A Short Guide To Understand First Fruits Offerings
Curious about first fruits in the Scriptures? We’ll explain the difference between first fruits & tithing, why it is important & how to give. Read here!
There are plenty of terms and phrases in the Scripture you frequently hear in the assemblies but may not understand.
One such term is the first fruits in the Scriptures.
First fruits may be mentioned when pastors talk about giving or generosity. But what exactly does it mean?
And why is it good to know for the average asselmbly-goer?
What is first fruits in the Scripture?
“When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.” —Leviticus 23:10
The concept of first fruits is rooted in biblical times when people lived in an agrarian society. Harvest time was significant because that was when the hard work the farmers had poured into their crops all year began to pay off. They were literally reaping what they sowed.
YAHUAH called his people to bring the first yield—the first fruits—from their harvest to him as an offering. This was to demonstrate the Yisraelites’ obedience and reverence for YAHUAH. It also showed that they trusted YAHUAH to provide enough crops to feed their family.
Back then, there were plenty of rules associated with making first fruit sacrifices. They had to be brought to the Zadok Temple Priests. No other crops could be harvested until after the first fruits were presented. It was a complex process.
The Hebrew word for first fruit is bikkurim—literally translated to “promise to come.” The Yisraelites saw these first fruits as an investment into their future. YAHUAH told them that if they brought their first fruits to him, he would bless all that came afterward.
We no longer live in an agrarian-based society. Most people reading this are probably not farmers. You likely don’t worry about harvest time or giving away the first yield of your crops. But the idea of first fruits is still relevant—it just takes on a new meaning for us.
First fruits in the Scripture
“Honor YAHUAH with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.” —Proverbs 3:9
We see the term first fruits initially mentioned in the book of Exodus when Moses is leading YAHUAH’s people out of captivity in Egypt. YAHUAH instructed the Yisraelites to give up the first of their crops so that they could understand the value of YAHUAH’s blessings.
Through the first five books of the Scripture, Moshe (Moses) brings up the idea of a total of thirteen times. That’s because it was an essential concept for his people to understand. First fruits is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, and it’s even referenced in the New Testament books.
In the New Testament, the term first fruits takes on a symbolic meaning. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul mentions Messiah as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” YAHUSHA was YAHUAH’s first fruits—his one and only son, and the best that humanity had to offer. YAHUAH gave YAHUSHA, who was raised from the dead, up for us, in the same way that we sacrifice the best we have for him.
What started as a specific instruction for bringing crops to the Zadok Temple Priest was expanded on later in Scripture. It no longer refers to literal fruit—first fruits means any income, wealth, or blessings that a Believer has received over the course of the year.
Difference between first fruits and tithing
“The first of all first fruits of every kind and every contribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the Zadok Temple Priests: you shall also give to the Zadok Priest the first of your dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house.” —Ezekiel 44:30
To give a tithe means that you give a tenth of your income to your Assembly. Tithes are generally given throughout the entire year. Tithes are meant to be given in an automatic sense of obedience after you receive your income–e.g., paycheck, commission, bonus.
A First fruits offering is something different.
First fruit offerings are typically an annual gift to the Assembly done at “harvest time.”
Because we’re not actually harvesting crops, the harvest can mean different things to different people. Perhaps you just got a bonus at work. Maybe you just received a huge tax refund check. Maybe you saved 15% or more on car insurance.
These are all harvest time moments when your hard work paid off. These are also great opportunities to turn back to YAHUAH in gratitude for the blessings.
Whenever you decide to make a first fruit offering, the important thing is that you do it freely, with no guilt or obligation. This is supposed to be a celebration of all that YAHUAH has done for you. It’s a kind of worship that you can use to support the work of others. A first fruit offering is our opportunity to give above and beyond just a regular tithe.
Why giving first fruits is important
“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to YAHUAH. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. YAHUAH looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” —Genesis 4:3-5
The famous Scripture story of Cain and Abel begins when the two brothers make an offering to YAHUAH. Cain brings some of his crops before YAHUAH, and Abel brings an offering of slaughtered animals. But there is a distinct difference between these two gifts.
Cain brings some fruit and vegetables—probably something he had left over after he had fed himself and his family. But Abel brought the best of what he had to YAHUAH—the firstborn of the flock, the healthiest of his animals. YAHUAH noticed this difference in these sacrifices, and he had a clear preference between the two.
Disregarding what famously happens in the rest of the story, the sacrifices of Cain and Abel teaches us a valuable lesson. Giving our first fruits means giving our best to YAHUAH. It means sacrificing something that costs us a little. It means putting YAHUAH first, even before ourselves, or our family.
Making a first fruit offering opens us up to allow YAHUAH to work in our life. When we approach YAHUAH with open hands—rather than clenched fists—it makes it easier for him to give us more to work with.
Giving of our first fruits reminds us that YAHUAH is our ultimate priority. It shows YAHUAH that we are obedient to him and we can be trusted with more. Perhaps most importantly, being generous in this way shows that we are grateful for all YAHUAH has given to us.
How to give a first fruits offering
“If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.” —Romans 11:16
What does this practically look like? How do you determine how, when, and how much you should give as a first fruit offering? This is going to look different for every person and each season. But here are a few steps you can take to help you get started in the right direction:
• Pray: If your goal is obedience to YAHUAH, it only makes sense that you would first go to him in prayer. Ask him what you should do with your money and resources. Listen to what he says.
• Prepare: YAHUAH calls us to be good stewards of the blessings he gives us. That means knowing what we’re able to give and when. Have a plan in place for your offering. Approach each harvest time with an open mind and a generous heart.
• Prioritize: The whole idea behind a first fruit gift is to put YAHUAH first. That may be donating your first paycheck of the year to the Assembly. It may mean that you put this donation first in your budget. Just make sure that you’re prioritizing YAHUAH in your finances.
• Give: Know where you are going to give the money to. Is there a specific funds you want to contribute to? Is there another nonprofit you want to support? It also helps to know the amount you’ll give.
• Repeat: How often do you want to give a first fruit offering? This was traditionally an annual practice, but you can give as often as you’d like. Making it a part of your routine will help keep it a priority, not something you do spontaneously or sporadically.
However you give, the key thing is that you’re giving with an open heart and mind.
The process of giving above your normal tithe can help prepare you for YAHUAH to make a difference in your life. Making a first fruit offering demonstrates obedience to YAHUAH, rather than your money.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on August 6, 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.