Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous.
But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor.
Then we cried out to the Lord,the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression.
So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.
He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey;
and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him.
Then you and the Levites and the foreignersresiding among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.
As the people of Israel enter into the Promised Land they are about to experience a gigantic shift in their financial status. For forty years they have wandered the desert with only the belongings that their parentscould carry with them when they fled Egypt and their lives of servitude. Suddenly they will be living inhouses they did not build, tending farms on land they didn’t clear, drinking water from wells they didn’tdig, and harvesting crops they didn’t even plant. They shift from poverty stricken nomads who own littlemore than the clothes on their backs and become landowners, farmers, and shop-keepers. As they makethis shift, God reminds them to remember where they came from, that their father, Abraham, was just awandering Aramean, a nomad who had left his homeland with nothing more than a promise that Godwould bless him, and his family, for generations to come. God reminds them that they had spenthundreds of years in captivity in Egypt and were rescued by the hand of God. As they arrive in this new,rich land, God asks that they trust him with the future as they remember the past. God ask the people to bring him the firstfruits of the soil.Giving the firstfruits is a leap of faith. Giving the firstfruits is a leap of trust. Giving the firstfruits deniesthe possibility of putting God in second place. All this because giving the firstfruits is more than givingthanks to God. Giving the firstfruits is more than just giving a tithe or a gift, or an offering. Giving thefirstfruits means giving to God the very first of what the land has produced… even before there is evenan estimate of what the harvest will be like. Giving the firstfruits means harvesting grain and giving Godthe first pass through the field. It means giving God the first of the new wine, before all of the grapeshave even finished ripening. Giving the firstfruits means giving thanks,
the blessing has beengiven.This is the opposite of the way we pay our taxes. At the end of the year we add up all the money we haveearned, or have been given, or have received in interest and only then do we calculate a percentage thatwe return to the government (taxes are clearly not a gift of thanksgiving to our government). Instead, ingiving firstfruits, the people bring gifts to God
of the blessings and gifts that God willgive in the days ahead. Since most of us are not farmers, the closest that we can come is to write a check at the beginning of the year as a gift to God in anticipation that the year will be good. Most of us cannotafford to do such a thing, but what many people do is this: When you sit down to pay your bills at the endof each month, the first check that you write should be your thanksgiving to God (how you choose togive that is up to you) and then, after your gift to God, then pay the rest of your bills, trusting God, thathe will provide. Now, obviously, there is a certain amount of wisdom needed to do this. One simplycannot write a check for everything we own and presume that God will magically multiply our bank account so that we can pay our bills, but on the other hand, God promises to bless us when we trust him.When Patti and I were first married we owed some significant debts and had some significant bills to pay but we decided from the beginning, that we would put God first. In doing this each month, there were3