|Messages By Ovid Need|
Free-Will Offering - Proverbs 3:9,10
I realize that this is Palm Sunday, and maybe I should be preaching a message leading up to the resurrection, but what we are going to cover is probably more needful.
While doing our study in the Book of Proverbs, we came accost this passage and I set it aside for a time such as this. This is an unusual message which we just do not hear much about.
I do not like to teach on giving because of the bad name that such messages get from the multitude of electronic preachers who do. But this is not Scriptural, because the Word of God says quite a bit about offerings.
As we have mentioned, we have a special offering twice a year, one at Christmas, which would actually be a reminder that it is the Lord's birthday which we celebrate.
The other one is at the first of the year. We call this pay-check Sunday, but after I put this together, a better name would be "Firstfruits offering," or Freewill offering. The purpose of this offering is to put into practice what we say we believe. We say that we love the Lord and that He will and does supply all of our needs. This offering coming up gives us the chance to place our money where we say our love and faith is.
I try to set it on the first fifth Sunday after the first of the year. For the first time since I have been here, this falls on Easter Sunday, but we will go ahead with it anyway.
With this in mind, let me go ahead with the first message in well over a year on giving. This freewill offering, or offering of the first fruits is spoken of just as clearly in Scriptures as is the tithe.
We need to distinguish between the required giving of the tithe, and the freewill offering. The offering of the firstfruits as mentioned in our text would be the freewill offering, not the tithe.
Let's look at the law concerning this offering of the firstfruits. Here it is called a freewill offering, Deut. 16:9-12.
First, I want to call your attention to a very interesting point. Notice the word in v. 10, freewill. The only time this word is used in scripture is in regard to the giving of an offering. Never is this word freewill used in the since of man having self-determination and choice. Freewill is never used in regards to salvation and redemption.
Now, a little about this offering in Deuteronomy.
1. V. 9 This was to take place one time a year, with every one taking part in it.
2. V. 12 The purpose was to commemorate their deliverance from bondage from Egypt, and was given is thanks for what the Lord had done for them in this deliverance.
3. V. 10 There was no minimum or maximum set on this offering. It could be as large or as small as the individual desired. The size was determined by the amount of love and thankfulness they had toward the Lord for what He had done for them. It was determined by how much the Lord had blessed them.
4. V. 11 This offering was to be a time of rejoicing before the Lord for the whole family. In fact, for the whole nation, which is called the congregation of the Lord back here. This would be comparable to the whole church rejoicing before the Lord for His goodness and blessings upon them as they give freely of the prosperity which the Lord has provided.
Fallen human nature thinks of any giving at all as a time of mourning. This was rejoicing in their giving above the tithe.
5. On the negative side of this. To fail to give in this offering was considered theft from God, just as sure as was the failure to tithe, Mal. 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
6. The result of not giving the tithes and offering was a curse on the people of God, Mal. 3:9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
7. But back on the positive side of this offering is the blessings of the Lord upon His people, Mal. 3:10-12. (Look up)
As we mentioned, the offering in Proverbs 3:9 of the firstfruits is over and above the tithe. We see that this offering was required of the covenant-people, just as sure as was the tithe.
Proverbs 3:9 Honour the Lord.. with this offering of the first-fruits.
How do we honour the Lord in offering? We get an idea of at least 8 ways in Deut. 26:1-11, where we have an even clearer view of this requirement upon God's people and the purpose behind it.
1. V. 2, this was commanded. Therefore, we honour Him by obeying Him. It always brings honour to Him when we obey His laws.
2. V. 3, it professes that God is faithful to His covenant-promise. It is a thank offering for His blessings upon us as He promised as we would walk faithfully with Him.
3. V. 7, it professes that God hears and answers the cries of His people, especially in their distress.
4. V. 8, it celebrates His might in the redemption and blessing of His people. Therefore, it shows His people's thankfulness to the Lord for His deliverance from the bondage to sin.
5. V. 10, it recognizes that all of our increase came from the Lord.
6. V. 10, it is a way of worshiping Him.
7. V. 11, it is a way to rejoice before the Lord in all of His goodness.
8. V. 11, it shares His goodness with others.
Then the tithe on the increase is found in vs. 12-15.
Seeing as how we are not a farm-oriented people today, what would be the basic thought behind this offering. Would this thought would be still in effect today?
It speaks against the selfish use of God's temporal blessings. The natural tendency of our fallen nature is to see our prosperity as something to be used to increase our own possessions. As Christians we should see any increase in our prosperity as an increased opportunity to serve God and advance His Kingdom.
Also, the cry of this passage and the many more like it throughout the Scripture concerning giving, whether this freewill offering or the tithe, is Hag. 2:8. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.
