention, time and resource. However when we choose to put God first; when we choose to give God our time, treasure and talent and learn to live with the residue after giving to God first we find an amazing thing occurs. We somehow manage to live better with what we keep after we give than we would by keeping it all.
For those who are always strapped financially, let me encourage you to give the first of your income to God-the first fruits and see if God won’t pour out blessings on you. In the book of Malachi we read the only time that God invites us to test Him.
Bring all the tithes (the tenth) into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you [so great] a blessing until there is no more room to receive it.
You see giving is an act of trust and love. When we trust that God will indeed supply our need and take care of us we are liberated to give rather than hoarding against famine. When we come to know the love of God for us as His children then we know that whatever we give to Him becomes an act of love on our part.
Far too long we have made our service to God, our giving and our time spent with God something of a duty or obligation rather than a privilege and an opportunity to express our gratitude and love for God in a small way.
In a few days we will celebrate Valentines Day. One of the traditions of this day is to express your love to your spouse, soul mate or significant other with special cards, flowers, chocolates and such. Now why do you suppose we do those things? Cynics would tell us that it was a scheme by the producers of cards and the providers of chocolate or flowers to get our money. And that may be true but for those who simply wish to express their love in some tangible form it doesn’t matter why these things are produced. They just see them as a way to express their love for the one they love.
In the same way cynics may tell us that all the church wants is our money or time or talent and maybe some institutions are that way, but those who have discovered that the church offers opportunities to express our gratitude and love for God, it becomes a place of amazing joy.
Proverbs tells us that it honors God when we give Him our best first. I hope that if you haven’t discovered putting God first, giving Him your first fruits of treasure, talent and time that you’ll give it a try. You just might be surprised by the outcome. I know I have.
Dr. John Thompson