Blessed Multiplication

“He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you.” – Deuteronomy 7:13

In May of 2005 a 1999 Volkswagen Golf was sold on eBay for the price of $244,000. No, it was not gold plated or one of a kind.  There was nothing truly unique about the car, except for who owned it. The car was owned by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict. The fact that the Pope owned the car caused the value of the car to multiply many times over its true value.

Jesus blessed and added value to everything. He was given a coin and made it into a lesson of our responsibilities both to God and government. He was given a boat and turned it into a pulpit on which he could teach the multitudes. He was given a donkey and made it an image of servant leadership. He was given a bowl and a towel and gave us a model of humility. He was given a cross, and made it a symbol of salvation.

I always stand in awe when I think about the way that God multiplied life through the life, the death, and the resurrection of His Son. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, there are literally millions and millions and millions of Christians around the world. All the people who found eternal life over thousands of years did so because Jesus Christ gave His one life. Now that is multiplication.

The feeding the 5,000 story should remind those of us who are followers of Jesus that our problems are never too large for God to handle. I’m sure the disciples were a little confused, and wondering what could they accomplish with only five loaves and two fish. 

As believers, we should know, at least theoretically, that God can do anything. He is God so He can feed as many people as He wants. The problem comes when we are faced with a practical application of the theory/belief in our lives, we wonder whether God will meet our need.  So we take things in our own hands. 

The feeding of the 5,000 is proof that no matter how insignificant we may think our gifts or talents are,  we can expect God to do far beyond what can be imagined. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20). We simply need to step out in faith.

2 Peter 1:2 says, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” And Ecclesiastes 3: 11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

The message of the feed the 5,000 is the miracle, and the miracle is, we are not alone. Jesus is with us, working the impossible. We simply need to let go of our lunches, so countless others can be satisfied—with bread, but also with more than bread. Because Jesus will multiply what we give to Him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What ideas of images come to mind when you hear words like multiply or firstfruits?
  2. Does fear play a role in your multiplication thinking? What about debt?
  3. What areas of your life do you believe God is calling you to pursue more returns on His investment?
  4. If you start giving generously, where would you start? How do you think your life would change? 
  5. In your thinking, does giving generously mean money, or time and talents as well? Why?

Basic Multiplication

“…saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” – Hebrews 6:14

Early in my education, I had to memorize the multiplication tables. It wasn’t all that hard and more importantly it was a necessity as you progressed in school. By learning multiplication and memorizing the times tables you provide yourself with essential building blocks to do higher learning math, like division, fractions and even algebra. Through multiplication, you can start with a small number and be at a big number pretty rapidly. One example is someone willing to pay you a penny for the first day’s work and double the amount every day for 30 days. On Day 30 you will receive $5,368,709.12 and have a cumulative total of $10,737,418.23.

Another compelling multiplication story is the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 where Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish into enough food to feed a multitude. And the number of 5,000 doesn’t give us the complete picture. In Jewish culture, the way they counted crowds is they counted men. There were about 5,000 families. So there were probably somewhere in between 15,000 to 20,000 people fed that day.

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5-6)  In a multiplication formula, the two items being multiplied are called factors and the result of their multiplication is called the product. When one of the factors is zero, the product will always be zero. Zero multiplied by one is zero. Zero multiplied by a million equals zero.

The disciples thought they had nothing or next to nothing. But in this story and others we learn what Jesus can do with something small.  Many of us feel like we don’t have much. But the  truth is, we have something. We have financial blessings, material blessing, talents, time, abilities, and gifts. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

God has blessed us with something with which He can start. And He does not ask for what you do not have. But He will ask for what you do have. In the story, bread and fish are multiplied into bread and fish. Granted, as creator, Jesus can change anything into anything He wants, like He did when he turned water into wine. But it is more common that things multiply after themselves.

