Ed. note: This is a guest blog from OpeOluwa Ola, a Medical Doctor based in Lagos, Nigeria. Below are his thoughts on the subject of #Firstfruits which is a topical (and somewhat controversial) issue amongst christian circles, especially in the African community. For questions or contact purposes, His personal details are disclosed at the end of the piece.It’s pretty long but worth the read!
TEXT: EXODUS 23:14-19
INTRODUCTION: Payment of FIRSTFRUITS is one of the ordinances that God instituted and instructed HIS children to observe in the scriptures. However, this has become a controversial issue in the Church of God today. At the mention of the word “firstfruits”, some people raise eyebrows and some others raise lots of questions. Is the payment of Firstfruits still relevant today? If not, WHY?
LESSON AIM AND OBJECTIVES:
• To open and/or broaden our understanding to some important truths about Firstfruits (John 8:32).
• To correct some misconceptions about Firstfruits.
• To make us realise how easy it is (and can be) for anyone to pay Firstfruits.
• To increase the number of believers who are positively responding to the payment of Firstfruits (James 1:22-25).
TRUTHS AND FACTS ABOUT FIRSTFRUITS
• God Himself instituted the payment and/or redemption of Firstfruits/Firstborn.
• The first mention of the word “Firstfruits” in the Scripture can be found in Exodus 23:16. However, the issue of redemption of Firstborn males and some animals can be found in Exodus 13:1, 2, 12-15
• The word Firstfruits appeared 34 times in the King James’ Version of the bible. (Tithes appeared 38 times)
• Firstfruits, like Tithes, are to be brought to the house of the Lord (Exodus 23:19) and given to the Priest in charge (Leviticus 23:10, Deuteronomy 26:1-4)
• Firstfruits are paid as a way of honouring and appreciating God who has delivered us from bondage and has blessed us with a means of livelihood (Proverbs 3:9)
SOME MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FIRSTFRUITS
• That our God asks us to give HIM ALL… All of what? All of our first salary ever? All of our first farm produce ever? All of our first profit ever made in a new business? All of our January salary/first salary of every year?
• That firstfruit of increase is the difference between your old salary/income and the new salary/income. And we must bring ALL of the increment in salary or profit as our First fruit of increase.
WHY MANY BELIEVERS FAIL TO PAY FIRSTFRUITS
• Many believers don’t pay first fruits because they have been told that they must bring ALL…if they want to pay Firstfruits, and this is something they find very difficult to do.
• Some believers are innocently ignorant or unaware of what First fruits are and how to pay them. But such believers are so few in number.
CATEGORIES OF FIRSTFRUITS
There are three main categories of Firstfruits. These are:
• Firstfruits of increase
• Firstfruits of human beings and animals
• Firstfruits Sacrifice
FIRSTFRUITS OF INCREASE
This is what you bring to the priest from your first harvest / produce / salary / profit of a New Year or New Job or New Business, as the case may be. This was adopted from Proverbs 3:9. We will consider this bible verse in 5 different versions of the bible (to see other translations for the word “increase”)
“Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the Firstfruits of all thine increase” (KJV)
“Honour the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you PRODUCE” (NLT)
“Honour the LORD with your wealth, with the Firstfruits of all your CROPS” (NIV)
“Honour the LORD with your substance and with the Firstfruits of all your PRODUCE” (RSV)
“Honour the Lord with your capital (and) sufficiency (from righteous labours) and with the Firstfruits of all your INCOME” (AMP)
Did you see that? Increase in KJV is NOT synonymous to increment in salary or whatever. It simply means PRODUCE or CROPS or INCOME.
So, if God raises your salary from #50,000 to #100,000, such a person is NOT expected to bring #50,000 (difference between the old and new salary) as firstfruit of increase.
Though the salary has been increased, what God requires from such a person is to BRING SOMETHING WORTHWHILE in appreciation of the increment that God has given to him or her.
This clarifies the misconception about Firstfruits of increase.
FIRSTFRUITS OF HUMAN BEINGS AND ANIMALS
In Exodus 13, God told Moses to sanctify unto Him (i.e to DEDICATE unto Him) all the firstborn of man and beast. He (God) said the firstborn is His own (Exodus 13:1-2). However, He went further to say that the firstborn of man and that of the ass (or donkey) should be redeemed.
Note: The firstborn that are to be redeemed are the sons and male animals, not the firstborn daughters or female animals.
Exodus 13:12 says:
“That thou shall set apart unto the Lord all that opens the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou has; the males shall be the Lord’s. (KJV)
“You must present all firstborn sons and firstborn male animals to the Lord, for they belong to HIM. (NLT)
In essence, we are under obligation to redeem our firstborn sons and firstborn animals. But it should be noted also that the redemption price is not commensurate to the value of the original thing to be redeemed. For instance, according to Exodus 13:13, an ass can be redeemed with a lamb. Can you compare the price of a lamb to that of a donkey in the market? Or how much can you pay to redeem the life of a son? (See Numbers 3:47 for the redemption price of man: just 5 pieces of silver!)
