Proverbs 3:9 Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: 10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
This passage of scripture teaches us the principle of putting God first in our finances. When the precepts of the Decalogue were given, the first four commandments were intended to govern our vertical relationship with our Creator and then the last six were given to guide the horizontal relationship with our fellowmen. There is a great truth behind the sequence in which the law is given, for if our relationship with God is good, then our relationship with each other will also be good, and vice versa.
In the matter of finances, as in all the other ares of life, God is to be first, meaning that we should deliberately deduct from our earnings or increase, that which belongs to God first, and then whatever remains is to be used in a judicious manner according to the principles given in God's word. Temporary interests and financial obligations to our fellowmen should in no way affect that which belongs to God, namely the tithe, neither should our most pressing bills be permitted to diminish our offerings that are pledged to His service.
Some Christians are faithful in their tithe, but their offerings are often calculated based on how many bills they have to pay. Valid debts such as our mortgage or groceries should never be brought into the equation when calculating our offerings, for our pledges to God should be calculated as a percentage of our income, rather than be left to the many variables that often occur in life.
The reason for this counsel is so that the cause of God may have a steady flow of financial support from all who choose to serve Him with a grateful heart. God's treasury is to be well financed in times of plenty as well as in times of financial drought. For instance, if we were to calculate our offerings based on present bills, then when things go south, as was the case during the recent great recession, our offerings will also go south too, for then we will feel little or no obligation to return any offerings to God's treasury, because of dire financial circumstances.
If we return our offerings as a percentage of our income, then when God blesses us heavily, His cause is also benefited heavily, and if our income for some reason is depleted then, then our faithfulness will not be depleted, because the percentage remains constant. This is what is alluded to in the following text. Let's read:
2nd Corinthians 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
The principle of putting God first in the temporal things of life was vividly brought to bear in the experience of the widow to whom Elijah was sent during a time of severe famine and drought. At the command of God, Elijah went to the widow and found Her gathering wood to make her last meal. The situation with this woman was extremely desperate, to the point where she had prepared to die after eating that last meal, for there was no more food to be procured anywhere.
Elijah however requested of her that she first make him a meal from her scanty supplies, with the promise that if she did, God would bless the remainder so that she could eat and survive for the remaining two and a half years of famine. This request from Elijah, and the woman's subsequent response is actually how the principle of returning tithes and offerings should be implemented and prioritized. Let's read:
1st Kings 17:10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. 11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. 12 And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. 13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. 14 For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth. 15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. 16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.
This particular experience was written for our admonition and instruction, for many Christians have been brought into straightened places where it seems as if we are at our wits end, as far as survival is concerned. God instructs us to be faithful during these times as well as in the good times, for His promises are not subject to the changing situations of life we sometimes go through. Furthermore, our faith is usually tested in times of hardship and difficulty, rather than when life is going smoothly. And faith that is not tested cannot be trusted.
We therefore end with a passage of scripture that reminds us of God's faithfulness, even in times of financial drought, and it should also encourage us to be faithful too, for the principles of God's word are eternal in nature and should never be altered or modified because of the fluctuating experiences of life. Let's read:
Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
May we trust in God through the good times and bad, for His promises fail not, and are renewed every morning, to those who serve Him without turning to the right hand or to the left. "Good night" and God bless!