Summary: What are the firstfruits that we should give to God?
Iliff and Saltillo Churches
February 29, 2004
First Sunday of Lent
“First Things First”
INTRODUCTION: Today is the first Sunday of the Lenten Season, a 40 day period of time, in which we can reflect on our lives and make changes. Today’s scripture is applicable to us as well as to people hundreds of years ago. The Israelites had been brought into the land that God promised them. They were getting settled and beginning to see God bless them. Their prosperity was evident by the abundant crops and by their freedom out of a land where they had been oppressed.
Let’s see what we can get out of today’s scripture that will help us to draw closer to the Lord in the weeks ahead. I’ve entitled this message,” First Things First.”
1. Acknowledge God: The Israelites were finally taking possession of the land that God had promised them years before. They were working hard to plant their crops, probably establishing businesses, and getting things to run smoothly for their families. They were establishing a community and a new life of freedom in this land of “milk and honey.” Their days must have been packed with things to do. Maybe they were working longer hours than ever before. Maybe they had more opportunities than they had ever experienced in their entire lifetime. They might have been tempted to say, “We’ve got it made now. The crops are the best we’ve ever seen. Things are going great. We can make it on our own now.”
How many times are we tempted to rearrange our priorities in a more selfish order when things are going great for us as compared with times when things are not going as well? When things are going great we want more and more.
STORY: Did you know that a person with six kids is more satisfied than a person with six million dollars? What do you think?
The reason for this is that the man with six million dollars wants more.
The people were to acknowledge God as the giver of all good things and to serve and honor him with them. To acknowledge God is to put first things first. In this scripture they did this by taking the firstfruits from the first harvest. The first produce. Some of the crops they raised were wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. They were to take a basket of these firstfruits to the place of worship and present the basket to the priests.
The giving of the firstfruits was a way of acknowledging God. Of saying, “I know I wouldn’t have any of this if it weren’t for you, God.”
Most of us don’t have firstfruits from crops such as these because we usually get a paycheck for our work or a direct deposit to our account or maybe we are paid in cash. This represents our work.
How can we acknowledge God on pay day? We can give the tithe--the 10th and the offerings beyond that. Think about what the first thing is you do when you get your paycheck. Does God see any part of it? What part? First part? Leftovers--if there are any leftovers.
Some people say, “Well, all the church wants is money. Always hounding us for money.”
Deut. 8:18 says, “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth..." We acknowledge God in many ways besides money--sometimes it is really easier to write a check and give it than it is to acknowledge God in other ways--our time, for example. Setting aside a portion of our day to pray, to study the Bible, to go to church, to volunteer, to help someone by spending time with them, to listen to someone tell their story over and over again. We acknowledge God in many different ways.
At this Lenten season, what do you like about your present giving patterns? What do you dislike? What would you like to change?
2. To Deny Ourselves: Why don’t we give God what’s left of our paycheck, or of our time, of our efforts? Many people will say, “if I don’t have anything else to do Sunday, I’ll be at church. If I don’t have too many bills to pay, I’ll give a little bit.” If you operate on that principle, you will never give of your time or money. You’ll always be too busy or too broke to do anything.
STORY: A Japanese artist painted a picture on a fairly large canvas. Down in one corner was a tree, and on the limbs of the tree were some birds, but all the rest of the canvas was bare. When he was asked if he was not going to paint something more to fill the rest of the canvas, he said, “Oh, no, I have to leave room for the birds to fly.”