If you exercise the muscles you have, the result is greater muscles. If you pour yourself into your studies, the result will be greater knowledge. If you exercise your voice in song, in time you will be a better singer. If you teach, your teachings skills will improve. There are many other examples. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ( Luke 6:38)

Circle the word “it”. What is “it” in your life. What in your life can God multiply if you give it to Him? 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can God’s multiplication manifest itself in our lives today?
  2. Jesus asked them another question, “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five–and two fish.” (Mark 6:38) What do we have? Are we willing to bring our resources, gifts, talents, and time to Him?
  3. The disciples might not have understood, what He was going to do? But they followed His orders nonetheless. Do you believe that God wants us to act in faith, even when we do not understand it.
  4. Jesus’ final assignment for His disciples was to, “gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12) Can we trust that God’s provision is more than adequate in our lives?
  5. Pray and ask God to bless and multiply what you have?

Hezekiah And The Way Out

“The field commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah:“‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem”? – 2 Kings 18:19-22

The Bible is one continuous story, and yet a story made up of smaller, pivotal stories. Many of the stories involves God providing a way out of the difficulties of His people. One of those is the story of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was one of the few kings of Judah who was constantly aware of God’s acts in the past and His involvement in the events of every day. The Bible describes Hezekiah as a king who had a close relationship with God, one who did “…what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God.” (2 Chronicles 31:20).

Because King Hezekiah put God first in everything he did, God prospered him. “Hezekiah held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” (2 Kings 18:6–7).

But Hezekiah and all of Judah had a big problem. The Assyrians, the world power at the time, invaded Judah and marched against Jerusalem. The Assyrians had already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and many other nations, and now they threatened Judah (2 Kings 18:13). In their threats against the city of Jerusalem, the Assyrians openly defied the God of Judah, likening Him to the powerless gods of the nations they had conquered. (2 Kings 18:28–35; 19:10–12)

God through the prophet Isaiah, reassured the king that Assyria would never enter Jerusalem. Rather, the invaders would be sent home, and the city of Jerusalem would be spared (2 Kings 19:32–34).

God kept His promise to protect Jerusalem. “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” (2 Kings 19:35). The remaining Assyrians quickly broke camp and withdrew in abject defeat. “So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem. . . . He took care of them on every side” (2 Chronicles 32:22).

There are many such stories in the Bible where God is the way out of the situations people find themselves in. In truth, Jesus is the only way. John 14:6 tells us, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”  As the way, Jesus create a path for us, a way out. The truth is we can never make it, do enough spiritual, moral or social good to impress God. We can’t make it up the path. We all fail to love and serve God to some degree. 

Jesus hikes down into our sin, our rebellion and our failures, and He heaps them all on His back and climbs on a cross, where He is punished for our crime, a bloody gruesome death. The innocent punished for the guilty. This is what it means for Jesus to be the way. He is the redemptive way. He takes our place. There is no other way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways do we still try to find a solution or a way out in times of trouble?
  2. Hezekiah was said to have trusted God like no other man. What does his life tell us about what it looks like to trust God?
  3. Read Isaiah 37:14-20. From this prayer, what would you say are Hezekiah’s motives and desires?
  4. What does the story of  Hezekiah tell us about finding a way out? 

Just Do It

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do..” – James 1:23-25. 

In the message this week one of the steps I suggested as a means of finding your way out is to have a plan and to implement that plan today. I would like to expand on that point in this devotional.

When we become followers of Jesus, we quickly learn that our God is a very big God, and has all things under His control. That includes both the big things we need to find a way out of, as well as the little things. You have probably heard the phrase “let go and let God.” Some people think that this is the way we as Christians ought to understand the Christian life – we give up ourselves and let God control it all. While this makes sense on many levels it can be a bit simplistic. 

Romans 12:2 is helpful in this area: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” True worship is to give up our lives for God, that is to live for Him alone. That doesn’t mean we go in hibernation, but rather letting God’s plans and purposes shape the things we do. Our minds aren’t switched off, but rather transformed and renewed by God, and so we become aware of the new way God wants us to live. This takes self control and it takes us doing something. Because far too often, we allow good thoughts and good words and good intentions to stop short of good actions.

