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March 14, 2021

How can we become better givers?

Money is foundational to our lives. The whole concept of money began with an agrarian society where a person’s work ensured that a person could eat. Our society has become more complicated since then.

Jesus never had to pay car insurance. That could’ve been the title of today’s message.

Our economics and our relationship to money is so different from back in Jesus’ day. What can the Bible teach us about money, when our system is totally different from the time the Bible was written? Jesus never paid car insurance, but what can he teach us?

One of the largest costs in our economy is health insurance. It’s great that we live longer, and we’re healthier, but health is connected to economics.

The pandemic, and our other struggles in the world, can lead us into an idolatrous view of money and finances.

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 offers us a great way to start the discussion. It teaches us about firstfruits, and how the Israelites offered a tenth of everything they found in the land, and celebrated what the Lord had done for them. It also impresses on us how firstfruits runs counter to the status quo and the culture of today.

God had promised for generations to lead the Israelites into the promised land, and tells them of “a land flowing milk and honey.” Milk and honey were valuable commodities, so it was a figure of speech telling that promise that meant the Israelites would prosper. The promise suggested wealth, success, and well-being. The Law instructs the Israelites as you come into that land, go out into the fields, go out into the harvest, take a bit of every bit of those first fruits to give as an offering.

God knows the first human tendency: “I wanna run through those fields and grab everything and try it all myself, and hoard it and take it all in.” God knows that, so he says “Now, wait a second. Take a little bit of everything, put it in a basket, and bring it to the place of worship.”

There is power in those descriptions. It’s a symbolic gesture of connecting the promises of God in the past to the realities of fulfillment in the present. It’s done through sacrifice and offering the firstfruits.

Giving has evolved in our culture. You go to check out, and a cashier asks you: “Do you want to round up for a cause?” It’s all for a good cause. If your order comes to $12:18, it’s a great idea to round up 82 extra cents to donate to nonprofits. But rounding up is different from the firstfruits. When we round up, we distribute what’s left over to people in need. The same thing goes for donations to churches. Sometimes it’s stuff people want to get rid of, and it’s that same mentality all over again. It’s not the firstfruits, it’s the last stop before something goes to the landfill.

This seems to reflect the attitude that too many Christians have about giving and generosity: It’s the last thing on our list. We want to get everything else in order, and then “Sure, yeah, round my receipt up to the nearest dollar,” or “Yeah, sure, at the end of the year, whatever’s left over.”

This is a powerful opportunity for us as Christians to remind ourselves of the teaching of the firstfruits. God wants us to pause at the beginning of our blessings. He wants us to trust, and give back to the mission of God. Offerings were given to the priests to support them. It’s complicated, because Deuteronomy focuses on the act of giving, rather than the nuts and bolts of how giving works. As Americans, this drives us crazy. We want to know exactly where our money is going and how it’s going to be used. But that’s not part of the system in Deuteronomy.

The act of giving is an act of trust that God would take us into the future, instead of taking whatever money is left over and being generous with that.

The idea of firstfruits offers us a different mentality altogether.

Part of the abundant life Jesus offers is a spirit generosity.

Paul reminds us of this in his letters to the church in Corinth:

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”  And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.  As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.

Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

2 Corinthians 9:6-10 (New Living Translation)

God probably didn’t intend for us to be destitute, but generosity should be our leading edge. We should consider helping others, even before we’re taken care of. Giving firstfruits celebrates a gift received, by giving to others.

God has blessed us with all that we have. We should take care of the impulse to give, knowing that God has blessed us with all that we have. Our culture spreads the idea of: “more and more,” and the idea of firstfruits helps us avoid being sucked in.

It teaches us to say “I have enough. God, thank you so much for giving it to me.”

We encourage you to take the message to heart, and live out the gifts of the firstfruits in your life.

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