Honoring God with Our First Fruits | Proverbs 3:9-10

/////Honoring God with Our First Fruits | Proverbs 3:9-10

Honoring God with Our First Fruits | Proverbs 3:9-10

 

The writers or the Bible and Jesus Himself considered money to be both extremely valuable and extremely dangerous.  Money can be a blessing from God’s hand and it can produce incredible joy when we use it in the way that God instructs us to use it.  Money can also bring with it tremendous sorrows and burdens and even condemnation if we treasure it more than we value God.

This morning I want to help us maximize the joy and blessing we receive from money.  I want to look at how money can be helpful and beneficial.  AND I want to help us minimize the sorrow and tragedy and loss that can come from the love of money.

Money represents what we treasure

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, it costs about 3.9 cents to make a dime.  A nickel, on the other hand, costs 8 cents to make.  It costs more than twice as much to produce a coin worth half the amount.  In fact, it costs them more to produce a nickel than a nickel is worth.  The value of the money itself has very little correlation to the materials it is produced with.  Money is literally pieces of metal and paper.  By itself, it is almost worthless.

The only reason money is of any concern to us as a culture is that we have determined that money represents value.  Money is significant because it is a currency used in exchange for something we value. Whatever we exchange our money for is what is valuable to us.

  • If we value convenient food, then we exchange money for fast food.
  • If we value education, then we exchange money for books and tuition.
  • If we value being entertained, then we exchange money for movies and concerts.
  • If we value transportation, then we exchange money for vehicles and gas.
  • If we value the discipleship ministries and the spread of the gospel, then we exchange our money for the services of the local church.

The movement of our money is an expression of what we value

Jesus said in Luke 12:34, 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  In other words, whatever you and I move our money towards indicates where our hearts are headed.  For most people, money itself is rarely the treasure.  The treasure lies in what money can be exchanged for.  You and I exchange money for what we desire.

When I said (at the beginning) that money can be extremely valuable and extremely dangerous, what I meant is that the piece of metal or paper in your pocket has the ability to show what you value more: wealth or righteousness.  Proverbs 11:4 says, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” The way that we move our money indicates if we value God and His righteousness more than things (which is extremely valuable) or it shows that we value things more than God (which is extremely dangerous).

So how do we show the Lord that we value Him with our finances?  How do I give in a way that magnifies God’s infinite worth in my life while still meeting the needs of my family?

The Bible has a great deal to say in response to those questions.  Let me begin with an illustration about a man who understood surrendering his finances over to the Lord.

Sam Houston was a well-known soldier who become the 7th governor of Texas. 

[They named a city after him – Houston]  In his early 40’s, we was baptized in the Catholic church.  At age 47, he married a 21 year old woman named Margaret.  Margaret was a Baptist.  She convinced Sam to stop drinking and worked hard to get him to go with her to the Baptist church.  After 14 years of convincing, he not only attended the Baptist church but He gave his life over to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  To the surprise of many, Sam Houston was radically saved.

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum reports that…

Sam agreed to be baptized.  Afterwards he proclaimed, “Well, if all my sins are washed away, God help the fishes down below.”  He also offered to pay half the pastor’s salary and stated, “My pocketbook was baptized too.”

If it is true that money is an expression of what we value, then giving is inseparable from the Christian life.

Giving is inseparable from the Christian life

So where do we start?  How do we know how much to give?  .

A good starting place begins with the principles we find at the beginning of the Old Testament.  Leviticus 27:30 says, 30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.”  A tithe is a tenth, so this passage tells us to begin with what the Lord has already set aside for you to use for the purposes of the Kingdom.  Moses says in Leviticus that God has already designated 1/10th of your gross income (and mine) for His Kingdom purposes.  Let’s put that principle in its proper context. 

  • God gives us life and breath.
  • He creates for us each new day.
  • He gives us His resources to borrow.
  • He lends us job skills so that we can earn a living.
  • THEN…He provides work for us.
  • AND he owns the currency that we call dollars.

God completely provides for every portion of every dollar that He gives it to us to spend.  Right off the top, he commands us to give 10 cents of that dollar back into ministry.  10% of our income is “holy to the Lord.”  There can be freewill offerings made in addition to that amount, but 10% has always been a mandatory minimum.

Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce…”  God provides us with every dollar and then asks us to freely and willingly give back to Him 10% before we spend it on anything else.  He asks us to give to Him out of the “first fruits” of our paycheck and not out of what is left over.  Look at that verse again.  Let’s see the benefit of giving back to the Lord.

Proverbs 3:9-10 says,

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

Honoring God with our wealth often results in abundance.  We’ll talk about what we do with that abundance later in our teaching.  The early church realized the immense value of their salvation.  They were so thankful to be saved that they sold their possessions in order to give.

