The concept of first fruits can be traced back to biblical times when people lived in an agrarian society. It came into being during a harvest time when farmers went to harvest their crops. It was a time of joy as farmers reaped the produce of their hard work.
There is a biblical injunction saying that the Israelites should bring their first-fruit offering to the priest as a demonstration of their recognition that it was God who gave them the land which yielded the fruits. “When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest” (Leviticus 23:10).
The application of this concept in this present age has created a doctrinal divide among some Christians. Some say that this biblical injunction is not for present-day Christians, while others say that it is biblical and should therefore be observed by every Christian with an income.
For our purposes here, we recognize that it would be ideal if Christians who believe that the first-fruit offering should be observed by every income earner would give freely and cheerfully to their churches. It is a thanksgiving offering after all.
The Apostle Paul gave the church in Corinth the guidelines on how Christian giving should be conducted: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The decision to give is the sole prerogative of the giver and it must come from the giver's heart, not from external influence. People should not be pushed or manipulated to give. When people are compelled to give, they are reluctant and uncheerful, which defeats the purpose of giving in the first place.
I know of a church in Nigeria that does not pay its staffers in January because it is compulsory for every staff member to bring his or her salary to God as a first-fruit offering. Why should a church compel its staff to forfeit their January salaries for first fruit without the consent of the workers? Shouldn't the people be allowed to determine whether they are giving or not? And how can such givers be cheerful when they did not give willingly but were forced to give by their employer. This is colossal abuse. It is not the way the biblical priests collected the first fruits.
When people are psychologically manipulated to do the bidding of the preachers who underscore this message repeatedly, they are dishonoring God. There should be liberty in the presence of the Spirit, and worshipers should be allowed to serve God freely and honor God freely with their gifts.
As many are preparing to give their first fruits at the end of the month, Christians should be mindful that it is not only about giving money. First-fruit offerings also involve the giving of our first sons to God: “You are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord” (Exodus 13:12). This is the aspect of the first-fruit offering that many churches do not remember to emphasize to worshipers.
Imagine how glorious it would be if every first male of every Christian home becomes God's own. Unfortunately, many of them have been influenced by peer groups and demonic forces. The annual first-fruit program of churches should include a time of calling prodigal first sons back to God with the understanding that their destiny should not be allowed to be truncated by the devil because they all belong to God. Let intercession be made for every first son who has wandered away from God. Handing over and rededicating first sons to God this year will be a good way of obeying the concept of the first-fruit offering.