First fruits and offerings

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The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me. (Deut. 26:8-10)

Tithes and offerings are two different things.

The tithe, or “tenth,” is the giving of one’s first fruits back to God in gratitude. It is an objective giving — that is to say, tithing is meant to be done deliberately and first. Some people make their tithe the first check they write each month. Others set up an automatic payment. In either case, tithing is a deliberate, routine practice.

Offerings, on the other hand, are more subjective. Paul spends a fair amount of time in his letters talking about the offering he is taking up for the benefit of the church in Jerusalem, and we will read one such appeal tomorrow:

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:7-8)

Offerings are free gifts, given generously as specific needs arise, and given out of our abundance.

Like most Americans, I’m pretty good at offerings. I’m ready to contribute when asked, whether it’s through a neighbor’s foundation or through Episcopal Relief and Development, or by donating to Goodwill or spending time to help with a fundraising event. When asked, I tend to rise to the occasion, and I think most people do, too.

Where I do not do well at all is in tithing — the objective offering of my money to God.

I have only tithed for brief periods in my life, and while I can easily offer the first fruits of my time (rising early for the last 20 years to say Morning Prayer, for example), I struggle to make the same routine offering of my money.

Let the lessons today sit with you as you think about your own relationship with money and with God.

How do you make routine giving a habit? How do you respond with offerings for specific needs? How might God’s generosity draw from your abundance in a new way?

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