  • In the name of Jesus, they gave to those who were in need.
  • Out of a passion for the gospel, they generously funded the expansion of the church (Acts 2:42-47).

Every New Testament example of giving goes way beyond a tithe and there is not a single example of a committed disciple giving less than a tithe.  They not only gave more than a tithe, but they gave it all.  They left their belongings and their families to follow Jesus.  Many of them gave up their very lives for the gospel.

Every New Testament example of giving goes way beyond a tithe

The truth that began in Proverbs when Solomon said to “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce,” continues on into the New Covenant.  Do you think that God expects New Covenant believers to give less or to give more than Old Covenant believers?  When Jesus came, He raised the standard in every area of our spiritual lives.

When the Bible was written, Israel was a country with a rural, agriculturally driven economy.  By our standards, we would consider them poor…dirt poor.  Israelite disciples, who were poor farmers, joyfully gave a tithe.

We live within the context of one of the wealthiest countries in the history of the world.  As believers, we now have the Holy Spirit dwelling right inside our hearts.  Don’t you think wealthy Americans, living in utter prosperity, could also joyfully give at least 10%?

Canyon Bible Church of Verde Valley has the highest giving per person of any church that I’ve ever worked for.  I have been absolutely blown away by the generosity of the people in this local church.  It’s counter cultural.  The generosity I’ve experienced here is uncommon in America.  Let me give you some statistics about the typical American church over the last 10 years.

The good news is that, according to the Barna research group, a large percentage of evangelical Christians in America give something to their churches.  2013 research suggests as many as 79% of all evangelicals made some contribution to a charity last year and 66% (exactly 2/3rds) gave something to their local church.

But here is the problem.  Most evangelical believers miss out on the blessing that come with regularly tithing.  Most give something, but few give sacrificially.  Barna says,  “Among born-again Christians, which includes both evangelicals and non-evangelicals, 12% tithed in 2012, which is on par with the average for the past decade.”

That means that statistically, 88% of all professing Christians in the US are not tithing and 34% do not give to the local church at all.  It is troubling that the standard of giving in a wealthy society is lower than what it was in the New Testament church.  Some of the New Testament believers were so excited about showing their love for the Lord Jesus and spreading the gospel that they gave sacrificially in the midst of their poverty.  In your notes, let’s read what Paul said about the Macedonians in 1 Corinthians 8:1,

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”

In Verse 2 it says that the Macedonians gave out of their abundance of Joy.  In their abundance of joy, a tithe wouldn’t constrain them.  {10%? Are you kidding? We’ll blow that out of the water!} Jesus was so valuable to them, they were willing to use their money as an expression of worship to show other people the infinite value of His worth.  When somebody can say, “A poor man paid for me to come tell you about Jesus…would you listen for a minute” then that sacrificial gift makes the message of Jesus appear even more valuable.

A tithe is a helpful place to start.  Historically, a tithe has been a tool to get people started on a path of generosity.  If you imagine a racetrack, a tithe is the starting blocks, it’s not the finish line.  It is the training ground where we begin to launch into the mindset and skills and habits associated with using our money the God intended it to be used.

What happens when God’s children’ don’t give as they are commanded?
What happens when they keep all of the resources that God has provided?

Malachi said that the Israelites were robbing God by withholding their “tithes and contributions.”   Israel had fallen into the pattern of using God’s resources only for their own benefit.  The prophet Malachi confronted them about their theft.  Malachi 3:8-10 says,

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

Some people say, “well, let’s take this gradually.  I’m only giving 1% now.  How about if I bump that up 5 times and strive for 5% this year.”  Giving 5% is still robbery when God gives 100% to you and expects you to give at least 10% to the kingdom.  It’s like saying I used to steal $1000 every year from the petty cash drawer at work.  This year I’m going to try and steal just $200.

The point isn’t to steal less.  The point is not to steal at all!  And then…  to go beyond the minimum requirement.  Tithing is often a difficult practice to start.  It stretches families to tighten up the budget and live on less than they are used to living on.  But time and time again, I have seen God provide abundantly for generous people.

Give freely and watch God provide

Proverbs 11:24 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;  another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”  Solomon implied that if you want to be in constant need, then don’t give.

  • Say what? That principle seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
  • If I don’t give to the Lord, wouldn’t that mean that I have more money for myself?

There is a promise associated with God’s command to give.  There is a blessing that comes with generosity (that stingy people miss out on).  God says when you give back to Him, He’ll bless the remaining 90%.  10% investment gives a 100% blessing.  That’s the way God does math.

