Stewardship is Wise

by Norman Bishop


“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10 NIV

King Solomon’s book of Proverbs provides the reader with practical advice for abundant living. In this passage, we have to understand the practice of the early Hebrews. They were required in the Old Testament Torah to give to the priests the first part of the olive oil, wine, and grain that they produced every year. The assurance in the second part of the Proverbs passage was that God would bless those who faithfully brought tithes and offerings to God with abundance so great that they would not have room to store it all. “Firstfruits” is the consistent practice of giving God the first and best.

The Hebrew word re’shyith is translated “firstfruits” It literally means, “the first in place, time, order or rank.” As our Creator and Provider, God wants us to give Him the first of all we garner. The overflowing abundance promised inthe second part of the passage comes from the root word “male’,” or sometimes spelled “mala’.” Mala, or overflowing, simply means more than can be kept.

Mathew Henry, in his commentary on the book of Proverbs, discusses the importance of honoring God. He speaks the honor as being so complete, that we give back to Him the first of whatever he gives us. He says that we should honor God with our bodies, our spirit and our estates, (all of our worldly possessions). In doing so, we will live on annual yield and thus maintain a clear dependence upon God.

Without such faith-building dependence, we drift and become proud and self-reliant like the non-believers of the world who trust their own intellect and resources to survive. Solomon’s instructions are clear- we give God the first, live on what we need, and give the rest to the needy. If we do so we will have overflowing barns and a cellar full of wine. In today’s world, our bank accounts would have more money in them than we need, and our mortgages would be paid off.


The concept of firstfruits began in the book of Genesis with Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4:2-7, Moses writes:

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” NIV

At the dawn of history, God asked for the firstfruits of all a man owned. Specifically, God asked for a blood sacrifice-the same sacrifice God made when He slaughtered animals to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 3:21). Although Genesis 4 does not specifically say that Cain and Abel knew God’s plan concerning firstfruits, it is obvious that they were cognizant of God’s requirement. Otherwise, God would not have asked Cain “…If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” From this simple question we can deduce that Cain understood God’s plan.

But in Genesis 14:18-24, Abraham had rescued his nephew Lot from his enemies, the neighboring kings. Following
Abraham’s victory, a mystical priest named Melchizedek met him as he returned from battle. We learn that he was not
only a priest but a king. Abraham, when faced with this “king of righteousness” and “king of Salem” (king of peace),
immediately gave him a tenth of everything. (Hebrews 7:1-22) The writer to the Hebrews informs us that Melchizedek
was without mother or father, and was eternal. Hebrews 7:3 calls him a “priest forever.” Such a holy, supernatural appearance of this kingly priest compelled Abraham to give his tithe. The author of Hebrews further teaches that Christ
was a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

As believers in Christ, Abraham’s gift to this “priest-king” is a perfect example of how we should offer to God a “firstfruits” gift of all that we possess. We do not give begrudgingly, or even out of subservience or fear. We give to Jesus because we are overwhelmed with His greatness, purity, and generosity. Nothing is more natural to pour out all that we have in His presence. The writer to the Hebrews states in Hebrews 7:15-22:

“And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek .” Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” NIV

• Do you tithe, give part of what God has given to you back to His works? How have you communicated that to your children, the people you mentor, your grandchildren?

• How does a generous heart transform your life? How will it affect your worship? Your relationships? Your attitudes?


Stewardship is a spiritual issue. The connection between giving to God and loving Him is clearly taught in Malachi, the last of the prophetic writings in the Old Testament. Malachi 1:6 indicates that the sacrifices we offer to God demonstrate our respect for Him as our Heavenly Father:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” NIV

Offering our best resources to God is a reflection of our relationship with Him. We worship, honor and revere Him because He is our Heavenly Father. The connection of devotion between parent and child would naturally produce an attitude of gratefulness from the child for his parent- reciprocity is a natural response. No sacrifice is too great to make for someone you love. Our gifts to God should be an instinctive outgrowth of our intimacy with Him.

Malachi paints a second portrait of stewardship in Malachi 1:6. The prophet depicts a master who deserves complete obedience and devotion from his servant. Giving our best to the God of the universe is not simply a request from God-it is a command. The holy, all-powerful, eternal Creator of the universe should be recognized and worshipped with our best gifts for Him.

The writer further teaches us that failing to give God His rightful due is a spiritual issue. In Malachi 3:16, he teaches that man perpetually disobeys God’s commands. The previous verse lists those wicked men and women who face God’s wrath: sorcerers, liars, adulterers, dishonest employers, cruel oppressors, and God-rejecters. Those who practice such sinful behaviors would certainly incur God’s judgment. However, the verse that follows seems almost enigmatic: the road to repentance is paved by giving God our best–our tithes and offerings. (v. 7b)

Malachi concurred with Solomon’s teaching on firstfruits in Proverbs chapter 3. Solomon taught that the result of giving God our firstfruits is full grain silos and overflowing wine vats. Malachi pens that God’s promises for good stewards are even more far-reaching than Solomon’s discussion. When men repent and give God the worship, the firstfruits that are His due, God will respond by:

1. Opening the windows of heaven and pouring out uncontainable blessings. (v.10)
2. Protection over our resources (crops) from pests and destructive elements. (v. 11)
3. Giving us a powerful testimony of God’s favor on our lives to an unbelieving world. (v. 12a)
4. Happiness in our daily lives. (a delightful land). (v. 12b)
5. Heavenly recognition (a scroll of remembrance) for our obedience. (v. 16)
6. Intimacy with God (they shall be mine…my treasured possession). (v. 17)
7. A covering of protection over our very lives (as a man who spares his son who serves Him). (v. 17b)
8. Remarkable character distinguishing us from all others. (v. 18)
9. Salvation from God’s wrath at the Day of the Lord. (4:1)
10. Healing and deliverance given by Jesus “the sun of righteousness with healing in His wings.” (v. 2)
11. Authority over Satan and wicked men. (v.3)
12. God’s prophetic words spoken into our lives (conviction of the Holy Spirit to keep us pure). (v. 5)
13. Restoration of family relationships. (v. 6)

• How can your view of God determine your response to Him with regards to stewardship? Read Matthew 25:24. In the parable of the talents, what make the one-talent man hold onto his talent instead of investing it? How did He see God? What is your view of God?

• Has there been a time in your life when you gave God the top portion of your income even when you were afraid you couldn’t afford it? Did you regret giving your best to God?

• Do you feel like your relationship to God is as close as you want it to be? Have you ever considered that stewardship could affect your intimacy with your Heavenly Father? Why or why not?

• Write a thank you letter to God for all the material blessings in your life.

One Man’s Testimony

I really loved this study. God so boldly brought me to my knees. I was living as a hypocrite, hedging my bet that “doing religion” would get me into eternal life, while not totally giving God what he wanted. He stripped me of my pride and in that process caused me to gain everything. Every aspect of my life is now richer, walking closer with God’s Holy Spirit. Life was dull and routine prior to giving God my heart, now the pain is deep, but the gain is deeper. Beauty is now seen, sounds are glorious, I love so much more deeply. Do not hesitate to place your heart into the hands of the One who made it. He made that heart so that you could love Him, just as He loves you.

For Further Study: Write Your Own Observations

Genesis 4:2-7
Genesis 14:18-24
Genesis 28:22
Numbers 18:21-24
Deuteronomy 26:12-15
Malachi 1:6
Malachi 3:10-4:6

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