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Cookie Math

Posted on 04 Mar 2024

March 3, 2024

Deuteronomy 26:1-13

Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman


Money.  Talking about money makes us uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable because most people have a really complicated relationship with money.  Money makes us feel anxious – worried we don’t have enough, concerned we aren’t managing our money well or that we will be judged for how we use our money, fearful that someone will try to take it from us.

And when the Church tries to talk about money – as the Church should because the only thing Jesus talked about more than money was the Kingdom of God – when the Church tries to talk about money, people disdainfully say, “All the Church ever talks about is money” in the same tone of voice they might use to say “dog poop”.

Money isn’t something to disdain.  Money isn’t something to be fearful or worried about.  Money is simply a tool that should be viewed the way any tool is – as something that can help us.

However since there is not enough time today to unpack all of our complicated issues with money, I am going to talk about cookies.  Your choice – chocolate chip or sugar, peanut butter or oatmeal raisin.


Long, long ago, when the people of Israel had been freed from slavery in Egypt.  After they had traveled for forty years in the wilderness, learning how to let go of their identity as slaves and embrace their identity as God’s chosen people.  After that first generation had gone to be with God and a new generation of God’s people prepared to cross over into the land God had promised them, they heard these words of instruction:


When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the first fruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. (Deuteronomy 26:1-2)


Put them in a basket and bring them to your place of worship, dedicating your first fruits to God and giving thanks to God for all that you have, and then:


When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. . (Deuteronomy 26:12)


As God guided the people on how to live in this new land, how to live in right relationship with God and with others, God called the people to set aside ten percent of what their fields and labor produced and give that to those who are in need, those who are vulnerable, as well as to the Levites, who nurtured and led the community’s praise and worship of God.

Very few of us have literal first fruits that we have produced from the soil anymore.  The labors of our hands come in different forms, and still as people of faith, we are called to set aside ten percent of our… cookies and give them to those who are in need, those who are vulnerable, as well as to our faith community, the church.

Now, if I baked two dozen cookies, that would be less than 2 and a half cookies, which still leaves me plenty of cookies to make myself ill.  And even then, God isn’t asking for 2 ½ cookies every year, only every third year, the year of the tithe.

It’s like a word problem – something people seem to dread as much as they do talking about money.  If Lee bakes two dozen cookies every year for three years, and God asks Lee to give ten percent of one year’s cookies, how many cookies does Lee get to keep?

When you do that math, Lee gets to keep almost 70 cookies while giving to others and to Lee’s faith community only 2 ½.  That doesn’t seem like such a hardship on us to make sure that our fellow human beings get treated like human beings.


The reason to tithe and be financially generous with our cookies though isn’t just to care for others, to provide for their sweet tooths and their spirits.  There is a more important benefit, and that blessing is for us as the givers.

As God’s people were instructed to take their basket to the place where they praised God, they were invited to remember and tell the story of how God watched over their ancestors in the faith and how God continues to watch over them.  How once upon a time, their ancestor was:


a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.  But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor.  Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Deuteronomy 26: 5-9)


God’s people were invited to take the first fruits of their fields, to place it in the space where they praised God, and to remember that through the trials and tribulations, through the joys and the challenges, through the ups and downs that every life encounters, that God is always there; God is forever there; God is constantly working to bring us to a place of blessing and hope.

Giving the first fruits of what we have baked or made with our own hands isn’t an obligation.  It’s not even about our human responsibility to share.  Tithing and generosity are a spiritual practice that invite us to remember how God has cared for us in the past and present and to trust God will care for us in the future.


When I offer my gifts, my unique gifts of brown sugar oatmeal cornflake cookies, to God, I give thanks that I can give these cookies because God has blessed me with a wonderful family recipe.  God has blessed me with the ingredients to make these cookies.  God has blessed me with the time, energy, and ability to bake these cookies.

And when I generously share a portion of the dozens of cookies I have baked, this act of giving reminds me that these are not the only cookies I will ever have.  God will continue to provide me with all that I need to keep baking cookies and more cookies and ever more cookies.


We have a complicated relationship with money, I mean cookies, and Jesus and God want to help us simplify it, simplify that relationship so it doesn’t stand in the way of the more important relationship, our relationship with God.  Jesus and God invite us to see generosity, as a way to not only care for others, but to connect more deeply with God by remembering and celebrating God’s care throughout the years.

So whenever you offer the sacred baked goods of your hands to the church or to a non-profit who does God’s work of compassion and healing, see the cookies, the cereal, the time, the money you share as a tool to help you “rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.” (Deuteronomy 26:11).

See your generosity as an opportunity to remember and tell the story of how God has blessed you throughout your life, when you moved homes, when you took a new job, when a special someone came into or left your life.


And as you remember how God was there with you, how God led you and provided for you, may your trust in God be multiplied.  May your trust in God help you take the next step in your life and faith journey because you know without a doubt, you have faith that God will continue to be there, blessing you with even more good things – like a double batch of Ghiradelli chocolate chip cookies.