Summary: I felt challenged to preach this because of the un-biblical approach to giving in my largest Church, & try to explain that our giving either honours or dishonours God.
‘Honour the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. ’
‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘ & see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’
The subject for today is a difficult one – money & giving. Now I know that many think this is a subject that we shouldn’t talk about, but I don’t agree because it is something God is deeply interested in. I’m told that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 1 out of every 6 verses deals with money, & that over half of the parables Jesus used are about people & their money. God is intimately interested in what we do with the money that He has blessed us with.
Now if we want to be followers of Jesus, if we seek to be disciples, then we have to be people who seek to allow Jesus to be Lord of all of our lives – including our wallets, purses, bank accounts & savings. Jesus is as interested in what we give in Church & what we keep as we are, for we are only stewards of what is His in the first place.
Today we think about how we might have a Christ-like attitude in this area of our lives & become the disciples God has called us to be.
The first thing which I want us to notice today is in the reading from Proverbs. Open up your Bible’s & follow with me for this is a very important scripture – Proverbs 3:9-10.
This text tells us to honour God with our wealth, giving Him our first fruits.
It is vital that we begin with this statement in our thinking about our offerings & giving to God, to Church. Here I believe that we sit firmly within Church tradition if we understand that our giving to Church is the first calling on our wealth & that these gifts that we bring are capable of honouring God, & by definition of dishonouring Him too. If we want to honour God, then our gifts must be worthy of God. Mother Theresa knew this saying about giving ‘If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving.’ Indeed, it is not just not giving, it is dishonouring to God.
You see if we only offer God a gift that is left, after we have spent what we want on what we want, then Jesus says to us this is not right. As Mother Theresa said : it is only giving if we need it too.
The first challenge of the Spirit upon our hearts then today is that we remember we need to be honouring God by bringing offerings that are worth something ; not a proportion of the small change in our pockets.
A wise man once said that God judges what we give by what we keep, & I think there is so much truth in that for us.
This is why the Proverb tells us that we should be bringing God our first fruits as our gifts. So what does ‘first fruits’ mean?
It means quite simply that God requires that our giving is the first thing on our minds, not the last. Our offerings should be set aside for God first & planned.
But clearly this is not the norm for many of us here & indeed for many across the Western Church. There is the old joke that says that when a bank ran out of $1 bills in a small USA town on a Monday morning, its first call went to the Church asking that they bring in the collection! That is of course only funny because it is so often true.
If we were taking our faith seriously, this would be how we live. We would give to God gifts that not only honour Him, but are the first fruits – gifts calculated in the cold light of day when the whole of the pension or the wage is in our hands.
How much of these first fruits we choose to give unto the Lord is up to you. The only guidance I know of in scripture is 10%, but you must give what you feel you should, in order to honour God. I like what CS Lewis said about the level of our giving – ‘I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.’