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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Tony Evans » Tony Evans - Giving to God First

Tony Evans - Giving to God First

Tony Evans - Giving to God First
TOPICS: Generosity, Tithe

Proverbs 3, verses 9 and 10. Proverbs 3, verses 9 and 10, "Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce, so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine". A preacher one day was trying to get his church excited about the new level he wanted to see God take the ministry. And so he was just preaching up a storm and he said, "Brothers and sisters, for this church to get to the next level, you know, we've been crawling, we've been beginning this ministry, but it's time for us to walk".

He had a lot of deacons behind him who said, "Yes, Rev, let the church walk. Let the church walk". He said, "And after we've walked for a while and gotten our footing straight, then we're gonna start to run. We gonna run as a church". Group of deacons behind him said, "Yeah, Rev. Yeah, Rev, we gonna run. We gonna run. We gonna start walking, but then we gonna run". The preacher said, "And after we've run for a while, it'll be time to fly. We gonna fly as a ministry, we're gonna fly as a church". Deacons behind him said, "Yeah, we gonna fly. We're gonna fly. We gonna fly as a ministry". The preacher said, "Now in order to fly, it's gonna take money". The deacons said, "Let the church walk, let the church walk".

When we come to talk about God being first, it's a lot easier to talk about him being first in our praise and first in our adoration and first in this and that. But when you hit this subject, we can get a little sensitive. But yet, this is one of the places where God uses the word first. And so to skip it would be to skip scripture, and it not only applies to the pew, it applies to the pulpit and back again. Not like the three preachers. The three preachers were out there, they were discussing how they give, and one preacher said, "Well, I draw a circle and I take what the Lord has given me and I throw it up. Whatever lands in the circle is his, whatever lands outside of the circle is mine".

Second preacher said, "Well, I do a little something like that. I draw a circle and I throw up everything he's given me. Whatever lands in the circle is mine and whatever lands outside of the circle is his". Third preacher says, "I don't have to go through all that. I don't draw no circle. I take whatever he's given me and I throw it up. Whatever he wants, he keeps. Whatever falls down is mine". The word "first of your produce" is translated another word in many versions, first fruits. First of your produce or, as it is often translated, first fruits. He says, "Honor the Lord with your wealth and from the first fruits, or the first of all your produce".

God wants to be first in every area of your life. He does not want to be an addendum. He doesn't wanna be an extra. He doesn't wanna be what's left. He wants to be front and center, first. First fruits comes from an agrarian economy, that is, they were farmers. And so when they farmed the land and they brought up crops of fruit or vegetables, God says, "The first of what I give you is not yours. It is holy to the Lord".

He describes first fruits in Deuteronomy chapter 26 where he says, in verse 10, "Now, behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which you, O Lord, have given me, and you have set it down before the Lord your God and worshiped before the Lord your God, and you and the Levite and the alien whom is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given you and your household. When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan, to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied".

So the first fruit was the tithe that belonged to the Lord. It was what they were supposed to do in order to worship God and recognize him as their source or, as it says in Deuteronomy chapter 14, verse 23, "You shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God at the place where he chooses to establish his name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, your first born of your herd and your flock so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always".

So with first fruits, there was to be a lesson related to worshiping God and fearing God, that is, taking God seriously. And so God says, "The first portion," the first tenth, "of what I give you is not yours. It is holy to the Lord". He went so far as to say in Malachi chapter 3, "If you take the first fruits," the tenth, "of what I have given you and keep it from me, you are robbing me". So, many people come to church in stolen clothes. Many folk drive to church in stolen cars. In fact, a bunch of folk live in stolen homes because they have robbed God in order to do it. He says, "When you rob me, you literally rob yourself, for," he says, "the devourer will come," or as Haggai chapter 1, verses 3 through 11 says, "You wind up putting it in a bag full of holes".

You think you're saving it. On the front end, you have it, but I cut a hole in your pocket so that you'll wind up spending it anywhere, elsewhere. He says, "When you rob me, you have robbed yourself". He states that this is a spiritual principle that is beyond money, it's beyond fruit. "It's really whether you view me as your source". It says, "The tithe or the first fruit was recognition that what you receive comes from me". The grocery store, Minyard's up the street, is not your source. It is merely a distribution channel so you can pick up something that has come from another source.

