It’s that time of year again, the time of year when I enter into a church-wide consecration and I consider what I will give as my first fruit offering. Every year this season hits me in my gut because I have to consider whether I will give one week’s salary or not. Every year I am plagued with confusion and doubt that if I give one week’s salary I will be in the poor house. Every year I come up with excuses for why I am not going to do it. The excuses have ranged from “Where exactly is this money going?” to “I just can’t afford to give that much money.” Every year it’s the same thing, but somehow I know things have to be different this year. I used to consider it such a daunting time in my church life because I felt like I could never quite come to agreement with myself and with God about what to do with the money that he gave me in the first place. Most of the reason why this time was so daunting is because I decided that my self and my needs were much more important than God and his desires of me. It’s hard to admit, but in the grand scheme of things, that is what withholding money from God is all about, selfishness.
This year, as soon as I heard the announcement for the harvest fast and the first fruit offering, I knew that I had to change my thinking. Instead of releasing the heavy sigh, I quietly took it in and before I determined what my offering would be I said I would pray to God and let him tell me what he wants.
I took it to my prayer closet and asked God what he would have me give and I walked away with was this, “You must do something you’ve never done to get something you’ve never had.” And it clicked. Every year I have been playing it safe—or maybe it has actually been unsafe but God has protected me. But I get this feeling that God is up to something and he would that I would give up the “Benjamins” this year and let him show out. Off of that notion alone my mind is blown and the thought of actually following through with a first fruit offering is scaring me to death. But then God revealed to me again how it could work and how it really does make sense.
The weekly Bible Study that I attend is now based on the concept of the “Exchanged Life.” The Exchanged Life is the life that Jesus gave up for us on the cross in order that we might have life and life more abundantly. Last night we covered the many benefits of the “Exchanged Life” and this was one of them: “He exchanged his poverty so that we may be abundantly supplied.” I sat on that concept for a moment more and then something amazing happened. As the Bible Study came to a close and the teacher opened the floor up for discussion, a few people got up and gave their testimonies about how they came from very wealthy families and how the wealth is exponentially increasing throughout the generations but they aren’t very interested in it so they give it right back to God. In the midst of this conversation, one young man got up and spoke about coming from a long line of preachers. He said that he was invited to preach at a church and was offered a huge honorarium which he declined. But instead of honoring his request, the church gave him the honorarium and he defiantly gave it back to them in offering. He said that God dealt with him later on that evening for being so defiant and so having such poverty of spirit.
It was then that I was struck by the true meaning of “He exchanged his poverty so that we may have the abundant life.” It isn’t about monetary poverty, it is about the poverty of spirit that we all sometimes carry with us. You see, during seasons like these when we are challenged to go above and beyond the call of duty, we hold back because we only have ourselves in mind. We have every earthly reason for why a first fruit offering doesn’t work for us without considering that if God is faithful enough to supply our needs when we are in plenty, he will supply it when we aren’t. (2 Corinthians 8:14 says “Right now you have plenty and you can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it.”)
The light bulb went off in my head that I have been suffering from a poverty of spirit by deciding that I couldn’t give God what he deserves—particularly for giving it to me in the first place! I’ve been selfish with the money that is rightfully God’s and I have been stupid to question where the provision would come from if I was to give a true first fruit offering. Well as soon as the young man sat down I decided to share my revelation, but before I could even part my lips God showed me where my first fruit offering was coming from–and he told me that it was coming back.
Here are some scriptures that are helping me:
II Corinthians 8 & 9, my boldface point for those two chapters is II Corinthians 8:11b-12
“Give in proportion to what you have. 12 Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. “
And Malachi 3:8:
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!