Understanding Tithes and Firstfruits in the New Testament

 

Firstfruits as offerings to God, in the Bible, acknowledged God as the owner of all things and one who must be served first before the servants can eat after they have laboured. Imagine a servant who has worked hard on his master’s field; then, at the time of harvest keeps the firstfruits for himself and brings leftovers for his master. Or think of a servant who cooks food in the master’s house and eats himself of it first before serving the master. Humans who think that all their labour on earth is for themselves and all the wealth they can amass is theirs to enjoy make the same mistake.

Abel and Cain both brought offerings to God; Cain brought mere fruits of the ground, but Abel brought the firstlings and thus honored God and was accepted for his faith in God who is the rewarder. Those who consider all things as belonging to God bring all things to God and take the reward from the Master. The others are removed from His presence.
Jesus said about the rich fool: ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ (Lk.12:20)

The very fact that God can take away one’s soul and that no man can carry away with him anything from the world proves that God owns all things and so man has no firstright to anything.

According to the Law of Moses, the levites were chosen in place of the Firstborn of all Israelites, because God had redeemed them by slaying all the firstborns of Egypt.

In the NT, Christ is the Firstborn of all creation who was slain to redeem us from death and the Firstfruits of resurrection; He is the Chief Heir of all things.

The servant with one talent, in the Parable of Talents, hid the talent in the ground and brought it back as it was to his Master. The Master rebuked him for his wickedness. Obviously, this selfish and unfaithful servant had no motivation to work for his Master. But, the Master rewarded the others who were faithful and reprimanded the slothful servant. The others brought all that was the Master with all the profit back to Him.

Jesus never praised tithers. He mentioned the Pharisees as tithers who dishonored God. But, Jesus praised the widow who dropped all she had into the offering box. Jesus didn’t ask the rich young man to give tithes and be blessed materially more. He advised him to sell his all and give to the poor and follow Him.

The focus is not on the tithes, but on the attitude of servanthood that looks at all labor as labor for God and brings the best to God, and after serving Him say “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.” (Lk.17:10)

In the OT, firstfruits and tithes were to be brought to the House of the Lord, but the edges of the field had to be left for the poor. Jesus said that the poor will be with us always and honored the woman who poured on Him the precious ointment. Offerings are to be brought to the House of the Lord. We should also remember the poor and love our neighbor as ourself. However, there is a distinction between bringing an offering to the Lord and helping the poor. They are not one and the same. If they were, Jesus would not have made the distinction. But, the first whole offering that God desires is that we offer ourselves, our bodies, as a living sacrifice (not kill ourselves but live) to God.

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