Ever wondered what “First Fruits” is and why we as a church practice it? Maybe you’ve taken part in this before and want to refresh your understanding … Here’s a full guide to the why, the how and the when of First Fruits.
First Fruits Sunday
First Fruits is a great time of year for us. It’s an annual occasion when people rise in obedience and faith, and place their trust in God. We can’t encourage everyone enough to sow into their year ahead and create stories of breakthrough in family life, careers and personal challenges.
First Fruits Sunday is on 4th February, 2018. We have a gathering full of inspirational music, moments of reflection, motivational teaching and media presentations. The children are included in the festivities too! Join us 10:15am for a drink in Postcode as the Gatehring begins 11am.
If you have further questions about First Fruits or you just want to talk, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01942 244460.
Join us as we count the stars in 2018, we believe again in the impossible and unstoppable power of God in our lives!
What is ‘First Fruits’?
It’s important to understand that First Fruits is a biblical principle that is practised and emphasised throughout the Bible. It begins in the origins of the Bible with faithful believers like Abel (in Genesis 4) and Moses (in Exodus 23) & continues into the New Testament through the Apsotle Paul’s writings.
It was Moses who said, “As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 23:19)
King Solomon wrote about it too: “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 3:9-10)
The principle of First Fruits is when we give the first and best of our fruit to God.
‘Fruit’ in our modern day context means: income, wealth and finance. So at the start of each year, families and individuals bring a special financial offering that goes way beyond our normal tithing or offerings. We follow in the footsteps of great biblical leaders by coming to God and giving the first of our wealth and the best of it to God.
It’s a sight to behold each year at TCC, when you see countless people giving extravagantly to God. The atmosphere begins to charge through January as we fix our eyes of God and live in obedience and faith. We here stories of sacrifice and generosity where people go above and beyond to bring their best.
Here’s the amazing part…
When we give to God in obedience and affection, He gives back to us. Let’s read what King Solomon said again, “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 3:9-10)
God fills our lives to overflowing! As a result, God moves in powerful and miraculous ways in situations that only He could resolve. We hear of breakthrough’s in health and finance, relationships and families, careers and mental health. Literally when people put their faith in God, God reveals His faithfulness to His people.
Why do we bring our First Fruits into the Church?
1. God asks us to.
“As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 23:19)
The house of the Lord is the Church; that’s us! It’s also a wonderful thing to think that the church we are building together is what God calls ‘His House’. What an honour and what a privilege!
2. You’re investing back into your home; your spiritual family.
Why wouldn’t we give extravagantly to our people and our vision. We are after all investing in our children and young people, in our men and our women, the broken who walk through our doors and the desperate who are touched by our community engagement, and all the generations and nationalities that call our church their home.
The church is the vehicle by which the world is transformed and this includes the neighbourhoods where we live and the people we work alongside. Our giving goes back into the community we belong to.
Who spreads the love of God around Wigan? We do, the church. Who blesses the poor and helps the broken find healing? We do. Who shapes the next generation in the ways of Christ? We do! Why wouldn’t we bring the first and best of our fruit into the house?
What does First Fruits mean to the Giver?
We’ve already looked at the origins of First Fruits in the Bible and why we bring this special offering into the church but now let’s turn our attention to what First Fruits means to the giver (to us).
1. We are making a statement for the year.
First Fruits is not a New Years resolution; it’s a declaration. It’s when we speak life over our future and our situation. We say the time to come, “God will win and so will I. I am planting my roots in God’s soil and He is my provider.”
We prophecy to the future: “Watch out, Worry, and step aside, Selfishness, forget about it, Fear, you no longer have a part in God’s destiny for me. This year I put my faith in the God who sets me free. It’s my time and it’s my turn.”
These are powerful statements we make over our lives at the start of the year! In 2018 we are empowering the church to Count the Stars, to believe for the innumerable abundance of God’s plan for your life and be obedient to Him as you walk.
2. We are starting as we mean to go on.
We begin the year in faith. We don’t place our trust in anything because God is infallible and unconditional. We set out our stall and we position ourselves under God’s banner of protection and love.
What are you placing your faith in this year? Are playing all your hopes in a relationship or potential business deal, or what about a mysterious yet hopeful tax rebate? It’s perfectly normal to our our trust in things that surround us but everything other than God is fallible and frail, it becomes weak and is subject to change.
I don’t know about you but I’d rather put my faith in the God. Our God made us and knows us. He loves us and He is our provider. He knows all and sees all. It makes sense to place our faith in His eternal grace rather.
We are not walking this year in our own strength and our own limitation. We are starting the year putting our faith in the right place and positioning ourseves under the abundance of our Heavenely Father. I put my trust in a God who receives the first fruits and blesses the rest.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:33
3. We are setting up the harvest.
King Solomon tells us, when we give our First Fruits, our ‘barns will be filled to overflowing’ and our ‘vats will brim over with new wine’ (Proverbs 3:10). Imagine a harvest being more than your current containers can handle.