Malachi 3:10 says, 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

I’ve been the pastor of this church for almost 2 years now.  I’ve never taught money.  I’m teaching on money today because Proverbs is filled with wisdom about our relationship with money. (We’ll just scratch the surface today).   This series is titled “God’s wisdom for EVERY relationship.”  Money is a huge part of our relationships.

The biblical truth is that a teaching on giving is helpful for your finances and helpful for the Kingdom of God.  I want your finances to be richly blessed by the Lord, so for that reason, I’m telling you the truth about what the Bible says.

According to God’s Word, some people don’t have enough money BECAUSE they are not giving.  I’m not saying that it is easy to give.  Most of the disciplines in the Christian life are very difficult to do.  I am saying that it is better to live on 90% or 50% or 10% of your income inside the will of God than on 100% of your income outside the will of GodTurn with me to Proverbs 15.  Proverbs 15:16 says, “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasureand trouble with it.

I have no problem with people saying “we are no longer under the tithing principle of giving” as long as they are not using that as a justification to give less to the Lord.  According to the latest giving statistics, people need to be encouraged to invite more of the Lord blessings into their lives in the area of giving.  Give freely and watch the Lord provide time and time again.  I’ve often heard it said that you can’t out-give God because God rewards acts of faith.

God rewards acts of faith

In Luke 6:38, Jesus says, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

The Macedonians gave “beyond their ability.”  What does that imply?  It means that when they added up all the figures, it didn’t work but God still provided.  Pastor Jon at Canyon PV often talked about the Lord’s supernatural math.  (I’ve experienced this many times in my life.)  When we operate in the natural, one plus one equals 2.  But when we submit our finances to the Lord and act on a faith that God will supernaturally bless what we freely give to Him, 1 plus one equals 5, 10, 15, 100 times more.

In Randy Alcorn’s book, The Treasure Principle, he talks about a time when a man named Scott Lewis (the owner of Scott Machinery) attended a conference with Bill Bright (the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ).

At this conference, Bill has just challenged the people to each give 1 million dollars over their lifetime to help fulfill the great commission.  To Scott this amount was laughable.  It was far beyond what he could ever imagine giving since his machining business was generating a modest income of under $50,000 per year.

Scott talked to Bill.  Bill asked him, how much did you give last year?”  Scott said, “$17,000.”  He felt pretty good about that amount because it represented about 35% of his income.  Without blinking an eye, Bill responded, “Over the next year, why don’t you make it a goal of giving $50,000?”

Scott thought Bill hadn’t understood. Fifty thousand dollars was more than he’d made all year! But Scott and his wife decided to trust God with Bill’s challenge, asking Him to do the impossible. God provided in amazing ways.  With a miraculous provision on December 31, the Lewises were able to give the $50,000 the next year. The following year they set a goal of giving $100,000. Again, God provided.

In 2001, they passed the one million dollar giving mark. The best part is they aren’t stopping. [i]

That’s what it means by giving “beyond their ability.” A profitable business can be a blessing from the Lord.  It is honorable to grow a company honestly and to create income for families and to gather resources for the Kingdom.  It is commendable to work hard and to get a pay raise for your efforts.  It is wise stewardship to make investments that are profitable.  The Lord often uses profitable businesses and successful businessman for significant roles in His kingdom.

Proverbs 10:22 tells us that riches can be gained as part of the Lord’s blessing on our lives.  It says. “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.”  That last line is critical.  When the Lord gives the increase, it comes without sorrow attached.  It comes without sorrow attached when the profitable worker comes to a full realization that he is managing the Lord’s resources and that person is not eager to keep it all for themselves.

Sorrow is attached to money when we become obsessed with keeping it all.  Paul clearly addressed this danger when he wrote these words in I Timothy 6:9,

But those who desire to be rich [or who desire to keep the Lord’s money for their own purposes] fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

However, the man who collects the Lord’s resources and reinvests them into the Kingdom has the opportunity to share in the joy of giving.  Turn back with me to Proverbs 11.  Proverbs 11:24-25 says,

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
    another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
    and one who waters will himself be watered.”

The principle we learn here from Proverbs is the more you give, the more God gives back to you.  The more resources God gives you, the more you get to share in the joy of giving to others.   God has given most of us considerable material blessings.  Why has He provided us with so much?  Paul tells us why very clearly in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11:

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be…

…what…….  Some modern-day false teachers would fill in that sentence by saying, “you will be …wealthy so you can show the world how much God blesses those who love Him.”  That is a false teaching called the prosperity gospel.  Let’s look at what the Bible actually says about what you and I should do with wealth.  Let’s read the whole passage again:

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

God is a giver.  He is the greatest giver in the universe.  He gives us resources.  Then He gives us extra resources so that we get to share in a part of His joy as He gives to others through you.  You can’t outdo God in giving.  Go ahead and try.  You can’t out-give God!

