Of first fruits and wealth

Meredith Flynn —  February 5, 2015

How a biblical proverb can help us manage modern money

COMMENTARY | Doug Morrow

Doug_Morrow_blog_calloutI’ve been working on a project since mid-November. Once a week (okay, once every two weeks), I write an extended devotional or comment based on a chapter of Proverbs and have been addressing it to my children. Proverbs represents some of the most amazing “counsel” ever written, and much is written as from a parent to a child. I’ve been trying to amplify the Proverbs into my own paternal voice for the benefit of Reed, Lauren and Claire.

It was in this process that I discovered a nugget that describes what I believe in so passionately, and the mission of the Baptist Foundation of Illinois:

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce,” reads Proverbs 3:9, “then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

King Solomon’s words can be difficult to translate to our time and culture. “First fruits” has a different meaning in an America so replete with cheap food that we’re far more likely to queue up at the McDonald’s drive-thru than pray for rain for the wheat crop. Few of us have barns, and ever since municipal water projects, there are even fewer with “vats bursting with wine.” So, what could the Spirit say to us through these words to those living in the wealthiest nation in our planet’s history? “Honor the Lord with our wealth?”

In truth, most of the assets we steward for the Lord aren’t in our income (technically our “first fruits”), or emergency cash. Over time, most people collect “wealth” in things like real estate (67% of Illinoisans own their home), IRA or other retirement assets (often acquired ‘pre-tax’), life insurance, or other “stuff” we collect over our lifetimes.

I think the way we honor the Lord with this wealth, along with our first fruits, is amazingly simple and can be found in the text itself. The pattern we apply to our wealth should be consistent with the pattern we establish with our “first fruits!”

Do we take care of our needs such as food, shelter and clothing with our first fruits?

Do we use those fruits to care for our children and dependents?

What about supporting the work of God’s church?

Absolutely, on all three counts. And because we do those things with our first fruits, we should do so with our wealth.

How does all of this come together in a way that accomplishes this God-honoring stewardship plan? Well, since most of our “wealth” is not accessed until our death, it’s important to put together a Christian Estate Plan now. Such a plan accomplishes the “pattern” that God has called us to live out in our lives—taking care of our own needs, caring for children and dependents, and investing in the work of God’s church.

These are the elements I commonly refer to as the “big four” parts of a Christian Estate Plan:

• A will and possibly a living trust
• A financial (durable) power of attorney (when not using a living trust)
• A health care power of attorney
• Careful attention to titling, beneficiary designations, or transfer on death devices on retirement assets, life insurance, financial accounts or other assets, since any asset designated in this way bypasses the will and the probate process

The Baptist Foundation has actually made the process simpler than you might imagine—and much less expensive than you might fear. A great place to start is with the Life Stewardship Navigator, a free download from http://www.BaptistFoundationIL.org. BFI provides complimentary and confidential help in putting together a plan that enables you to provide for your family and support Christian causes in exactly the manner you wish to support.

Over the next few months, I’ll keep working on the Proverbs chapters (my wife wants me to arrive at chapter 31 in time for Mother’s Day). In the meantime, it’s important that we begin this year with the counsel that all we are, hope to be, or ever will steward belongs to our God. May we carefully honor Him in everything.

Doug Morrow is executive director of the Baptist Foundation of Illinois.

Meredith Flynn


Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.