When I was growing up, I remember being held accountable for grades based on the actual grade. I was supposed to earn certain grades. Bottom line. I do things differently with my children. I want them to do their best, whether their best is an A or a B or whatever—I want them to know that whatever they do, they are to give their best effort. If they feel that they did their best, then they succeeded. If not, then we have a problem.
I have always tried to give everything my best effort. I’m sure you heard the phrase do your best because that is the best you can do. That’s what I always aimed to accomplish. The best. In Proverbs, “the best” is used when describing the things we produce. The Bible says that we are to honor God with “the best part of everything you produce.” This means, NO LEFTOVERS! Leftovers are not best unless we are talking about spaghetti.
To truly honor God, you bring before Him the best part of everything. He does not need your offerings. He doesn’t need anything from you or I—we need it! We need to be able to let go of the best part of everything so we can cling to God. He is better. We choose God over these temporary items because we have a desire in our heart for Him. If you are still handing over leftovers, ask God to open your heart so you open your hands and bring Him glory.
“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.” – Proverbs 3:9 [NLT]
Recently, someone told me that they “cannot afford to tithe.” I remember those days—the days when I thought I could not part with the money or the bills wouldn’t get paid. But I also remember the moment I got my finances in order, when I started to take a serious look at where the money was going. The Bible speaks about where the treasure is located, that’s where your heart will also be found (see Matthew 6:21). Take a look at your checking account register. Review it and you will see what has value to you. Recognize that if God is first place in your life, He shouldn’t be getting the leftovers.
You might be included in the likely 90% + readers who know I am a pastor. Perhaps you are saying, “Oh here’s a pastor asking for money again.” Please understand, I am NOT asking you for money. God does NOT need your money. He is the God of the universe. He is our Creator. But He has blessed us with what we have in our possession. It’s HIS! ALL OF IT!! Maybe you worked for it, but He blessed you with that job. Behind it all, before it all, you will find God. He is the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning, the End. He is in all, above all, through all. Bottom line (see 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, Colossians 1:17, Revelation 22:13). And tithing is a BLESSING to you! Yes, you read that right. Giving some of the money that God blessed you with to your local church to continue God’s kingdom building is an amazing opportunity you are blessed to be able to take part in. It’s a blessing to be a steward, and we are to be generous givers (see 1 Timothy 6:18). Tithing is not an obligation; it’s a loving response, a willing response to the grace of God.
God doesn’t want you trapped. He wants you free. Sometimes we are trapped by lies. Sometimes we are trapped by sin. Sometimes we are trapped by possessions. When you are trapped by your possessions, you cling to them so tightly that your possessions actually possess you. Today, look at your budget. Jot down different categories. Look to see where your money goes. Then pray about your finances. Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT). You do this and you will learn to be a better steward. You will start to loosen your grip on what God has blessed you with, and be the generous, cheerful giver you were meant to be.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NIV]
ctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7 [NIV]
There is a big difference from being told to give something compared to giving something from the heart. I am sure there were many times that I did not want to give someone something, but I was told to do so and obliged. It didn’t mean I wanted to actually do it. I cannot remember this, but I trust that it happened because I have seen the same thing with my children over the years.
When it comes to tithes and offerings, the same thing is true. There is a difference between someone giving because they are told to give, and someone actually wanting to give—actually delighting in the giving. Paul wrote, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully’” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT). If the heart isn’t in the giving, the offering is made for the wrong reason.
Today, ask for the Spirit to reveal what is on your heart. Are you giving just to give? Are you giving because you desire to give? Are you giving so people see you giving? Are you moved to give? Is it a joy to give? Are you cheerfully giving? If you aren’t giving, ask why not? Thank God for His blessings and ask Him to reveal how He desires you to be a blessing.
“Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them.” – Exodus 25:2 [NLT]
Tithing is always a sore topic to bring up. It seems whenever the “T” word is mentioned, people grab hold of their wallets, slide down in their seats, and contemplate why they should not open up their wallet because they don’t want anyone to catch a glimpse of what is inside. Many times the “T” word causes people to consider the church always “wants more of my money.” Some people might consider on what the church is using the tithed money.
In Nehemiah 13, we read about what happened to the Levites and the singers who did not receive the portion commanded by God. When Nehemiah returned to his duties for the king as cupbearer, the Israelites no longer gave the commanded portion and the Levites had to return back to their fields. This basically meant that the Levites, who were supposed to care for the Temple, had to leave their duties to take care of themselves. This is not how God designed everything to work out.
This saddens me. God commanded the people to take care of the Levites as they serve the Temple of God. The people dropped the ball and left the Levites to fend for themselves. There is great importance in taking care of God’s house. For us, things are different. We don’t have a Temple like back in Nehemiah’s days. Instead we have two very important items of great significance of which need provisions and care. We have our bodies, which is what houses the Holy Spirit. We also have our local church. It is important that we care for both; treat your body as a temple of God and remember that yes, God doesn’t need your tithe, but you need your tithe. Why? Because by tithing, you are giving God back what He has given you. You are worshiping Him rather than worshiping things. You are fixing your eyes on the Creator and King, rather than on temporary. It is a joy to give. It is a blessing to give. Give abundantly and watch what happens.
“I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field.” – Nehemiah 13:10 [ESV]
It is so easy to get caught up in a routine. Even with our relationship with God, we can get into a routine. In time we might even start to consider the fulfillment of this weekly routine as what matters. Well I attended the elder meeting and I made it to the prayer meeting. Well I tithe every Sunday. Well I made it to choir practice and I even have the solo. Well I have perfect attendance for this quarter. Well I have done my daily devotion each day this week.
Your relationship with Christ is not about meetings and checking off a list. Your relationship with Christ is not about works. Your relationship with Christ is not about offerings and sacrifices alone. We should want “a love that lasts.” Hosea 6 says, “I want you to KNOW GOD.” To know God.
God wants you to know Him and to show love. Yes we should aim to read our Bible daily, to attend church, to tithe, and to serve the Lord however He leads. There are works; however, there is something else that is more important. Relationship. Knowing God. Loving God. Never take your focus off of those things. When this is your focus, everything else comes with it. When you are focused on the meetings, on the offerings, then it becomes less about God and more about something else.
“I’m after a love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know GOD, not go to more prayer meetings.” – Hosea 6:6 [MSG]
“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6 [NLT]
We see many people not hold back. Many times it is when someone is having a tantrum or voicing an opinion. Then there are those who don’t hold back at the all-you-can-eat buffet. There are those who don’t hold back when they are racing or competing in sports. Not holding back means doing it all. It could be eating it all, giving it all, saying it all.
In today’s passage, we read about the Israelites who responded to Hezekiah’s command with generous hands. “They didn’t hold back, turning over a tithe of everything,” the Bible says. They gave the firstfruits of everything—EVERYTHING! There was so much stuff that was dedicated to God that it was piled in mounds. Look at the time involved—over three months of piling items. Talk about not holding back.
When I read of this it brings me great joy. I always love to read about people who are so generous and giving. It is such a special thing to give; it is a gift to give. I always get more joy from giving than from keeping. Sadly the statistics show that most people hold back a lot. I have heard it said if everyone tithed without holding back, giving the ten percent, people would be cared for and there would not be all of the situations we see all around the world. You might think that ten percent is a lot. You might think you cannot do it. But trust me, when you do it, God sees you through. You always have just what you need. So don’t hold back. Live with your hands open.
“As soon as Hezekiah’s orders had gone out, the Israelites responded generously: firstfruits of the grain harvest, new wine, oil, honey—everything they grew. They didn’t hold back, turning over a tithe of everything. They also brought in a tithe of their cattle, sheep, and anything else they owned that had been dedicated to God. Everything was sorted and piled in mounds. They started doing this in the third month and didn’t finish until the seventh month.”
