May 13, 2018

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

Bringing Firstfruits
Leviticus 23:9-14, 22

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Click here for an unabridged bibliography for this quarter’s study.

An acquaintance was working with the Salvation Army kettle campaign last Christmas. Although it was almost Christmas day, people were ignoring the kettle. Worried about this, my friend was convicted that he had not yet donated anything. He emptied his wallet into the kettle, and soon people were lining up to give.

At a recent meeting of a Christian society, an officer kindly told me that I did not need to contribute anything to the meeting costs. So I didn’t. Later, when a call for donations was given, I gave half of my cash. The Holy Spirit immediately convicted me, and I quickly added the other half.

In today’s society, we have a tendency to see all offerings to God as freewill offerings. But in Leviticus, not giving to the Lord is more than a sin of omission. Old Testament prophets continually railed against those who dodged the “firstfruits principle.” For example, Malachi reported the Lord’s words: “You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” (Malachi 3:9-10a).

In Leviticus 23:9-14, the Israelites were charged to symbolically offer a sheaf of the first grain they harvested, along with a lamb for sacrifice, flour, and wine. This had to happen before they used anything made from the new grain. Both God’s ownership of the land and God’s complete sovereignty over Israel are emphasized.

Today, we are likely to consider situational ethics, and hedge these matters with a number of “ifs.” We may presume that volunteering is itself an adequate offering. However, by making our donation, along with our other efforts, we come closer to the biblical understanding of firstfruits.

Just as we are called to “love God” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37) and to “love our neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18: Matthew 22:39) so Leviticus instructs us to offer the blessings of the harvest both to God and to our neighbors. Farmers and landowners are instructed not to clear the field completely of grain, but to deliberately leave some grain for gleaners, that is, for landless people who have no other access to the harvest (Leviticus 23:22).

  • How to you understand the biblical commandments regarding firstfruits?
  • What are some contemporary versions of the gleaning principle?

—Kevin McCabe,

© 2018

Kevin McCabe is a writer, teacher, and poet. He was formerly an instructor in Classics at several universities, and has also been the author and editor of two books on Lucy Maud Montgomery and a number of works on the history and literature of the Niagara Peninsula. Kevin is a member of Grace Mennonite Church in St. Catharines where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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