Pastor’s Ponderings, February 2019

“First Fruits”

Jesus came into the world for us, to show us how much God loves us, and to teach us all we need to know to be restored to wholeness.  God wants us whole and happy, and we will only achieve this through a right relationship with God, who is our Creator, Savior and Sustainer.  All we possess comes from God.  Thinking our success and accomplishments are the result of our own hard work and achievements is a deception.  We are in God’s hands and God is the only source of true blessings and wealth.  While acting in our self-centeredness we might think we are accumulating money and power, but our worldly possessions are temporary and fleeting, here today and gone tomorrow.  When our days of earth end we will take nothing of this world with us.  The only treasure which is “eternal” is what is stored in heaven, and this treasure is gained from putting God first, following Christ’s example in sacrificing for others so that God alone may be glorified.

Jesus teaches us, saying, “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25).  And His instruction for us is to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).  Jesus is simply saying that we need to focus on Him and on His instructions, doing what He has asked us to do and living according to His Way.  When we do, He will provide everything we need to be truly whole and healthy, both in our life here and for all eternity.

So how do we do this?  How do we put God first so that we may have all that we need and know true wholeness and health?  This is where “first fruits” come into play.  We all know that we are to “honor” God with an “offering” to show our thanksgiving for the life, skills, possessions and blessings He’s given us.  But what and how we give makes a difference.

The first, and one of the best examples in the Bible regarding “first fruits” is found in the story of Cain and Abel.  Genesis 4:2a-5, states: “Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.  The Lord 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.”  The distinction between the two offerings is that Cain’s offering was from what he had to spare after he was satisfied that he had provided all he needed for himself.  Abel’s offering was from the “firstborn” of his flock before he even knew he would have enough for himself.  Abel put “God” first, but Cain put “himself” first.  For this reason, God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s.  If you don’t see this distinction in the English translation let me help you.  The Hebrew words translated as “in the course of time” actually mean in the “end, limit or farthest point in time” indicating that Cain didn’t give his offering until the end or the last of his harvest.  Cain gave what he had left over or could spare.

Like Cain, when we offer God gifts from our least or last of our labors, we dishonor Him.  We show God that He is least in our lives, a lower priority than ourselves, and we don’t trust or have faith that He can and will provide for our needs.  Like Abel, when we offer God our “first fruits”—an offering given to Him before we know we will have enough for ourselves, trusting Him to provide and showing Him we have faith that He will—we truly honor Him and He will respond by truly blessing us with all we need.  In Malachi 3:10, God even challenges us to test Him in His promise to bless us for putting Him first, saying, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.  Test Me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

The truth and the blessing associated with “first fruits” applies to all we give to God, including both our finances and our time.

Your fellow servant in Christ,

Pastor Harold