What is the first fruits principle? Many times, we look at a law commanded in the Old Testament and assume it is outdated today. But I have found that the way God guided His people in the Old Testament gives insight into how God works and guides us today.
The First Mention of First Fruits
First mention of a topic is significant, and we see Cain and Able bringing their first fruits. Genesis 4: 2b When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
We know this didn’t end well as a jealous Cain murdered Able.
First Fruits in the Promised Land
God gave Moses instructions to celebrate the Festival of First Fruits when they entered the promised land. Obviously, the people were not harvesting a crop in the wilderness. God, however, was providing for them and would continue provision in the promised land.
When they grew crops in the promised land, they were to take small cutting from several fields and combine these into a sheaf which would be a wave offering. In addition, there was to be a lamb sacrificed and the new grain mixed with olive oil would be burned on the altar.
The people were not to eat any of the new crop until it had been dedicated to the Lord. For it was the Lord who provided both in the wilderness and when He gave them fertile fields in the promised land.
We, in the 21st century, may be more removed from the agrarian calendar of Ancient Israel, but we are still dependent on God for our provision. Even in the Lord’s Prayer we request our daily needs from God. Luther makes this comment, “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. And what is our daily bread? This includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.”
I believe God still desires our first fruits even if we donate via checks or credit cards. By stewarding our first ten percent, or tithe, we acknowledge God’s provision and our thankfulness.
To hear more about the first-fruits principle, listen here:
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House, 1986, St. Louis, MO. Page18.