“Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.” (Exodus 22:29 KJV)
There are a couple of interesting things in this verse about first fruits. Many of us have been taught in Sunday School throughout the years that it is important for a tithe or an offering to be from the first fruits because in a manner of speaking that is giving your very best. While this may be true, I would like to focus on another layer of this command that really brings out our need for surrender to God. This is the issue of trust. When a prayer has been answered and a crop has finally been produced, our desire is to use the fruits of this crop to fill the needs and pay the labor that was involved in producing it. If there is plenty left over, then we will consider, according to the generosity of our hearts, disbursing the remains to whoever did not have enough. We may also consider storing any remains into some kind of savings should such hard times return in the future. We can certainly see the value in being able to pass on a head start to the next generation. Here is where the real meat and potatoes hit home in this command. God is both our producer and our inheritance. It is more than reflective of our obedience, but also our trust when we entrust our credit for the harvest to him and acknowledge that our savings for our future is also to be left in His hands. Now do not go cashing out the saving plan just yet. This is part of the miracle of His math. When we entrust our portion, that we would typically set aside, to Him; He enlarges the sum total of the harvest so that we have an abundance left over that is more than enough for savings and those in need. The really difficult part is two fold. We must trust Him enough to simply obey His command, and we must be steadfast enough in our trust of Him that we will wait until He reveals His blessing to us even if we cannot see it right away.
There is another angle of trust that comes up much latter in both Matthew and Luke. “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Luke 11:42 KJV)” Trust does not have a “do it and forget it” nor a “do it for alternative reasons” motivation. If this were a tax from a government, I could understand this behavior. For instance, we each pay a certain portion of our income to the government in taxes. In principle, these taxes are to be used for common services that benefit the good of the public at large. However, if you were a skeptic and knew that the government could not possibly provide for you, then you may willingly pay every cent you had due simply to avoid public disgrace and jail time. Nevertheless, you would proceed on what you had left to take care of your agenda and do so in whatever manner was currently acceptable. This practice, although a common one, reveals a condition of the heart that inherently lacks trust. While it is one thing to not believe in a government, as they come and go, it is quite another to not trust in God who is eternal. When you do not embrace His commands that are in black and white and fairly straightforward, you will have a difficult time following through on ideas of justice and love because they are not ideas of justice and love that you embrace. This is not a “surrender a portion of your fruits to Him in exchange for the ability to manage the remainder” command. This is a command that will teach you to surrender to God everything by first surrendering something tangible. This is still true even if the merely human people you deliver the fruits to are corrupt and fraudulent. God is judge of all and does provide a means of dealing with corrupt officials, but our responsibilities do not change. Our surrender must be complete.
“Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” (Psalm 73:25-26 KJV)