Wealth is discussed more than most topics in the Scriptures, including Proverbs. In this sermon, we look at the central principle of Proverbs on money in 3:9-10: wealth is for worship.
Wealth is for worship.
Proverbs 3:9 begins, “honor the LORD with your wealth”. What we do with our money is a great indication of the honor we give. Some show honor to fashion, fitness and beauty with their money. Other show honor to their kids. Many give honor to comfort, leisure and security.
For the man or woman of God, the supreme place of honor belongs to God alone. He is the source, sustainer and savior of our lives. Just like every other aspect of our lives, what we do with our wealth and possessions should clearly reveal a reverence for God.
So what does that look like?
We worship God with our first fruits.
Proverbs 3:9 continues, “and with the firstfruits of all your produce.”
What are first fruits? The concept goes all the way back to the beginning. Abel and Cain, the first sons of humanity, offered to God a portion of their new livestock and grain. The concept is expanded with Abraham in Genesis 14, who offers a tithe to the priest of God. And in Leviticus, the law proscribes three tithes for the people of Israel – a tithe for the support of the Levitical priests, a tithe for a feast of worship and thanksgiving, and a tithe for the support of the poor.
To return to God the first (not the last fruits or the left over fruits, but the first) is an act of reverence for God. It is an act of obedience. It’s an act of trust. And it’s an act of gratitude.
But is it something for today? That’s a complicated question, and we don’t have a crystal clear answer. In Matthew 23 Jesus rebuked a group of Pharisees for their narrow emphasis on the intricacies of the tithe. His solution? Practice the tithe without neglecting greater things like justice.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul carried over the Old Covenant concept of the Levitical tithe into the New Covenant practice of the church, ordaining that those who preach the gospel should get their living from the gospel – through the contributions of those in the church.
At Vintage we believe that each Christian should honor God with their wealth, through a tithe given to the local church. But we are not dogmatic about that. The bottom line is that every individual should develop a practice of establishing one great and fixed line item in their budget – The Glory of God.
But what if I have other plans for my money? What if money is tight?
Our generosity flows from God’s generosity.
Proverbs 3:10 concludes, “then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Our fears are anticipated in the Scriptures, here and elsewhere. In Micah 3, as God rebukes his people for neglecting the tithe, he invites them to test his generosity and see what God will do for them in return for their worship. In Luke 6:38, Jesus encouraged generosity with the promise that those who give will be given more to give with.
Does this sound suspiciously like a prosperity gospel message? It sure does. But notice a fundamental difference. Proverbs is meant to spur us on to give to God with faith – to honor him with our wealth. The prosperity gospel reverses the formula. It encourages us to honor our wealth with the Lord, to use him as a means to greater wealth for ourselves.
The promise of God’s generous provision for those who give is meant to create conduits for the gracious love of God in the world. And to create counter cultural signs that point to eternity. When God’s people freely honor God with generous giving, the world takes notice and follows our line of vision to the great God we serve.
He did not spare his own son, how will he not graciously give us all things?
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown