Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; ¹⁰then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. —Proverbs 3:9-10
At first glance, it may be easy to stash these words away in the category of “tithing.” The mention of first fruits, that portion of the harvest that is picked first, points us to tithing, giving to God a prescribed portion of the wealth he gives to you.
At second glance, it may be easy to pack this wisdom into the category labeled, “prosperity” —if I do right by God, He’ll do right by me. God certainly does make promises, the fulfillment of which requires a measure of faith and obedience.
But as we take these words and hide them in our heart, we want to do far more than merely glance at them. We want to learn them and love them, and let them lead us to love even more the One who gave them to us.
Many years ago, as a young man working my way through college, the Lord urged me to take on a summer mission in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. I had no money in those days to spare for deposits and travel expenses and immunizations and passports and personal needs, but I agreed to go. God gave me an unrelenting conviction that it was His plan for me in that moment and I agreed, though I had no idea how such an adventure in obedience could possibly materialize.
So, I prayed. I prayed a lot. I talked to the Lord about what was needed to grow willingness into obedience, and don’t you know, He supplied every single need and then some. I went to Haiti abundantly supplied and wealthy in comparison with those I was to serve.
One day the men of our team were outside painting a house while the women were cleaning the inside. Inadvertently, while cleaning the bedroom, the girls left our backpacks within arm's reach of the window bars. We returned to our room at noontime to discover my empty wallet thrown in the middle of the bed and my friend’s camera missing.
I was devastated and angry. All the money I had left for the remaining two weeks in Haiti had been in that wallet. It was all gone. I left the house, crossed the road to the cove, and waded out to a large, surf-beaten rock to talk to God about the injustice I was suffering. “How could you do this?” I asked through salty tears made more so by the ocean spray. “How could you let someone take all my money?”
That was as far as I got. God spoke to my spirit in that firm, gentle way I have come to know and love. “Whose money, Dale?” There on that rock, God reminded me that I’d made no contribution to this entire adventure from what I might have called my meager college student resources. Every dime, even the funds that had been taken, came from Him.
“All wealth comes from Me, son. I own the cattle on a thousand hills, and I give the ability to make wealth. Might I not do with what is mine as I please, even to feeding a desperate Haitian family without your consent?”
I learned that to honor the Lord with wealth means more than simply tithing or spending wisely, though those are both included. Honoring the Lord with our wealth means living with open hands (and by extension, open wallets and checkbooks and bank accounts and stock portfolios and home equities and everything else), so that the One to whom it all belongs may place in our hands, or take from them, as he pleases, for his glory.
Honoring the Lord with our wealth means holding all things that concern us as His and subject to His will. Job expressed this truth when he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
The heart that can live like that honors the Lord with its wealth.