-2 Chronicles 31:5-7 [MSG]
When we give something to God, we are to give our best. God has given us His best and everything that we have is not even ours—it is His. Everything.
When we look at Cain and Abel, today’s passage speaks volumes. Abel brought an offering from the FIRSTBORN animals. They were CHOICE CUTS of meat. Firstborn. The first of what Abel had was given to God. Cain also brought an offering, but the passage simply says “produce of his farm.” It likely wasn’t the firstfruits. It was what he gathered from his farm but it wasn’t the first.
As you read your Bible, again and again we read of the firstfruits and the dedication of the oldest (first) child to the Lord. When we tithe, it is to be the first of our income—money right off the top before we do anything else. When we provide an offering (which is something above the tithe), it should also be something that is meaningful. We shouldn’t give out of excess. It all comes down to the heart. It all comes down to trusting God. He has given us His best.
“Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.”
– Genesis 4:3-5 [MSG]
I have seen many people buying gift cards for people just because they felt that they had to do it. They didn’t want to buy the gift cards. Some were very blunt about it. They were doing it because “it’s what you do” or because “the other person was getting them something” which meant to them that they had the “obligation” to do the same in return.
This verse speaks about meaningless gifts. The people were not giving gifts from the heart. The people were simply doing what was part of the ritual. When you think of it, the people were actually worshiping the ritual. It was all about the ritual, all about getting it accomplished. They were that far from God that this ritual was a routine to get done and nothing more.
God doesn’t want meaningless gifts. In fact, God doesn’t need your gifts. He doesn’t need your weekly tithe. He doesn’t need you to help your neighbor shovel. He doesn’t need anything from you. But He wants your heart. He loves you. He doesn’t want you to feel obligated to do something for Him, but if you love Him, you will want to do things for Him. You’ll want to serve, to help, to live your life with open hands. The gifts you present won’t be meaningless—they will be out of love. It will be a sweet aroma to God and He will be pleased. Not because you’re following a routine but because you’re pouring out love.
“Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting–they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings.” – Isaiah 1:13 [NLT]
There are many people who go to church weekly because it is the thing to do in life. You are supposed to go make your grand appearance each week. Some people believe that going each week means that they are saved. They are making the sacrifice of their Sunday morning. They have done their deed for the week. Some believe if they give to the church they are secure. If they tithe each week, they are good to go and need not worry about anything else.
Today’s passage states that God is pleased more so when we do what is right and just. When we live focused on righteousness and justice at the forefront, the sacrifices will be offered, but the heart will be very different. When you desire to do what is right and just because you love the Lord, the sacrifices mean something. They come from the heart. If you are only tithing because it’s something you are supposed to do, but you fail to even attempt to do what is right and just, what are you really trying to do? It could be seen as trying to buy you security. But you cannot buy security. Security only comes through Jesus.
God is pleased when we do what is right and just. God loves when we walk with righteousness and justice. It is how He created things to be in this world. Doing this is a much better thing than sacrifices. The sacrifices will come but the sacrifices are only true sacrifices when they are coming from a heart for God. If you have a heart for God, you would want to do what is right and just. He would always be your focus and righteousness and justice would always matter.
“The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.” – Proverbs 21:3 [NLT]
The best part of everything that was discussed in this Proverb is making reference to the first of the harvest. Yet we could actually look at all areas of our lives and consider this “best part of everything.” It can really put things in perspective for a person when reflecting upon things with this phrase. There is no better than the best. The best part of everything—that means every single thing.
So do you give God the best of your time? Do you give God the best of your talents? Do you give God the best of your work? Do you give God the best of your relationships? Do you give God the best of your finances? Every single thing. The best part.
Today evaluate how well you honor the Lord. Where are you giving your best? Where can there be improvements? How can you do more to honor the Lord?
“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.” – Proverbs 3:9 [NLT]