[Deuteronomy 26] Faithfulness in the First Fruits. Does God still ask for the first fruits in our life? Are the Old Testament requirements regarding giving carried over in the New Testament? Can we find the practice of tithing in the early centuries of the church of the New Testament record? Does it matter where we give or how much? Do we give only after all our own expenses are met, or do we give beforehand, trusting God for the remainder to meet the need? What about the tithe? What did Jesus teach about the tithe? In this chapter, the people are instructed in the manner in which first fruits were to be given and what God’s promise was to those who responded with cheerful obedience.
[Deu 26:1-19 KJV] 1 And it shall be, when thou [art] come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein; 2 That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put [it] in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there. 3 And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the LORD thy God, that I am come unto the country which the LORD sware unto our fathers for to give us. 4 And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the LORD thy God. 5 And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish [was] my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: 6 And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: 7 And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: 8 And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: 9 And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, [even] a land that floweth with milk and honey. 10 And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God: 11 And thou shalt rejoice in every good [thing] which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that [is] among you. 12 When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, [which is] the year of tithing, and hast given [it] unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; 13 Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of [mine] house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten [them]: 14 I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away [ought] thereof for [any] unclean [use], nor given [ought] thereof for the dead: [but] I have hearkened to the voice of the LORD my God, [and] have done according to all that thou hast commanded me. 15 Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the land which thou hast given us, as thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey. 16 This day the LORD thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. 17 Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: 18 And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that [thou] shouldest keep all his commandments; 19 And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor; and that thou mayest be a holy people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken.
Notice that the first verse of our chapter says WHEN and not IF you come into the promise of God. From God’s perspective, there is no probability that you will fail to appropriate those things that He has promised to you in His word. These are things that God GIVES, not something you earn. The word GIVE here means to “give over to your power or custody.” This implies ongoing jurisdiction and touches on the authority of the believer. Why would God GIVE you anything? By inheritance. He is dealing with you as His beloved child. His motivation is as a Father making something happen for His son or daughter. He intends for you to POSSESS and DWELL in your own personal promise land. How do you possess the things God has promised you? The word means to SIEZE and LAY HOLD ON. How do you do this? By your words and your actions. Your words and your actions are to be of an anticipatory nature, expecting God’s promise to be delivered on in your life. This is what walking in faith is all about.
In vs. 2-5, we find mention of the matter of the law of the first fruits. The law of firstfruits applies to the “fruit of the earth,” not just the symbolic fruits of warm sentiments or expressions of worship. This is speaking of the natural resources that sustain you in life and come into your possession day by day and week by week. Many people’s idea of giving to God is to give Him a portion of what is left over after all their expenses are met. This isn’t firstfruits. Give God His portion FIRST, and you will see that the remainder will be more than enough to meet your other budgetary concerns.
The giving of the first-fruits was to be given “at the place the Lord thy God shall choose…” This, of course, was eventually the temple of Solomon. Malachi 3:10 says to bring the tithe into the storehouse. There was a day when radio preachers and television preachers would always give the caveat “give your tithes to your local church and then give to our ministry what God directs you to give.” In years gone by, to suggest that tithe went anywhere but to the local church would have been considered absolutely heretical. In the current day, ministries don’t observe that propriety of deference to the local church. It is common to see a media ministry encourage its followers to give a tithe to them without any suggestion of deference to the local church. This tells us several things – 1.) the number of Christians not connected to a local church is growing, and therefore, many receive their primary spiritual resource from media ministries. 2.) in a struggling economy, the competition for donations is much more intense; therefore, the niceties of deference to the local church are not observed (and vice versa). What is appropriate in terms of our own giving? Mal. 3:10 gives the principle. Give in to your storehouse. Those ministries that feed you are deserving of your first fruits.
Notice in vs. 6-10 that with the giving of the first fruits, it was required that the person giving was to REHEARSE the goodness of God in His life when He did it. This wasn’t just a perfunctory dropping of the envelope in a receptacle, and that was the end of that. Giving of the first fruits was an involved and important part of Hebrew worship. 1.) the gift was given. 2.) the goodness of God was rehearsed. 3.) the gift was then set before the Lord by the priest. 4.) then worship was to take place. It is interesting in our services we worship FIRST and then give – often with the thought of “getting the offering out of the way.” This wasn’t the pattern of giving in the Old Testament days. This bears thinking about in light of the financial struggles of many of God’s people and the prevailing attitude of resentment often present in believers when money is brought up. Things are the way they are because of what we are doing. If we want something different, we must do something different. God wants you to be blessed, and the principles He prescribes are intended to set our expectations before Him in such a way that the blessings, in this case, financial blessings flow freely to us.
In vs. 11-13, we see that the donations given were understood to be intended for much more than the maintenance of the temple. One-third of all the tithing in Israel was to go to the Levites in rural areas, to poor immigrants, and to widows and orphans. The local church today, from a statistical standpoint, has completely abandoned the widow and the orphan. The scripture says that when the poor cry out to God that He holds the PEOPLE OF GOD, not the government, accountable. You should make it your consistent practice to give liberally, frequently, and personally to the poor and those less fortunate than yourself. The blessing on your other giving will not be forthcoming until you give to the poor. Giving to the poor activates the blessing of God on your other giving. Failure to give to the poor results in the frustration of those who say, “I’m a giver, but I’m not being blessed…” Make this adjustment in your life, and you will see the difference.
In v. 14, we see the giver was to announce in his giving that he didn’t take of the firstfruits for himself even in a time of morning or some other pressure to do so. How many times do we do this? One of the problems is we limit ourselves to the tithe. The tithe was the requirement upon those who were living under the law of sin and death. When Jesus talked about percentages, He said in Matt. 19:21 “go sell all and give…” tithing is an often-discussed practice in Christianity, and if you give at all, you should at least give ten percent. However, bear in mind that you will not find the tithe in New Testament practice. This is a glaring fact that those who teach and demand tithing conveniently overlook. Tithing was primarily done under the law. When you say this, you will get the argument that Abraham before the law paid tithes to Melchizadek. This is true, but you are leaving something out: In Gen. 14:20-24, you will find that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizadek, but in reality, he gave the other 90% as well because Melchizadek forbade Abraham to keep anything for himself but to give it all back to the king of Sodom lest the king of Sodom say that he made Abraham rich. Following that pattern, then if we are to tithe as Abraham tithed, we give 10% to the church and the other 90% back to our employer as a testimony that they are not your source.
Would I take to the tithe away from you? No, a 10% solution is better than no solution at all. But if you want ALL that God has for you, then you better pray out your accountability to the repeated statements of Jesus to “sell all” and “give all” and come and follow Him. Impractical? No doubt. Not possible? Surely from a natural standpoint, that is true. Is it mandated in the teachings of Jesus? Absolutely. It isn’t about IMPOVERISHMENT. It is about EMPOWERMENT TO SERVE. For those of you who do not tithe, remember the words of Jesus in Matt. 5:20 “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven…” If you release yourself from the tithe and give less than 10%, then you have excluded the kingdom of God from your financial situation.
In vs. 15-19, we see that the conclusion of these instructions regarding first fruits focuses upon God’s intent in requiring the first fruits of us at all. He wants to place you HIGH ABOVE ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH. He not only wants you to BE but to EXPERIENCE being His peculiar people that you might be to the praise and honor of His name. His name is not honored in poverty. There is no praise in bankruptcy or indebtedness. How many praise God for your credit card debt and other burdens of debt? God’s plan is to put you into the place where debt is eliminated, and your financial freedom is established to such a degree that your level of blessing in life commends the faithfulness of God to everyone around you as a witness to His goodness.