What are “firstfruits”?

By Stew

From time to time, a reader will ask a question by way of this contact form. I usually respond with a private message most of the time, but today, I would like to take the opportunity to address a question with a public post.

Here is the question:

My name is Violette and I’m a subscriber to your emails. I enjoy them and I’m learning to be a better steward with my finances before God, so thank you! I’m wondering, this time of year it is common to give/offer first fruits in the church. I’m wondering, is the first fruit your entire first paycheck or is it the earnings for the first week of the year, or another amount? I’m slightly confused and would greatly appreciate feedback on the topic.
Thank you for your question, Violette. Here is some information that I hope will be a help to you. The term “first fruits” is a term from Scripture, mostly used when God was giving the Old Testament law to the Hebrews. One of the first passages on the subject is found in Deuteronomy 18:3-5:
Now this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice, either an ox or a sheep, of which they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach.”You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep. For the LORD your God has chosen him and his sons from all your tribes, to stand and serve in the name of the LORD forever.
There are many verses that use the term “firstfruits” throughout the Bible, including Proverbs 3:9:

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;

Under the Mosaic Law, the Jews were commanded to bring an offering of “firstfruits” on a regular basis. The practical reason was for the support of the Temple, the priests and others who served there. However, the offering of firstfruits was primarily a requirement of worship, an indication of one’s devotion to God. For an ancient, agrarian society, it made sense for the tenth or tithe or firstfruits to be offered only once or twice a year around harvest time. The idea of the first fruits being a tenth of one’s increase is first found in Genesis 14:18-20:

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all.

Here, Abraham set the precedent of giving a tenth of all of that he earned to Melchizadek, who happened to be God’s priest at the time. It is fairly clear that the tradition of giving a tenth to God continued all throughout Scripture, both before the institution of the Old Testament Law and after the institution of the New Covenant under Christ.Personally, I am pretty convinced that the New Testament does not command that believers must give a tenth, however it is extremely clear that a true believer in Christ will give regularly to the needs of his local church. Furthermore, as believers in Christ, all that we have belongs to Him, so a tenth is sort of the least we can do.

As for the timing of the giving of the firstfruits, I guess that a gift of 10 percent of all of your income could be made once a year, but more most of us, it makes sense to tithe weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. I get paid once a month, so I tithe once a month. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 16:1-3:

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem;

From this an other passages, I believe the following should characterize our tithe or giving of firstfruits:

  1. The tithe belongs to the local church.
  2. Giving should be planned.
  3. Giving should be at regular intervals.
  4. Giving should be at least a tenth.

If your church teaches something different, I would welcome the opportunity to interact with the biblical principles that lie behind their teachings on this subject.

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6 Responses (including trackbacks) to “What are “firstfruits”?”

  1. Randy Says:

    Very good answers. Once a long time ago, a pastor told me to remember, God won’t send you to hell for not tithing. But it disappoints him when we don’t.

    I have a couple of follow-on questions:

    1) You said the tithe belongs to the local church. How do you back this up with scripture? I know a believer who sends his tithe to missionaries, television/radio evangelists, etc. I don’t agree with this, but can’t justify my belief with scripture.

    2) I get paid semi-monthly. But I like to put in an offering weekly (using the church envelopes). Since my pay varies, that means sometimes dividing the pay by 2, sometimes by 3. Any suggestions? Does God really care?

    3) You didn’t say explicitly, do you believe in tithe of the gross or the net? (I believe the gross. After all, it is “first” fruits. Someone asked me once, “do you want God to bless the gross or the net?”


  2. Stew Says:

    Yes, no, yes, yes, and no.

