What are first fruit offerings? Historically, first fruits referred to literal produce. Juicy pomegranates, hearty barley, sweet dates, and briny olives were some of the crops that the Israelites would take from the first of their harvest and give to God as an offering. Nowadays, first fruit offerings are typically monetary, but they still have great relevance for how we give and build wealth today.
First fruits are different than tithes and offerings. (See Nehemiah 12:44 and 2 Chronicles 31:5.) A tithe is 10% of your income and typically goes to the local church. Offerings are additional gifts that could go to the church, nonprofits or parachurch organizations, a friend in need, or any other number of causes God puts on your heart. First fruit offerings are additional to the tithe and come out of the first of your income, earnings, or random gifts you receive throughout the year. Essentially, first fruits are about giving our best to God, because He gives His best to us.
This blog post will cover:
- How Much are First Fruit Offerings?
- First Fruits in the Old Testament
- How First Fruits Apply to Your Life
- Giving First Fruits and Receiving Blessings
How Much are First Fruit Offerings?
The Bible describes first fruits as a “freewill offering,” which leads many people to believe that they could (and can) discern how much to give between them and God. However, we know that the order is important. As the name indicates, first fruit offerings are meant to be given first. There’s not much trust, nor as much gratitude, involved in giving God your leftovers. There is no percentage mentioned in the Bible for first fruits, though Jewish rabbis have interpreted the text to mean 1/40-1/60th of the harvest, or 1.6-2.5%.
God has often told me to encourage business owners and investors to give a first fruit offering of 1-2% off their gross profits before taxes. (This is different than your tithe, which would be 10% of the income you take for yourself.) Imagine the amount of good that could be done with that money! We don’t build wealth because of how much we can get. We do it because of the difference we can make.
In addition, first fruits sanctify, or make holy, the rest of your income. (See Ezekiel 44:30, Romans 11:16) God will cause your business or investments to prosper with ideas, connections, and/or finances in a way that wouldn’t happen otherwise…more on that later.
First fruit offerings aren’t just for business owners or active investors. Many people choose to give from their earned income in January. Another way to give first fruit offerings is to take a portion from your work bonuses, tax refunds, or random gifts throughout the year.
No matter what you choose to do, remember this: first fruits are meant to be freely and joyfully given. In fact, when you dive into Old Testament history, you’ll find that first fruit offerings were accompanied with a party!
First Fruits in the Old Testament: The Day of First Fruits
(Otherwise known as the Feast of Weeks, Festival of Reaping, Pentecost, or Shavuot)
“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.” (Deuteronomy 16:9-11, NKJV)
The Day of First Fruits was an agricultural festival that occurred seven weeks after the second day of the Passover. God first told Moses about this festival on Mount Sinai, as He was giving him the Ten Commandments. God told Moses, “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end.” (Exodus 34:21-22, NKJV)
The Israelites lived in an agrarian society. Their work was farming, so their economy and prosperity depended on the Lord in a very clear way: they needed rain. Harvest time came 50 days after Passover (late May to early June.) So, on the Day of First Fruits, they brought the first and best of their crop to celebrate and thank God for His provision. According to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, “When an Israelite saw the first emergence of one of the seven species of the land — wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranate, olives, or dates – he was to tie a string around it, designating it as his first fruits.”
It’s important to recognize that God’s originally created giving and celebration to go hand in hand. The Day of First Fruits was a day of feasting and rest from regular work. Modern Jews still recognize this holiday, and they often refer to it as the Festival of Giving and Receiving. However, as technology has advanced and farming requires less manpower, the festivities look different. Now, Jews see the Festival as a celebration of God giving them the Law, or the ‘birthday of the Torah’ since that’s when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
Something else significant for Christians happened on the Day of First Fruits over 1500 years later: Pentecost! As Acts 2 tells us, God intentionally waited until The Day of First Fruits to unleash The Holy Spirit. So, when the Day of First Fruits was first mentioned in Exodus 34 we received the Law, and on the celebration of that day in Acts 2 we received The Holy Spirit. God always leads by example. He gives us good and perfect gives every single day, and the purest form of a first fruit: His firstborn son, Jesus Christ.
How First Fruits Apply to Your Life
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession and you have conquered it and settled there, 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 honored. Go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, ‘With this gift I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land he swore to our ancestors he would give us.’” (Deuteronomy 26:1-3, NLT)
Imagine that you are an Israelite who has spent years wandering in the desert. Some of your relatives died along the way, you’ve stayed desperately hot and thirsty, and you have not felt like you were building anything of value for some time.
And then, you arrive.
It is the land flowing with milk and honey you’ve heard about, and it’s stocked with vineyards, olive trees, cisterns, and so much more (Deut. 6:10-11.) You are finally able to experience the satisfaction of planting a field and watching it grow. In response to your gratitude, you are instructed to give the first crop of your harvest. It helps you remember all God has done for your people.
While most of us probably aren’t farmers, we can still resonate with this situation. As previously mentioned, farming was a big part of the Israelites’ income and economy. So, for people today, giving a portion of the first profits we make from our jobs, businesses, or investments would be like giving new crops.
Here’s the point: The Lord blesses you in the land that He has for you.
When the Israelites gave their first fruit offerings, they were doing two things. First, they were remembering how God provided in the past. Secondly, they were displaying their trust that God would provide for them in the year to come, too.
Giving First Fruits and Receiving Blessings
The Bible tells us that when we give, we receive. Though we never know exactly how God is going to work out the receiving part, the Bible and experience lead me to believe that we receive differently off our first fruit offerings than we do our tithes. Our first fruits lead us into the place God has prepared for us.
In Exodus 23:16-23, the Lord gives more instructions for how the Israelites should give first fruits. If they so, God tells them he will send “an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.” Proverbs also tells us that first fruit offerings usher in the new.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
and your vats will be bursting with new wine,”
(Proverbs 3:9-10, ESV)
Bikkurim: The Promise to Come
The Hebrew word for first fruit is bikkurim. It literally translates to “the promise to come.” So, when we give our first fruits, we faithfully place our hope in the Lord for the promises to come! It’s a way of saying, “God, you can trust me with the increase. I will use what you give me to sow back into your Kingdom.” In return, I believe that God blesses us with the divine connections and Kairos moments necessary to get us where He wants us to go. In other words, He expands our land. Our land isn’t just about what we want. It is the expression of God’s plans and purposes for our lives.
Here’s the cool part. When we give to others, we are helping them expand their land. Then, God will lead someone else to give to us, and we get to expand our land (we receive.) This can come in the form of gifts, but in my experience, it often comes transactionally. In other words, your business revenue might get a boost. Maybe you’ll get a raise. Or God will show you a key relationship, idea, or opportunity connected to your purpose.
When everyone works for a Kingdom with the love of Christ, we can expand the Kingdom of God in the earth through our giving and receiving. It’s a perfect system! Ultimately, first fruit offerings help us remember what God has done for us, grow our gratitude, bless the rest of our harvest, and helps us spread the Kingdom of God.
What are your thoughts on first fruit offerings? Please share them in the comments!