Every piece of fruit, every piece of vegetable that you get at the grocery store at Minyard's is only because it was farmed, and it could only be farmed because there was seed. But seed could only grow because it was planted. It could only be planted because there was soil, but it could only grow because there was sun and rain. No sun, no rain, no seed, no soil, no fruits, no vegetables. God would be the source. You have a channel for the resource. God doesn't want you getting excited about a channel where you can go buy it and not the source that gave it to you in the first place so you could go get it. He says, "I want to be recognized as your source, but I don't just wanna hear it from your lips. I wanna see it with your life, and the way I see it," he calls it first fruits.

"That is the recognition that I am your provider". That's why, even in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians chapter 16, verses 1 and 2, it says, "When you come to worship God on the first day of the week, you ought to bring your offering," why? Because it was tied to whether you were worshiping God or not. So to sing God praises, to open your Bible and read the Word while ripping him off is a contradiction. How can you receive worship from a thief? God has a lot of kids who want access to him. They want the key to heaven while they're ripping him off and then they wanna know, "Why God won't talk to me, answer my prayer, relate to me".

Who wants to hang out with a thief? The Bible says, "You do rob me of tithes and offerings," Malachi 3. This is not just something found under the law of Moses. It goes all the way back to creation. When God created Adam, "From every tree of the garden, you may freely eat. But the tree in the midst of the garden, you can't have that. I'm gonna put it there, but that's not yours. That tree is mine, because if you mess with that, you're messing with me". He did this all the way up into the law. He did it through the law, he did it in the New Testament, Hebrews chapter 7, verse 8, when it says, "Men continue to give their first fruits," or their tithe.

So the tithe or the first fruits was the way that you let God know you knew he was your source. So the issue was an issue of honor. And you would never have a problem with it because whatever is first you always know about. And so he calls it first fruits because it was to be the first thing that you consider. The very first thing a Jewish farmer did when his crops began to grow was to pick it and offer it to the Lord. So he says, "I want to receive the first fruits of your produce". So that was the main concept. And it went to the storehouse, which was the temple. Why did they bring it to the temple? Well, this is where we get into a sticky wicket.

You see, the temple was the house of God. It said in the scripture we read, Deuteronomy 26, "You ought to do it for the Levite. You ought to do it for the orphan. You ought to do it for the widow. You ought to do it for the stranger". Now, let me explain something. When you bring first fruits to God, God's not gonna eat it. He's not gonna eat bananas. He's not gonna eat cabbage. He's not gonna eat watermelon. He's not gonna eat. He's not gonna eat any of that you bring to the Lord, why? Because it wasn't for him to eat. It was for him and his ministry to use to be a blessing to somebody else. Now watch this. Therein is the difference between biblical giving and prosperity theology.

So let me deal with this lie that a lot of people are being taught and a lot of people are buying into called prosperity theology. Now, before I clarify this, I want you to understand that God does prosper. God is not against prospering. So he's not against you getting a raise. He's not against you being an entrepreneur. He's not even against you being wealthy. Deuteronomy 8:18, "I have given you the power to make wealth". So the issue of prospering is not an issue at all. God is for you prospering. But prosperity theology is to say, "Now here's the deal, God. I'm gonna bring you this, this offering, this money. I'm gonna bring you this so you can bless me.

In other words, I'm gonna cut a deal with you. I'm gonna give you this. I want you to multiply this so you can give me that back, tenfold". In other words, you create a business relationship with God. Now, if you do enough of that and you can preach it right, you can get a lot of people to show up who want their blessing, all right? They want to give to God to get from God for themselves. That is not what God is talking about in first fruits. That's not what I'm talking about today. When God talks about giving, he meant not that you were giving to get, but you were giving to minister. Big difference.

In other words, you were giving so that somebody else could benefit from the giving that you did. You had to be other-oriented in your motivation, not self-motivated. Prosperity theology says, "I am self-motivated. I'm doing this for me. I am self-motivated. I want you to feed my greed. I want you to pour into me, and that's why I'm doing it". Which means if I can manipulate you from this pulpit and make you feel like if you do this, you're gonna get this, then I can get you to do more while building personal coffers along the way. What God is saying is, "No, when you bring it to my house, the alien should be helped, the stranger should be helped. The ministry should be supported, the programs that minister to you should be enhanced. Ministry should occur because of first fruits that are given, not just personal benefit".

