- JRM Sydney
First Fruits Offering
Once every year in our Church, we celebrate what we call our FIRST FRUITS SUNDAY. This is normally every February (after the first month of “harvest” of the year is finished). Often in churches, there are plenty of Biblical terms and phrases we hear but may not understand. One such term is first fruits. So the obvious question is:
WHAT IS FIRST FRUIT?
The first fruits offering was an offering commanded by God to the Israelites in the Old Testament. It's mentioned several times and is in general a part of the Principle of the First in the Bible.
Exodus 23:19a: "The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God."
Leviticus 23:10: “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest."
Proverbs 3:9-10: "Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine."
The most comprehensive passage about the first fruits offering is found in Deuteronomy 26. It explains that the purpose of the first fruits was to acknowledge how God took the Israelites down to Egypt, multiplied their number, released them, and gave them the land of Canaan for an inheritance. God told the Israelites that the first fruits offering was to be given in THANKS for "cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant…" (Deuteronomy 6:10-11). In the majority of appearances, first fruits is associated with THANKSGIVING to GOD for bringing the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan.
The most significant aspect of the first fruits offering was the reason behind it: it was designed to ACKNOWLEDGE and THANK GOD for providing the Israelites with the land flowing with milk and honey after their captivity in Egypt. It was a ceremonial act for the nation of Israel. It was AN ACT of OBEDIENCE, and while that obedience was part of God's promise to Israel that He would bless them, it was the FAITHFULNESS of OBEDIENCE that ensured His blessing, not the offering itself.
In the New Testament, the term first fruits takes on a symbolic meaning. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul mentions Christ as the "first fruits" of those who will be raised from the dead. He is the firstborn Son of the Father, and His resurrection is the first of the promise that all who follow Him will also be raised. He is a guarantee of our future blessing.
Romans 8:23 states "And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit…" As in other passages, Paul is using "first fruits" as a metaphor for the first appearance of a promised blessing. Here, it is the Holy Spirit, the "helper" who Jesus promised in John 14:26. The very first followers of Jesus were also the very first to experience the blessing of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—they received the "first fruits" of the Holy Spirit's work in the lives of believers.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 and James 1:18 call New Testament saints "first fruits." They were the first to follow Christ, and act as a promise that there will be more to come. In fact, James 1:18 infers that the Christians in the early church were the "first fruits" of all of creation and the promise that creation itself will be restored.
There are some legitimate skepticisms around the practice of FirstFruit Offering in the 21st Century churches. As far as the first fruit offering as described in the Old Testament is concerned, we are not to strictly follow all the many rules with making first fruit sacrifices. Firstly, we no longer live in an agrarian-based society. Most people reading this are probably not farmers. You likely don’t worry about harvest time or giving away the first yield of your crops. But the principle of the first and the idea of first fruits is still very much relevant to how we honour God with our wealth.
Some people say that the First fruits practice is Old Testament. Ironically, what the New Testament teaches about giving is more extravagant (i.e the woman with only 2 coins but still she gave it all - Luke 12:41-44; the offering of the alabaster jar - equivalent to a year’s wages - poured out on Jesus - Matt. 26:7; Mark 10:17-27 alludes to Jesus instructing the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give it to the poor before he follows Him; Jesus also says that we ought to tithe Luke 11:42, etc.). God wants not just an offering from us; He wants all of us (Romans 12:1). Christians of the New Testament believe that every part of us and everything we have (i.e. including our monetary blessing is His, and we should do with it as He leads. Matthew 25:14-30 tells us that we should be responsible with His blessings. This would include giving for a purpose, giving by the leading of the Holy Spirit, giving for the spread of the Gospel and the aid the advancement of His Kingdom, and giving cheerfully. Whatever we choose to call that, it's simply Christian giving.
In our church, in the beginning of each year we express our GRATITUDE, TRUST and WORSHIP to God through our “FIRST FRUITS”. It is a season in our church where we open up the opportunity for our congregation to express their desire to honour God with their wealth and to build a culture among our people that GOD is ALWAYS FIRST and that money or wealth is not and will never be our master. We serve God and not Mammon (the spirit of materialism and love of wealth).
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FIRST FRUITS and TITHING
To give a tithe means that you give a tenth of your income to the church. Tithes are generally given throughout the entire year. Tithes are meant to be given in an automatic sense of obedience after you receive your income--e.g., pay-check, commission, bonus. A first fruit offering is something different.
First fruit offerings are typically an annual gift for the work of God through the church. Because we’re not actually harvesting crops, the harvest can mean different things to different people; e.g. first pay-check of a new job or the first pay-check of the year; portion earned from the sale of something; perhaps you just got a bonus at work. Maybe you just received a huge tax refund check. Maybe you saved 15% or more on car insurance.
These are all harvest time moments when your hard work paid off. These are also great opportunities to turn back to God in gratitude for the blessings. We don’t give our FIRST FRUITS to buy God’s blessings (an we cannot do that). We give our FIRST FRUITS because we are already blessed and because GOD is FIRST. We give not to get; we give to give and as we are blessed we can give more.
Whenever you decide to make a first fruit offering, the important thing is that you do it freely, with no guilt or obligation. This is supposed to be a celebration of all that God has done for you. It’s a special kind of worship, yes with sacrifice but that which is flowing from our heart because we love GOD and we love His Church. This offering is going to be used to fortify the church and support its work, help in its expansion and reach out to more souls, enable its mandate further and bless others for the Kingdom of God. A first fruit offering is our opportunity to give above and beyond just a regular tithe.
HOW TO GIVE YOUR FIRST FRUIT OFFERING?
“If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.” —Romans 11:16
What does this practically look like? How do you determine how, when, and how much you should give as a first fruit offering? This is going to look different for every person and each season. But here are a few steps you can take to help you get started in the right direction:
If your goal is obedience to God, it only makes sense that you would first go to him in prayer. Ask him what you should do with your money and resources. Listen to what he says.
God calls us to be good stewards of the blessings he gives us. That means knowing what we’re able to give and when. Have a plan in place for your offering. Approach each harvest time with an open mind and a generous heart.
The whole idea behind a first fruit gift is to put God first. That may be donating your first day or first week or first month of pay-check of the year to the church. It may mean that you put this donation first in your budget. Just make sure that you’re prioritising God in your finances.
We are a church that is open to letting you know where you are going to give the money to. Faithful stewardship is one of our core values. But if there is a specific fund at the church you want to contribute to, let us know. Is there another project you want to support? It also helps to know the amount you’ll give.
How often do you want to give a first fruit offering? This was traditionally an annual practice is our church, but you can give as often as you’d like. Making it a part of your routine will help keep it a priority, not something you do spontaneously or sporadically.
However you give, the key thing is that you’re giving with an open heart and mind. Remember that you are blessed to be a blessing. The process of giving above your normal tithe can help prepare you for God to make a difference in and through your life. Making a first fruit offering demonstrates that in your life, GOD is FIRST; that in our hearts we choose to honour God and obey Him.
TO JESUS, ALL OUR BEST!