Christianity 201

November 3, 2012

Giving Your Best to God

Just as parts of the southern hemisphere are, I’m sure, switching to “summer time,” as it’s called in many places, we here in North American are changing from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time tomorrow morning. The graphic above infers that people who chronically arrive late for church may experience the horror of arriving early.

I don’t know why it is, but some people who would never for a moment consider arriving late for work think nothing of arriving late for church. We touched on this very briefly here once before, but I want to look at it more closely this time.

Maybe it’s because Christianity is all about grace, but we tend to have a rather casual approach to worship, to scriptures, and to God Himself. I’ve quoted this before: “It is said that of all the major religions of the world, Christians are the least acquainted with their own scriptures.” We hear stories of evangelical church buildings in disrepair, of ministry organizations that don’t return calls or emails, and of Sunday School teachers who don’t prepare their lessons, opting instead to ‘wing it’ each week.

While the idea that we should “give our best to God” is well known, it is not well practiced. The Bible tends not to talk about “best” so much, but adheres to the more agrarian language of “giving our firstfruits.”

Proverbs 3:9
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops

This nomenclature is unfamiliar to most of us; but my first observation is to note that the NIV (and other translations) don’t treat this as an adjective followed by a plural noun (as in “first fruits”) but as an entity onto itself, as one word, “firstfruits.”

Related to this is the similarity in scripture to the concept of “firstborn.”

Psalm 105:36
Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land, the firstfruits of all their manhood.

Unfortunately today, there is a great cognitive distance from thinking of our firstborn children, to setting aside the first part of our “increase” (which today is mostly wages, but could be investment earnings or business transaction profits) to God. Our offspring are extremely personal, but the value of our firstfruits isn’t highly regarded.

In fact, we tend to look an opt-out wherever possible.

  • Should I tithe on the gross income or the net income?
  • Isn’t tithing an Old Testament concept?
  • Is God interested in excellence, or does he just want our hearts?
  • Isn’t requiring weekly church attendance more about law than grace?

There’s a lot of opting out going on right now. Has God changed his mind on ideas like,

Exodus 23:19
“Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.

The term fristfruits doesn’t appear in the New Testament, but there are more than hints of excellence in worship and life:

1 Corinthians 14:40
But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

1 Corinthians 16:14
Do everything in love.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Personally, I think that arriving late for church is symptomatic of a greater problem. Or several problems. The same goes for halfhearted singing, preaching, praying and serving.

We should approach weekend worship as though we are coming directly into the presence of God because, well, we are.

~Paul Wilkinson