Finding our way out is not wandering through life aimlessly and seeing where God would have us drift. Instead finding our way out is seeing the path God wants us to take, with its ups and own, trials, and failures, and deciding to take the steps to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. God’s Word has so much to say about taking action. If you need a jumpstart, consider these verses.  for your “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.” Ezra 10:4. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “ says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

In the end, finding your way out is about changing your focus – rather than expensing your energies to achieve the things you desire, use all your energies to achieve the things God wants for our lives. And that means taking action to move us from where we are to where we need to be.   

Now that’s not to say it’s not a struggle. It is easy to stop and wonder “how did I get here.” But if we set our sights on God and start taking the steps we need to take, we can find our way out.    

Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s one of the biggest obstacles to finding a way out?
  2. What has God burdened you to change in your life? What’s keeping you from taking action? What do you need to do to remove these barriers?
  3. What impact on others do you think you could make if you decided to take action?
  4. What is your next step?

Go Back The Way You Came

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24.

When we find that we have no way out it, may be necessary to turn and go back the way we came. This idea is illustrated by a story in the Bible on the prophet Elijah.

Elijah, the prophet, was sent by God to steer the people of Israel back to God. Elijah had just finished a match of “anything you can do I can do better” with four hundred and fifty of Ahab’s prophets of Ba’al. He challenged these prophets to call on their God Ba’al to set a pile of wood on fire. They tried their best, but to no avail. So Elijah pours buckets of water on the wood. He calls on the name of Yahweh and everything bursts into flames. Yahweh is shown to be the true God. The four hundred and fifty prophets are executed. Ahab’s wife Jezebel sends a messenger to Elijah and tells him that he is as good as dead. Even after a demonstration of God’s awesome power, Elijah flees to the border out of fear and the desert out of the clutches of Jezebel. 

Elijah escapes to the desert and he’s all alone. He wanders for a day and falls asleep under a single shrub–even the tree is all alone in the desert. Sometimes we feel like we too are in the desert and there is no way out for the situation we find ourselves in. But then we discover God’s power to sustain and carry us.

Elijah still had a problem. Israel had still turned its back on God and God’s ways. And he’s still in the desert because he failed. That may sound familiar. We all have failures or temporary setbacks that can make it difficult to move on.  In addition, we can only stand life in the desert for so long. What’s the use of trying if there is no way out. 

God asks a question: “…what are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13) He may have failed, he may fear that there’s still no easy way out. But God still begs the question–what are you doing here Elijah? Elijah just can’t seem to take a hint. So God clarifies things. “Go,” says Yahweh. “Go back on the same way you came…” God sends Elijah back into the thick of it with no real certainty of any change, other than a word from God. Go back into the life that you fled. I am not done yet. I have work yet to do. It’s not all about you. It’s not all up to you. I am not done with you, yet.

“Go back the way you came.” This was God’s word to Elijah. Sometimes God says the same thing to us. That sounds simple but far from easy. For one thing the steps that led you to where you are today might have been very painful. Going back and revisiting those steps may be the last thing you want to do. But even though it may be hard, the promise that gives strength for the journey is that you can find your way back. The desert is not the end of your story. You can find your way out and your way back. 

What would it mean for you to “go back the way you came?” What steps do you need to retrace and what might you find once you do that? We may find ourselves in a wilderness caused by bad financial, moral or physical decisions. It may seem like there is no way out. We are where we are and that is all there is to it. But that is not all there is to it. God will sustain us in the wilderness. We may have given up on ourselves but God has not given up on us. He provides us the way out. God’s power will sustain and carry us regardless of where we find ourselves. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you were stranded in the wilderness, what would you want in your survival kit?
  2. Wouldn’t it be great to have a “wilderness” survival guide for the tough times we go through? Is the Bible your survival guide?
  3. Have there been times in your life when you’ve said those words: “I’ve had enough, Lord.” Describe that time, and how you dealt with it.
  4. How would your life change if you heard from God every day? How do you think it would change our church?

