Have you ever come across the phrase “first fruits” during your time at church? If so, you might be wondering what it means and how it differs from tithing. In this discussion, we delve into the biblical origins of this offering in the Old Testament. We’ll explore its significance for us as followers of Christ under the new covenant.
What Are First Fruits, and Why Do You Need to Know?
“The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.” Exodus 34:26
In order to grasp the depth of this biblical concept, we must revisit the period of Exodus. Here, we learn of a time when Israel was liberated from Egypt and guided by God toward the Promised Land. This land was described as abundant, flowing with milk and honey, and nourished by heavenly rain. It was a place where God had prepared bountiful provisions for His people.
Before the First Fruits
However, prior to entering the Promised Land, Israel was required to adhere to specific instructions. These were meticulously outlined during their journey through the wilderness. One of the provisions of God’s ancient covenant with His people mandated that Israel present the initial produce of the year’s harvest — the first fruits — as an offering in the house of the Lord.
In Hebrew, these first fruits are referred to as “bikkurim.” This term literal means “promise to come.” Hence, the offering of first fruits serves as recognition that the harvest and abundance were made possible due to the faithfulness of the Lord’s promise. By offering the first fruits, people acknowledged that the blessings originated from Him. It was only fitting that He receives the initial portion.
They’re More Than Just an Offering
Furthermore, offering the first fruits held a profound significance in terms of faith. It symbolized a declaration of unwavering trust in God’s promise of provision. Giving the first fruits was not merely an act of obedience; it demonstrated a deep belief that God would faithfully fulfill His promises.
The instruction regarding the presentation of first fruits was of great importance to God. It is emphasized throughout the first five books of the Bible, with a notable mention in the New Testament as well.
In fact, God held the first fruits in such high regard that He established it as one of the seven significant feasts of Israel. You may have heard this referred to as the Feast of the First Fruit. This feast took place on the day following the Sabbath that followed the Feast of the Passover.
First Fruits and the New Covenant
In the present day, the majority of us reside in societies that are no longer primarily based on agriculture. We are also not bound by the regulations of the Mosaic Law. Furthermore, the traditional feasts and rituals may appear outdated in our modern, technology-driven world.
Considering these factors, one might wonder if the concept of first fruits still holds relevance for us today. To address this inquiry, it is crucial to recognize that all the precepts, instructions, feasts, and laws outlined in the Old Testament served as symbolic representations that pointed towards a singular truth.
“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20
God invested great effort in providing instructions and intricate details regarding the giving of the first fruits offering. This extensive guidance serves as a glimpse into the nature of His Son, the ultimate embodiment of Bikkurim — the promise of what is to come.
Furthermore, when we consider that the Feast of the First Fruit takes place on the Sunday immediately following the Passover, the symbolism becomes even more profound. It serves as a prefiguration of Jesus’ resurrection, signifying His triumph over death.
Jesus is the first fruit, whom God raised from the grave.
Tithing vs First Fruits: The Differences
When it comes to religious giving, two concepts frequently arise: tithes and first fruit offerings. To distinguish between the two, it is important to comprehend that tithing involves giving 10 percent of your income to God. This recognizes Him as the ultimate source of all things.
This practice predates even the establishment of the Mosaic Law. Abraham, of his own accord and without any external compulsion, offered a tithe to Melchizedek. This was a foreshadowing of Christ. He did so because he understood that the spoils of victory came from the One who had blessed him.
Today, we continue to give a tenth of our income for the same reason: to acknowledge God as the provider of every blessing we receive. In contrast, the first fruits offering historically took place during harvest time, typically once a year. For contemporary Christians, the first fruits offering can occur during our own symbolic “harvest time.”
It may involve dedicating the first paycheck from our initial job, a percentage of our first paycheck of the year, or even a portion of our bonus or tax refund.
Are First Fruits Offerings Mandatory?
“For if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches” Romans 11:16
With the advent of the New Covenant, a significant transformation occurred in the realm of giving, including the concept of first fruits offering. In the past, such offerings were given as a means to fulfill the obligations imposed by God’s law. However, in the present era, our response is expected to arise from a heartfelt conviction.
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
The essence of giving has never revolved around the quantity or the mere action itself. It has always been a matter of the heart.
In Matthew 6:21, Jesus proclaimed, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Hence, when He requests us to give from our treasures, it is never about our money. Rather, it’s about our hearts.
We can only give joyfully and willingly when we grasp the revelation that God will never ask for something He Himself is not willing to give. He offered His first fruit, His Son — the very best that heaven had to offer — as a gift to us.
How Should You Give First Fruit Offerings?
If you’ve chosen to give a first fruits offering, you may have practical questions. How should you proceed? What amount should you give? Should you give with every bonus or refund, or annually? Here are some tips to help you find clarity:
- Pray about it. When it comes to giving your first fruits offering, there is no external pressure compelling you. It is the grace of God that cultivates generosity within your heart. Therefore, since God is the one instructing you in giving, it is appropriate for Him to guide you on the amount and timing. Seek His guidance through prayer, attentively listening to His voice.
- Plan for it. After determining the timing and amount of your giving, it’s crucial to be a responsible steward of the resources God has entrusted to you. Create a budget that aligns with your intentions. Even the act of managing your finances can become an act of worship when you acknowledge God as the Lord over your financial matters.
- Give. When deciding where to give your offering, consider contributing to your church’s building fund or supporting a cause that aligns with God’s prompting. While tithes typically go to your local church, a first fruits offering allows you to bless either your church or another organization directed by God.
Moving From the Old Law to the New
In the days of the Old Testament, the offering of bikkurim served as a continual reminder to the Israelites of the promise that was yet to be fulfilled. Today, the Promised One has arrived, and our first fruits offering should be nothing less than a response to God’s extraordinary generosity. Remember, He gave His Son.
If you’re a church leader seeking assistance in enhancing giving within your ministry, contact DonorWerx today. Schedule a Discovery Call, and we’ll provide personalized tips that will help you increase giving in your church by 10% or more within a span of just 6 months. The call is free, so what do you have to lose?