Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between the firstfruits mentioned in Proverbs 3:9 and the tithe?
Proverbs 3:9: Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase.
Tithe means tenth. It is the first 10% of our income that we give to the Lord. If I make $1,000, my tithe would be $100. I don’t need to pray about what a tithe is. It is a defined amount of money. A firstfruits offering is the first of an undetermined amount because you don’t know how much there is going to be. In the Old Testament it was a different type of offering than the tithe. The firstfruits was a type of offering that was required under the law.
The tithe can only be given after one has received the full amount to be tithed off of. The firstfruits is exactly what it says – the firstfruits. They would give the first calf or lamb born of its mother, the first harvest of grain or fruit of the vine, the first city of conquest, etc. You couldn’t give a percentage at this point because you wouldn’t know what the total harvest/number of calves would be. So the first one would go to the Lord. You measure the tithe on the back end but you can’t do that with the firstfruits so they were required to bring the firstfruits at the front end.
Today, for example, business owners will often put their first dollar in a frame on the wall, but the firstfruits doesn’t go on the wall, it goes to the Lord. Today it could be the first sale in a new business or the first paycheck of a new job, for example.
There are those today that teach that we must give the firstfruits to the ministers – as they gave them to the priests in the Old Testament. And they go through Old Testament references and say your prosperity is contingent upon it. The Old Testament firstfruits went to the priests. Today they teach it goes to the pastor or traveling minister. Although I do have respect for some who teach these things, I am not fully in agreement with them.
The firstfruits were offerings under the law. We can bring firstfruits offerings today but we aren’t required to. We aren’t even required to tithe. We are under grace. Tithing is a New Testament principle, but it’s not law. And we aren’t under the law but under grace.
In the Old Testament there weren’t just the Ten Commandments to follow, there were literally hundreds of commandments and this was one of them. The tithe was like a tax. You owed it. We don’t pay tithes today. We give tithes. It comes out of the generosity of our heart, not because we are compelled to do it.
A careful study of the Old Testament regarding this issue will reveal that the purpose of the firstfruits was to serve as a reminder that the people needed a Redeemer—and that this Redeemer was to be set apart for God’s purpose alone. The first child, calf, lamb, harvest of grain, fruit on the vines/trees, city of conquest (Jericho), belonged to God—it was a type of the Redeemer that would come. Some things could not be given as a sacrifice (a child, an “unclean” animal, a blemished “clean” animal, etc.), so a system of redemption was established to cover that which could not be sacrificed to the Lord. This pointed back to the fact that we are unclean before Christ — lost without Christ — and we had to be purchased or redeemed by Christ so we could be acceptable to God. The practices established in the Old Testament were to serve as a “type/shadow” of the Messiah for the people. Mankind was unclean—tainted by the sin of Adam. So many of the requirements of the Old Covenant, including the firstfruits offering, was a picture of what would happen later.
Are we required to give firstfruits offerings today? Paul knew the Old Testament commands well but never required that New Testament believers give an offering of this type. Rather he taught about those things being a shadow of Christ as the firstfruits of those being raised from the dead.
All of the individual offerings and designations of “firstfruits” were typified in one great festival for the Nation: The Feast of Firstfruits. This was held in the spring, the day following the Sabbath after Passover. In the year Jesus was crucified, the Feast of Firstfruits occurred the third day following His death (the day of His resurrection!). On this day, the people were to go to the fields and gather a “wave offering” of the barley, the olives buds, the budding vines, etc. This was then lifted to the Lord as the firstfruits offering. The offering was symbolic from God that as there were buds and sheaves of grain, there would be a full harvest in the summer/fall. This was a promise from God: “The first belongs to Me — I will bless you at the appointed time.”
We can still follow these principles of honoring God with the first. Be led of the Spirit as to what you should give. We should be generous and look for opportunities to give, but we are under grace and our giving is to be voluntary.