ALWAYS PUT GOD FIRST
by Ayodeji Jeremiah
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Haggai 1: 2, 4-15
“Those who don’t make kingdom investments cannot have kingdom enjoyments”
– Matthew Ashimolowo
Until the returned Jews did what they should have done at first, God‘s blessing and prosperity could not be guaranteed over their lives. God’s word to them through Haggai provoked action within twenty-three days; they obeyed God (Haggai 1:1 & Haggai 1:12-15). They knew where the shoe was pinching them and realised that it was as a result of their inadvertent actions. “You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough; you drink but you never have your fill; you clothes yourselves but no one is warm and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6). They were working so hard but could not see the fruits of their labour. Things were not well with them economically and financially. “You have looked for much and lo it came to little and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew and the earth has withheld its’ produce. And I have called for a drought upon the land and the hills, upon the grain, the new wine, the oil, upon what the ground brings forth, upon men and cattle and upon all their labours” (Haggai 1: 9-11). Was God being wicked or unjust? Was He being inconsiderate? How could God expect these people who had just returned from exile to start paying tithes and building a house for Him? Some laws had been disobeyed and the natural order of things had been upset. It was as simple as that (Haggai 1: 4, 7-8). What are some of these laws that we are talking about. The law of tithing. The law of sowing. The law of first fruit. The law of giving to the needy. The law of respect for parents. The law of giving to the man of God who provokes an anointing over your life. They are in the Word of God. They cannot be changed. These laws work for unbelievers also. They work much more for believers. A major difference is that the wealth and success of the believer is preserved while that of the unbeliever cannot be guaranteed. Another major difference is that if you know these things and refuse to do them you put yourself in a precarious situation. God treats that as disobedience from His children. If you don’t do them because you don’t know them you are still in a precarious situation because God’s word says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me and since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4: 6). Ignorance is not an excuse.
God had instituted tithing ever before Malachi talked about it as a chastisement to the people of Israel in Malachi 3: 8-12. Abraham was the first man to pay a tithe (Genesis 14: 17-20) followed by Jacob (Genesis 28:22). This was ever before tithing was instituted as a covenant in Leviticus 27: 30-33. The tithe is supposed to be given to the priest (Deuteronomy 14: 28-29, Nehemiah 10: 38-39) who will bless it and offer it to the Lord. Jesus recognised the tithe himself in Matthew 23: 23. The tithe is a hallowed property of God. It doesn’t belong to you. You are robbing God, taking something that doesn’t belong to you by not paying the tithe. A refusal to give the tithe is an act of open rebellion and disobedience to God. There is a curse placed on those who do not tithe (Malachi 3:9). This curse means the removal of God’s entire blessing on your life. The removal of His peace, His joy, His favour, His hands upon you, His face upon you and His protection around you. This curse is not just an individual curse but a corporate curse upon the church (Malachi 3:9). If just one child of God is not paying the tithe in a church, it prevents God from pouring down that overflowing blessing upon that church. The blessing comes in trickles. You should therefore be concerned not only about your own tithe but also through prayer and encouragement about the tithes of others in your church. The opening of the windows of heavens means heaven’s ideas that will make you wealthy will be given to you. An overflowing blessing means that just one blessing that will not be able to contain you. Rebuking the devourer means that you will not spend your money on any unnecessary thing. God will preserve your finances in such a way that your income will surprise you and leave you wondering whether you are actually earning more than you are. Tithing ensures God’s protection over you. Anything you give more than the tenth, if you are not redeeming your tithe is actually treated by God as an offering. God will respect and honour your faith. But you have to keep paying the same amount once you start because God respects tradition.
Your offering is the seed that you sow to put into operation the law of sowing and harvest. A seed will always result in a harvest (2 Corinthians 9:6). It is actually the offering (the seed) that commands forth your prosperity and not the tithe. Abel’s offering brought him favour from the Lord (Genesis 4: 3-5). Noah’s offering brought the whole mankind favour from the Lord (Genesis 8: 20-22). God blessed Isaac because he sowed in the land (Genesis 26: 12). Solomon gave an offering that made him the richest man ever to live on this planet (1 Kings 3: 3-15). The offering is a freewill gift that you decide in your heart to give. The willingness must be there (Exodus 35: 21). You can determine your own harvest by the kind of seed (offering) that you sow. What you sow will first of all be buried, then die and then be resurrected (John 12:24, 1 Corinthians 15:36). When God wanted lots of children, He sowed His only Son Jesus Christ. When you give your seed to God, He takes it, blesses it, breaks it and gives it back to you (John 6: 9-13). The process was only speeded up in John 6: 9-14 as a miracle. Normally the harvest takes time but it will always come. Sowing is a continuous activity that you do all the time (Ecclesiastes 11: 1-6). When you sow you have to sow your very best and with the right attitude. It is not just any kind of seed that is acceptable to God (Malachi 1: 6-14). Another type of seed (offering) that you sow is the first fruit offering. The first fruit was instituted in Exodus 23:19, Leviticus 23: 10-14 and Deuteronomy 26: 1-11. The first fruit is a symbolic offering that you give to God consecrating your entire harvest to God and as a pledge of the full harvest that is yet to be gathered (Romans 11:16). Your first fruit honours God (Proverbs 3:9) and brings forth an increase in your life (Proverbs 3: 10). The first fruit could be your first profit in the year, your first salary in the year and any increase that God gives you in your earnings or business subsequently. It honours God and leaves Him no choice but to bless you. The first fruit is also given to the priest who blesses it and offers it to God.
