Watch the video or read the lesson text … or both.
Exodus 19:5 Leviticus 25:23 Psalm 24:1, 50:10 Haggai 2:8 Deuteronomy 26:2 Mark 4:41 1 Kings 17:3-4, 13-15 Matthew 6:33 Nehemiah 10:35-39
We are stewards over the earth’s natural resources. Clearly, we did not create what is here. Even atheists do not claim that we are responsible for creating the universe and its resources as we know them. If we did not create them, then who did and what is our responsibility?
We know from Genesis 1 and 2 that God created everything we enjoy around us. This includes such things as natural resources – wind, solar energy, oil, plants, wood, and even fire which requires the oxygen and fuel source God created.
God makes a bold claim that the earth belongs to Him. Exodus 19:5, Leviticus 25:23, Psalm 24:1,50:10, Haggai 2:8
Even in our system of tithing we have the claim that the earth and its bounty belong to God. Deuteronomy 26:2 The first of the harvest and best of the harvest is to be given back to God because He owns it all. Tithing in itself is first and foremost a recognition that we are stewards of what has been entrusted to our use and care.
Not only does God make the bold claim that all the earth is His, even the wind and sea obey Him! Mark 4:41 The creation must obey its Creator, and even nature responds to the voice of God. God commands the natural resources to provide for us as well. In 1 Kings 17, God ordained a bird to bring food to Elijah and multiplied the oil and flour from the widow’s jars. The feeding of the 5,000 is another example of natural resources responding to God for our provision. In Matthew 6:33, God has command over the natural resources to ensure we are provided what we need, and they obey His command.
I sometimes think of the oddest questions, and this might just be a deep question. What happens after we give God a tenth from the first and best of our harvest and something wipes out the rest of the harvest? Let’s use as an example Nehemiah 10:35-39. They committed to bringing a tithe of a tenth of the first of everything produced from labor – new wine and oil, fruit, crops, and the first born of both children and animals. What happens, if after taking the first fruits, the best of the harvest, to the temple, a storm destroys much of the rest of your harvest? Or a barn fire burns the harvest stored in your barn? What happens if a blight kills your fruit trees?
Maybe it is not an odd question, but I think it’s an honest question. When we set aside the first, the best and a tenth of what we produce with our labor, we’re putting a lot of trust in God. What happens to me if the rest of my harvest turns out bad? God does not give us the option of waiting to see if the rest is good or giving a tenth only of what’s left. This would be distrust of God or harboring a sinful attitude of picking out the best for ourselves and giving God what we don’t want or less than a tenth.
How often do we hold money back waiting to see if we need it and only then give the tithe to the church? Where God wants us to exercise faith is in this idea that we can trust Him if something goes wrong. When we are giving to Him the first, the best and a tenth, we are trusting that He will help us make up the gaps later.
After all, we are putting an awful lot of trust in God that we can wake up tomorrow and go back to work. We trust that God will bring a good harvest when we put seeds in the ground. We cannot control many of our circumstances, just like we cannot control the sun, rain and soil to produce a harvest.
We will not repeat the lesson on talents, skills and abilities, but these two lessons go hand-in-hand. We are to exercise diligence in our care and use of natural resources, and beyond that, we are to acknowledge God by giving of a tenth.
This is also a place where we could spend time discussing things such as climate change and good use of natural resources. To simplify this discussion, let’s close with a question: How do we fulfill the two greatest commandments – to love God and love our neighbor – through the use of natural resources?