The Promise of Surplus
In agrarian ancient Israel, the idea of bringing the firstfruits to God (read Deuteronomy 26:1-11) was an act of worship and gratitude for the gift of salvation from the bondage of Egypt and the gift of the land. Proverbs picks up this law and spells out the blessing of giving our firstsfruits to God in no uncertain terms (Proverbs 3:9-10): “then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” The idea of surplus is conveyed through the word “plenty” which has the sense of being satiated.
Trusting in our faithful Father in Heaven
Before we can even begin to give of our firstfruits, we need to establish a relationship of trust with our Heavenly Father. The imperative, “trust in the Lord with all your heart” is the prerequisite to any sort of giving (Proverbs 3:5-6). In fact, unless we trust the Lord and “bind steadfast love and faithfulness around our neck” (Proverbs 3:3, God’s character traits), it’s going to be pretty hard to ‘take the jump’ and give of our firstfruits. Think of the times you and I have doubted his provision for our lives. It always begins with doubting His character: ‘He is not faithful,’ ‘He’s not listening,’ ‘He’s abandoning me.’ ‘If He really were faithful, He’d have provided by now,’ etc. etc. The fact is, God is a faithful Father who always provides for our needs. This is who He is. But unless we deal with our ‘trust issue,’ it’s always going to be an epic struggle to act upon this idea of giving of the firstfruits.
Presuming on the ‘When’ and ‘How’ of the surplus
The other problem we have is we get confused and presume we know the ‘when’ and the ‘how’ of the surplus. Even in Proverbs 3, the idea also takes on a more spiritual sense. There is a lot more to blessings than material ones: “Blessed in the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold” (Proverbs 3:13-14). In fact, the same context warns us about trusting our “own understanding” and being “wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:5; Proverbs 3:7). God will not be manipulated and the way He chooses to return our giving is entirely His prerogative. If the ‘how’ is God’s decision, so is the ‘when.’ Psalm 27 seems to be a great verse for our hurried and impatient society. At the end, God promises a blessing, but it will be in God’s time and in His way: “Wait for the Lord” is the encouragement (Psalm 27:14). We expect instant returns to our giving, and God may choose to say, ‘wait for me.’ In the end, financial giving always comes back to trusting in Him.
During this time of discernment as we seek to meet our 2020 budget at TCC, what is the kind of financial firstfruits God is asking of you? Scripture gives us example of very poor people and very rich people who give (and every one in between; 2 Chronicles 31:5). The blessing of giving is not dependent on the size of our pocket book (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
Do we have trust issues when it comes to the promise of surplus? Do we believe that He loves us and cares enough for us that He will take care of our needs?
Have we boxed God into an entirely limiting way in terms of the how and the when of the surplus? God may very well provide a return that is exactly the amount we have given. He may not. He may choose to give us a spiritual surplus (which is always of a much more lasting value anyway, “the treasures in heaven” idea). What we don’t want is to fall into the presumption that the blessing should always be material (or should always be spiritual). God, in His wisdom and favor knows how to provide for us in the ways He knows best. We can trust Him that in Christ, Our Father in Heaven has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:2).