Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops. Proverbs 3:9
In Proverbs chapter 3 we read: "Honor the Lord with your wealth . . ." At face value, the verse is teaching us that one way of honoring God is by contributing to His purposes. We demonstrate how much we value God by parting with what might otherwise serve us in favor of what might serve God. However, the Jewish sages teach that there is an alternate way to read the verse. In Hebrew, the word used in the verse to denote "your wealth" is honecha. Yet the sages teach, "Don't read the word as honecha, but as chonecha, 'with what He graces you.'" In other words, we are to serve God with the talents and treasures that He has placed inside us.
Jewish tradition tells a story about a rabbi who lived in the second century CE named Chiya who had a magnificent singing voice. Once, his uncle said to him, "Chiya, my son, you must glorify God with the gift He has blessed you with," implying that not doing so was wrong. Chiya took his uncle's advice and used his voice to inspire others in worship. In contrast, there was a man named Navot, who also had a beautiful voice. He used to go to Jerusalem on festivals and sing praises to God. Thousands would flock to hear Navot sing. However one year, Navot didn't feel like going and singing. Later that year, calamity fell upon him.
These stories imply that using our talents for God's purposes isn't just something nice to do, but obligatory. If God gave us a particular ability, it is so that we might use it for good.
In another story, we learn about another second-century rabbi who was one of the most prominent sages of his time. This rabbi was also blessed with an unusually pleasant voice. Therefore, whenever the Bible was read out loud in the synagogue, this rabbi would translate it into Aramaic so that the worshipers would understand the Hebrew reading. This was considered a menial task, below the stature of a rabbi, yet he did it in order to honor God with the gift He had blessed the rabbi with.
What talents and treasures has God placed inside you? Are you easy to talk to? Do you have a magnificent voice? Perhaps you have excellent organizational skills or leadership ability. Every person has something unique and special to contribute to God's Kingdom. It our privilege and our duty to discover our God-given talents and to use them for His purposes. It's wonderful to contribute money to good charities but perhaps it is even greater to dedicate your very self.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President