First fruits given in gratitude

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Deuteronomy 26:1 When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.

Here Moses is giving instructions to the Israelites as they prepare to cross over the River Jordan into the land God gave to them. It was an abundant land with more than enough of everything they would need. In these verses the people are instructed to take the first of “all the fruit of the ground” (crops and such) and return it to the priests who would use it to provide for those in need – the alien, the widow, the orphan.

What strikes me is how uncomplicated this must have been. I mean, the Israelites would not have planted and cultivated the produce they found. Others (the nations they were driving out) would have done the hard work. It was a pure gift from God for which gratitude would have come easily. Later this may not have been so simple. Why?

When we put in hard work for something we tend to view the results as “wages earned” rather than “gift received”. It’s “mine”. I worked for it. I earned it. This mindset is, in part, why so many believers struggle to return a tithe to the Lord. We hold on to what we’ve received as gift, missing out on the opportunity to see God’s abundance come to life in us. We hold on to the responsibility to provide for ourselves – and the stress that comes with it – rather than giving this responsibility to God. It’s one reason why Americans, who are among the wealthiest peoples in human history, continue to bear so much anxiety related to money. There is a better way.

Heavenly Father thank you for all you give to us. Give us hearts of gratitude expressed in generosity toward you and others. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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