Deuteronomy 26:1-15 (NIV) 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, 2 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. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name3 and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God.5 Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father 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. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer,subjecting us to harsh labor. 7 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. 8 So the Lordbrought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him.11 Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.
12 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. 13 Then say to the Lord your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them. 14 I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the Lord my God; I have done everything you commanded me. 15 Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
There is a lot of thought and talk about First Fruits in the Christian arena. Most of it is about tithing, which is literally true. The idea of the tenth came from Jacob in Genesis 28:20-22 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (ESV)
To paraphrase this statement: Jacob said, be with me, take care of me, and I will make sure to honor you with a tenth of all you do for me.
The question becomes…does God need us to give him a tenth? The answer should be, “no!” God doesn’t actually “need” anything that we are giving him. He already owns it all…he was the one who created it and still has control of it, even now. What God is asking for is the acknowledgement that he is “our” creator, he is “our” God. He is looking for us to think of him “first” whenever we “first” receive our blessings. We should not be giving a tithe because we are “told” or we “should” or we “have to”; the idea behind the tithe is that we are to honor the relationship we have with God. With God it is always about our relationship with him. We must have a relationship of obedience in order to honor God.
If you go into Genesis 4:1-7 and look at the story of Cain and Abel this first fruits idea gets confusing because God rejects Cain’s offering of fruit of the soil, and accepts Abel’s offering of meat. I know that, about now, you are really thinking of the irony that God rejected fruits and vegetables from Cain, but that what is talked about in Deuteronomy is the very same thing the fruit of the harvest. If you notice, though it doesn’t say that Cain brought his “first fruits” or even if the fruits he brought were nice looking or were blemished. It just says he brought some fruit. It is very clearly stated that Abel brought of the “firstlings” of his flock. In other words, Abel thought of God first and foremost when he reaped his blessing from his flock. It wasn’t about it being meat, or fruit. It was about Cain’s heart in making his offering. He clearly was not completely honoring God in his heart, and that was the reason for God’s rejection of his offering. God wants our heart to be full of love for him and for our fellow man whenever we make our offerings to him.
So ask yourself this question whenever you are offering something to God….are you offering it in the manner of Cain, or are you offering your best with your whole heart in love of God?
2Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (NIV)