THE FIRST FRUIT….

:  Leviticus 22:17-25

Whenever you give God your first fruits  you not only give Him the first, you give Him the best. In Malachi 1 the Israelites brought God the worst of their leftovers for their sacrifices—the sick, blind, and lame animals. Sometimes that is what we bring God—our leftover time, energy, and devotion. We come to God when we’re not at our peak.

The story of Cain and Abel serves as a reminder that God is not pleased with those who do not offer first fruits  “Abel, on his part also brought the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard” (Genesis 4:4-5). Cain wound up killing his brother over this incident. Abel brought God the best because he believed God desired and deserved the best. By his offering, Cain showed that he thought God only deserved something, not the best.

If we’re not worshiping God by bringing Him our first fruits  we are likely giving our first fruits to something else. What gets your best time and your undivided attention? You give those to whatever is your priority.

Regarding money, “ first fruits” refers to the tithe, or the tenth. You must bring the whole tithe before you bring an offering. Deuteronomy 14:23 says we are to give the tithe “that [we] may learn to fear the Lord.” Whenever we give the tenth first, we’re honoring God as God.

 

God wants the prime cut of your life; He doesn’t want the leftovers.

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN WHO IS IN FIRST PLACE..

 Matthew 22:37

The Bible calls the priorities of stewardship our “firstfruits.” In the agricultural environment of the biblical times, people lived on the food they grew. Giving God their firstfruits would mean giving Him the best and the first of what they had to give.

Giving your firstfruits is a tangible, visible way of telling God that He is first in your life. God has always demanded that He be first because He is God. In Revelation 2:4, Jesus told the church: “You have left your first love.” Jesus had slipped into second or third place. When God stops being first, we have a problem.

Colossians 1:18 tells us we should live in such a way “that [Jesus] Himself might come to have first place in everything.” Jesus wants to be the focus of every aspect of your life all the time, without exception. Why? Because everything we have and ever will have is rooted in God. He deserves to be the focus because He is the Creator, Sustainer, Source, Savior, and King. 

A passage from Haggai demonstrates where our priority as stewards should be: “You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; … he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes” (Haggai 1:6). When God is not first, we can’t possibly enjoy the stuff of life. Whenever the provisions of God become your god, you have replaced the true God with your own god.

 

How dare we live for everything else and forget the Source. 

REFLECT CHRIST IN YOUR GIVING..

Giving is a value issue, not simply a money issue. God wants your love for Him to be reflected in the way you give. When faced with the choice of using her two lepta for survival or giving them to God, the widow chose to trust God to provide and gave all her money to Him. She did it without the promise of any reward, simply because she knew she needed God above all else and wanted to give to Him. She made a spiritual decision which she reflected in her physical actions. She completely entrusted herself to God to meet her need. She was banking on God.

Our love for God is measured and tested by the hold we have on our wallets. If we simply give out of our surplus, Jesus said we are not grateful. Giving God the leftovers expresses the lack of value we place on Him. The poor widow not only gave all she had, she gave more than those rich men, not in portion, but in proportion. She gave 100 percent, while all they gave were leftovers.

Everything we have starts with God. He gives us the money we receive because of the jobs He provides for us. Everything is rooted in God’s provision.

If your offering is insignificant to you, it is also insignificant to God. If we put God first in our lives, we will give Him the firstfruits, not the leftovers. Do we trust that if we put Him first, He will take care of us?

 

If Jesus Himself passed you the offering plate with His nail-scarred hand, would it affect your giving?

HOW DO YOU GIVE…

 Mark 8:36

Jesus not only closely watched people give their offerings, He watched them critically. He went beyond their visible actions and looked into their hearts. Jesus called His disciples over and said: “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury” (Mark 12:43). He didn’t want them to miss seeing the heart of the widow, or to miss the lesson that her giving provided. 

Most of us would miss watching the widow. Instead, we would be watching the bigwigs in the temple, the ones who made large offerings from their ample funds. We would be impressed by how much they gave. We might even suggest honoring them for their giving, maybe naming a building after the donor. But Jesus didn’t call the disciples over to see the big givers. He called them over to notice a poor widow who gave less than a penny.

Why did Jesus fix His attention on the widow? Because she gave more. “She, out of her poverty, put in all she owned” (v. 44), while the rich men gave out of their surplus. The rich gave what they had left over. This woman didn’t have anything extra; she gave everything she had. Jesus knew this, and He saw her heart. God measures our gift not by its amount, but by our motive. A godly steward will give with the motivation to honor God rather than just to tip Him with what he has left over after the bills are paid.

 

God is not only interested in what you give; He also wants to know why you give it. 

DON’T STAY STUCK….

1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The word temptation in this verse also means test or trial.  With that in mind, here are a couple of thoughts to encourage you today.  

1.     Whatever test, trial, or temptation you are facing today, it is “common to man.”  That means that you are not the only one who has gone through whatever you are facing. It is comforting to know that others have faced similar problems before us and made it through!

2.   God makes a way of escape with the trial or temptation.  That means you’re not stuck!  Before your difficulty ever arose, God designed a way of escape.  And that means of escape comes with the problem.

So if you find yourself embroiled in trials, tests, or temptations today, start looking for God’s way of escape—it exists.  Trust Him to guide you safely through and out of your difficulties!  

DON’T STAY STUCK….

1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The word temptation in this verse also means test or trial.  With that in mind, here are a couple of thoughts to encourage you today.  

1.     Whatever test, trial, or temptation you are facing today, it is “common to man.”  That means that you are not the only one who has gone through whatever you are facing. It is comforting to know that others have faced similar problems before us and made it through!

2.   God makes a way of escape with the trial or temptation.  That means you’re not stuck!  Before your difficulty ever arose, God designed a way of escape.  And that means of escape comes with the problem.

So if you find yourself embroiled in trials, tests, or temptations today, start looking for God’s way of escape—it exists.  Trust Him to guide you safely through and out of your difficulties!  

TOUGH COMMAND…

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Some verses—like today’s—are easier to memorize than practice. Giving thanks is easy, but giving thanks in everything is a nearly impossible task. And gratitude at times even seems inappropriate, considering the depth of pain or turmoil we are experiencing. But we have a Comforter who helps us exercise thankfulness in every situation.

The Holy Spirit enables believers to do what God requires, and teaching us a gratitude habit is part of His work. Psalm 92 teaches that since “it is good to give thanks to the Lord,” we should “declare [His] lovingkindness in the morning and . . . faithfulness by night” (vv. 1-2). In other words, we should regularly anticipate and recall His provision. But when believers awaken to painful circumstances that have no logical reason for thankfulness, our Comforter provides the motivation and words.

Expressing thanks during turmoil takes place neither spontaneously nor apart from another spiritual activity—prayer. Today’s passage links the disciplines of rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving: both exultation and gratitude hinge upon regular communication with God. A prayerless man cannot remain thankful for long, because he is too overwhelmed by his problems. Talking with God forces problems to recede so they can be replaced by peace.

Why does the Lord command us to exercise gratitude? Because He knows that when we focus on His work in our life, we’ll discover our spirits lifting and courage strengthening. Then as we watch Him intervene, we rejoice more, pray more fervently, and learn to give thanks in everything.