Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9,10 NIV)
As we enjoy fresh salads and strawberries from the garden, my thoughts have turned often to the giving of firstfruits to the priests that the Israelites were called to. How hard it must have been for some of them, after the leanness of the hunger season when the last of the stored fruit and grain had been eaten and their children were hungry to give up their firstfruits.
How hard too it must have been for Hannah too, to give up her first born son Samuel. She too had endured a hunger season, a winter season of barrenness when she longer to see the firstfruit of her womb and enjoy her God given son. Yet she gave him up. Hannah’s commitment was not a cursory dedication than then a taking home of her baby, nor was the offering of the firstfruits of the harvest. This was a life time letting go, a giving of crops and of a child to nourish and sustain the life of others.
Belief in a future abundant harvest must have taken a lot of faith. Their focus must surely have been on the scarcity of the moment, not the abundance of the future. The desire to hold onto what God asked them to share must have been excruciating at times. This was not a temporary letting go either. Nor was it a one time thing. Firstfruits are seasonal, they ripen after every winter season of barrenness and pruning. They were given to the priests for their consumption and for distribution to widows and the poor, nourishing others with their produce before they nourished themselves.
What is your response.
Sit quietly for a few moments and think about the first fruits in your life. What are they? They probably do not come in the form of grain and fruit. Are they talents, education, finances, or even relationships? What do you do with your firstfruits? Is God prompting you to let go of them so that the hunger of others might be satisfied?
God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. (2Cor 9:8-11 NLT)
Today the concept of firstfruits and the promise of abundance to follow is often associated with the prosperity gospel. Partly because we think of the rest of our harvest as belonging to ourselves, but the giving of the firstfruits was to set a pattern of generosity and sharing for the people of God.
Jesus was the ultimate firstfruits offering. He gave up his life to God so that others could be nourished and find life after a barren existence, a winter season without God.
As I ate the bread and drank the wine of communion last Sunday, I realized that Jesus is still being offered as the as the ongoing fruit of a long awaited abundant harvest in the kingdom of God. Wherever the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are manifested we see the life of God, the firstfruits of Jesus sacrifice being multiplied and offered in abundance to nourish all of us who are in need.
It is often when we have little that we are the most generous. We give freely of our firstfruits, but as God blesses us with more abundant talents, ministry and wealth, we become less generous. The wealthy give a much smaller proportion of their income away than do the poor. We easily forget that all we have is to be shared generously with those in need.
What is your response?
Watch the video below, then sit quietly and consider the fruit that you produce. Are you as generous with the ongoing fruit of your life as you were at the beginning of your productivity? Are there ways in which God is prompting you to be more generous in the sharing of your gifts, talents and resources? What steps might God ask of you to make this possible?