OUR FINANCIAL PRIORITIES
by Bob Wheeler
“Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase,
So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.”
Prov. 3:9,10; NKJV
An important test of our devotion to God is what we do with our money. As we saw in our last blog post, Christ will hold us accountable for how we use our time, talents and money. They have all been given to us by God, and He expects us to use them for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.
But how does that work out financially? We do have physical needs of our own, after all, and many of us struggle to earn a living. What is left for God?
The passage before us gives us an interesting challenge. There is a command: “Honor the Lord with your possessions, / And with the firstfruits of all your increase”; and this is backed up with a promise: “So your barns will be filled with plenty, / And your vats will overflow with new wine.”
The primary reference here appears to be to the Old Testament Feast of Weeks, (or the Feast of Harvest, as it was also called) which was held annually seven weeks after Passover, typically in late May or early June. (In the New Testament it was also known as Pentecost, because it was fifty days after Passover. Pentekosta is the Greek word for “fifty.”). In Palestine the growing season is in the winter, when it rains, and harvest is in the spring. Summer is the dry season. The feast would occur right after the wheat or barley harvest.. The Israelites were required to make the trip to Jerusalem where each family would offer two loaves of bread, seven lambs, a bull, and two rams, along with various sin and peace offerings (Lev. 23:16-22; Num. 28:27-31). Everything offered had to be perfect, without blemish of any kind (Num. 28:31).
The basic idea behind all of this was to acknowledge God as the source of our prosperity. If there was no rain there was no harvest – it was as simple as that. And so when we come to our passage we are told to “Honor the Lord with your possessions.” We are to “honor” or “glorify” Him. He is our Creator and Lord. He sent His Son to die for our sins. He should be the most important Person in our lives, and we should openly acknowledge that.
That, in turn, should be reflected in the way we manage our finances. The text says that we are honor the Lord “with your possessions, / And with the firstfruits of all your increase.” God should get the first. He takes priority over every other financial obligation we have, because He is more important than anyone or anything else. As Matthew Henry put it in his commentary, “God, who is first and best, must have the first and best of every thing; His right is prior to all other, and therefore must be served first.” And if our increase originally came from God, He is entitled to have some of it back. “For all things come from You, / And of Your own we have given You” (I Chron. 29:14b).
But the question is, will this not create financial hardship for ourselves? But the text goes on to say, “So your barns will be filled with plenty, / And your vats will overflow with new wine.” What we have here is a promise from God: if we honor Him with our finances, He will supply our need. But we must act first, and that requires faith.
And how much should we give? In the Old Testament a tithe would be one tenth (Lev. 27:30-33; Dt. 14:22). In the New Testament, however, there is no fixed amount. Rather the apostle Paul emphasizes that giving is to be voluntary (II Cor. 9:7) and “according to what one has, not according to what he does not have” (II Cor. 8:12). But the promise still pertains: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (II Cor. 9:6). And Jesus commended the widow because “she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had” (Lu. 21:1-4). As Charles Bridges put it, commenting on our text in Proverbs, “The law dealt with us as children, and prescribed the exact amount. The gospel treats us as men, and leaves it to circumstance, principle and conscience.”
In many ways financial giving is where the proverbial “rubber meets the road.” It is easy to attend church regularly and to look outwardly like a decent and respectable person. But to dig into one’s pocket and pull out the checkbook requires personal sacrifice; and if we are not personally wealthy it may require faith in god as well. But if God is truly the Lord of our lives, and if we genuinely care about others, we will do it. It is a personal sacrifice that promises to yield a reward. Let us be found faithful in the way we handle our finances!