Everything belongs to God, and it has only been given to us as stewards to be used to further His kingdom work here on this earth.
Thus, the offering of the firstfruits was a direct method of remembering that all things belonged to the Lord and came directly from Him.
It was an offering over and above the tithe which was commanded.
It was taken off the top before the harvest went into storage or to market.
It may have been only a bushel, but it was commanded. There was no set amount, but the amount given reflected the amount of love for the Lord and the appreciation of Him in His blessing.
Now, how is this applied today?
This would be the offerings over the tithe. It was commanded and is found in the same verse as is the tithe, but unlike the tithe (10%), no minimum is set. It could be a few cents or many dollars. The love for the Lord determines this amount. And it was given once a year.
The selfish person will only give the bare minimum of what is required of him, whether to the Lord or to others. The one who loves the Lord and others, will go beyond the bare minimum.
This is like a child. The child who will only do what is absolutely the minimum is not much of a joy to his parents. The one who brings the joy is the one who goes over and above what is required of him.
As we mentioned, we find a reference to this offering over in Mal. 3:8 in the mention of the offering. To fail in this offering was robbery from God. Again, there is no minimum to this offering. Obedience gives the tithe and gives the freewill offering, and our love for the Lord and our thankfulness to Him sets the amount.
We find another free will offering in EX. 36:3-6.
Here we see that the tabernacle was to be built out of the free will gifts of the willing. Not everyone gave to this, only the ones who wanted to put feet to their faith and build this tabernacle. Notice how often they gave to build this building, v. 3, every morning.
Even though the pattern for the tabernacle had been given to Moses, it was not built until the funds were in hand. We will find this consistent in the building of the temple latter under Solomon, then the repairs latter under following kings, and then even the rebuilding under Ezra. At all times, the funds had to be in hand to build, and they were funds given of the free will out of thankfulness for what the Lord had done for them. If the funds ran out, the work stopped.
The obvious application is that the buildings of the house of the Lord must never be built on debt. And these funds here under Moses were not the tithe. The tithe was used for the upkeep, but not for building the original buildings. These were moneys freely given by the covenant-people for this specific purpose.
A very important point, often overlooked, is in Ex. 36:4. Here we have the first labor dispute and work stoppage. And what was this dispute over?
They had much more than enough to do the work, so the contractor asked Moses to stop the people from giving.
Why did they give so much that they had to be told to stop?
This is what I think. The tabernacle was built between the stop at the Mount for the law and the arrival at the border of Canaan. The total trip from Egypt to the border of Canaan was under a year. Therefore, their wonderful deliverance from the bondage to Egypt was still fresh in their minds. When the Lord presented to them a physical way to show their gratitude for their deliverance by giving in this offering, they gave more than enough.
Now, this freewill giving and restraint by Moses indeed presents a strange situation, as well as principle for the financing of the Lord's work.
First, it shows us that just enough is enough. (Though not intentional, there is a one-page article on this in the bulletin.)
Next, it shows us that our giving must be for the financing of the upkeep and the expansion of the kingdom work. In other words, this speaks against 'squirreling' money away. What comes in is to be used to advance the kingdom of God on this earth. He will supply daily our daily bread as His people obey the word of God and remain faithful in their giving. (As we have extra money, we send out salvation books.)
This is not against individual savings and planing for the future.
Last, this shows us that ministries that raise money to set aside are in opposition to this principle. Money is to be raised to finance the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
Now back to the offering of Proverbs 3:9. The result of obeying v.9 is v. 10.
What is the biggest danger if a child of God reaches v. 10.
This passage shows us that it was in direct proportion to their remembering of Him that He blessed them. As they forgot the Lord, He forgot them and removed His blessing from them. In fact, we will find as we follow the history of Israel through, as He removed His blessing from them, He exalted their enemies over them.
The same is true today. As the covenant-people have forgotten the Lord, He has removed His blessings from them and it appears that He has exalted the heathen God-haters over them. Their enemies now rule.
Therefore, what is our safest bet? It is to give the firstfruits. In other words, the more we make, the more we should give to the Lord. It is a reminder that He provided the prosperity.
The freewill offering:
It was taken once a year.
There was no minimum set. It was the love for the Lord and thankfulness for His blessings, which determined the amount.
It was commanded, just as sure as was the tithe. Those who did not give in this offering were considered God-robbers, just as the ones who did not tithe.
The civil government nor the church had no authority to enforce this or the tithe. It was between the individual and his Lord. The Lord took care of the ones who did not give in His own way and time.
These things that seem unimportant to us are important to God. And just because He has provided no human agency to enforce these laws, does not mean He overlooks them. Hebrews 10:28-31 speaks to situations exactly like this.
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