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From “starving Aramean” to generous givers

September 27, 2023

Daily Scripture

Genesis 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 26:1-10

Genesis 12
1 The LORD said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
    those who curse you I will curse;
        all the families of the earth
            will be blessed because of you.”

Deuteronomy 26
1 Once you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you take possession of it and are settled there, 2 take some of the early produce of the fertile ground that you have harvested from the land the LORD your God is giving you, and put it in a basket. Then go to the location the LORD your God selects for his name to reside. 3 Go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him: “I am declaring right now before the LORD my God that I have indeed arrived in the land the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.”
4 The priest will then take the basket from you and place it before the LORD your God’s altar. 5 Then you should solemnly state before the LORD your God:
“My father was a starving Aramean. He went down to Egypt, living as an immigrant there with few family members, but that is where he became a great nation, mighty and numerous. 6 The Egyptians treated us terribly, oppressing us and forcing hard labor on us. 7 So we cried out for help to the LORD, our ancestors’ God. The LORD heard our call. God saw our misery, our trouble, and our oppression. 8 The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with awesome power, and with signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land—a land full of milk and honey. 10 So now I am bringing the early produce of the fertile ground that you, LORD, have given me.”
Set the produce before the LORD your God, bowing down before the LORD your God.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

This week’s GPS continues to focus on the Bible reasons for Resurrection’s current “Generation to Generation” campaign. For more information as you prayerfully consider what commitment you want to make next weekend, click here.

Abram had no son when God called him, yet God said that his descendants would bless “all the families of earth.” When Israel was a settled nation, they structured their giving to remind themselves that God was the ultimate source of all they had. They brought the first part of each crop to God, and recited words that acknowledged their humble human ancestry, and God as the creator and deliverer who had made their well-being possible.

  • Deuteronomy 26:2 said to give God “some of the early produce of the fertile ground that you have harvested from the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Giving 10% did not mean precise accounting to determine how little they could get away with giving. Instead, the idea was “don’t pay everybody and everything else, and then give only if there is any left over.” In what ways in your life can you make it a point to give God, not your leftovers, but your “first fruits”?
  • How do you react inwardly when you read that line about “My father [i.e., ancestor] was a starving Aramean”? Were you brought up to be proud of your distinguished family lineage, or was your ancestry more humble or anonymous? From what spiritual perils did God seek to guard Israel in having them glorify God, rather than their human ancestors?

God, thank you for the gifts and talents you have given me, for the fruit I see produced in my life and in our world. Teach me to always remember to point to you as the source of all good fruit in my life. Amen.

GPS Insights

Amy Oden

Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

When we talk about stewardship or finance campaigns, I tend to get caught up in the score-keeping of how much to give. What is one tenth exactly? Do I count all the other charitable giving that I do outside of church? What about my time and energy, does that count? I get caught up in the wrong questions.

Instead, the instructions God gives in Deuteronomy 26 call me to a completely different starting point. Here God instructs the people what to say when they give. These instructions do not begin with “here’s my gift” or “look at what I’m giving” or exact amounts. 

Instructions on giving begin with remembering. They begin with “My father was a wandering Aramean…” (Deuteronomy 26:5), which means starting at least seven or eight generations back. The first step in giving is to remember how you got here. Recount what others did that made your life possible. See the larger picture and be amazed at all that had to happen for you to be here and for your life to flourish. Trace the throughline of God and see the grace that has flowed all along (Deuter 26:5-10).

This is where giving begins—from this place of recognition that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. When we connect to the something bigger, we step into gratitude, the overflow of God’s throughline. What if my giving started here?

What is your bigger picture? How do you see God’s throughline in your life? Let your giving flow from here.

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.