Let’s not make this about money either. Let’s see God for who He is: the Lord of everything!
As givers, we are setting up a harvest of God’s grace in any area of life. This might mean the restoration of your mental health or physical health, this might be a relational issue or struggles with others, or it could be to do with your work or neighbourhood.
What farmer plants a seed not expecting a return? We can have incidence in God today.
So goes the seed, so goes the harvest. We can expect the return according to the sacrifice. We give convinced of in God’s faithfulness and generosity because we know He is a good Father and He loves to give to His children (that’s you and me by the way).
This point usually gets misunderstand as a “get rich quick” scheme. This is not the theology of Today’s Community Church. We do not promote the “prosperity Gospel” but we do promote the prosperity of the Gospel.
Our motive for giving is not to receive but we give because we want to prosper the Gospel (the good new of Jesus Christ) in our lives as well as the town we seek to transform. We give our first and best to God our of obedience and faith, that’s our starting place, knowing that God will both increase our harvest and protect it too because that’s His character.
“It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” – Apostle Paul, Hebrews 11:6
What and how should I give?
Let’s get practical. We desire to give God our first and best and we are also expectant of what God can do through our obedience and generosity … but what is the right amount to give?
Generosity is grounded on good stewardship and managing our money well. So what and how do we give a First fruits offering that is both wise and extravagant? Here are some principles for making the most of your giving:
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.“ – James 1:5
God knows you and He knows your financial situation; He may want you lean in for His guidance. Go to Him daily and ask Him: “God, help me out. I want to give generously. Show me what my ‘first and best’ is.”
One of two things will happen. He’ll either bring a figure to forefront of your mind to give or He’ll help you to decide upon a figure.
I have had both of these experiences. A few times, God has literally shown me the figure I should give in my heart but, most of the time, I have simply come to the decision myself through the message at TCC and speaking with my partner. At each occasion of First Fruits, I have sought God’s guidance because I want Him it be at the centre of this. My heart is to give the first and best to Him who has given me everything.
Give what you believe to be generous and, of course, ‘the best’ to God.
The strange thing is, if the amount you decide is a stretch, God will give you peace about it. You’ll end up giving gladly not grumpily because you know He’s got it in hand. We are giving with wisdom but not in our own strength; God is guiding us.
Did you know that from First Fruits Sunday, we get eight weeks to fulfil the amount we’re pledging?
On Sunday 4th February, you simply write the amount you are pledging and give toward that amount. We then receive a grace period to get it all in order and fulfil it.
In this way, people have an opportunity to maximise their gift by drawing down from a various account or spreading it over a few paydays. In any case, it gives us time to make a plan.
If you’re in a couple, have you talked to your partner about it yet? Choose a good dinner time and ask each other the question: “What would be the best we can give?” Get agreement on it and create unity behind the gift we give together.
If you’re a parent, get your kids involved. Ask them what they want to give and allow them to be part of this. It’s right that our kids give their first and best to God and it also creates an opportunity for a specific blessing for them too.
Identify the amount and think through how you are fulfilling it. Some people make a spreadsheet to categorise dates and map out money streams. Others don’t yet have a firm idea of where it is their pledge is coming from. It’s whatever works best for you.
“ I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.“ – Apostle Paul, Romans 15:13
Think creatively of about the places your income streams can flow from. Many of us don’t just have one back account and some of us have a number other areas we can tap into.
The beauty of our eight week fulfilment period is that it helps in purposing various sources of wealth. We’ve heard of incredible givers who gave from savings accounts, shares and pension pots. Some of our children save up for First Fruits, even sacrificing computer games so they can give God the best and first of what they have. Others give from their business or their dividends and some work extra hours to boost their pledge.
In my younger years, I’d want to give more than I could so I’d pick up some extra shifts at the place I was working. In that way, I could maximise my First Fruits and also honour God with my time. Sometimes sacrificing something personal is part of the power behind our first and best.
If we think creatively there is more than just one place to give from. Why not think through where these line up for you and be audacious in your offering?
From today we can begin to pray for God’s guidance, plan how we make our generosity happen and identify the places from which we can give God our ‘first and our best’.
Remember, that First Fruits is about attitude not just amounts. Some have much and some have little but whatever our financial status, all of us can give to the same measure of faith. We can all throw ourselves into obedience to God and believe in the outrageous wonders from Him.
If you have little you can still believe much. And if you have much, you have a responsibility to show the ways in faith. So give with as much faith as you can muster in relation to your circumstance! If you have surplus, believe big and give big. If you have little, believe big and give big! It’s simple.
“Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.“ – Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8