Category: Giving & Firstfruit Offerings


In both the Old and New Testaments, we see God’s desire for His children to show compassion to the poor and needy. Jesus said that the poor would always be with us (Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7). He also said that those who show mercy to the poor, the sick and the needy are in effect ministering to Him personally (Matthew 25:35-40) and will be rewarded accordingly.

There is no doubt that poverty’s reach is both widespread and devastating today. God’s people cannot be indifferent toward those in need, because His expectations for us in regard to taking care of His poor are woven throughout the entirety of Scripture. For example, look at the Lord’s words about the goodness of King Josiah in Jeremiah 22:16 “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me, declares the LORD?” And Moses instructed his people how to treat the poor and needy: “Give generously to [them] and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to” (Deuteronomy 15:10).This sentiment is perfectly captured in Proverbs 14:31: “whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Conversely, there is another part to this verse: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker.” Proverbs is in fact filled with Scripture clearly showing that God loves the poor and is offended when His children neglect them (Proverbs 11:4,17:5, 19:17, 22:2, 9, 16, 22-23, 28:8, 29:7, 31:8-9). The consequences for ignoring the plight of the poor are also made clear in Proverbs: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). And note the strong language in Proverbs 28:27 “he who closes his eyes to [the poor] receives many curses.” Among the many sins of Sodom described in Genesis 19, her people were “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).

The New Testament is equally clear as to how we are to take care of the poor. One verse that nicely summarizes our expected altruism is found in the first epistle of John: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18). Equally important is Matthew 25:31-46. Now, this judgment precedes Christ’s millennial reign and is often referred to as the “judgment of nations,” in which those assembled before Christ will be divided into two groups—the sheep on His right side and the goats on His left. Those on the left will be sent to the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (v. 41), whereas those on the right will receive their eternal inheritance (v.34). Noteworthy, however, is the language Christ used in addressing these separated groups. The sheep were basically commended for taking care of the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and the vulnerable. The goats, on the other hand, were chastised for their lack of concern and action toward them. When the righteous asked Him when they did these things, Christ responded by saying “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Now, we are not to misconstrue this as meaning the good works of the sheep factored into their gaining salvation; rather, these good works were the “fruit” or evidence of their having been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10), further evidencing that a commitment to Christ will indeed be accompanied with undeniable evidence of a transformed life. Remember, we were created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do, and the “good works” Christ spoke of in Matthew 25 included taking care of the poor and suffering.

Now, with all of these scriptural truths in mind, we are to obey them and act on them, because “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). As James stated “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Similarly, John said “The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him…Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:4,6). And the words of Christ Himself: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13:34-35). And what better way to demonstrate the love and kindness and compassion of Jesus Christ than by reaching out to the “least of these” among us?

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Firstfruits was a Jewish feast held in the early spring at the beginning of the grain harvest. It was observed on Nissan 16, which was the third day after Passover and the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Firstfruits was a time of thanksgiving for God’s provision.

Leviticus 23:9-14 institutes the firstfruits offering. The people were to bring a sheaf of grain to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord. A burnt offering, a meal offering, and a drink offering were also required at that time. Deuteronomy 26:1-10 gives even more detail on the procedure of firstfruits.

No grain was to be harvested at all until the firstfruits offering was brought to the Lord (Leviticus 23:14). The offering was made in remembrance of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, the Lord’s deliverance from slavery, and their possession of “a land that floweth with milk and honey.” The day of the firstfruits offering was also used to calculate the proper time of the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-16).

In the New Testament, the firstfruits offering is mentioned seven times, always symbolically. Paul calls Epaenetus and the household of Stephanas “the firstfruits of Achaia” (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15). His meaning is that, just as the firstfruits offering was the first portion of a larger harvest, these individuals were the first of many converts in that region. James calls believers “a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:18). Just like the sheaf of grain was set apart for the Lord, so are believers set apart for God’s glory.

The firstfruits offering found its fulfillment in Jesus. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus’ resurrection has paved the way for our resurrection. Significantly, if Jesus was killed at Passover, then His resurrection on the third day would have fallen on Nissan 16—the Feast of Firstfruits.

The firstfruits offering is never directly applied to Christian giving in the New Testament. However, Paul taught the Corinthian believers to set aside a collection “on the first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:2). And, just as the offering of firstfruits was an occasion of thanksgiving, so the Christian is to give with gladness.

In summary, firstfruits symbolizes God’s harvest of souls, it illustrates giving to God from a grateful heart, and it sets a pattern of giving back to Him the first (and the best) of what He has given us. Not being under the Old Testament Law, the Christian is under no further obligation than to give cheerfully and liberally (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Our God is a giving God. He is a God of abundance (John 10:10; James 1:5; Psalm 103:8; Isaiah 55:1-7; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Romans 5:20), and He loves to give. He sacrificed willingly on the cross and then invited us into fullness of life. As His children, we are called to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). Our generosity in giving is a demonstration of God’s character and a response to what He has done for us.

Christians are a light to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). As we become more and more who God has called us to be – more like Him – through the process of sanctification, we reflect God more and more. We become more loving, more gracious, and, yes, more giving. Because God is generous, we are also called to be generous. Generosity not only points others to God, it is an appropriate response to what God has done for us.

“To whom much has been given, much more will be expected.” This has become a common phrase in Western society. Its biblical roots are in Luke 12:48. Because we have been so freely loved, we now love others (John 13:34). Because we have been forgiven, we forgive others (Matthew 18:21-35). Our response to God’s abundance with us is to share that abundance with others. When we appropriately receive God’s generosity, it humbles us. We recognize that we are not worthy of His gift. Out of gratefulness, we become more gracious with others. We begin to learn the heart of God and want to be more like Him.

Generosity has positive effects in human relationships. When one person gives freely to another, the recipient often “passes forward” the gift. In the Christian life, the impetus is much greater. Jesus taught us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Not only does our giving demonstrate God’s character to the world, it results in increased faith for us. When we are willing to give, we declare that our faith does not depend on material possessions. Instead, we show that our faith is in God, who is always faithful to provide (1 Kings 17:7-16).

Christians are giving people, and, in giving, they lose nothing. As Bunyan wrote, “A man there was, tho’ some did count him mad, / The more he cast away the more he had.” When we give, we empty ourselves in order to be filled again by God. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).