The reason we come to Church on Sunday morning, as opposed to Sunday afternoon or Monday evening, is because it is the first day of the week. The first thing you do this week, before you do anything else, is come to Church. You begin your week with the Word of God, Prayer, and the Holy Communion. You give the first seventh, off the top, of your time to the Lord. He blesses that time. In that time, He forgives your sins, cleanses, and purifies you. He then sends you out into the world, into the week, as His in all your days and hours and life.
This is also the reason we pray before we eat. We want to establish that food is a gift from God and that He provides for us through it. Before we eat, we pray. This also blesses the food and makes it holy food because you are holy people.
Nonetheless, we have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives, to separate the spiritual and the secular, to put on different masks at work, with our friends, or at home. This is a fantasy. We are who we are wherever we are. We are the baptized and we never go anywhere alone. Everything we do is spiritual — including our use of time and food and money.
Now, you have a Christian duty to support the Church, to give of your time, money, and abilities so that the Ministry would be conducted among us and that the Gospel would be preached beyond us. How much you are to give is not dictated in the New Testament, unless it is everything. But how you are to give is clear. It is sacrificial, generous, first fruits, and proportional. You are to give a percentage offering—not an amount, but a percentage.
In the Old Testament ten percent was the norm. It’s hard to imagine that St. Paul was thinking that “being generous” would be anything less than this. But whatever it is, the point is to set your offerings in comparison to your total income. That is what makes it a sacrifice, a spiritual gift. How much of what the Lord provides do you return?
Next, it is to be first-fruits giving. It comes off the top. You write the check, or pay your offering, before you pay any of your bills. It is your first obligation and sets your priorities. You don’t pay your other bills and then give the leftovers to the Church. You make your offering first, in accordance with whatever promised percentage you made. This is not only first fruits, it is also sacrificial.
And you can always give more. Start with your commitment, with your percentage-based, first-fruits weekly offering, then as you have leftovers, give them out as it pleases you. But start with the Biblical model or percentage, first fruits.
That is how money is to be used and given by Christians. It is to be pressed into the service of the Gospel. It is not actually that hard. Start where you are and work toward greater faithfulness. Start now. Just take what you give now and figure out the percentage of your income and commit to keep that pledge for the year. Over time you can increase that commitment, that percentage. As your income fluctuates, going up or down, so will your offering amount. Set the percentage, then take that out of your check first each week. Make it a priority. It is the most important thing you do with your money. It is a spiritual exercise.
It will feel a little scary at first. Just do it. Take the risk. Set the money aside for the Lord and trust that He will provide. And over time you will find that you really can give more than 1% or even 10%, and even do so without regret. This kind of Biblical, disciplined, first fruit giving takes the unease out of it. It creates cheerful givers because when they drop the offering in the plate, they are already committed. They decided beforehand what to give. They don’t think about it. They are glad to fulfill their promise and to be in God’s house where He receives them according to grace.