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)
If you’re a regular churchgoer, you’ve undoubtedly heard this passage taught in conjunction with tithing. The church’s teaching is that God requires ten percent of all your income, and that per the definition of firstfruits, it must be given off the top. I would buy that teaching, except for two things: God doesn’t require tithing, and tithes and firstfruits are two totally different concepts.
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.’” (Leviticus 23:9-10)
This same command is repeated in Deuteronomy 16. If an Israelite had 100 acres of wheat, the firstfruits was literally one sheaf of grain, not ten percent. And if an Israelite had 1,000 fruit trees, the firstfruits was literally one basket of fruit, not ten percent. In other words, when it came to firstfruits, quantity wasn’t the issue.
If not quantity, then what? Deuteronomy 16 goes on to explain that the firstfruits was a symbolic offering on the part of the Israelites as a way to acknowledge and honor God for bringing them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. After reciting an oration to that effect, an Israelite would:
…Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. (Deuteronomy 26:10-11)
So, if you want to honor God with the firstfruits of your income in the same way the Israelites honored God with the firstfruits of their harvest, here’s what you do: No matter how much money you make this week, when the offering plate passes your way next Sunday, drop a penny in it and say, “With this symbolic penny, God, I acknowledge the fact that all good things come from you. Thank you for allowing me to work and make money so I can provide for the needs of my family.” Then bow down to Him.
What happens next is the same whether you do the firstfruits offering or not: Provide for the needs of your family. And then use whatever money’s left over for whatever your heart desires. That could be an incredibly extravagant lifestyle that makes yourself the priority, or an incredibly modest lifestyle that makes others the priority, or something in between.
The point is this: It’s totally up to you how you spend your money. God has no ten percent requirement that must be given off the top or to the church. But however you choose to spend it, always remember this:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.