    Kidding …

    #1 I believe that the local church is the “pillar and ground” of the truth. It is the only entity that God endorses for dealing with this world. There is no passage that directly states that “tithes belong to the local church”, however, there is no other religious organization that appears in Scripture. That is not to say that there are not other good people doing good work in para-church organizations, but our support belongs to our church first. Other religious organizations should be supported by money that is in addition to the tithe or possibly through the church. (lots of missionaries are supported this way)

    #2 God cares . . . but he does not dictate the specifics. Start by realizing that all we have comes from Him and then set up a system that honors Him first and works for you.

    #3 I think there is some soul liberty here, but my sense of the whole issue favors the “gross”.

  3. Rene Says:

    Hey Stew, it’s was a blessing to find this site while “google-ing” something else. I’ve been struggling to follow God’s word to be a good and faithful steward and work on my finances to get out of debt. If I can add a few comments: to be short I won’t place the exact verses, hoping that will encourage more ppl to do more gospel reading themselves.

    1. In Malachi: “Bring all your tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.” I can imagine His house is where I go worship Him and fellowship with Him. His house is my church where I go to start off my week in His presence. I give him the first of my time, my week, my finances. It’s the church leaders that will be tasked to use it for utilities, missionaries, departments, etc. If we’re God’s children, we should be obedient and give it cheerfully. So not tithing is stealing. My saying at home is “Obedience before Sacrifice.” I got that in 1 Samuel when Saul did not kill all the Amalekites. If you want to give to other ministries and missionaries outside of or in addition to your tithe, that’s sacrifice. BUT that is after or on top of the tithe. I’m a dad and a supervisor. I want what I ask to be done first. Little tokens of affection are fine but it’s rebellion if my commands are ignored.

    2. The Lord loves a cheerful giver. If it pleases you to obey the Lord, and you seek first His righteousness, all these things shall be added to you. The Lord looks on the heart. So if you can, tithe as soon as you get your paycheck. If you get paid on Thursday, write out your tithe then. Put it in the plate on Sunday. It’s done and your a quick faithful servant. If you have feel you have to put something in and didn’t have a payday, then it’s an offering! A sacrifice on top of obedience, but God knows your heart, if it’s just a tip of change in your pocket or a real sacrifice.

    3. Give to God what’s God’s, give unto Cesar what is Cesar’s. If the government ALWAYS gets theirs, be sure God is getting His first!!! Write the tithe check once you know your gross amount and live off the rest. I forecast when I get paid, how much I’ll get and tithe a little over so I’m honestly tithing at least the minimum. If I forecast more than I earned ahead of time, I already know I can live on what’s left.
    I get similar paychecks bi-weekly but overtime might be good so I try to account for it. An extra $50 gross is only $5 in tithe. If I pay more, my tithe might be 10.5% or 11% instead of 10%. That’s fine. It’s still tithe, not offering in my eyes. I don’t tip God. I call offering when it’s a noticeable dent in my budget. Like a whole $10-$20 might be more of a dent in someone’s budget than others.
    A little trick to know how God might judge your life and your blessing: you can judge your own heart by how you figure out your tithe. If your gross pay is $968 and net is $837.32. Gross tithe is $96.80, net tithe is $83.73. Do you want 100% blessed or what the govt leaves? Do you hold back your change and pay only the 10% exactly and no more ($96.80)? Do you round up to nearest dollar ($97)? Nearest 10 ($100)?

    Give and it will be given to you… with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you. -Luke
    Judge not unless you be judged… with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you. -Matthew

    According to the Proverbs, “a just weight and balance are the Lord’s; all the weghts in the bag are His works.”
    “Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false balance is not good.”
    Our discernment of judgement is the scales. We must use the same judgement at all times. We can’t change our views to please someone other than God. It’s either pleasing our Father or it isn’t.

    Sorry it wasn’t short after all. It got a little preachy, sorry. It’s just something I’ve battled and keep battling. If it’s the exact amount your having trouble with, then it’s obedience you struggle with. Your trying to nickel and dime your money. It’s all His. Let it go. I’m the example. I know.

    If you can’t let go of what’s in your hand, How can you expect God to let go of what’s in His???

