When I was growing up, my friends and I had a particular way of sharing chocolate bars: one person divides the chocolate bar, the other person chooses which side he wants. It was a way of ensuring equality; that neither person was disadvantaged, and we could say to one another with a sense of fairness, ‘This is mine, that’s yours’.
When it comes to giving to God, many of us want a similarly simple method: something that’s fair and doesn’t leave us feeling disadvantaged; something that gives us certainty, where we can say to God, ‘This is mine, that’s yours’.
So, how do we think about our giving, especially when times are more uncertain and difficult when it seems harder to give?
A principle from the Old Testament is instructive. God’s people were expected to give Him their ‘first-fruits’, the first part of what the land produced each year (Deut. 26). Before they knew how much they would harvest for the year, they were expected to give to God first. It was a demonstration of both trust (that God will provide what I need) and praise (that God is worthy of my offering).
You might think, ‘I’m not a farmer. How does that relate to me?’. Sheep, cattle, and grain was their wealth. Their portfolio of investments was their livestock. The harvest was their income for the year. But before they knew what their full income would be, they were told to give. Rather than counting on a bonus, or waiting until the end of the tax year to see how much would be comfortable to give, or seeing what was surplus to their needs, they were asked to give in faith. This was their ‘first-fruits’, not their leftovers.
Notice as well, the motive for giving. Moses said that the Israelites should declare to God, “the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm… He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the first-fruits of the soil that you, LORD, have given me” (Deut. 26: 8-10). They were to remind themselves and say to God in faith, “You rescued me and have given me all I have. It’s not actually mine. It’s all yours”.
Shouldn’t we say the same thing? Yes, we work hard to earn our income, but everything that we have, including our time, talent, and health come from God. Even more, in His Son, God has paid the incalculable cost in rescuing us and giving us salvation.
The last few years in HK have been difficult. However, God called on the Israelites and He calls on us, to not to look to our circumstances in our response to Him, but to walk forward in trust, praise, and generosity for the one who has given everything to us.