Thursday, 24 January 2019

First Fruit Offering: What is the Christian Perspective?

Recently, a lady who works in their church office, told me how her senior pastor is insisting on seizing their January salary in a bid to force them to give their “firstfruits offering”. He said that he wants to help them to obey God. Even though the lady has told him that she does not want to participate in the practice because she does not believe that her January salary is her firstfruits, he insists that everyone of them must be involved.

I have made out time to see the senior pastor on behalf of the lady. I hinged my argument on three reasons: the first is that God created man and gave him freewill. He does not violate our freedom to choose whether to obey Him or not. Let us assume that your firstfruits offering is your January salary, God will not twist our hands to obey Him. He persuades, makes promises, warns, and paints the pictures of the consequences of disobedience and the rewards of obedience. It is our responsibility to make a choice to either obey Him or not. Moses told the people of Israel, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deut. 30:19-20 NIV. He is not a tyrant. He loves us and calls us to a loving relationship that is real and practical. His Judgment is only fair when man has exercised his freewill. It is unbiblical to violate the freewill of an adult because you want him to obey God. Secondly, if you love a people and want them to obey God in such a way that they receive God’s blessings, you must make effort, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to bring them to the point where they apply their faith to the Word of God you teach them. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God…” Heb.11:6.  Paul also places the responsibility on the person with knowledge to ensure that he does not destroy others who are weak with his knowledge. Again, let us assume that your January salary is your firstfruits and God has revealed it to you as what Christians should practice, you have the responsibility to bring the ignorant person to the point where he gives it in faith. “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Rom 14:23. NIV. If this lady does not want to participate in this practice, do not take it by force. Lastly, I told him that "The worker deserves his wages." 1 Tim 5:18. NIV. If the lady has worked for the month of January, she deserves her wages. She ought to be paid, then she will decide on how to worship God with her salary. You cannot violate a part of the Scriptures because you want to practice another part of the Scriptures.

After a long time of argument, he said that he is taking his stand as a father who wants his children to do the right thing. To this I told him that his analysis of a father and his children is faulty in this matter. At last he promised to think about the points I raised and later will decide whether to give the lady her salary or not. I challenged him that he was sounding like an autocratic leader who wants to impose his views on those he is leading and that is ungodly and unchristian.

I have given the matter a serious thought since after my meeting with him. What is firstfruits by the way? Is it a must practice for a Christian? How should a New Covenant person interpret the Old Testament practice of firstfruits?

First, there are different feasts God commanded the people of Israel to keep:  Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks, and Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. (Read Lev. 23). Firstfruits particularly was a constant reminder that God delivered them from slavery in Egypt and gave them a land that flows with milk and honey, which was never their own from the beginning. Hence, in the land of Canaan, they ought to honor God and make Him their numero uno. It was to be a sheaf of grain, which is like a bunch of grain out of the first set of their harvest or crops. Nothing connects it with January salary.

Secondly, I believe that the significance of all these Old Testament feasts have been accomplished in Christ who has become our Passover Lamb, Atonement Sacrifice, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor.15:20), the One who is coming again to take us as His firstfruits, and also the One that will oversee the final harvest, which is final judgment. Our resurrection is sure because of His resurrection. Halleluyah!

Thirdly, it is based on this Old Testament practice that Prov 3:9-10 emphasized “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.” NIV. It does not have anything to do with your January salary.

Finally, in all the seven times firstfruits is mentioned in the New Testament, it is used symbolically to buttress a point. For example, in 1 Cor.16:15, the household of Stephanas is called the firstfruits of Achaia. This means that they were the first converts in Achaia before many others became believers. Firstfruits is never emphasized as a giving method or practice in the New Testament.

The New Testament believer is to give willingly, cheerfully and liberally, (2 Cor.9) “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor.9:7). We are to honor God with the best of the things He has blessed us with and make Him our number one. That is the principle we can draw from the Old Testament firstfruits practice. If God tells you to give up your January salary or you feel persuaded to give up the salary of the first month of your job, please do not impose your personal experience on the Scriptures or on other of God’s children. Your individual experience is not worth to be used to establish doctrine. Let us not place strange burdens upon God’s children which He has not placed on them.