Note: This is the first post in a new series about certain Biblical principles and practices that have been if not forgotten then at least neglected by most Christians today. I wrote this particular article about three years ago, but the truths I discuss have become even more evident and powerful in my life since that time. Be looking for additional posts in this series in the weeks ahead.
A couple of weeks ago, I had to start my morning a little earlier than usual. The Christian school my boys attend had asked me to speak at their monthly prayer breakfast and because we needed to be there about an hour before school started, I set the alarm clock with plenty of time to get me and the boys up and ready.
Let me just pause for a second and tell you, for those of you who don’t know me well, I AM NOT a morning person. I can easily stay up into the late hours of the night with energy to spare but don’t get me up early! My oldest son Peyton seems to have inherited my aversion to early rising. When I woke him up extra early that morning, he moaned and complained and with eyes not yet fully open asked with a yawn, “Why can’t prayer breakfast be a night?!” I could help but think, “Amen, brother. Amen.”
While I fully admit that I am not a morning person, I have been more an more convicted by a certain biblical truth that is causing me to rethink how I start my day. I first preached on this Biblical principle about six months ago, and I did so in relation to a series on tithing I was going through, but I have come to see how this principle is related to so much more than just tithing. What my eyes have been opened to is that this Biblical principle, when properly applied, can radically transform and strengthen a multitude of areas of my life.
What I want to share with you is called The Principle of Firstfruits.
The word firstfruits is seen in many places in the Bible. It’s mentioned multiple times in Exodus through Deuteronomy as God’s command to bring in the first part of the harvest as an offering in relation to certain feasts. God makes it clear that the firstfruits are holy to Him (Jeremiah 2:3). In the New Testament, Christ is referred to as the firstfruit (1 Cor. 15:20) as is the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:23) the followers of Christ (James 1:18) and the faithful remnant of Israel (Romans 11:16). What the Bible makes clear is that the firstfruits are the first and best portion of whatever we have (or in some cases what God has) and is given up as an offering and sacrifice. Still, how do we see the principle of firstfruits lived out in our lives?
The principle of firstfruits is more than just about tithing. However, to best understand this principle we should first examine in the context of giving. Let me ask you a few questions. When you give into the offering plate on Sundays, how much should you give? You have been called to give a tithe (Malachi 3:10 & numerous other Bible passages) which literally means a tenth. So if I earn $100, I should give $10. Pretty simple, right? Sadly, our churches have way too many people who haven’t yet grasped the importance of this concept. For arguments sake, let me assume that you tithe. Now, of that $100, which $10 of it should be given as your tithe? It is the last $10 you earn, or the first $10 you earn? You say that you don’t know which $10 is the first or the last, so let me ask it this way. When you get paid that $100 is the $10 check the first check or the last check you write?
Let’s take the example back to Bible times. We are called to give our tithe out of our increase, so in my case, I give of the money I earn. However, when God established the principle of tithing, many people’s increase was agriculture in nature. So, if a farmer in the days of the Old Testament was counting his sheep he owned, and he counted 10 sheep (only a small farm) which one becomes the gift to the Lord? Would it have been the first sheep that passed before him or the last one?
In other words, do we give unto God only after we’ve made sure we have enough for ourselves or do we give Him our firstfruits? God called us to tithe as an act of trust. He doesn’t need our money. He says, “trust me with the first portion of what you have by sacrificing it (giving it up) and watch how I bless and sustain the rest.” Think about it for a minute. If you’ve already spent/given away/used up ninety percent of what you have and then give that ten percent to God, how is He going to bless what you’ve already used? The principle of firstfruits teaches us not just about giving ourselves and our resources to God but doing so in the correct order.
So what the principle of firstfuits means is that I give to God the first part and best part of whatever I have, so that He might dedicate the rest. Hopefully you are seeing how this can apply in many ways beyond simply tithing. I could write many pages on this topic, but for simplicity’s sake, let me offer a few ways to implement the principle of firstfruits.
- Give the first part of your day to God. Am I saying that to live by the principle of firstfruits you have to become a morning person that wakes up at 4am and spends two and half hours in prayer? If so, my son and I will be two very unhappy campers! While I don’t believe you have to wake up extra early to do this, I do believe you should find a way to give the first part of your day to God. If you are able to, spend that first portion of your work day with your office door closed and get in the Word. Maybe you have a long drive to work, and could use that time to listen to Scripture and be in prayer about what it’s saying. Some of you may just need to wake up a little earlier and give that time to God before any of the craziness of your day gets started. Watch how God can bless, sustain, and increase your day when you give the firstfruits to Him.
- Give the first part of your relationship to God. This is often overlooked, but I think that we need to dedicate the firstfruits our social time unto the Lord. How often have you sat down with a friend for lunch or gotten into a phone conversation and complaining, gossiping, or slandering words became the immediate tone of the conversation? You see that best friend and you can’t wait to vent about how frustrated your boss/husband/wife/child is making you. What if instead of letting your conversations drift into negativity, you spent the first portion of your time with others talking about what God is doing. Instead of complaining about some person, begin your conversation with prayer for that person who is causing you problems. Pray for and with those you are spending time with. You could open Scripture and take five minutes to share and discuss a verse to help set the tone of the rest of your conversation. Watch how God can bless and use for good your social time when you give the firstfruits of that time to Him.
- Give the firstfruits of your service to God. When it comes to service, many people (even I often do this) make the mistake of thinking that serving God comes only when and if there is time available at the end of a busy day/week. This completely goes against the principle of firstfruits! I understand that you may not have the ability to start each day with a service project, but you can plan your day/week with a service first mindset. In other words, be purposeful about looking at your schedule and before deciding on all the things you think you have to do, take time to plan your service to God. Put on your calendar first the ministry your going to volunteer with or that church event you’re going to help run and then worry about fitting in all that other stuff. Watch how the Lord blesses and multiplies the hours of your week when you give the firstfruits of your time and service to Him.
I’m curious, what other ways can you think of to give your firstfruits?
The principle of firstfruits means giving the first and best of everything to God. We do so as an act of trust in Him that He will meet our needs. While we do want to know that our needs will be met, let me offer one final reason we are to give the firstfruits to God – that’s what He gave to us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16