20 May 2016
Money is always a hot and controversial topic and among Christians there are conflicting beliefs about giving. Some claim that the Old Testament practice of giving a tenth (called a “tithe”) of a person’s income no longer applies to us. Others suspect that the church is overly focused on money and offerings. While it is true that not every teaching about money is biblical and that there have been some glaring money abuses in churches from time to time, this does not mean that we should ignore a topic that the Bible addresses more than 2000 times.
The first story in the Bible about giving is found in Genesis 4: 3-5: “When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.” These offerings were the source of the first family conflict which eventually led to murder and the subject of money is still volatile.
The real question that arises from this story is simply “Why did God accept Abel’s gift but not Cain’s?” Some think it has to do with the difference between a crop and a lamb but we see that both kinds of offerings were a part of worship in later parts of the Bible. The explanation for what made Abel’s offering pleasing to God has to do with the word “firstborn.” This becomes clear later in the Bible when we discover that God claims the first as His own. Whether it's the first portion of the harvest (Ex 23:19) or the firstborn animal or child (Ex. 13:1-2), Scripture explains that the first belongs to God. Abel gave his firstborn lambs to God while Cain simply gave some of his crop.
Life is about stewardship and how we use what does not belong to us is a test of the heart. God’s desire is to get our hearts in the right place and one of the biggest ways that this happens is through giving. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). God has a lot to say about money and giving because this is a heart shaping issue. Putting God first in our giving is the whole point of first fruits (the tithe).
How do you know if God is first in your life? The way you handle your finances is one of the strongest indicators. For more help on this, let me suggest the book The Blessed Life by Pastor Robert Morris. Understanding what God says about you and money will cause a revolutionary release of blessing in your life, not just in finances, but in every dimension of living!
Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the first fruits of all your increase;
So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
Proverbs 3:9-10 (NKJV)