The Way Out

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

Take a look at your life. How would you describe it? Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Moving backward? It can be all of those things at one time or another. There are things we dream of doing one day, and there are things we wish we could forget. In the Bible, it says that Jesus came to make all things new. What would your life look like if you could could get a “way out” card and start anew?

Starting over requires knowing where you are. Honestly admitting your present condition. Facing the music. And then seeking God’s help to make the changes that are needed.

Remember the prophet Jonah in the Old Testament. If you remember the story, Jonah had difficulty with his sense of direction. He was on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea going west to Tarshish. God had told him to go east to preach in Nineveh. We are know that Jonah never got to Tarshish. Jonah found he needed a way out in the digestive tract of a huge fish.

Imagine sitting there and wondering “how did I get here.” And coming to the obvious conclusion that being sloshed around in the seaweed and juices inside that sea monster is not the best place for you to be. He needed a way out from where his choices had led him. He made the fact that he needed help pretty clear when he literally yelled for mercy. “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.

From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” (Jonah 2:1-2) He promised the Lord he’d keep his vow and get back on target. “But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.” I believe the fish was as happy as Jonah when in verse 10, “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah had found a way out and as you can imagine, he hit the road running, but this time toward Nineveh.

I can’t think of a tougher place to be a rebel or to be stubborn than in the stomach of a fish. There are times in our lives when we can identify with Jonah. Time when we have dodged and ducked, squirmed and squeaked our way through one Tarshish trip after another. But only to find there is no easy way out. Along the way we have become frustrated and tired. It is like running a long way only to find that you are going the wrong direction and then wondering whether you have the strength to run back all that distance. And Satan, the enemy of your soul is continually telling you that you can’t do it and you might as well get used to being in the belly of the fish.

If God can take a disobedient prophet, turn him around, and set him on fire spiritually, He can help us find a way out of our situations whether minor or dire. God has a very long track record of making something beautiful and good out of something broken, confused and lost.

If you’re standing alone inside a fish, first come to terms with those things that need attention. Before you find your way out, you must determine where you are—and how you got there. Once that’s accomplished, you’re ready to find your way out.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe you always have a second choice?
  2. What is a modern day parallel to what God asked Jonah to do?
  3. Have you ever had a situation where you feel like you did the opposite of what God was calling you to?
  4. What is your first reaction when you feel there is no way out? How do you get away from guilt?
  5. What does this Jonah’s story teach us about God’s character?

It’s a Rather Long Story…Where Do I Start?

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t much care where.”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

One of the most basic questions people ask at some point in their lives is: “How did I get here?” It may be that we are asking how did I get to the point that I have such financial problems. Or how did I get to the point where my relationships are in shambles. Or maybe we are asking ourselves how did I get to the point where I am so out of shape. Or maybe we are wondering how we let that little moral thing escalate into a big problem.

“How did I get here?” This is an important question because it’s answer will determine how we live and view the world around us. It is easy to conclude that in every one of those scenarios that people made the wrong choices. There are a variety of reasons why we got to where we are, but the fact is this is our new reality and there is no easy way out on the horizon. 

As in all things, we can learn from Jesus’ example. After the baptism in the desert by John, and after God says, “This is my beloved Son,” Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by Satan. (Matthew 3:13-17; Matthew 4:1-10) The devil is trying to reach a compromise with Jesus. “Let’s partner together.” Then he asks Jesus to turn stones into bread  And finally, Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off the temple.   

In each instance, Jesus stands at the edge of a decision. He considers the consequence of each path before making a choice. He weighs each decision against his father’s will. Jesus chooses to make hard decisions that are best for His ministry, best for humankind, and most importantly, He makes decisions that will further the plan of God.

