DID YOU KNOW (8)
…That revelation follows generosity.
Generosity is one of the major themes of the Bible. Jesus spoke more about money than He did about any other so-called “spiritual” topic such as prayer, faith, or salvation. Why was that? I cannot speak for Him but it seems to me that, since money plays such a major part in our lives, it would make sense for Him to teach us about the place money should play in the lives of His followers and how to use our money in a way that would benefit and not harm us.
The world is driven by money and, unfortunately, so is most crime. Marriages very often break up because of disputes over or misuse of money. Selfishness and greed are the hallmarks of ungodly people and, believe it or not, religious people as well. By “religious”, I mean people who adhere to and practise a religion which has no power to change their lives.
Does God care about the way we use our money? Of course He does! He gave His people a simple system by which they would be generous with their wealth and, at the same time be free to enjoy what He gave them without guilt. Unfortunately, there are those who pooh-pooh God’s instructions to His ancient people as “law” when, in fact, they are part of His “torah” – teaching. i.e., ageless wisdom which always works.
God’s economic system is based on the responsibility of households to care for four groups of people. I say “households” because, in ancient times, God’s people were farmers and each household produced the crops which fed them during the year. In our day, we would translate “households” as wage earners, be they husband or wife separately or their combined incomes which would represent a household.
The first group of people for which the Israelites were responsible was the high priest and his family. The high priest was the one who represented God to the people and the people to God. God required the people to give the firstborn of their animals and the first-fruits of their crops to Him. They were even instructed to give the first city, Jericho, to Him when they conquered the Promised Land. In the case of their livestock and crops, they had to offer the first of the increase to Him as a terumah or first-fruit offering, and then give it to the high priest since he had no land of his own to sustain his family.
Approximately one fortieth to one sixtieth of the crop matures first (a scientific fact). When the harvest was gathered in and bagged, the farmer would set aside every fortieth bag for the high priest as a terumah, as well as the first-born of his livestock. The terumah offerings of all the people would take care of the high priest and his family until the following season.
The equivalent of the high priest today would be our spiritual authority, in other words, our pastor. He should not draw his stipend from the tithes of the people but from their terumah offerings which God requires over and above the tithes. It is our terumah which guarantees God’s blessing on the rest of our income. Here is the principle:
Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the first-fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine (Prov. 3:9-10).
God did not repeat the instruction in detail but in principle in the New Testament. Paul wrote to the Galatians:
The one who receives instruction in the Word should share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please the flesh will reap destruction: whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers (Gal. 6:6-10).
Why is it, then, that we dissect the bit about sowing and reaping from the passage and make it mean something different from Paul’s intention in the context? Although “sowing and reaping” is a principle that has a broad application, in this context, Paul is talking about increase – whatever the equivalent may be in the times. The first-fruit of our increase belongs to God and we must share it with those whose work is to teach us the truths of God’s Word.
This is an important part of God’s wisdom which works. Unfortunately, since we in the main in the New Testament era, have thrown this principle out through ignorance or the mistaken idea that it was only for the Old Testament people of God, we have greatly harmed ourselves in the process. That the first portion belongs to God is a timeless truth and, when we obey His instruction, He fulfils His promise to pour His bounty into our lives.
The first of the offerings God requires of us is, then, the terumah offering, one fortieth of our monthly income which belongs to God and which we give to our spiritual authority. This releases God’s favour on the rest of our income and, yes, actually overrides whatever causes our lack in an amazingly supernatural way! Try it!
Since this is a big subject, I shall continue to show you the principles and draw my conclusions in the next few blogs.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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