“Honor the LORD with your wealth and the first-fruits of your produce.” (Proverbs 3:9)
One of the complaints I often receive is that: "I don't like going to church, because churches are just after my money." I have wondered this before myself.
Every week the offering basket is passed in our churches, and several times a year we hear sermons on giving and tithing. So then, is it true? I've been a Christian now for 23 years and the more I dig into the Bible, the more I realize that there's more to giving God our money for the church, than the act of opening our wallets. I've also realized in all things, we tend to give our money towards what we love. The word ‘worship’ literally means to ascribe value to something or someone. When we give God our money, we are saying to God: "your worth it." If you desire to see God's kingdom move forward, then honor him with your money.
Put your money where your mouth is. This is why old preachers like Billy Graham used to say, "Show me your checkbook and I'll show you what you worship." Giving is not about the church taking our money, but about us giving our worship to God.
So how much should I give?
In Proverbs 3:9 it mentions the term: “firstfruits.” In an agrarian society the firstfruits were the first ripe harvest of your crops or livestock including grain, oil, wine, wool and anything else you would live on. It was a significant sacrifice, because it meant that God would need to provide future harvests so you could live and prosper. If you want to honor God with your giving, your giving must be sacrificial.
What does that mean practically?
- If your giving doesn’t provoke your need for God’s provision, it’s probably not firstfruits giving; our giving should always provoke our faith. A good place to start would most likely be around 10%. The New Testament never commands a specific percentage, however you can bet New Testament Christians would have been offended if you only asked them to give 10%.
They knew that Jesus gave everything for them, so they wanted to give as much as they possibly could in return. Besides, if most of us would receive a 10% pay-cut at work we would figure out how to survive. This means that most of us can afford to give at least 10% to God. If you can’t, don’t beat yourself up. Start somewhere. Determine how much you can give to God and start working toward giving more in the future. But if your giving doesn’t affect your day-to-day living, you probably need to give more.
2. Determine your giving BEFORE you build your budget. Don’t give God your leftovers. If I have friends over for dinner to whom I want to honor, I don’t pull out left-over spaghetti. If I want to honor them, I go to the store, spend good money and make them the best meal I can. This is what it means to give sacrificially. We give God our best. After all, this is what God has done for us. He gave us his best. He gave us Jesus, and he continues to give us himself. God is not asking us to do anything he is not already doing. So, spend some time in prayer and ask God how much he wants you to give. Then build your budget off of the leftovers.