We also have to make choices. We are confronted by perhaps hundreds of choices a day. Sometimes our decisions are not well thought out, maybe even a little hasty. And maybe our cumulative choices have us asking “how did I get here?” Fortunately for us, that is not the end of the story. God’s providence includes your choices, your actions, and the consequences that flow from them. So when you make bad decisions, stupid mistakes, or careless choices, yes, you will have to live with the consequences in this world.

But not alone. And not in such a way that you have no way out. God has a hopeful plan for you that spans eternity. And no mistake of yours can undo it. The fact is we will have some ups and downs. We will make mistakes.

If you are in the process of finding a way out from those mistakes, ask God to help you change direction and lead you to Him. 

Spend some time considering the choices we have made; which ones bring us life and which ones lead us to scratching our heads asking, “How did I get here?”

Discussion Questions:

  1. The choices we make today will affect our lives in the future, but they don’t need to define who we are. Agree or disagree? Why?
  2. Do you believe that no matter how hard it may be to find a way out that you can make it right with God?
  3. Do you believe people need us to be more than we are? Who is counting on you to be more than you are?
  4. Pray and ask God to help you with your choices.

Genuine Generosity

“Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” –  2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NLT

Martin Luther once said that “a religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” The fact is, being a Christian means that we must give of ourselves and our first fruits.

Generosity is measured by sacrifice, not amount. In Luke 21, we read the story of the widow and the two copper coins. Jesus watched the rich put in their gifts–undoubtedly much more than the two pennies the poor widow put in. But she put in more than all of them, because it was all she had. Luke 21:3-4 tells us, “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  

We start becoming generous when it really costs us. When I give, and it means that I can’t do something else I wanted to do–that’s generosity.  And it’s true of more than money–our time and energy too. If generosity is measured by sacrifice, no one is more generous than God who gave His only Son.

Many people feel that generosity is dependent upon your circumstances. It is easy for people who are wealthy to be generous because they are giving out of their excess. Or we explain that we will be more generous when we make more money, when we get on our feet, or when we get this promotion. John D. Rockefeller, the wealthy businessman, once said, “I never would have been able to tithe on the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” The way to be generous tomorrow is to start being generous today.

Being generous means seizing on opportunities. Generosity isn’t a one-off ad hoc moment in time and then you can check it off; it’s a lifestyle of seizing opportunities to help others. Generosity isn’t about “doing your good deed for the day,” it’s about looking for every opportunity to bless people.

Look for ways to help others, to be generous. My prayer is that God will make us generous as He is generous.   

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does God’s economy differ from that of our culture? 
  2. Generosity becomes contagious when a community of people buy into the reality that God’s economy can be trusted to take care of us far better than any other economy. Have you ever been a part of contagious generosity like this? What was it like?
  3. God’s work must be supported by God’s people. Do you agree? Why or why not? Do you typically assume that someone else will cover the cost if you don’t? Do you see yourself as a participant or a spectator in what God is doing in your community?
  4. What will you need from God to help you to become more generous? Pray and ask God to help you in those areas. 

First Tithing

“So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.” – 2 Corinthians 9:5

I love the story of a six-year-old boy who after listening to a what seemed an interminable sermon at church asked his father what the pastor did the rest of the week. “Bobby, the pastor is a very busy man,” the father replied. “He takes care of church business, studies and prays, works on his sermon, counsels people…and then he has to have time to rest up because preaching the word is not easy.” The boy thought for a moment and then said, “Well, listening ain’t easy, either!”

It is not easy to listen to a sermon about giving. It can seem like a self-serving topic that often prompts the pastor to launch into a roundabout apology for speaking on money. But it is impossible to ignore the subject when you look through the lens of Jesus, his teaching, and that of His followers. It becomes clear that giving and generosity are important subjects.

