I've been thinking about first fruits a lot the past few days. God's people were told several times to bring the first of their crops and offer them to God, sometimes as a sacrifice and sometimes as a gift to the Levites (the priests) so they would have food to eat. The first of the people's grain, the first sheer of the sheep, the best of their oil, the first of their wine, their first and often times best of their harvest was to be given away.
Bringing our "first fruits" today typically means giving financially of the first certain percent of our income. We write a check and give a tithe first, each time we are paid, before we spend the money on anything else. It's pretty simple, pretty easy, and almost never feels like a sort of sacrifice. It is (in my opinion) one of the most simple and most easy of the spiritual disciplines.
Our household has been out of fresh food for a few days now. And since I spent a little more money than usual on the past two shopping trips restocking pantry staples and other odds and ends, it will be another week or so before I can go ahead to the store. Sure we have money that I could go shopping now, but that would defeat the purpose of a budget wouldn't it?
And if I'm just being honest I don't like when we don't have a refrigerator and counter top full of fresh leafy greens, vegetables and fruits. I just don't. I want to eat a salad every day. I want to have fresh juicy fruit. I want to have lots of fresh veggies to put in all our meals. And it is sad to say but after about 3 or 4 days of going without, it starts to feel like a real *sacrifice* if I am even permitted to use such a term in this context. And to imagine going another week or maybe more without fresh foods feels really dreary to me. I'm not talking about going without, we still have two freezers full of foods, fruits and veggies, grains and beans, soups and dips, nuts and broths. We still have a pantry overflowing with tomatoes, beans, rice, noodles, flour, and spices. We will not go hungry by any stretch of the imagination. But I am so spoiled with the access to so much variety of produce and having fresh produce all year long, I rarely have to go without.
So to imagine going all this winter living off dried and canned and salted foods, even in our modern world having frozen foods too. To imagine living off bread and legumes for months on end. And then finally to see the berries ripening on the vines. To see tomatoes and bell peppers and cantaloupe, sweet corn and watermelon and cucumbers!! And to have our mouths watering just longing to bite in to them and taste the juicy fresh taste of the crops. And then have to wait longer..... Because the best fruits, the first fruits, we had to harvest and clean and prepare and take them to the Lord.... Now THAT feels like sacrifice. THAT is something a whole lot harder to give than a check from a banking account.
Honor the Lord from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine. -Proverbs 3:9-10
You shall give him [the Levitical priest] the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep. For the Lord your God has chosen him and his sons from all your tribes, to stand and serve in the name of the Lord forever. -Deuteronomy 18:4-5