Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce. Proverbs 3:9 NRSV
Given what we read in Psalm 24, the text for this devotional seems a little odd. In Psalm 24:1 we read, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is within it, the world and those who live in it;…” Reading that verse in concert with Proverbs 3:9-10, affirms that everything … the earth and all that is within it, the world and those who live in it … already belong to God. Thus, we may conclude that nothing … not one solitary thing belongs to us. What is more we belong to God!
And what do we read in Proverbs 3:9? “Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce.” Our substance here can be understood as our money and possessions. We are to give symbolically a gift that already belongs to God. Since the gift already belongs to God, what we end up giving is the honor attributed to the gift. While we belong to God, we are in control of our attitudes and emotions. By giving of our substance with gratitude and joy, we honor the Lord who has given us everything and to whom we belong.
Now the “first fruits” mentioned in Proverbs 3:9 does not apply only to farmers. In the time of this writing, society was largely an agrarian one. Many people were farmers who grew barley, dates, figs, grapes, lentils, olives, etc. There were also farmers who raised calves, chickens, goats, and lambs. At harvest time it was customary to give the “first fruits” to God. Since most of us are not employed as farmers, what does it mean for us to give our “first fruits”? It means that we give to God “first” from our income or salary. It means that we take God’s portion out “first” rather than giving to God what we have left in our change. By separating our gift to God “first” from our wealth, we honor God with that “first fruit.”
The tenth verse suggests that our giving to God to honor Him means that you and I will be blessed even more. With the increase in our substance and our “first fruits” as a result of God’s blessing, then you and I could give God even more. Certainly there is truth there, but if we focus on that so much, then we can lose sight of how much we have already been blessed in the first place. God has richly blessed us and so you and I have the opportunity to honor God by giving of our substance and our first fruits.
Dear God, thank You for blessing us that we can give in return to honor You. Keep us ever mindful that we and all we have belong to You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.