Once we realize that all we have is God’s, then the question becomes one of stewardship. What are we going to do with that money? Serious Christians have always realized that a portion of their money should be given to Godly causes. When I present the No Debt No Sweat! Seminar at churches across the country, I like to share the following three principles of Godly giving.

Principle #1: God Expects Us To Give From Our First Fruits

There is a concept about first fruits giving that is taught in Scripture starting in the Old Testament with references well into the New Testament. I’m no theologian but my understanding is that first fruit sacrifices had to do with God’s expectation that His people should always set aside the first part of their crops and produce as a thanks offering for His goodness. Additionally, these first fruits were to be unblemished—the best available. Simply put, the idea was that the first and the best always belonged to God.

It is my personal conviction that Godly giving today is at its best when this principle is kept in mind. One passage that has become the marching orders for the Diggs family over the years is: "Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine." (Proverbs 3:9,10, NASV)

Years ago our family made the decision to give to God from the top. By that I mean that God gets the first part of our income. We would give up a lot of other expenditures before we would fail to give our gift to the Lord. It also means that we give from our gross income. When we determine the percentage we plan to give, that percentage is based on gross income before we deduct taxes, Social Security, or Medicare withholdings.

Am I trying to lay down a legalistic formula here and say that everyone has to do it just like us? No. But I am suggesting that every Christian needs to spend time in prayer and soul searching to determine how to best honor God from his or her financial wealth.

The best time to formulate your giving strategy is now. I have learned the hard way the importance of planning our giving before life’s pressures come to bear. It’s much easier to hear God’s prompting without the stress of too little money, or the temptations that come with having too much money. If we wait until there is financial stress in our lives it’s too easy to compromise and excuse a selfish attitude.

One strategy that helped us was to open a separate bank account to set money aside just for spiritual giving. We even titled it the "First Fruits" account. This way, when we received income we deposited a percentage of it directly into our "First Fruits" account where it sat until we had a need for it. This little discipline helped us in two ways: First, it kept us from accidentally mixing God’s money with our other funds and spending it. Secondly, it served as a clear, tangible reminder that those dollars were spoken for. They belonged to God—they were our first fruits to Him.

Principle #2: Giving Should Be A Joyful Experience

Has anyone ever given you something with a scowl on his face? You knew he really didn’t want to do it, but someone else was forcing him to release the goods. Maybe it was your little brother when your mom forced him to share the ice cream. Possibly it was a dishonest client when the judge ruled in your favor in a civil case. Or, maybe it was a sales manager who resisted paying your commission until his boss told him to do so. Sure you ended up with the money—but you went away feeling like you needed to take a shower!