What are “firstfruits”?
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.
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.
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:
- The tithe belongs to the local church.
- Giving should be planned.
- Giving should be at regular intervals.
- 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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