When someone has prepared too much food and has some to put away and save for later, we call those food items “leftovers” in the United States. Leftovers can make a pretty good meal sometimes. Lasagna always seems to taste better the next day, for some reason. Potato salad as well. In fact, we’ve had some pretty good meals made entirely from leftovers, and you probably have as well.
But let’s be honest with one another. There are some situations when leftovers simply won’t do.
Let’s say you come home from work and tell your spouse that you’d like to invite your boss for dinner at the end of the week. As you’re discussing the menu, neither of you will make the suggestion, “Well, since we’re having lasagna on Wednesday, we can just serve leftovers when the boss comes.” Laughable !!! Even if leftover lasagna is YOUR favorite dish, there are some situations when leftovers simply won’t do; and having someone special as a dinner guest is one of them. Special guests get the best.
When my older sister got engaged, her soon to be in-laws came from a traditional Italian family. Naturally, our entire family was invited over to share a home-cooked Italian meal at their home and get to know one another. It was an amazing feast that consisted of multiple courses. Salad, pasta, meats, vegetables and much more were brought out in what seemed to be a never ending parade where the next thing surpassed the last. Mary, our hostess, gave us the best she had to give, every dish was a culinary delight; even the tomato sauce was homemade! Guess what? Not a single item she served was a leftover from a few days ago. Because there are some situations when leftovers simply won’t do.
Whether it’s a dinner with close friends, an initial meeting with new family, a graduation celebration, or any similar situation for which you are planning a meal, there are some situations when leftovers simply won’t do.
Today’s verse says HONOR THE LORD WITH YOUR WEALTH, WITH THE FIRSTFRUITS OF ALL YOUR CROPS.
Firstfruits may be a new term to you, but it is exactly what it sounds like. It is the FIRST PART of what comes into your hands.
Some people like to speak about the “tithe” that is due to God, and talk about giving God “His ten percent.” I’ve even seen bumper stickers on cars in the US that make reference to our tax authority (the “IRS”) and proclaim “If ten percent is enough for God, it should be enough for the IRS.” I will save the conversation of a ten percent tithe – when, where and how to pay it, who ought to pay it and a hundred and one other related elements – for a more appropriate venue. For now I will simply focus on the concept of “firstfruits.”
If you love God, if you have entered into a relationship with Him, you ought to be honoring the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your income. It is a recognition, based upon your relationship with Him, that He is the one who is blessing you with the income that is coming into your hands. It is simply an honor due Him as the ultimate provider. And God says to bring Him the firstfruits. Take it off the top.
Like everything else God does as part of His relationship with us, the intent of the instruction is to bless us beyond our comprehension. He calls us to honor and obey. Then He abundantly blesses our honor and obedience with increase. Whatsoever a person sows, that shall He also reap. Paul tells us in his second letter to the church in Corinth that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. You cannot sow a little bit and get a lot. Moreover, every farmer knows that if you want to KEEP REAPING you had better KEEP SOWING.
Don’t worry about your obedience causing lack. And don’t act reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. He is well able to bless you abundantly. God wants your obedience to bring you joy, maturity and greater faith; so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work and be able to give generously.
I remember teaching one of my children about tithing when they began to earn money on their own. I had obtained a supply of a few hundred one dollar bills. (It makes quite an impressive stack in a young person’s mind.) I counted out ten of them, slid them across the table. “There,” I said, “that’s yours. I’ve provided it, and I want you to honor me with a tithe.” Dutifully the child slid one of the dollars back to me. As they did I immediately began counting out ten more dollars, and slid it across the table to them. This went back and forth a few times. They got ten dollars, paid their “tithe” and got ten more. After the child had a sizable pile of cash in front of them I asked a question. “When do you want to stop honoring me with the tithe?”
The answer was “never” because the lesson was simple. Our honor and faithfulness puts us in a position to be recipients of God’s faithfulness.
So bring God the FIRSTFRUITS of all that comes into your hands, and watch Him increase it and bless you beyond your belief.
Do it with the firstfruits. Don’t try to pay all your bills, cover your expenses and THEN see if you have some “extra” money to give to the work of the Lord. That’s not how honor works. That’s not how faithfulness works.
There are some situations when leftovers simply won’t do.