Giving to the poor is another law of God that we have to obey to prosper and be successful. “But the needy shall not always be forgotten and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever” (Psalm 9:18). Giving to the poor and needy is not just something you should do as a ministry or charity work but because it commands the blessing of God on your life. It protects and preserves your life and delivers you from your enemies. “Blessed is he who considers the poor! The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; thou does not give him up to the will of his enemies” (Psalm 41: 1-2). “One man gives freely yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it” (Proverbs 11: 24-26, Proverbs 28:27). You also honour God by giving to the needy (Proverbs 14:31). Giving to the poor brings you favour (Proverbs 19:6). Giving to the poor means that you are lending to God. God cares for the needy and takes care of them (Proverbs 22:22). If for no other reason at all this is the best reason to give to the needy (Proverbs 19:17). God does not owe any man and will always repay. The apostles recognised this principle of giving to the poor and practiced it (Acts 4: 34-35, Acts 6: 2-6). Paul recognised this principle and taught and encouraged it in all the churches that he planted (2 Corinthians 9: 1-5, Galatians 6: 9-10, Titus 3: 14). Our Lord Jesus Christ also recognised this principle and gave it as an instruction (Luke 14: 13-14).
Respect for parents is the first law of financial prosperity and success (Exodus 20:12). This commandment is the first commandment with a promise (Ephesians 6:1-2). Blessing your parents and sowing in their lives ensures that it will be well with you. The Bible says that if you do not take care of your relatives you have denied the faith and you are worse than an unbeliever (1Timothy 5:8). It is a duty that we must carry out but also one that brings wealth and success along with it. The prodigal child in Luke 15: 11-24 dishonoured his father and was worse off for it financially. His father’s blessings were not on him. Lot also dishonoured Abraham’s position to him as a father by choosing first instead of allowing Abraham to make the first choice. Things didn’t work out for him eventually. (Genesis 13: 2-18). Jacob received Abraham and Isaac’s blessings because he obeyed his parents (Genesis 28: 1-9). Esther became the Queen and obtained favour because she obeyed her adopted father (Esther 2: 1-15). The Bible says that houses and wealth are inherited from fathers (Proverbs 19:14) but even if you don’t have anything to inherit from your parents, must you inherit their curses too? (Exodus 21:17 and Proverbs 20:20). Eli’s sons’ disobedience to their father brought about their destruction (1 Samuel 2: 22-25).
Another group of people we must respect and bless is the man of God who provokes God’s anointing over our lives. Paul said to the Philippians in Philippians 4:17 “Not that I seek the gift; but I seek the fruit which increases to your credit”. The Philippian church had entered into partnership with Paul in giving and receiving. Paul was grateful for their gifts though he wouldn’t have been any less comfortable if they hadn’t given the gifts. But because they had given the gifts they were going to be blessed in return. This is the genesis of the prayer which he says for them in Philippians 4:19 which we all quote so well. Blessing the man of God provokes a favour, an increase and a blessing to your own advantage. You are not doing that man of God any favour because God will take care of him anyway even if you don’t. The widow of Zarephath came into her place of wealth because she obeyed God’s commandment to her to meet the need of a man of God (1 Kings 17:8-16). Two women (a poor widow and a rich married woman) both gave to the man of God in different ways in 2 Kings 4: 1-37 and both had their different needs met. Mary gave to Jesus and had great favour upon her life because of that (Luke 7: 36-50 and Mark 14: 3-9). We now read about Joseph of Arimathea because he gave to God. Giving to the man of God is also just like lending to God. He doesn’t owe and always pays back. Always put God first in your finances and obey His laws on finances, success and wealth and you can’t go wrong in the long run. It always pays and always works. The only thing is that God might not be interested in the things that you have got to offer until you first show an interest and accept the great Lamb offering He has to offer for the atonement of your sins. Your sacrifices and offerings go up faster to God if you have accepted His offering of His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.
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