This is a way to show us that God is not really interested in “ALL” as some pastors preach it today.
This is when you give God ALL of your first salary / produce/ profit/ income ever in your newly found job or business. It can also mean giving to God ALL your first salary / produce / profit made in a new year. For instance, the whole January salary can be brought to “your priest” as a FIRSTFRUITS SACRIFICE.
What we should know about this is the fact that IT IS NOT AN OBLIGATION to any believer. To give ALL your January salary or first salary ever to the priest is NOT God’s commandment/instruction to us as believers. However, if we can afford to do it, IT IS A GOOD AND HIGHLY COMMENDABLE SACRIFICE. That is why it is called FIRSTFRUITS SACRIFICE.
MY PERSONAL TESTIMONY:
By the grace of God, when I got my first salary as a student working in a church office, I gave all back to God as my first fruit. Also, when I got my first salary as a medical doctor, I gave all of the first month’s salary to God as my Firstfruits. This I did, by the grace of God, of my own volition: not as an obligation, neither was it because any pastor told me to do so. But having had an understanding of the great blessings attached to such a SACRIFICE, I gave it all back to God.
That I gave ALL by the grace of God is not a reason for me or for anyone to make it a DOCTRINAL OBLIGATION for believers. If I do so, those who cannot afford to give ALL may be feeling some measure of condemnation or guilt in their hearts, on an issue that God has not made an obligation for them. So, why not say it the way God has put it, so that everyone can respond positively to this issue of FIRSTFRUITS?
We shall consider some bible passages that tell us about FIRSTFRUITS to establish the fact that God is NOT demanding for ALL:
Numbers 3:11-16, 39-51
~God commanded Moses to count all the male Levites (not only the firstborn) from one month old and above. (They were 22,000 in number).
~God also told Moses to count all the firstborn male children of Israel from one month old and above. (They were 22,273 in number).
~God said, instead of taking all the firstborn male children of Israel, He would take all the male Levites as substitutes.
~He also said that redemption prices should be paid for the EXTRA FIRSTBORN SONS in Israel (273 in number) only, instead of the whole 22,273 in all.
Did God demand for ALL?
“The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shall bring into the house of the Lord thy God…” (KJV)
“As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God…” (NLT)
“Bring the best of the first fruit of your soil to the house of the Lord your God…” NIV
Is God asking for ALL or a PART (which is the BEST PART)?
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, when ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruit of your harvest unto the priest:” (KJV)
“Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you enter the land I am giving you and you harvest its first crops, bring the priest a bundle of grain from the first cutting of your grain harvest.” (NLT)
Is this also depicting ALL or a PART?
(Verse 2) “That thou shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shall bring of thy land that the Lord thy God gives thee, and shall put it in a basket, and shall go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there.” (KJV)
“Put some of the first produce from each crop you harvest into a basket and bring it to the designated place of worship… The place the LORD your God chooses for his name to be honoured.” (NLT)
Isn’t it obvious that God is not asking for ALL as it is being preached in many churches today?
And finally, 2 Chronicles 31:5
“And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel in abundance the first fruits of corn, wine and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field: and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.” (KJV)
“As soon as the command went abroad, the Israelites gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, vintage fruit, oil, honey and of all the produce of the field: and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything” (AMP)
If according to this verse, they brought first fruits in abundance AND the tithe of all things, this tells us that they brought BOTH the first fruits and tithes from what they had. If they had brought ALL as firstfruits, what else would they have brought as tithes?
Let me conclude by saying that God has always requested for a FRACTION of our substance (though HE owns us and everything we have). He is only asking for a PART that spells out our honour for Him (the BEST PART of our substance) as FIRSTFRUITS. Irrespective of how much we are bringing, HE wants us to HONOUR Him with our First fruits. He wants us to do it cheerfully and with a grateful heart. NOT of NECESSITY (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Note: If you can offer ALL as first fruits, please do because God loves, respects and honours sacrifices. But know also that offering ALL as first fruits is NOT an obligation.
• With all sense of humility and honour to the anointing, Teachers and Preachers of the Word should not try to HELP God by insisting on people bringing ALL as their first fruits. They should rather teach the people of God what is written in the scriptures.
• God is just and fair! His laws and ordinances are not grievous. Don’t condemn yourself or others on what God has not called an obligation for anyone.
• If people can get the right information and understanding on the subject of FIRSTFRUITS, there will be a drastic and improved positive response to this subject matter, to the glory of God—and solely to that purpose, I type these words!
Thanks for taking your time to read through this (long) article. God bless us all in Jesus’ name. Amen.
For more scriptures on FIRSTFRUITS, see:
Exodus 23:16, 19; Exodus 34:22, 26; Leviticus 2:12, 14; Leviticus 23:10, 17, 20; Numbers 18:12; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 18:4; Deuteronomy 26:1, 10; 2 Kings 4:42; 2 Chronicles 31:5; Nehemiah 10:35, 37; Nehemiah 12:44; Nehemiah 13:31; Proverbs 3:9; Jeremiah 2:3; Ezekiel 20:40; Ezekiel 44:30; Ezekiel 48:14; Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4