First Fruits and More

Over the past week or so I have been involved in several ministry activities. One was a fundraiser, one was outreach, one was planning and the other was navigating a current tough financial situation.

All of this got me thinking about God’s financial truths on giving, and sowing and reaping and community support. Obviously I’m not going to be able to cover everything on this huge topic, but I thought I felt the Lord prompting me to share a few thoughts as it relates to giving of our money, time and things.

In church circles the giving piece of finances is usually called ‘tithes and offerings’. Personally I have for many years struggled with the concept of ‘tithing’ as a rule to follow. I have no problem with giving – and giving, but the way this whole issue has been presented for most of my church years always seemed to go against what I knew of God’s grace and what He wanted from our hearts.

I also wasn’t comfortable with the, ‘give what’s on your heart’ message that I often hear as the counter to the Malachi 3:10 verse that is always referenced as God’s test for us about giving 10% of our income to the church. I understood that Jesus fulfilled the laws outlined in the Old Testament but I also know that ‘the heart is deceitful’ (see Jeremiah 17:9 and Hosea 10:2).

On top of this I was introduced early in my Christian walk to the idea of ‘seeding money’ in a way that seemed to imply a bit of gamble – you ‘seed’ some money and hope God will return a larger amount to fill a need or desire in your life.

The background to these type of messages can take several hours of teaching to cover so let me present some thoughts that have helped me understand and to find peace in my heart around giving, and that I saw played out this week in the various ministry activities I was involved in. I’d also like to suggest that this is an area where the paradigm shifting approach of Financial Grace might provide answers, clarity, direction and peace for you or someone you know who seems to be stuck in a cycle of financial uncertainty.

As New Testament believers we have God’s law written on our hearts. Ultimately God is always concerned that our hearts are towards Him and what’s important to Him. What’s important to God is people, ‘that none should perish’. We are His bridegroom and He desires to have relationship with each of us.

Money I believe, is the primary tool of the devil to lead God’s people away from Him through pride and idolatry. These 2 sins in turn lead to envy, jealousy and attempts to control a perceived gap between each of us and what we see that our hearts lusts after. This ‘self-focus’ easily then leads to fulfilment of ‘self-desires’ in an attempt to ‘level the playing field’ with a whole range of personal pleasures or outbursts of rage and sexual immorality.

The Old Testament social system was set up so that everyone in the community would be cared for and that no one would go without. The Levite priests among other things, looked after the tithe which was a feast for the community from the first fruits of everyone’s harvest. Before the feast, the food was brought to a physical storehouse in the temple. In the New Testament we have a very different social system and God’s temple is in us which opens up all the debate about the tithe. The teaching of Bertie Brits of helped me to understand how Jesus is our storehouse and because His spirit resides within us our hearts will be for God and what God loves…His people.

Sadly, as with many areas of finance, some of what we understand is rooted in our partial understanding or misunderstanding or misapplication of the words that are used to describe different financial situations. If Jesus is the storehouse just as He is also the Word, and the Word is life and He came to give us life abundantly, and that by His Word everything was created and continues (see John chapter 1 and chapter 10) it’s pretty easy to grasp how the Lord provides EVERYTHING for us according to His riches in heaven (Ephesians 3:21).

But, if our understanding of the Word is taken out of context or is more rule-based or rooted in some sort of perceived lack, then our hearts and actions will not align. We might diligently tithe but have a heart that is secretly grasping for a huge windfall because of that action. Or we could tithe but resent it. We could also not tithe because we think we ‘can’t afford it’, or because we think that as long as we give what we ‘feel in our heart’ is right, then we’re ok.

‘Budget’ is a similar financial term that’s not just part of biblical finance but has similar misunderstandings that creates different responses. For example, a budget isn’t about restriction, yet that’s what people think. Budgets are actually about ‘planned expenses and a program for financing them’. This emphasis leads us to God for financing the desires of our heart – including the things He wants us to support through offerings, rather than trying to apply will-power to stick to a ‘strict budget’ which includes a large giving component.

Accumulating large storehouses of savings for retirement is another concept not found anywhere in the bible, yet people I meet consistently talk about saving for retirement and what to do to increase their retirement savings. Instead the bible talks about producing something of value that leverages passions and dreams to exponentially feed many is found in many places throughout scripture.

Tithing is one of those words that conjures up a lot of emotional opinions. In Malachi 3, God challenges us to ‘test him’ on His concept of giving 10% of our harvest. In this I believe and have experienced for myself both personally and through others I’ve worked with that what we’re talking about is a spiritual principle or law that is more like the law of gravity, than the law of supporting the Old Testament communities.

This is also similar to the concept of sowing and reaping. If we plant a certain type of seed, we will produce a harvest of that same kind of seed. This applies in the physical as well as the spiritual. If we sow negative, doubtful, fearful, scarcity-type thoughts and words, we will act accordingly. Actions rooted in anxiety are not of the Lord so it’s easy to see how anxiety and fear of lack is actually sowing seeds from the devil. UGH!!

Thankfully the reverse is also true. When we sow seeds of faith that God is sovereign and that His words are true; that His ways are for good; and that He is love, we will reap a harvest of His blessings; and blessings come in many different forms. Amen!!

Giving first-fruits in the form of tithes and offerings enabled the Old Testament society to support those who were not able to support themselves. In the New Testament, first-fruits refers to people and Christ

Himself as first-fruits. James 1:18 says that, ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created’.

All of this tells me that really we are His first-fruits and that everything is His anyway. If we choose to partner with the enemy and believe that we are in control of our money, then we are sowing what the enemy would have us believe: fear, doubt, scarcity, pride, etc. If instead you automatically set up our banking so that whatever comes in is automatically funnelled into various ‘earnings allocations’ that have been pre-determined prayerfully based on God’s purpose for your life, He will provide for your needs and desires including the causes and passions that He has placed on your heart. He will do all this according to His riches. This ultimately says that if we sow according to His principles we will also reap according to His principles.

Tithing, offerings, first-fruits and a system for earnings allocations and cash flow forecasting that function in the technical and financial realities of the world we live in today are just some of the concepts where Financial Grace offers support. I experienced first-hand how people approach giving and receiving, and sowing and reaping through the activities I mentioned I participated in earlier. At one point, I experienced several people give several thousand dollars to support a cause that was important to them by using a credit card. A few minutes later I experienced someone else give to that same cause $1 because they had heard that any gift would be matched by $1000 from someone else and they wanted their gift to matter.

I also experienced people donating very expensive items to support a cause they believed was important. Their donations enabled others to acquire these expensive items at no charge. Whether we are sowing money, time or things, it seems to me that there is always a way when you are committed. The challenge is to remember that we are first-fruit of the Lord. As we do, it’s easy to see how we can share the blessings of the first-fruit of all we are blessed with to bless others.

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