By Sam Csonka
In the record of 1 Kings 17:8-16, we read of a woman who was commanded to make a cake for the servant of God, and then afterward for herself and her son. We then see the outcome of her obedience to God and the subsequent blessings that were afforded her. In providing for the “man of God” whom the Lord sent there, she was in essence ‘making a cake for the Lord.’ As a result of her faith in God, she made a cake for the Lord, first.
What does it mean to “make a cake for the Lord, first”? It means to put God and his business before our own. In Haggai 1:2-11, the prophet came for the express purpose of delivering a message from God concerning the people’s neglect of his house. In verses 6-9, the Lord says, “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes. Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the Lord. ‘You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.’” These people were admonished to “make a cake for the Lord, first.”
I believe that there is a great deal that we can learn from this passage. First, let me begin with a question. Do we believe in God’s providence? Could God have actually blown away (v. 9) their income and sustenance? Well, of course! But, can God still do the same today? If the Lord tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33), does he really mean that? Is he actually capable of doing that? If we are thinking to ourselves “No,” then we either have a dead faith or we serve a dead God! Which one is it? If your God is not dead, then are you concerned about his message?
Second, What is God’s house today? It is not a literal temple, but it is his church (1 Tim. 3:15). Now, since we are called upon to do our part (Eph. 4:16) in the upkeep and maintenance of the Lord’s house (supporting the Lord’s work), will God be well pleased if we fail to do it? Notice the disposition that God had towards his people in Haggai 1:2-11. In these passages, we find that Israel was offering to the Lord their leftovers — the sick, lame, and blind. God told them that he would rather someone shut the doors to his house (v. 10) than they go on offering their profanities. How about today? When we bring our contribution to the Lord’s house and offer our sacrifices on the altar of giving, do we offer God our leftovers?
Do we give him second best, or worse? Is this not evil (v. 8) in God’s sight? Should God accept this from us (v. 10) and be pleased? One area in which I see Christians not “making a cake for the Lord, first” is in their giving to the Lord’s work. With all of the need that has arisen lately amongst us, especially in the Philippines, God’s children should be able to rise up right along with that need, as the saints did in Jerusalem (Acts 4). We are blessed with the means to abundantly satisfy that need. But, I see even another area in which we have become very lax — in supporting gospel preachers.
1 Corinthians 9:14 says, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” Somehow I get the feeling that when brethren read this verse they see it as meaning that preachers should merely eke out their existence from the gospel. I can’t count the number of preachers that I have known or seen lately who are begging for support.
And there are many others, who because of their own pride (self-esteem, not arrogance) live from day to day with close to nothing. I have either personally known, or known of, some brethren who have said in business meetings, or even to the preacher’s face, that he ought to be able to make it on whatever they (the brethren) determined — despite what that preacher had calculated for his budget. Does God give the brethren the inherent right to stipulate that the preachers will be the poorest of all the church? Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Well, I know some preachers who make a lot more than I do.” Does that mean a few? One out of a hundred, or a thousand? Let’s get real, brethren, and stop being stingy. “If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?” (1 Cor. 9:11).
I wonder if we realize just how many preachers have to do without health insurance for their wife and kids; how many have to drive a junky-clunker around town. Should a preacher be ashamed to invite someone over to the house for a Bible study, for fear that his visitor might wonder why all of the furniture looks like it came from the neighborhood garage sale or flea market? Should the preacher have to dress his kids in clothes that came from the local Goodwill store? Should the “men of God” have to go around, like Elijah, begging bread from those whom the Lord has made rich in the blessings of this life?
God may have had a part in your current welfare so that you might be able to liberally support his messengers! Think about it. Are you willing to let God work through you; or will you deny him that blessed privilege? 1 Timothy 6:17-19 says, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” I realize that being “rich” is a relative term. But, have we become spoiled with our abundance? Has our comfort level increased at the expense of others who have little? I feel that in many cases we have rationalized away the fact that we do indeed have well beyond what others do; and that we can do without much of what we have just lying around.
Let us truly be storing up for ourselves for the time to come; not in a heap, like the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), only to have it stripped away. Share with your brethren in the work of preaching, like the Philippians did with Paul (Phil. 4:14-19), that God may smile upon you and supply all your spiritual needs. “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16). “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:10).
Do we believe that God still blesses today? He could do it back then, can he do it now? “‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’” (Mal. 3:10). Surely blessing will come to those who trust in their God. So, let us follow the apostle-recorded example of the churches of Macedonia who “first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:5).
“Make a cake for the Lord, first.” Support a gospel preacher. Help lighten his burden. Take the load of worrying about financial problems off his mind, so that he can concentrate on the things of the Kingdom. And, heap up for yourselves treasures in Heaven (Matt. 6:20-21), where they need to be.
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