Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, author, and former newspaper columnist, with degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies.
Biblical context of First Fruits.
When it comes to Old Testament commands the first rule of thumb is to examine the context. Who was speaking and whom were they addressing? Sacrificing animals was an OT practice but everyone agrees it is not necessary today. Anything OT related to getting money out of people's pockets, however, is embraced without question. There are many things our Heavenly Father spoke to the Israelites, for a specific purpose and during a certain period of time that are not commanded of Christ-followers today. A growing number of Christian pastors in recent decades have been implementing first fruit giving from their congregants Compelling Truth reveals that in the Old Testament the firstfruits offering was required by our Creator of the children of Israel. Here are scripture references.
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."
Deuteronomy 26 explains in detail that the purpose of the first fruits was to acknowledge how our Heavenly Father led the Israelites into Egypt, multiplied them, delivered them from bondage, and gave them the land of Canaan as their inheritance.
The Israelites were required to give a first fruits offering as thanks for God giving them cities they did not build, houses full of things that they did not fill, and wells full of water that they did not dig, The Israelites also ended up with vineyards and olive trees they did not plant. They inherited all of this from the Canaanites, whom the Lord had them remove from the land. The first offering was brought to the temple where it was displayed before the Creator and then given to the priests. This was how the priests received their sustenance. (Numbers 18:11-12 and Proverbs 3:9-10). Many theologians believe that this was a specific promise to the chosen people, only. This offering was a thank you to the Lord for bringing them out of Egypt and was set up so the priests would be taken care of as they did the work of the Lord. Please note that the first fruits were not money but bread, and other food items. which included barley, figs, wheat, olive oil, grapes, pomegranate, honey and date, wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates.
First Fruits in the New Testament
In Romans 12:13-16 Paul speaks of the first fruits metaphorically related to the first Jewish Christians. In Romans 8:23 the Apostle says ''Not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit…" Paul is using this as a metaphor for the first appearance the Holy Spirit, the "helper" who Jesus promised. The very first followers of Christ were also the very first to experience the blessing of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and received the "first fruits" of the work of His Spirit in the lives of believers.
In I Corinthians 15:20-24 Christ is referred to as the "first fruits" of all who will be raised from the dead. Jesus is the firstborn, the only begotten Son of the Father resurrection is the first promise that all who accept Him will also be raised from the dead. He is a guarantee of our salvation future blessings in eternity.
In James 1:18 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 New Testament believers are referred to as "firstfruits." because they were the first to follow the risen Christ., The Christians in the early church were the "firstfruits" and the promise that creation itself will be restored.
Revelation 14:4 tells of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses as firstfruits who will spread the Gospel during the Tribulation. The term "firstfruits" in the New Testament, is not referring to giving money to the church.
Abusing First fruits
Today firstfruits is used by some leaders to encourage their church congregants to give above and beyond tithing. In the Old Testament the Levitical priests did not have a source of income and the firstfruits offering was food so keep these three things in mind. 1. Modern-day American preachers are not descendants of the Levites, 2. There is no New Testament scripture that says to change the first fruits into money. 3. If a pastor receives a love offering or salary his church is already taking care of him or her financially. If that pastor has a secular job, he already had a source of income. and first fruits are not necessary. Churchgoers are read the Old Testament promises and told to give one of the following. Either their entire first paycheck from a new job, the entire increase from the first raise of the year, or the first paycheck of the year. Some preachers ask for the amount earned from any sales that net income, or a portion of each subsequent paycheck where there has been a raise. Some theologians say this is similar to how the tithe is taken out of context and forced on the modern day church. Old Testament promises are being guaranteed to New Covenant believers. I am certain there are good hearted pastors who simply use the first fruit method as a way to bring in extra money to their church. Perhaps there are shepherds who receive first fruits as their income and do not take a salary.
Some churches may use the money to fund projects that tithes and offerings don’t cover but; The first fruits in our modern day were initiated by greedy pastors to fill their own personal coffers. I attended churches where the pastor received a salary and 100% of the seeds sown at the altar. He also received firstfruits said he was the modern-day priest but that is not backed up by scripture. Some unsuspecting churches may be innocently utilizing first fruits without understanding their original purpose or not knowing why this was set in place in modern times.
The bottom line
It’s always not wise to simply pull a scripture out of the Old Testament and teach it to your congregation without first researching it. For this reason 2 Corinthians 9:7 should be our model of New Testament giving. Each person should give what they have purposed in their own hearts which is between them and their heavenly Father. If what people choose to freely give is not meeting needs there are many ways to raise money without misrepresenting scripture.
If a church decides to follow the first fruit principle as a way to pay the pastor or pay the bills there is nothing wrong with using that model. The problem comes in when modern day American preachers call themselves the priest of the church. Priests were from the tribe of Levi and any descendants today would be Jewish. Furthermore, scripture says New Covenant leaders are Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Teachers, Bishops, and Pastors. The Compelling Truth article.said that there is nowhere in scripture that indicates the doctrine of transference, which taking all things in the Old Testament and transferring what was written to the Israelites to New Testament believers. If transference was real, we would still be sacrificing sheep and goats which negates Christ being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Cheryl E Preston
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on March 25, 2020:
Yes so true.
OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on March 24, 2020:
When our understanding of gospel is shallow we shall always be played upon.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 24, 2020:
A long time ago I visisted a couple of churchs that really pressed the congregation for money. It made me very uncomfortable. The church I have attened for the past 20 years does not do that, thank goodness.
You have written an excellent article that carefully explains the difference between the old and new testaments. Thank you for discussing this problem and enlightening us.
Lorna Lamon on March 24, 2020:
It's sad that people are being taken in by those they should be able to look up to, and yet I can see why this happens. Another excellent article Cheryl which shines the light on this issue.