Transitions are tough. To move to a new town is challenging for us. To start a new job and to learn new work habits and culture adds to the difficulty. Yet thousands of people do it every year. My wife and I did it when we married and moved to St. Paul from Kansas City so that I could start seminary. I helped my daughter Christina move to Austin, Texas, so she could begin her first teaching job. With patience, wisdom and perseverance people transition to a new life.
The people of Israel had a difficult transition as they entered the Promise land of Canaan. They had been nomadic sheep and goat herders in their wandering in the wilderness. Moses, before he died, had a final word from God. In the book of Deuteronomy he instructed the people on how they were to act once they transition to farming.
When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.
And you shall say, “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 26:1-2, 8-10
This was the offering of first fruits. God was teaching the people to practice generosity in their daily living. The first-fruit generosity was stated as the expectation of God for his people as a response to God’s generosity in giving them the land they now settled and farmed. Notice why they gave. It was not a payment in order to earn God’s favor. Rather it was a thankful response to what God had already given to them.
The practice of generous giving is one that our contemporary society can embrace. Our congregation witnessed such generosity when Inez Oehlke donated her farm buildings and land to the congregation when she transition out of the farm house. We are ever grateful for her example of generosity.
The practice reminds us to open our hearts and minds towards God’s gracious gifts towards us. It reminds us that God has given us not only the created world and all its produce, but has given us new life in his Son, Jesus Christ. God is generous and gracious towards us; can we not be generous toward God’s ministry in the world?
When have you recognized a gift of generosity towards yourself? When have you practiced generosity?
Lord Jesus, teach to me practice generosity towards others.