Nehemiah 10:We obligate ourselves to bring the first fruits of our soil and the first fruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord; also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our livestock, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks; and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our soil, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our rural towns.
Here the prophet Ezra clarifies for the people in Jerusalem and surrounding areas their obligations to God in terms of tithes and offerings. Remember, just a few years prior, the people had been slaves in Babylon. They’d had nothing as slaves. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Then, by the time of this writing, they had rebuilt the city of Jerusalem and were enjoying some measure of post-slavery freedom – though they were still technically under the rule and authority of Babylon.
When you go from having “nothing” to having “something” gratitude comes easily.
As the years went by, and God’s people began to once again cultivate their own crops, establish their own trade, develop their own resources, gratitude became more difficult. The people were less inclined to bring tithes and offerings to the priests of God to support the poor, the widow, the orphan. Why?
The further the people were removed from their former poverty the less generous they became.
At some point the people began to see themselves as their own provider rather than God. So they determined to keep more of their resources for themselves. Then the poor, the widow, the orphan were not cared for adequately, and the priests of God (who lived off of the tithes and offerings of the people) had to begin raising crops to feed themselves and their families – which was a major violation of God’s plan for the people. Guess what happened as a result?
Again, what the people of God had accumulated – as a gift from God – was taken from them due to their hard-heartedness and lack of generosity.
You see, when I deeply internalize THE REALITY that all I have is a gift from God, GENEROSITY comes easily. I’m glad to give 10% tithe of my income to the church, and additional offerings to support needs outside the church. Why? Because the God who provided all I have has plenty more where that came from. I don’t have to worry about not having what I need. This is called living in God’s “abundance”.
But when I begin to see MYSELF as the one who provides for my needs, MY WORK as the key to my provision, MY INDUSTRY and ingenuity as the foundation of my well-being, then tithes and offerings are more difficult. I begin to rationalize why I don’t give 10% of my income to God, and why I am hesitant to support needs outside of the church. In essence, I choose to live in “scarcity” rather than “abundance”.
My reflection presents some challenging questions for me to consider this morning:
- As a Christian, do I return a full 10% of my income to the Lord? If not, why not?
- Do I return to God the first and best of what I have, or just the leftovers?
- What does my practice of giving say about my heart condition?
Lord, give us grace to understand the reality that all we have comes from you. Help us to reflect your character of generosity rather than scarcity, and accept the blessing that comes from living this way. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.