This week at soulcity we are planning and preparing to give our Firstfruits offering. This is primarily to help them but I think that the principles are important for us all and so let me challenge you today and explain what its all about.
“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
In the Bible there are three types of giving:
- Tithe – ten percent of everything that we receive that we give back to God.
- Offerings – spontaneous gifts and blessings above the tithe.
- Extravagant offerings – moments where we give big in an act of faith and love.
The Firstfruits offering is the third type. It is an extravagant, voluntary act of faith in response to the love of God that we have received. The principle is found in the Old Testament at a time when people worked with the seasons of the year and would give God their first fruit with no guarantee that any more would come. It was radical, faith filled and culture defining. If this is all new to you, then this is what it is about:
1. An act of faith
The Hebrew word for first fruit is bikkurim which means “promise to come.” The idea was not that you gave your best but your first. You wouldn’t stop to count how many sheep you had and then offer one to God. You would take the very first sheep, before you had any others and give that to God trusting that he would provide the rest.
This feels so risky. This is the kind of thinking that people will talk you out of. It audaciously proclaims that God is in charge and that our future is in his hands. I believe that this is the kind of faith that gets the attention God and that He always responds to big faith steps. So we can ask ourselves – Is this a risky gift or are we playing it safe? Is this a gift that you can give and never feel? Is this a gift that you can give and never notice? In the Bible, David wanted to give God some land and they offered it to him for nothing but David said – No! I refuse to give to my God something that cost me nothing. This should cost us something.
2. A crucial reminder
Firstfruits is not primarily about becoming blessed as it is about remembering that if we never get any more then we are already blessed far beyond what we deserve. Exodus 13:14-16 explains that Israel should look back and never forget where they have come from. They were slaves in Egypt but God rescued them and brought them to a place of provision. In the same way we were slaves who have found undeserved freedom through Jesus.
It is so easy to lose perspective. Last week I was in the kitchen and a friend turned to me and said, ‘do you ever find it amazing that we turn the tap and clean water comes out for free.’ No I don’t i take it for granted. BUT! She is so right. How many billions don’t have what we have! We have so much to be grateful for and yet we are quick to forget.
Taking a moment in the year to recognise the grace we have and respond in an act of generosity is a crucial reminder that everything in my life is a gift.
3. A wise investment
Honour 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 was written by King Solomon and is practical wisdom and life principles rather than the law that we read in Leviticus. He doesn’t tell people that they have to give abundantly but argues states that it is wisdom because God always responds to extravagant generosity.
What Solomon is referring to is the principle of priority. If you put God first then everything else will follow. When something else is first in your life then your life will always be out of balance. Have you ever felt like you had a hole in your pocket? Or that you could never get enough money. Money has a way of making itself the driving focus of our lives.
Put simply: God will only bless the areas of your life that you allow him to. Or to say it another way, priority and provision walk hand in hand.
Ultimately, for me it is a discipline. I want to be more generous when I die than I am today. So like a good student, I practice. As you grow in generosity it changes you, the way that you think, the way that you spend your money. Everything becomes more valuable because your money no longer drives you. You are no longer driven by what you can get but by what you can give.
This is why we give an over-the-top, unnecessary, exuberant offering every year and I would encourage you to get involved.
How to prepare
1. Pray: Ask him what you should do with your money and resources. Listen to what he says.
2. Weigh: This offering is less about obedience as it is about faith. All if the money in our offering will go towards reaching new people for Jesus. We want to invest in people’s eternities and so weigh your offering wisely.
2. Prepare: God 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.
3. Prioritise: If the whole idea behind a firstfruit gift is to put God first, then we need to look at this before our other outgoings. In other words, decide on this before you decide how much you want to spend or save.
5. Repeat: At soulcity we do this annually 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.
6. Smile: I love it! I can’t think of anything better to give my money to. I waste so much but knowing that my money is going to helping people meet Jesus is the best!