The Blessed Life
Happiness is of great importance in American culture, to the point that we’ve written it into the Declaration of Independence. It is our right to seek after life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Many studies have been done to pinpoint the traits of happy people. Some have concluded that happy people always have family and friends around them and that they’re grateful and forgiving people. Happy people are giving people. Did you hear that? Giving people are some of the happiest people on earth. This is what the blessed life looks like.
If you were personally set free to give the way the New Testament talks about, you would be one of the happiest people on earth. I say this because of countless stories I have personally experienced or heard, and because of what the Bible teaches. “He who is generous will be blessed” (Proverbs 22:9) and “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
One thing I remember learning early on in my walk with the Lord is that how you handle money reveals volumes about your priorities, loyalties, and affections. In fact, it directly dictates many of the blessings you will or won’t experience in life. Randy Alcorn puts it this way, “As thunder follows lightning, giving follows grace. When God’s grace touches you, you can’t help but respond with generous giving.”
Throughout the Word of God, we see a consistent principle of the firstfruits. This is also known as the principle of the first born or the tithe. In Exodus 13:2, God declares that the firstborn “is His,” meaning it belongs to Him. According to the Old Testament law, the firstborn was to be either sacrificed or redeemed. Jesus was God’s firstborn and was clean, perfect, and unblemished in every way. He was sacrificed to redeem us. In a very real sense, Jesus was God’ tithe (Romans 5:8).
A Matter of Faith
What this means for us is that God’s children give to Him first, not last. There is a saying that I once heard, “any first thing given is never lost, and any first thing not given is always lost.” In other words, what we give to God we don’t lose because God redeems it for us, but what we withhold from God we will lose. The first belongs to God. This is found throughout the entire Word of God. We can give God the first of our time, our finances, our affection, and love. We can say, “God I’m going to give you the first and trust you to redeem the rest.”
Giving God our firstfruits will always require faith. Giving God our tithe (which literally means “tenth”) first will always come before we see His blessing, because giving our firstfruits is the primary way we acknowledge that God is first. Exodus 23:19 says, “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.” This verse goes even further to say it’s the first of your firstfruits that God wants, which means the last of your firstfruits isn’t acceptable. Notice the scripture designates “the house of the Lord” as the proper place to give firstfruits. According to Malachi 3:10, this is the temple of God, the local assembly or storehouse.
The Benefits of Giving
In Malachi 3:8-12, God makes it clear that if we keep the tithe to ourselves, we are robbing God. What a sobering thought to consider that one can steal from God and therefore be under a curse! The tithe represents the ultimate “heart test” for the believer. It’s interesting that tithing is also the only area in which Christians are invited to test God (vs 10). As we step out in faith and honor God with our firstfruits, there are clear spiritual and material blessings that follow. This is not our chief motivation for giving, only a benefit. “The chief motive is that we are jealous for God’s work, that we want it to thrive and prosper, that there be no hindrance whatever owing to lack of funds. We give because we care. We give because we believe the gospel. Tithing is God’s way” (RT Kendall).
In these few verses of Scripture, we also see something about the protective nature of giving the Lord our firstfruits. He says He will, “Rebuke the devourer” (vs11). As we give our first fruits, the rest is redeemed and the devourer is rebuked. I can think of several times in my life where our family has been in want and when fear would come, I would start the thank the Lord. “I thank you Lord for this verse. Lord, you are first in my life and are going to redeem and protect everything else because we have given our first and best.” The Lord has always blessed and provided for us as we have honored Him with our firstfruits.
Something must be blessed before it can multiply. Before our money can be blessed, it has to be given to the Lord first. When we give the first of our increase, the tithe, the rest of it is blessed. “If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16).
What Would Happen?
Statistics are not very encouraging for the church at large. The average person will give 2-3% of anything to a cause (philanthropy), and the average Christian will tithe 3-4% to the church. Tithers make up only 10-25% of a normal congregation and are only giving at 2.5% per capita, while during the Great Depression they gave at a 3.3% rate.
Recently I read an article in Relevant Magazine entitled, “What Would Happen if the Church Tithed?” The article stats that if believers were to increase their giving to a minimum of 10 percent, there would be an additional $165 billion for churches to use and distribute. Can you imagine the global impact? Here’s just a few things the Church could do with the kind of money:
- $25 billion could relieve global hunger, starvation, and deaths from preventable diseases in five years.
- $12 billion could eliminate illiteracy in five years.
- $15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues, specifically at places in the world where 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day.
- $1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work.
- $110 billion would be left for additional ministry expansion. (Relevant Magazine, March 2016).from
That is fantastic vision for us! Living the blessed life involves giving, because giving people are the happiest people on earth. People that honor God with their firstfruits are a people that will see the “windows of heaven opened for them and blessing pouring down until there is no need for more” (Malachi 3:10). Will you step out in faith today? “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Proverbs 3:9–10).