We freshly discover today that God Himself is first. First in the Universe, first in creation and first in, well, everything. The challenge is for us as people to put Him first in our lives, out of love and devotion to God. There are two areas of life to consider primarily: our time /attention and our finances.
What happens when you get something wonderful in front of little children?
We have some of our grandchildren over during the week, Robin watches them. One day this last week Rob had four of them for the day. In some old toys, they found this. For some reason, it just fascinated them. They could stretch it between a chair and a bench, go under it. But they fought over it. So we had to get the timer and say okay, 5 minutes at a time. What do you think their next response was? Yup, “me first!”
In the universe you and I live in, guess who actually is first? God is first. He is without beginning or ending, so He is unique in that. He is first in Creation. He initiated everything and created everything.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
In Creation. In the Universe. In the moment.
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
God is first. Is He still first if you don’t believe He’s first? Is He still first if you don’t like it that He’s first?Whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not, He is first. Period. Exclamation point.
God gave man a gift. That gift is called ‘choice.’ What did we do with that gift?
God will also judge.
It only makes sense for us to, out of love for God and gratitude to Him, put Him first in our lives. By redemptive choice.
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.”
The people of Israel were being reminded of everything God had done for them in getting them out of Egypt. And God said, Look, out of love and gratitude, give Me especially all the firsts. The firstborn of man and beast. So your cow, your sheep, along with your firstborn child, belonged to God. To make that work, God said that the unclean animal, like the donkey, or your son, had to be redeemed by a clean animal. The clean redeemed the unclean. And that was a foreshadowing. Because in order to redeem the unclean person, that’s you and I, the Clean, the Lord Jesus, perfect in all His ways, was sacrificed for us, the unclean.
So the principle is this: because of Who He is, First, we freely give our firsts to Him out of love and gratitude for what He’s done for us. It’s a choice, but the only right choice.
So what are a couple of things in your life that you need to give God the first of?
Time and Attention
O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until He has mercy on us.
When the early church met, it met on the first day of the week because it was the day of redemption, the day that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s still that way. And Hebrews tells us not to neglect meeting together. So sports, your pillow, and whatever else, are not first.
In all those things, who benefits from putting Him first?
The same way as our time and attention, we give God the first of our income out of love and gratitude.
9 Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.
In an agrarian society, you would expect that giving God the first of your income would include what goes into barns and wine vats. Nowadays most of us experience financial increase with an income in the form of a paycheck.
Well how much is enough and where does it go, in order to put God first with my finances?
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You? ‘In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts;
God talks about something here called a “tithe”. That answers how much of our finances puts God first. But notice the promise that goes with it. God says He will rebuke the devourer for your sake and open up windows in heaven to pour out blessings to you. And then He says, “Test Me.” What??
The word Tithe literally means 10%. Putting God first means that you give Him 10 % of your gross income. Before the government, before the cable bill, the restaurant and the car payment.
Some people tell me, Yeah, I’m tithing! I put $20 in the tithe box at church every week. If they make $200 a week, yes they are. But very few live on $10,400 per year. So no, you’re giving to God. That’s good. But you’re not tithing.
Recent calculations of the incomes of American Christians show us something. If you add up the incomes of the American Christian, the most wealthy believers ever to have lived, and compare their giving, American Christians as a whole give under 2% of their income to the Lord.
Imagine the end of extreme poverty, missions fully funded and expanded fully. That could happen if all believers tithed.
Where does that tithe go?
From Malachi, we see that it goes to the local storehouse. That is, the local church. Whatever local church you are a part of, that’s where your tithe should go. We see that again in the book of Acts and Corinthians where giving is directed to the local church.
It needs to be life, not law. God loves a cheerful giver. And why is a giver cheerful? Because God always blesses the remainder. Supernaturally.
Some of you might be freaking out at this point. But here’s what people who don’t tithe say:
I can’t afford to tithe. I can barely put food on the table and pay my bills, which I’m behind on. In other words, their financial world is a mess.
But here’s what people who do tithe say:
I can’t afford not to tithe! God has blessed us in so many ways. I don’t understand how, but we have more than enough!
Everybody gets to tithe. You, Pastors and leaders, churches, businesses, all get to tithe.
Yes, our church tithes!
Purposes outside our local church, outreaches, missions of many sorts. Our missions board oversees how that church tithe is spent. We follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Just last week we helped to fund a surgery for a little boy in Asia. A life giving surgery. From our church’s tithe.
God is first. Put God first. In your time and attention. In your finances. Out of love and not out of law. If you are just going to start giving, start with 2% and work your way up to 10%. But I promise you, with a guarantee, the rest of your time, attention and your finances will be blessed.