In the first Multiply series message I talked about a gift of first fruits. I also made mention of “tithes” and “a tenth” in the message. My conclusion is that all those are basically talking about the same thing.  Acts 20:35 tells is, “…remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Since I want everyone that attends Northstar to be blessed, it makes sense that we talk about it. But there’s another reason. We all want to honor God with our life. We want to do what pleases God. That includes honoring God with our actions, with how we spend our time, how we go about doing our job, how we interact with our neighbors, how we treat our spouse, how we raise our kids, and so on.

But perhaps you’ve spent less time, or have less clarity, on how to honor God with our first fruits and our money. The focus of the Multiply series is that generosity truly begins with the realization that God is a God who blesses and so He blesses those who bless others. The starting point in our journey toward generosity is to recognize the most fundamental giving principle in the Bible: 10 percent tithing. 

Leviticus 27:30 tells us: “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD.” So here is the bottom line: 10 percent of the income belongs to God. Tithing is not giving to God because it is His already. Tithing is merely redirecting God’s money, through my employer’s bank account, through my bank account, and into the church’s account so that God can use the church to continue his chain of blessings.

As God said to Abraham, He would also say to us as individuals and to us as a church: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)   

“I will bless you, and you will be a blessing.”

I’m sure God is blessing you. How much of that blessing are you giving back? 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What fears do you have about tithing? In your experience what are the benefits of tithing?
  2. Ecclesiastes 5:10: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”  Do you believe this is true? How do you go about determining how much money is enough?
  3. Read Philippians 4: 19: Is it easy or difficult for you to believe God will supply your needs? Have you ever felt that God has failed to provide for your needs?
  4. Are you willing to put God to the test by taking the Tithe Challenge? 

The First Fruits

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” – Proverbs 3:9-10

I believe the principle of first fruits can literally transform your life because it has transformed mine. But not only has this promise been a blessing to me, I’ve seen it work in the lives of many others. That is why I am so excited about our “Multiply” series. 

But what are first fruits? It’s a farming term and is at home in the agrarian culture of ancient Israel. It refers to the first portion of an Israelite’s produce, which for a farmer would be like the times a year you get paid or get a paycheck. In ancient Israel, this would mean bringing the first fruits of your olive oil or sheared wool or honey or grain or wine—whatever it is that you produce. 

First fruits is not referring to an amount that is required as it is the nature of the gift. First fruits is to give, as we would say today, right off the top. It is not about giving 10 percent; it is about which 10 percent. We have 10 options if we use the 10 percent example of which 10 percent to give. Which one of these should I give? You give the first and best. That’s first fruits. The first and best of whatever wealth the Lord has given you. This is a biblical pattern for giving.

In our culture giving the first fruits would be a shock. Most people give only what they feel like they can spare, what’s available because it’s leftover. Money comes in, they take care of their bills and other needs or wants, and give to God what’s leftover. But it’s hard to honor God with leftovers, isn’t it? If we give God the scraps of what we have left, do you think God feels honored as the Giver of every good and perfect gift in our lives? Imagine going to a five-star restaurant and ordering a sumptuous meal. After consuming most of the meal you notice there is a tiny piece of lobster and a stick of asparagus left. You ask to have them put it in a doggy bag so you could take them home.

In essence, that is what we give to God when we fail to give first fruits. We serve him our financial leftovers, not the first and best bites of the meal. We don’t insist that he be the first to have what we are about to eat; rather, we hand him a doggy bag with some bits and pieces of leftover inside.

Yes, that sounds harsh. But when we offer God our “first fruits”—an offering given to Him before we know we will have enough for ourselves, He will respond by truly blessing us with all we need.  In Malachi 3:10, God challenges us to test Him in His promise to bless us for putting Him first:  “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

Putting God first in your life by putting Him first brings His favor, His blessing, and a satisfied life. I hope you will learn more about the powerful principle of first fruits and apply it in your life. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the principle of first fruits mean to you, and do you agree or disagree that it is important? Explain.
  2. What are some things in our lives that might conflict with the principle of first fruits? 
  3. How can we move toward a first fruits mentality?
  4. Pray and ask God for the courage and faith to give Him your first fruits.