As God’s money managers, we do have legitimate needs.  God’s knows that.  God doesn’t demand that the stewards of His resources live in poverty.  He doesn’t resent us for making reasonable expenditures on ourselves. BUT… we can cross a line.

If God, the owner and provider of our money, sees us using His resources to buy expensive and luxurious homes and cars and clothes and gadgets and meals and vacations and furniture –all for ourselves–, then He might question our loyalty to Him.  If we use God’s money to buy luxuries for ourselves, when He intended that we use His money for His kingdom, that sounds like stealing, not stewardship.

Suppose that you wanted to help Canyon Bible Church plant a new church.  You felt like the Lord was leading you to give a new sound system to get the new church up and going.  You went online to All Pro Sound and purchased all the pieces of that sound system.  It cost you $10,000.

All Pro Sound wraps up the sound system and gives it to the UPS man.  What would you think if the UPS driver decided not to deliver the sound system, but to keep it for himself?  Instead of delivering the boxes to the church, he unwraps the sound system and sets it up in his living room.

You’d say, that guy is a crook.  That equipment doesn’t belong to him!  I bought it for the church, not for his entertainment!  The UPS driver is just the middleman.  His job is to get it from the store and deliver it to the church.

In the same way, just because God puts money in your hands or into my hands, that doesn’t mean that he intends for it to stay there.  Abundance isn’t God’s provision for you and me to store up so many resources that we don’t need to depend on God anymore.  2 Corinthians 9 teaches us that abundance is God provision for you and me to distribute it to others

Application: Abundance is God provision for you and me to distribute it to others

God distributes wealth unevenly.  He doesn’t do that because He love some people more than others.  He does that so that you and I can be a part of His distribution of resources.  We get the opportunity to distribute His resources to His children to spread His gospel on His behalf.  We are God’s middle men – the delivery drivers – who get to share in God’s joy when He gives.

Some people wonder if the pastor pays a tithe, since he is paid by the church from other people’s tithe money.  The answer is that I absolutely tithe!  Lara and I regularly give to the Lord and to the work of the ministry.

In the last few years, we have seen the Lord’s dividends pay off over and over again through our giving and our dependence on him.  I’ll give you just a few examples of how God has provided for us in the last 2 years:

  • God provided us with a free house to live in for a year before we moved to Cottonwood. We save so much money that we were able to replace our old broken down cars, pay off bills and save some money that we used to plant this church.  God provided us with good renters for a house we still own in Prescott, who have never missed a payment.
  • Without fundraising, God provided almost $20 thousand dollars in as designated funds for the church plant
  • God provided a house for us in the in Cottonwood right next to the rec center. It was $30K under the market value, had built in private financing and came with a separate apartment that I use as the church office.
  • Without asking, God provided $5,000 for our family to use for moving expenses and home repairs

God has come through for us time and time again with His supernatural provision.  I want you to experience God’s generosity.  That begins with your willingness to let go of the God’s resources to invest some of them back into God’s Kingdom.

  • This week, I want to challenge you to seek the Lord about your giving. Is He calling you to give more?
  • Is there an area where you need to make a greater sacrifice for the furthering of His Kingdom?
  • Is there any account, investment or possession that you are currently treasuring more than Jesus?

Let’s seek the Lord together this week so that we can be making eternal investments with the wealth that God has provided us.

[i] Read more: http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Feb/16/twelve-giving-stories/#ixzz3g6EbSeKe

 

By |2016-11-07T20:10:42+00:00July 19th, 2015|Proverbs: God's Wisdom in Every Relationship|0 Comments

About the Author:

Pastor Mark Stafford served on staff at Canyon Bible Church of Prescott Valley for almost 6 years. He and his wife, Lara, felt called to church planting and Canyon of Prescott Valley sent them to plant a new Canyon Bible Church in the Verde Valley. Mark is a graduate of the Biblical Studies department at Arizona Christian University with highest honors and has served for more than a dozen years in full-time pastoral ministry. Mark loves music and is an active musician playing electric and string bass, acoustic and electric guitar, & keyboard. He has served with several professional Christian touring groups and has been nominated for a Dove award. Pastor Mark is currently bi-vocational while he plants Canyon Verde. He owns a small printing and design company called Ablaze Media. When he is not preaching, leading small groups, playing music or designing graphics, you might find him in his F250 cruising around the back roads of the local national forests, cycling with his sons on the streets around the Verde Valley, or running in a 10K. Pastor Mark and Lara have 4 children and have been married for over 15 years.

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