    Choose you this day whom you will serve, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

    God bless!

  4. Tony Isaac Says:

    You didn’t answer the question at all. You didn’t even come close. In your answer, you equated the tithes to the firstfruits and boy are they two completely different things.

    These are scriptural references to firstfruits and let us see if your definition aligns with any of them

    1. The law ordered in general that the first of all ripe fruits and of liquors, or, as it is twice expressed, the first of first-fruits, should be offered in God’s house. (Exodus 22:29; 23:19; 34:27) It was an act of allegiance to God as the giver of all. No exact quantity was commanded, but it was left to the spiritual and moral sense of each individual.
    2. On the morrow after the passover sabbath, i.e. on the 16th of Nisan, a sheaf of new corn was to be brought to the priest and waved before the altar, in acknowledgment of the gift of fruitfulness. (Leviticus 2:12; 23:5,6,10,12)
    3. At the expiration of seven weeks from this time, i.e. at the feast of pentecost, an oblation was to be made from the new flour, which were to be waved in like manner with the passover sheaf. (Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:15,17; Numbers 28:26)
    4. The feast of ingathering, i.e. the feast of tabernacles, in the seventh month, was itself an acknowledgment of the fruits of the harvest. (Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:39) These four sorts of offerings were national. Besides them, the two following were of an individual kind.
    5. A cake of the first dough that was baked was to be offered as a heave-offering. (Numbers 15:19,21)
    6. The first-fruits of the land were to be brought in a basket to the holy place of God’s choice, and there presented to the priest, who was to set the basket down before the altar. (26:2-11) The offerings were the perquisite of the priests. (Numbers 18:11; 18:4) Nehemiah, at the return from captivity, took pains to reorganize the offerings of first-fruits of both kinds, and to appoint places to receive them. (Nehemiah 10:35,37; 12:44) An offering of first-fruits is mentioned as an acceptable one to the prophet Elisha. (2 Kings 4:42) (Smith’s Dictionary)

    The tithe one the other hand was simply “A TENTH” of crops and livestock from within the land of Israel alone. And you seem to believe that money was not available at the time hence they gave food items as firstfruits and tithes. That’s not correct as well. If you read the book of Genesis you will see that money was readily available. Joseph was sold for money, his brothers came to Egypt with money to buy food. Also in the book of Deuteronomy, God commanded those Israelites who lived far away from the place God had designated for them to offer their sacrifices and eat their tithes to convert the tithes into money and then spend the money on anything they liked.

    For the New Testament believer, Christ is the firstfruit. Since He has fulfilled that aspect of the law, we are no longer required to offer firstfruits of any kind. Instead we are encouraged to give anything we want to give cheerfully and willingly.

    God bless.

  5. Rene Says:

    God bless you brother Tony for seeking God’s word with your whole heart!

    Violette, I’m a simple guy just giving my example. Pray that the Lord gives you discernment and judgment on how to find an answer. I’m not legalizing anything. I serve a God who knows my heart. I still believe in honoring the old testament’s ten commandments and tithing a tenth. Since I’m not a farmer, I can only tithe my pay. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and if we believe in His holy life, death, resurrection and return, He will see your heart. Some can believe we don’t have to tithe at all, they can believe we don’t have to obey the ten commandments if we’re always forgiven. If what you decide to give truly gives a spirit of Peace, His peace, and you can sleep well without righteous conviction, not guilt from the enemy, well done! And when you reap good health, peace that surpasses all understanding, and blessings in many areas, not just finances, rejoice and give more where you can! Call it what you will, good and faithful servant!
    Hope this was encouraging and uplifting. Don’t stumble over legalism.
    God bless!

  6. MELISSA Says:

    Hi, I have a question i get paid bi-weekly. The head of my household. whcih check should i thite? keep in mind i have other expenses, rent, transportaion etc. Ishould i pay a double thite with one of the checks??? i find thithing over every check leaves me empty at times considering im the only person.