When the motivation is you, you've turned God off. When the motivation is others, you've got God's attention. And to make sure you are in the process and habit of ministering to people outside of yourself, he says, "Give first fruits to me and, within the context of the temple, it'll be spread out to others so you will actually invest in others". So it's a ministry motivation, not a selfish motivation. It's all the difference in the world. So first fruits was not for God to eat. It's so other folk could eat, so other folk could be ministered to who are hurting or in trouble or in difficulty. And so even you could be ministered to, but it was ministry driven. God wants to shoot a deal tangibly with him to demonstrate that you are serious.

A little boy in Sunday school one day, she was teaching him about giving, and she asked the little boy, she said, "If you had a million dollars, would you give it to God"? Little boy said, "Absolutely". She said, "If you had $1,000, would you give it to God"? He said, "Yes". "If you had $100, would you give it to God"? He said, "Yes, teacher". "If you had a dollar, would you give it to God"? He paused, grabbed his pocket. She said, "What's wrong"? He said, "I got a dollar in my pocket, and I..." In other words, we'll talk big about stuff we don't have. We'll talk big about something that hasn't happened yet. But God wants to know, what are you doing with what he has given you now, okay? Anybody can talk a good game.

Now, we know that this issue of money has been abused and misused, but we can't let the misuse of it deny us from the legitimate use of it. He says in that first line in Proverbs 3, verse 9, he says to "honor the Lord from your wealth". This is an issue of honor. It is recognizing God as the owner and source of your life. It is unfortunate today that most people wanna use God, even Christians, as a spare tire. "I want you in the vicinity in case life goes flat so I can pull you out and let you get things back in place until I start rolling on again. Then I'll put you back". We want him as a refueling station. We do not want to honor him.

Psalm chapter 50, verses 14 and 15, it says, "Honor the Lord by paying your vow, and do it with thanksgiving". God wants to be honored. He wants to be recognized as your source. If you ever get this lesson that you only have one source, you've got a million other resources, mechanisms that God has used, but you only have one source, and when you honor him. If the President of the United States came over to your house, he called you up and said, "I'd love to have dinner with you," you're probably not gonna say, "Okay, Mr. Pres., we got some leftovers here and we'd love to give you the leftovers". Because his position is not worthy of leftovers.

In fact, if you went to a restaurant and you looked at the menu and you chose what you want and they said, "Well, we think we got some leftovers of that. Some other people been nibbling on it, but don't worry about it because I think it's still fresh and we'll be glad to serve it," that would be unacceptable to you, you know why? Because the president doesn't deserve leftovers and you don't deserve leftovers when you go to a restaurant, and neither does God.

That is why he says in Malachi chapter 1, you giving me what you won't even give your governor. You give the top brass the best. You give me what's left over. And if it happens to be a tenth, fine, or if it's a fifth, fine, but it's what I have left because it was never addressed first. And one of the reasons we're not seeing more of God, not only in this financial area, but in the spiritual area, because this was tied to the spiritual, is because we get to God when we can. We get to God when we have time. We get to God when we have energy. We don't put him first. And so he says, "You are to look at me first". And when you do, he makes a staggering statement. He says in verse 10, "So your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine".

Now, that's the part everybody wants. We want verse 10. But verse 10 comes after verse 9, "Honor the Lord with your wealth and from the first fruits," that's the tithe, "that I give you. Then you will begin to see". But wait a minute, notice the order. First fruits was meant to honor God and benefit others. So you don't get verse 10 unless the ministry is occurring. If the ministry is not occurring, you haven't done what God has asked you to do, either in motivation or in what you give.

Paul says, "My God shall meet all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus," Philippians 4:19. But Philippians 4:19 only comes after Philippians 4:15, and in Philippians 4:15 he says, "Because you gave to the ministry and because you supported us reaching out, winning people, and because," Paul says, "you supported my ministry," now we can go to verse 19, "My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus".

