Honour the Lord With Thy Substance
Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI)
*This article was originally written as a devotional for his fellow teachers at Hope CS. It is posted here because of its broader value for our website readers.
Proverbs 3:9-10: “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”
Solomon in his book of wisdom now gives us some economic advice. Imagine, money-making advice from one of the most successful businessmen of his age! What size crowd would be drawn by Donald Trump were he to give a lecture in a large convention hall, especially if admission were free? I’ve read that he has a popular television series based on his business. He also is on the radio giving business tips. People who have the ability to make money are listened to very attentively. There are times when even the most disinterested of our students perk up their ears if they believe they will soon learn something which would help them to make money. No, I do not feel bad that I do not have a different audience because none of you strike me as possible attendees for the next how-to-make-money seminar.
Verse ten certainly presents to us a beautiful picture. We see a barn filled with plenty. Remember the teachers’ convention in Iowa? The fields were either ready for harvest or had been harvested already. Fields of corn and soybeans reached to the horizon. There were large trucks beginning to haul some of the harvest to grain elevators. It was hard to believe that there could be anyone in the entire world who would have to go to bed hungry.
Old Testament farmers would gather their harvest into barns. Barns gave protection as well as a storage area. A farmer whose barn contained heaped piles of the fruit of his labour would be joyful. Here was the product of all his diligent labour during the past growing season. He toiled through long days of back- breaking work to see his barn in this condition. The fullness of his barn would give him great joy. Here was the means to provide for his family!
We think of barns as holding the essentials of life, the grain which would be used to make bread. Solomon also speaks of the luxury and happiness of wine. A husbandman would be thrilled to see his presses to full with new wine that they were bursting. Perhaps he could already see the smiles on the faces of his loved ones as they drank wine with him.
Solomon instructs us on how to have such plenty. There seems to be a catch, though, because Solomon does not write about the proper methods of fertilizing, ploughing, pruning or rotating crops. There is nothing here about irrigation systems or what to do to care for the crops if they receive too much or too little rain or sunshine.
Solomon speaks of honouring God with our substance as the way to gain such prosperity. Those who had gathered in Solomon’s business seminar might now feel tricked out of their admission fee were they to hear such a business plan as that. There is similar advice in other places of the Bible. Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God and all our earthly needs will be added to us (Matt. 6:33). In the days of Haggai, when the people said they could not give for the purpose of building the temple because they did not even have enough for their families, God told them to build the temple first, then watch as God opened the windows of heaven for them so that their barns were not able to hold all their increase. God also instructs us that the way to reap bountifully is to sow bountifully. The increase is in what goes out of the hand, not in what we strive to keep in it.
We give God the first-fruits of our increase. This is a reference to Old Testament history. God purchased for Himself the people of Israel in the night He slew all the firstborn men and cattle of Egypt. Israel’s first-born were now His. It was representative of the fact that He really had purchased them all, setting them free from the cruel bondage of Egypt. Israel then gave the first-fruits to God in appreciation and remembrance of all that God had done for them. Where would they be without His delivering arm? How much of the increase of their labour would be theirs if they were still slaves in Egypt?
How much should we give of our increase to Him? We have not been delivered from mere physical slavery. We have been set free from the bondage of sin and the prospect of continual death in hell. What will a man give in exchange for his physical life, let alone his soul?
Who can truly honour God with their substance? Would God be able to discern those who gave to Him only as a way to grow rich? What of all those who recently were so happy to learn about the prayer of Jabez as the way to have God prosper their work? What is first in their hearts? Is serving God their highest good or is serving Him only the means to obtain something which they believe is better still?
We might not be able to make the financial contributions which others can, yet may God be pleased with the lives of service we sacrifice to Him in the cause of the instruction of His covenant seed.