The First Part
Have you noticed how very important the first part of your day is? The very first things that happen upon our awakening in many ways determine just how the rest of the day goes. Consider, for example, those days you oversleep. Immediately we are rushed and hectic. We jump in the shower, go as fast as we can to get ready, tensing up with every passing moment, knowing we’re just not going to make the schedule. And then not much goes right after that. Those are often the days that traffic is bad or we hit all the red lights or are just so flustered that we can’t ever seem to settle into the day. Contrast with that a day that starts with some extra time before our duties begin. We have time to sit for a moment, reflect, and maybe have a second cup of coffee. We just seem to be ahead of things all day long when there is a calm beginning to the morning.
One of the great benefits of having a regular prayer discipline is that it builds into the day such a calm beginning. If, upon rising, we take time to sit quietly, consider God’s word for us, ponder the events of the day before us, and offer the upcoming day for God’s blessing, the day simply goes better. We feel we have given the beginning of the day our very best and have made ourselves open to what God may have to say to us. That quiet, prayerful beginning to the day acts as a leaven for the rest of the day.
The primary reason the church speaks to us about our financial giving is not to browbeat you or attempt to make you feel guilty about how little you are putting into the offering plate. The church speaks to us about financial gifts because those offerings affect our material lives in very much the same way our prayer discipline affects our daily living. Just as beginning the day in prayer makes the day more peaceful and grounded, so the giving of the first part of our money to God’s work in the world makes our material and financial lives simpler and less anxious. If we give a goodly percentage of what we have first, and then live off the remaining percentage, we feel we have made our best effort, we relax in that discipline, and we find our faith increasing as we discover there is plenty left over for us to live well.
Prayer is an essential faith practice. The giving of our money is an essential faith practice. All this talk about giving is not meant to turn up the heat and make you more uncomfortable. It is designed to give you a practice whereby your faith increases and your daily living is easier. But certainly the words of the church, and the expectation of God that these words represent, are challenges for us when we are only giving what might be left over after we pay the bills and buy what we want.
Might you consider a change in your giving practice? Don’t pray only in the time left over after you’ve done everything else. Pray first. And don’t give only of the money left over. Give first. The first part is so very important in our spiritual lives.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.