In other words, don't be quoting verse 19 if you're skipping verse 15. Everybody wants to quote the second verse, but not the first verse. So he says, "I want you to prioritize me". Proverbs chapter 11, verses 24 and 25 says if you are stingy with God, God's gonna be stingy with you. A man came to his pastor, said, "Pastor, look, I got problems. When I was making $1,000 a month, $12,000 a year, I tithed. When I made $100,000 a year, I tithed. When I started making $500,000 a year, I'm struggling tithing. So, pray for me". Pastor said, "Okay, let us pray, 'Lord, would you take him back to $12,000 a year so he could start tithing again?'"

It's amazing, we get blessed more and give less. The average American gives 2.7% of their income to the Lord, okay? That's mega-theft, and they do it day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out, while at the same time asking to be mega-blessed, while at the same time wanting heaven to shower them. And even if they get it, they wind up having it in a bag full of holes. They wind up seeing their lives fall apart, their families fall apart, because there's no spiritual dynamic to their giving.

When you open a cereal box, you know, air puffs out. When you open potato chips, air pops out. You find out it wasn't a box full of anything. It wasn't a bag full of anything. It was a half bag or three-quarter cereal box because they put it with fluff, air, okay? God doesn't wanna have a fluff relationship with you. He doesn't want to have a pretend relationship with you, and "first" involves giving, and that involves honoring God and putting God first. God wants to know before your barns are filled and your vats are plenty, he wants to know that you had prioritized him, that he's not just an extra, that you're not getting around him when you can, when you feel like it, because you know he should be first in the sensitive area.

Jesus taught more about finances than anything else outside of salvation and eternity, why? Not 'cause he wanted to talk about money, but he knew that that would be an indicator light of how serious you are. So you shouldn't have to be begged, controlled, or tricked to give. You should recognize God deserves to be honored, people deserve to be ministered to. I'm gonna do my portion because I need that ministry too. And then I'm gonna trust God as a result of the right heart doing the right thing for the right motivation to take care and cover my back. That's the motivation. Now, I have over here, I got over here a bowl of apples. These are apples.

In fact, I have ten apples here. Ten apples. Nice big, juicy red apples, okay? I've got ten of 'em, okay? I've got ten, well, nine big red ones, and then a green one, but I'm gonna come to the green one in a moment. These ten apples, let's suppose they represent dollars. So that's $100 for an apple. Ten apples, like $1,000 worth of apples. That's what I got here. Now, God says, "All these apples come from me. All ten of them are sourced in me. You wouldn't have any apples if there were no me. But I want you to take this green apple, the tenth, and I don't want you to mess with this apple. This apple is holy to the Lord".

Now, for many of us, we're gonna say, "I'm losing one of my apples". God is saying, "No, no, no, no, no. You ought to look at this as being thankful that you gained nine apples. In other words, you're telling me that you know that the nine apples over here are sourced in me and that you provider. I am your provider. And so when you give your one apple to me so that somebody else can eat, when you give that to me, you ought to give it to me not mad, not upset, not frustrated, not irritated, not aggravated. You ought to give it to me with thanksgiving, because if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have a basket full of big red apples. I am the source of your provision. So you ought to give it to me knowing that I am responsible for what you've gained".

Now, here's what we do. If you've been in church for a while and you know, yeah, God says to give the first fruits to him, okay, the tithe belongs to him. The offering was what you gave over and above the tithe. A lot of people say who come to church, "I'm giving an offering". If you haven't given a tithe, you haven't given the offering, because the offering was over and above the tithe. But right now, I'm just talking about that.

So you got this tithe. You're looking at this 10%. You're looking at this. Yeah, I know I'm supposed to give this. But Lord, Lord, I need a new tire, because you understand it's rough out here, God. I need a new tire, God. And Lord, Lord, my family, we haven't been on a vacation in a year. Now, you know, Lord, I know you want me to rest. So you understand, you understand because I'm tired, I need a vacation. And Lord, these clothes I'm wearing, they're kinda old. I need a new suit because you don't want me going to church looking like anything. You want me looking okay.

So you understand, Lord, and my cousin asked me to borrow some money and, you know, that's my people, so I got to help them. So I know you understand. And I love you, Jesus. I love you. I've been worshiping you. I was raised in church. Lord, I'm a little short on my down payment on a new house I'm gonna buy. But I'm gonna tell everybody I love you. Everyone know I love you and, Jesus, my savings a little low. So I just want you to know, Jesus, that I love you. It's Sunday. It's Sunday. It's time for the offering. Here you go, Jesus.
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