I’ve not always tithed. I confess it with shame. Even though I was a
preacher, even though I knew the scriptures and had heard the
testimonies of joyful givers, I wasn’t giving like I should. I was
afraid to give. It’s a long story – how God used the circumstances of
our lives to convince us that His way was best. Suffice it to say,
now I’m afraid not to give!
God’s Word tells us WHAT to give.
In an agrarian culture, the produce of the soil
was as highly valued as modern money in the bank. Most highly prized
were the “firstfruits,” i.e., the first and/or best of animals,
crops, olive oil, honey, etc. We’d call these “the cream of the
How does the idea of “first fruits” giving apply
to us? For years, my wife and I complained that, after the bills were
paid and our needs met, there just wasn’t enough money to give to
God. It wasn’t that we weren’t budgeting, but God was at the bottom
of our budget.
Christian financial counselor Dave Ramsey urges,
“Turn your budget upside down!” Eventually, God helped us to do that
very thing. Now we take ten percent off the top of our weekly
income. In other words, we’ve committed ourselves to tithing. God is
our number one financial priority. This is “first fruits” giving.
God’s Word also tells us WHEN to give.
For Israel the time was when they had entered the
land God gave them as an inheritance (26:1). The land of Canaan was a
visible symbol of the covenant relationship between God and His
people. Out of His great love, He gave them a land, a home of their
own. This was their inheritance. So upon arriving in the land, these
wanderers were to become givers.
Can we Christians see ourselves in Israel’s story?
Paul describes the “B.C.” life as without hope and without God. But,
to the praise of His glory, God has given us salvation in Christ and
has brought us into, as Peter describes it, “an inheritance that can
never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven . . . ” (1 Pet. 1:4).
To be a Christian is to be an immigrant to a new
land filled with promise, a land flowing with the milk of God’s
kindness and the honey of His blessings. When should a Christian
start giving the first fruits of his labor? Why, as soon as he
realizes the truth of the song: “My sins were washed away and my
night was turned to day!”
God’s Word tells us WHY we give
On a practical level, Israel gave her tithe to
support the Levites and the aliens (cf. 26:11). The former were their
spiritual leaders, the latter the displaced foreigners who found
themselves among them. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary says, “Israel’s
entire existence was bound up with being a blessing to foreigners
God’s special provision for “the aliens”
anticipated the day when, through the Gospel, all nations would be
blessed. Why give? To support the ministry and mission of the church
at home and abroad.
But on a deeper level, the kind of giving God
requires can only come from a heart filled with gratitude and awe.
Israel was to remember how God had mightily rescued them, how “with a
mighty hand” He gave and gave and gave.
Dave Ramsey tells of having his young son in his
lap as he read his Bible. As Dad read the old familiar words, “For
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son,” He looked at his
little boy in his torn Spider-Man pajamas and tears sprung into his
eyes. In that moment, he saw quite clearly why he – and we – must
give. God is the greatest giver of all! (Gary D. Robinson)
Sermon brief provided by: Gary Robinson, a Church of Christ
minister in Conneautville, PA.