4/8/2014 11:00:00 AM
Nearly 30 years ago, God challenged me to see what would happen in our small congregation if, instead of each person giving a tithe of his or her income, he or she would give the whole thing – an entire week's income. Our faith was stretched in ways I never thought I'd see!
Many years later, I shared what has become known as the revelation of Resurrection Seed to pastors who are part of our World Harvest Ministerial Alliance. The reports each year from those who have received the revelation have been tremendous, and I am expecting much the same from many of those same pastors as Easter approaches.
Believers are commanded to tithe – to give the first 10 percent of one's income to the local church – and to give offerings above the tithe. But the Bible also has instructions about how, where and when to give to Him.
Jesus explained principles for sowing in Mark 4:
Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
- Mark 4:3-9, ESV
It's easy to imagine, as Jesus taught this parable to a large crowd, that the people could have seen a man actually sowing seed. In any case, it would have been a familiar sight to them. Seed was cast by hand in those days, so it was impossible to control accurately where it fell. Certainly the intent was to cast all of the seed on the best soil available, but from a practical standpoint some of the seed inevitably ended up along the path, on the rocky ground and among the thorns.
When we choose to sow our money into a ministry, obviously we can be more precise than a farmer casting seed by hand. There are three main considerations for planting: the seed, the soil and the season.
What seed you sow is vital – it should be the best you have. It should be your first fruits instead of your leftovers. A member of our staff once did some work for a seed testing lab. A farmer would send the lab a sample of their seed, and the lab would analyze it and tell the farmer if the seed was likely to yield a good harvest. If it wasn't, it was generally worth the farmer's while to invest in seed for the next planting season. So it was well worth the small amount of money the lab charged to find out if it was necessary to make a much larger outlay for seed.
I believe the seed we sow shows God our intentions. If our tithe is the first check we write after we're paid, it demonstrates that we put Him first in other things as well.
The soil in which we sow is vital as well. What made the soil good in Jesus's parable almost certainly was the fact that it had been prepared for planting. The other soil wasn't suitable for crops – it was being used as a path, or rocks had been left in it, or weeds had been allowed to flourish. The good soil would have been purged of rocks and weeds, and wouldn't have been mistaken for the path. It was painstakingly cared for, the better to receive seed.
Your church should be like that as well – created, designed and maintained for the effective use of your seed. Hopefully, you've already discerned that it is, because it is worth your time and your talent as well as your treasure.
Finally, you need to choose the proper season for sowing. The farmer in Jesus's parable certainly did. Here in Ohio, we're approaching planting season in the natural. It would be too soon to go out into the fields and sow now. For one thing, we've had so much rain here recently that the planting equipment would get stuck in the fields! In the spiritual, the right season to sow is in a season of revival. The atmosphere of revival is a place where lives can grow in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ. A spiritually dead atmosphere, by contrast, is not a great place for spiritual lives – or anything else – to flourish.
Interestingly, Jesus finishes the parable with the words, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Clearly all of his audience could listen to Jesus's words. So what did he mean? I believe He meant something akin to, "If you can understand what I'm saying, do something about it." It's as if Jesus was pointing out to the crowd that they would need more than a human understanding of the lesson to interpret its meaning (and indeed, a much smaller group stayed around to hear Jesus's explanation).
Our seed won't mean much if we don't direct it to a place that is prepared for it. As Easter approaches, how are you hearing and understanding His voice? And how is that understanding being borne out in the spiritual fruit that results from your sowing?