How can we posture our hearts to give in every season of life?
As Christians we are no longer under the Mosaic law... thank the Lord! However, we see from scripture the value in the old testament and the necessity to see it through the spiritual lens of Christ. Paul quotes from the law but applies it to new principles (e.g. not muzzling an ox while treading out the grain is revealed in 1 Timothy 5 17-18 as the prophetic message of not keeping a worker of the gospel in poverty, specifically teaching/preaching elders).
In Leviticus 23 we see the regulations for various days and feasts. In verse 9 we see an amazing thing. Just remember, we are looking through the lens of Christ!
9 The Lord spoke to Moses: 10 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them, ‘When you enter the land that I am about to give to you and you gather in its harvest, then you must bring the sheaf of the first portion of your harvest to the priest, 11 and he must wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for your benefit—on the day after the Sabbath the priest is to wave it.12 On the day you wave the sheaf you must also offer a flawless yearling lamb for a burnt offering to the Lord, 13 along with its grain offering, two-tenths of an ephah of choice wheat flour mixed with olive oil, as a gift to the Lord, a soothing aroma, and its drink offering, one-fourth of a hin of wine. 14 You must not eat bread, roasted grain, or fresh grain until this very day, until you bring the offering to your God. This is a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all the places where you live. (NET Bible)
Sometimes, when it comes to the subject of giving, we tend to tense up and think of all the reasons why we need to keep our money. Being a good steward, a good provider, making sure the budget is not too tight, are all reasons why we might dismiss the notion that we should give. And while this post is not specifically on tithing money (giving a tenth of your income), giving and tithing tend to go hand-in-hand. This post is rather about the blessing that comes when posturing our heart to give and the importance of it in our spiritual walk.
In verse 10 of the above passage, we see God reminding the Israelites of the promise that He is fulfilling. He has brought them into the land of promise. This promise was not deserved and we should remember that shortly before this the Israelites were under the bondage of slavery. While He could have left them in slavery to toil their years away, He chose to love them and bless them and take them through the wilderness and into the land of promise. He has done the same for us! We were under the yolk of slavery to sin. We did not deserve to be set free. He sent Christ to bring us into the promised land and seal us with His Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13).
The harvest in this passage is part of the blessing that comes from dwelling in the land of promise. The harvest that the people of Israel received represented an abundance that was not deserved; remember, before this they were living as slaves. The people of Israel are reminded in these verses to bring the first portion of their harvest to the Lord. This harvest is solely a blessing from the Lord. It was not deserved, it was not earned. The only way that the Israelites arrived at this land to even receive a harvest was through the supernatural works of God and the (albeit slow) obedience of the people to follow Him. To produce a heart of obedience, it was important that the people remembered that they did not, on their own merit, earn this abundance. The Lord provided it. To give the first fruits of a harvest requires humility to obey and realize that you are not the one who is worthy of this abundance. It is from the Lord and He is worthy to receive it. In reality the first fruits will not end up being as abundant as the rest of the harvest. To submit the first fruits is to posture the heart in trust that the Lord will provide the rest of the harvest. It also produces humility as the giver recognizes that this gift is not theirs to begin with, it is solely the result of God's faithfulness in bringing the people into the promised land.
In our current day-in-age, the first portion may not be literal produce from the ground, but it does not always represent money, either. I have found in my own life that submitting the first portion to the Lord is to posture my heart in such a way I give God glory through thankfulness and obedience. He gave His first portion on our behalf in the death of His son. When Abraham was stayed from bringing down his knife, God did not spare His own son. If some thing, idea, person, argument, frustration, video game, book, movie, or amount of money (or lack-there-of) has gripped my heart in a way that it is first in my mind or thoughts, then taking hold of it and submitting it to God is an act of giving, an act of humility in realizing that to live is Christ. This act of giving is not in reference to sin, either. Sin was left behind in "Egypt" and we left that slavery behind! We are to have no portion in it! But anything can become first in our hearts if we do not remember who brought us out of death and into His marvelous light! Practically it may it may look like: stilling my heart and mind and contemplating His Presence until I come to a place of love, trust, and humility again. It could be reading the Bible and praying. Turning on worship music and worshipping. Getting together with other believers in worship is a sure way of honing-in my heart to His goodness! Perhaps, it is giving the first portion of my income.
Praising is actually a sacrificial act (Hebrews 13:15). When we were sealed with the Holy Spirit, we became supernaturally intertwined with His Spirit! Any act can be the "giving of the first fruits" because we continually abide in Him and Jesus is the first fruits of God's promise. The letter to the Ephesians says in chapter 5, "And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."(NET Bible). In some capacity, when we walk in Him and in true, sacrificial fellowship with others, there is a turning away from something and filling up with Him, and we give out of this abundance. When we turn inwardly, we do not trust in the Lord and greed can grip our hearts. This opens the door to holding back the first fruits of our hearts because in covetousness we look at something in our lives as being too important to give.
Let us remember this Christmas season that Christ came as the first fruits to be given on our behalf. He abides with us and dwells in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17). Let us submit our hearts and minds as first fruits to our God and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is hope for everyone!