As Americans we generally like to be first. (Those of us with competitive tendencies like to be first more than others!) We are taught to be first and win the race of life starting at a very young age:
- First to walk and talk
- Climb to the top of the class
- Be the first to graduate from college
- Win the race up the corporate ladder
So we can be the best and get the best for ourselves and achieve the American Dream, right?
But wait...is there more?
What is God's perspective on this “be first, win the race, get to the top” concept?
The Israelites were farmers.They grew food not just as a livelihood but to survive. The idea of first fruits is seen in numerous places in the Old Testament when the Israelites are instructed to give God their first fruits. For example, in Exodus 23:19a they are told, “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.”
For as important as food production was to God’s chosen people, God’s expectation was that they give back to him the first and the best of their produce. After all, it was God’s blessing that allowed the plants to grow and provide more than sufficient food throughout the growing season.
The majority of us do not plant, grow, and harvest any substantial amounts of food. We work at any number of jobs or have income from various sources. We don’t live as nomadic farmers like the Israelites did so what does the idea of first fruits have to do with us today?
The British dictionary gives us a clear definition on how first fruits apply to not just a crop, but to all forms of production. It defines first firsts as “the first results, products, or profits of an undertaking”. No matter what we do to create income or achieve results, it falls under God’s exception of first fruits.
First Fruits is the top of the totem pole. It's the income that comes in first. It’s not after taxes, heath insurance, the phone bill, the mortgage payment, the trip to the grocery store or a stop at the mall. Its comes out of the first earnings.
Sounds painful and maybe even scary.
Is that really what God intends? I think so. In this way we demonstrate our trust in him and acknowledge that it is through his blessing we received the income. It’s not because we went to college, it’s not because we worked really hard and it’s not because the economy just happened to improve. It’s because God allowed us to earn the income. It is a blessing!
As you ponder the amount to give back to God, remember it’s the first fruits he’s asking for from us. Our first and best. It’s through giving this way that we win in God’s eyes.
By the way, if you want to set up automatic giving to make tithing your first fruits automatic, please follow this link.