Christianity 201

April 5, 2014

When God Is First

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Regular readers here know I am always using multiple translations, and I like to introduce new wordings from newer ones. But sometimes I wonder if we lose something by changing some classics, even when our word choices are well-informed based on the original Greek or Hebrew.

For example, take

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (NIV)

The phrase in question has to do with putting God first, or giving Him first place in our lives.  Modern options include:

  • Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness… (Phillips)
  • Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. (Message)

Fortunately this isn’t true of all the recent versions:

  • Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously (NLT)
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too. (The Voice; I included the full verse so you could catch the addition at the end!)

At his blog, Speaking the Truth in Love, Ken Idleman (yep…he is related*) offers the following:

Ever since I was a sophomore in college I have been giving regular financial offerings to God.  I praise Him for the older Christian Brother who took me aside and taught me this vital discipleship principle… over 4 decades ago now.  I am confident that much of the heart for The Lord and His Church that I have developed through the years has been the result of investing my ‘treasure’ in God’s kingdom as a priority [Matthew 6:21].  I was convicted then that either my kingdom or His would be my primary focus.  I decided it should be His [Matthew 6:33].  When I started taking my giving seriously, I had an income of $35/week.  I started faithfully giving $5 each Lord’s Day as an expression of worship.  Something good began to happen in my head and heart that I trace back to that Spirit-led decision/commitment.

It grieves me that most Christians do not give to God first.  It is more predictable today that a person subtracts their bills from their income to see how much is left over; then determines what can be given to the Lord’s work out of the overflow, without going into debt.  So rather than a ‘first fruits’ offering, it becomes a ‘leftover’ offering.  But, taking our offering off the top, so to speak, is evidence that we acknowledge God’s authority over us.  It is an act of gratitude to God for his goodness and it’s trusting Him to provide the best for us.  Bill Hybels wrote that most of us look at giving like paying another bill; but instead we should look at it as seed we sow.

I want to point out three things:

  1. This isn’t about “tithing” per se, since he was giving one-seventh, or 14%
  2. The principle applies to far more than financial giving, even though he doesn’t say that up front
  3. He has practiced what he’s preaching; he’s not talking beyond his personal sphere of experience.

So what are some of the ways we can put God first in our lives that aren’t related to financial giving to our church and ministry organizations?

  1. I am really trying to discipline my mind to start the day with some kind of prayer; asking God to use my day for His glory. If my thoughts are getting sidetracked, I just quickly get out of bed and do a re-start so I can try the thought focus again.
  2. I am endeavoring to make the devotional website I read each day the first internet page that is opened in my computer.
  3. I am trying to begin my day at work by asking God to use my workplace to reach my community. This isn’t easy. The first thing I have to do when I walk in is shut off the alarm system, and sometimes the message light is flashing on the phone system.
  4. I am trying to be more intentional about the emails I write and things I post on Twitter. That’s hard because I am already a bit of a Bible-nerd, so with a faith quotient that’s already high, I have to separate things that are about Church life or ‘religion’ in general from things that are about Jesus. I have a long way to go on this one.
  5. I am trying to put God’s kingdom agenda in the words I write and the words I speak so that the wisdom I offer is not earthly wisdom, but are filled with truth, hope, and encouragement.

I Chronicles 21:24

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

II Samuel 24:24 (parallel passage)

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

 


* Kyle’s dad, Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church, Newburgh, IN

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