When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, 2 take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket.
Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name 3 and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.”
4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God. 5 Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. 7 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. 8 So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.
9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 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. 11 Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. – Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Giving of the first fruits: But what if my first fruits seem unworthy?
I recently went on our annual Youth Beach Retreat. We provided lots of snacks during the weekend, including fresh fruit. (Providing the fruit makes me feel a little better about the tremendous amount of junk food available.) We always bring the left-over snacks back to the church and leave them in the youth room so the youth can snack on what is left. This year we had fruit left–surprise! So I laid the fruit on the counter and very little of it got eaten.
One day my daughter asked for an orange. (We practically live at church, so she makes herself at home, snacks and all.) I grabbed an orange and started peeling. It was soft and mushy and not acceptable to my 3 year-old daughter. The look on her face made was priceless.
This look made me think about firstfruits. Does God look at my first fruits with the same eyes of disgust as my 3 year-old daughter in response to an unacceptable orange?
Deuteronomy 26:1-11 talks about giving our firstfruits to God. This passage speaks specifically about land and inheritances. The idea was the firstfruits of the land were to be given to God as an offering and thanksgiving for all that God had done. The giving of the firstfruits was an act of worship.
As I read this I couldn’t help but think, but what if my firstfruits look unacceptable? What if they seem unworthy of an offering?
Firstfruits During Difficult Harvest Seasons
This thought came to mind as I reflected on many difficult times in my life. In these times the harvest did not seem plentiful and the fruits of my faith were not ripe or beautiful. Does God still want our firstfruits, even when they seem unworthy?
Maybe many of you have experienced these difficult seasons. Some of the hardest days for me during these seasons have been Sundays, our day of worship. I am a minister on staff at a church, so participating in Sunday morning Bible study and worship are requirements for me.
Every Sunday morning, my husband, daughter, and I arrive at church around 8am. We prepare for the morning mentally, spiritually and physically before others begin to arrive. We greet everyone and make our rounds around the Sunday school classes. We participate in Sunday school, rush off to choir practice, and then lead and participate in the worship service.
This Sunday morning ritual is usually a joy for me -people, study, and worship all in one morning – sign me up! However, I have to admit not too long ago this ritual became a burden.
I wanted to sleep in on Sunday mornings. I hated getting dressed-up in my “Sunday best.” I dreaded seeing or greeting people with a fake smile on my face. I would hide in my office or in the nursery with Scarlet so as to have the least amount of interaction possible.
I went to Sunday school, but cared little about what was to be learned. I sang in the choir, but only because I felt like I had to. I went through the motions of worship.
I was in what some would call a “funk.” This funk was simply due to me being overwhelmed by life. Being a wife, mom, minister, student, and overall nice functioning human being can overwhelming at times.
The difference between me being in a funk and the average church member is, the average church member can play hooky on Sunday mornings. I cannot.
So in my spiritual, mental and emotional funk, I entered a holy space and time each week with a not-so-holy attitude. While I wanted to resent having to participate in the Sunday morning ritual, I realized I was there and that had to mean something, right?
When people would ask me how I was, I would respond with “I am here.” While in my A-type, perfectionist, over-achieving mind that was not enough, I think in God’s mind it was. Being present was better than nothing.
In this season of life, my firstfruits were not pretty, not ripe, and maybe not life giving, but they were offered. Each Sunday, I pulled myself out of my funk and offered myself to God. Many times during this season, I bowed at the altar to pray. Sometimes there were no words, I had none to give; however, I offered my tired, worn-out, and over-worked body, mind, and soul on the red carpet steps of a holy place to a Holy God.
My first fruits felt rotten and unworthy, but my heart for God was neither. So I continued to offer these firstfruits, no matter how humble. Why? Because I had not lost sight of all that God had done in my life. I had not lost sight of God’s provision, power, and love.
“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.” (Deuteronomy 26:9-10a)
Despite my seemingly unworthy fruits, God continued to do great things with my humble sacrifice. During this season, God continued to bring beautiful spiritual growth to the youth in my youth group. God did mighty works through me, even when I thought I could do nothing. God showed me grace and joy through my husband and daughter. God’s provision prevailed over my unworthy fruits.
God has given me this life, a life flowing with milk and honey (even when I don’t see it), so I bring God the firstfruits, whatever they may be.
Maybe your firstfruits are just making it to church with your children, without make-up on and the children in clean clothes.
Maybe your firstfruits are silence in the presence of God when you cannot even pray for yourself.
Maybe your firstfruits are a smile when you have been crying for days.
Maybe your firstfruits are reading a quick devotion while hiding in the bathroom (for moms of young children, you can picture this).
Maybe your firstfruits are simply getting out of bed in the morning.
Nowhere in this passage does it say we have to offer award-winning fruits. This passage merely asks us to offer some of our firstfruits. We are to give ourselves to God as an act of thanksgiving and worship, whatever that means for us. Sometimes our first or best doesn’t look pretty or isn’t what we think of when we think of a worthy offering, the challenge is to give anyway.
Stop Comparing Firstfruits
Also, in reflecting on my firstfruits I was condemned by how often I compare my firstfruits with the firstfruits of others. We have to stop comparing our firstfruits. Your firstfruit may be different depending on your life and season. God doesn’t want us comparing fruits, but to humbly offer what we have. Remember the widow’s mite?
I learned this lesson when I became the mother of a newborn. My firstfruits changed for a season. My fruits were different from the fruits of some of my friends with grown children (who did not have to depend on their parents for every need) and even different from the firstfruits of my past. I had to learn not to compare my life, offering, or fruitfruits to others. (I am still learning this lesson.)
Pinterest (and other social media) does the devil’s work when it comes to firstfruit comparison. I remember spending hours searching for Pinterest ideas for the perfect VBS decorations, youth devotions, or best birthday party ideas, only to have my attempts pale in comparison to the beautiful staged pictures online.
STOP IT! Stop comparing what you have and what you have to give to that of others. God doesn’t see in 2×2 inch boxes with beautifully staged pictures that God can scroll through. God sees the whole picture of your life; every season, every yield, every offering, individually. He has called you to your own crop. Each of us has different land, a different crop, and different yields. He knows your firstfruits before they even start to cultivate and grow. If you are giving YOUR firstfruits, God is pleased.
We have to stop comparing our fruitfruits and simply focus on offering them as acts of thanksgiving and worship. Our firstfruits are not about us; they are about God. Your firstfruits are beautiful in the eyes of God whether they are rotten or prize-winning.
During this season of Lent, reflect on your life. Find the flowing milk and honey. Remember what God has done for you and know God will continue to provide. Think about your firstfruits. In thanksgiving and worship, give them to God. If you are in a season where your fruits seem unworthy, give them anyway. If you are in a season of plentiful harvest, give abundantly.
Then you, your family, your church family, your neighbors, strangers, and all those around you will REJOICE in all the good things the LORD your God has given. (Sarah’s translation of Deuteronomy 26:11).
To God be the glory – unworthy, unripe, and rotten fruits and all. Amen.
Rev. Sarah Boberg is a child of God, believer in Jesus Christ, wife to Bradley, mother to Scarlet, and tries to be a minister to all (especially to the family and community of First Baptist Church, Red Springs). She is a professed control freak and covets the prayers of all who read this that her dissertation work is completed soon!