You go to the kitchen and grab the cereal out of the pantry, the jug of milk out of the fridge, walk over to the table and pour out the cereal and then the milk on top of it and then get a bowl out of the cupboard and place it on the table.
What you end up with is a huge mess and nothing to eat! You could empty an entire box of cereal and entire gallon of milk and you still would not have enough on the table to fill you up.
You did everything right, but you did it in the wrong order. If you had first gotten the bowl out of the cupboard and placed it on the table, prepared a place to receive it, and then poured the cereal into the bowl and the milk over the cereal, you’d be ready to eat with no mess at all! Not only that, you would have some left over to share with others AND ALSO the container necessary to carry it to them.
You can do all of the right things in life, but still completely fail if they are not done in the right order.
You can do all of the right things in life, but still completely fail if they are not done in the right order.
Just like the old idiom says, “First things first.” Priorities are so critically important in life and especially in our new life in Christ. We have to roll before we crawl, crawl before we walk, and walk before we run. Well, generally speaking at least.
Firsts are important in life. Our first step, first kiss, first home run, first word, first game animal harvested, first car, and so on. Firsts are important to God, too. Throughout the scriptures, under both the old and new covenants of faith, we see the importance of firsts; especially the first born and the first fruits.
These were both to be consecrated to God. They are holy, hallowed, set apart, sacred, devoted to God. God first. At the very beginning, even before the law was given to Moses, we understood that everything we have comes from God and that He deserves our first and best.
2…Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
They both brought an offering. Abel brought the firstborn to give to the Lord, Cain brought some of the fruits. Although we often hear the difference in their offerings being the content; fruits and veggies versus meat. However, I feel that it wasn’t necessarily the content of their offering, but their attitude in what was being offered.
Abel brought the first and the best to offer to the Lord where Cain just brought some of what he had harvested. Do we give God our first and best or whatever we have left over if we have anything left over?
We also see this happening with Abraham and Melchizedek long before Moses and the old covenant law. However, it was certainly a part of the law as well.
1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”
9 The Lord said to Moses, 10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. 12 On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the Lord a lamb a year old without defect, 13 together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the Lord, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. 14 You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.
What is the point of giving to God before ourselves? It’s a practical and sacrificial expression of our trust in God. It is a practical way for us to show God that we understand that all that we are and all that we have is His. We are simply stewards over it; managers who have been entrusted by God and will have to give an account for how we handled it.
It’s also more so a reminder to ourselves of this reality. It’s a way to remind ourselves that God is ultimately our true provider as we give back to Him our first and our best. Most of us are familiar with the first few verses here, but Solomon went on to show us the litmus test of whether we are really living out the familiar verses. Most of us aren’t so familiar with that test…
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Back to our initial object lesson, this isn’t really about giving God money or time or any other resource that we have. God doesn’t need anything from us. What this is about is about putting first things first. It’s about where our own priorities and values lie. It’s about what we are trusting in.
Are we trusting in the Lord with all our heart? Well, our bank statements and calendars will clearly reveal that to us. Are we building our own kingdoms or His? Are we putting ourselves first or Him?
What happens if we don’t put Him first? Well, let’s just say that it really is for our own good and benefit that we keep the Lord first…
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat-
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Does it seem like enough is just never enough? The more that you work and the more that you earn, the less time and money that you end up having? Do you ever feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back in life? Are you kept up at night worrying about how you are going to make things work? The root issue could be as simple as the Lord not being first in our priority list…
If you’re feeling that way, well, you’re far from the first one to end up in that place in life. In fact, I think that most of us have ended up there and forced to re-evaluate things. At one point, all of God’s people had gotten busy in life and had forgotten to put Him first. God sent the prophet Haggai to get His people to stop and consider the way that they were living and what the results were as well as to call them back to a right way of living!
1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest:
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”
3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.
13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. 14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.
1 on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, 3 ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? 4 But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’
6 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
What just happened makes no earthly, logical sense. The people were working so hard and were so busy, but never getting ahead. Everything that they did to make ends meet with great expectation still left them coming up short.
Then, they obeyed what God was calling them to do and put Him first. After the first month of working hard for the Lord first, it still didn’t look like they accomplished much. God had to send them word again to be strong and to encourage them and warn them not to fear.
After a little while, God shook up the entire earth and all of the nations. That shaking caused the house of the Lord with glory; a great glory than ever before! Only then were the people at peace. God’s people obediently did their part to prepare a place, like the bowl earlier, and God faithfully did His part by filling that place with His glory, like the cereal and milk earlier.
Jesus re-affirmed this as an everlasting pattern for us to follow.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[c]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
This morning, let’s take time to seriously reflect on our priorities. Is God’s kingdom first in our lives? Are we preparing a place so that He can fill it?
Do our lives look more like the mess on the table where no matter how much cereal and milk gets poured out, we will still never have anything to eat? Or have we prepared our lives like an empty bowl in faith that God will fill them that we would be satisfied and also able to carry that blessing to others?