Thursday, July 21, 2011

Our Money, or Gods?

A year or so ago I shared a series of posts about the area of finances. Since we as a church mostly teach through books of the bible, I don’t get as many changes to teach topically.  So every once in a while I feel its good to re-issue some of those past posts. 

The reason that it is important to teach our congregation about finances is not so that the church will have more money, but so that we can all experience the full blessing of God in this area of your life!

I pray that this series of posts will enrich your lives, and reveal a new perspective of God's unchanging principles. May you be richly blessed.
Pastor Clay
The Principles of Firstborn and Firstfruits

When it comes to money, often we think the main issue is “how much do I have” coupled with “how can I get more.”  But in reality issue is not how much money we have, but moreso, what does God want to teach us about money?

Fact: there are approx 500 verses in the bible that deal with prayer, approx 500 verses that deal with faith, but there are over 2000 verses that deal with the subject of money and possessions. Jesus talked about money in 16 of His 38 parables. Clearly, from the bible's standpoint, God wants us to understand His principles concerning money and possessions.

Why? Perhaps it is because money is a test of our faith & our priorities. Money is something that is near and dear to us. We need it to live. We use it to buy stuff that we need, and stuff that we want. How we manage money reveals volumes about what is important to us.

In this first issue, we are going to explore two principles: The principles of the firstborn and firstfruits.

Principle of Firstborn
The principle of firstborn is found throughout the bible, from Exodus to Revelation. The first place we see this principle is in Exodus 13:

"Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine."  -- Ex 13:1-2

Here, God makes a declarative statement; "the firstborn is Mine". In fact, sixteen times God makes this statement in Exodus: Every firstborn was to be sacrificed or redeemed. Every time an animal delivered its firstborn, it was to be sacrificed to the Lord. If it were born unclean (with a spot or blemish), then it was to be redeemed.

But the firstborn of the animals, which should be the LORD's firstborn, no man shall dedicate; whether it is an ox or sheep, it is the LORD's. And if it is an unclean animal, then he shall redeem it according to your valuation, and shall add one-fifth to it; or if it is not redeemed, then it shall be sold according to your valuation. -- Lev 27:26-27

This principle was true for man as well, as the firstborn sons of Israel were to be set apart for service to God; they were to be the priests! Later on, after the golden calf incident, God set apart the Levites for His service (and also re-affirmed the principle of the firstborn):

"Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine, because all the firstborn are Mine.
-- Num 3:12-13

Why is this important? This is a picture of our redemption in Christ, as when Jesus approached John the Baptist, John proclaimed:

"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
-- John 1:29-30

Because man is born with a sin nature, we were born 'unclean'. We need to be redeemed. God redeemed us to Himself with the perfect, spotless, Lamb of God. Jesus was God's 'firstborn", His only begotten Son.  So this principle is not based on "we do all the giving", but in reality God gave to us first. God gave to us first, while we were yet sinners; He gave us His Son Jesus Christ. He gave us something that we could never put a price tag on. I mean, how much would you pay to be assured heaven? Everything you had!

The Principle of Firstfruits

Having noted that, there is a parallel principle that ties into the principle of the firstborn, and that is the principle of the firstruits.

The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. -- Ex 23:19

This scripture tells us two things: Bring your firstfruits, and bring them into the house of the Lord. Let's look at these two points.

First Things First
The bible doesn't tell us "give God what is left over". It says to give God our first. When an animal gave birth to it's first offspring, that first offspring was given to the Lord. When the crops were harvested, the first were given to the Lord.

How does this apply to us? When we sit down and write our bills, the first check we write should be our tithe to the Lord. This may sound somewhat ritualistic to some people, but trust me, this has meaning. What we do first says something about what we hold to be most important.

You see, as fallen people we are naturally selfish. Think about it, when the paycheck comes, our mind goes to the things we want or need to buy. Bills, clothes, dinner out, parts for my motorcycle. We hope that there is something left at the end so we can splurge a little. Why is it that our first thought is not "I get to give to the Lord!"

Guess what, God knows how we are. So God, in His infinite wisdom, tells me that I need to sit down and give to Him first, to establish a pattern in my life where I am thinking "Praise the Lord, I can give to the Lord! Thank you for your provision Lord!"

Think about it; When we give to the Lord first, it says "Lord I trust you." 

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