Our trust in God is often most clearly seen in our checkbook. Our finances are also often the hardest areas to surrender, because we’re apt tie our sense of security to our paycheck more than we do to our Lord. At least, that’s my tendency. Unless I regularly guard against this, I can easily make our savings account my god, but like so many other idols I’ve clung to at various periods in my life, those crisp little green bills make lofty but empty promises.
As I read my guest’s post last night, I thought back twenty-some years ago to all the financial struggles my husband and I used to have, all the tension and stress and conflict that seemed to plague our home, back when we bowed to the almighty dollar.
No more leftovers: A gift for my God
By Jessica Brodie
I used to be that girl who’d slip a dollar, maybe a five if I were feeling flush, into the collection plate at church and feel just fine.
“God doesn’t need my money. He’s God. He’s ‘above’ such things,” I’d tell myself. Besides, I was a broke college student, or later, just scraping by in the workforce. Tithing was an Old Testament concept, or something only wealthy people did… or so I thought.
Much later, I came to understand tithing was for me—a way to honor God, to acknowledge Him tangibly as Lord over my life, to know that everything in my life (including my bank balance!) belongs to Him and I am merely His manager, His overseer. Twice a month, I forced myself to allocate ten percent of my paycheck to God’s tithe. Soon it became a habit, and eventually a joy. Some months, when finances were tight, I’d hold off on my tithe until I’d paid all my other bills, or I’d double up and pay it all the next pay period. But it always got paid.
I was feeling proud of myself… until this morning, when I was reading the Bible.
In the Book of Nehemiah, the Israelites had recently returned from exile to Jerusalem and had just learned through the Instruction Scrolls all the ways they’d disobeyed God’s Laws. Feeling horribly guilty about their behavior, they made a covenant with God to follow His commands, include pledging not to let their children intermarry with other faiths and to keep the “sabbath year,” which meant forgiving all debts and letting the land rest from crops every seventh year.
They also pledged to give toward the upkeep of God’s house—not just with what was left over, but with their “firstfruits,” the best and initial results of whatever it was they could offer:
- “…the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree…” (Nehemiah 10:35 NIV);
- “… the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks…” (36); and
- “… the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil…” (37a).
The point hit hard within me: These Israelites pledged to bring the first, the best—not the leftover.
And that was what I needed to do, too.
See, the Israelites had gotten off track in obedience. Some of this wasn’t necessarily their “fault,” for their parents hadn’t taught them these things, and no one in their life remembered God’s rules because His commandments were all hidden away.
They’d forgotten or never understood what God had commanded His people way back in the wilderness: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19a NIV) and “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest” (Leviticus 23:10 NIV).
But when they learned all those years later what God had asked of them, they wanted to do right. They wanted to honor God with their very best.
What I was doing—making sure God “got paid” His tithe—was behaving as though my tithe was a bill and not a sacrificial offering. And that was not the point. My tithe is not a bill. It’s a gift and an honor.
Just like the Israelites, I was off-track in my own obedience. And now that I understood this, I needed to make things right.
This morning, as I write this, happens to be payday. Yesterday, I’d planned to postpone my tithe until Sunday, after my fridge was restocked and my other bills paid. But now I know what I need to do.
Before anything else, I need to give over my firstfruits to God. And for me, that means heading to my church’s website and paying my tithe online, so it can go right away to all the ministries and mission work God is doing through His people and His church.
It’s a simple distinction in my life, but it’s important. It says “God comes first,” both literally and figuratively.
After that, I can hit the grocery store. For I know He will provide. He always does.
It’s an honor to kneel before my Lord, whether at His altar or online, and offer Him what I can.
Get to Know Jessica!
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.
If this post hit your insecurities, now with everything related to the C!9 virus especially, you might find my latest article on Crosswalk discussing wise financial choices we can make today to help us weather whatever comes well. Read it HERE.
And make sure to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode on living deeper anchored in grace––especially when we feel we’ve messed up. Find it HERE.
Plus, I’d love to connect with you tonight on Zoom or Facebook for a great discussion on Maria Furlough’s Breaking the Fear Cycle. As an added bonus, she’ll be join us via Zoom for our last week’s discussion! Find the zoom meeting join link HERE.