Monday, June 11, 2018

Crops - First and Best 5




Honor the LORD with your wealth,
With the firstfruits of all your crops;

During the era in which that was written, 95% of Israeli citizens were farmers. (That’s a made-up statistic, but probably close to accurate.) Everyone owned land, raised crops, cared for livestock, and sustained their family by living on the land. So honoring God with one’s wealth meant to give him what was first and best from the “crops”.

I made my wife a planter box a couple months ago. Once it was completed we bought some tomatoes, jalapenos, and peppers. However, I have no intent of dropping veggies in the offering plate once they sprout. That’s because I do not consider a couple of pepper plants as part of my wealth; that’s a simple hobby.

God deserves what is first and best from us, honored by whatever our wealth entails. We have to contextualize this for today’s world. God doesn’t get any of my crops, because I don’t grow crops. And you probably don’t, either. Maybe a couple of farmers will read this, but the economy has changed quite a bit.

While trying to figure out how to best honor God with your “crops”, think through these three categories: lifestage, giving goals, and next steps.
 

Lifestage

Depending on your age, as well as your local economy and standard of living, you’ll have to decide where your wealth is coming from. It isn’t enough to say “Most people don’t make a living off of growing crops and herding cattle anymore, so this means to give up your paycheck” because that looks different for every person too.

Where is your wealth coming from?

For me, almost my entire income is from my paycheck. But for you, there may be other sources of income. But for others, this could mean stock options, dividends from a business, retirement funds, social security withholdings, and so forth. For instance, if the CEO’s of Facebook, Google, Disney, and HP all gave 1/10 of their annual income to my church, we would receive less than $1 total. Each of these CEOs has an annual salary of $1. They are paid through other means…[1]

Honor God with your wealth and crops, in whatever form that may come to you. Keep in mind that most of us have additional perks that come with our jobs: training and paid education, housing, transportation, healthcare, professional expense accounts, and networking opportunities. How might God be honored by these things?

Based on your lifestage, how is God best honored with your wealth?

For me, I feel that I ought to give a percentage of my income. Over the last several years, my income has been growing. I’m still young in my career so that gradual increase will probably continue. If I continue to give a percentage, and perhaps increase that percentage gradually every year or two, I believe I will be giving much more in years to come.

You may be at retirement age, and thus time is your greatest asset. Or perhaps you are young, poor, and restless; how might God be honored with your energy? Empty nesters, this is likely the most financially prosperous time of your life; how will you honor God with those extra funds?

Giving Goals

Nearly everyone has savings goals. Or you should if you don’t! But I would also recommend setting giving goals.

One thing Anna and I do is set aside a percentage of our tax return every year. We have young children and are in a tax bracket that has traditionally allowed us to receive back a hearty return. Throughout the year, we have a goal to keep that chunk of our return in an account, and we give it away whenever we hear about a need: a church plant, a non-profit, a family in need, or whatever opportunity God puts in front of us.

Some people commit to a graduated percentage. This is done by picking a percentage of your income to give to the church (i.e. 10%) and then raising that by 1% or ½% every year. I’ve heard several stories of God blessing people with more money the more they give, or of people learning over time to do without certain luxuries so this becomes easier in waves.

What are your giving goals?
 

Next Steps

Lastly, think in terms of next steps. If you are still reading, supporting your church and God’s work financially is a value of yours. You may wish you could give all your money away and sell your home to build God’s kingdom, but that’s not the wisest idea for most of us… so take it one step at a time.

If you are giving nothing, begin giving something.

2 Corinthians 9:7 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.

If you are giving something, begin giving regularly.

1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money…

If you are giving systematically, begin giving proportionately.

1 Corinthians 16:2 …each of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income...

If you are giving systematically and proportionately, begin giving sacrificially.

2 Corinthians 8:2–3 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2014/04/05/tax-smart-billionaires-who-work-for-1/#2351d775dfee

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