I so look forward to homegrown tomatoes during the summer months. There is nothing like homegrown sweetness that will make you never want another store bought tomato again.
In the spring I planted a few tomato plants along with some herbs. I have a couple of large raised garden beds that my daughter Gillian and I made last year. We did the
lasagna layering method, and this year when I turned the dirt it was so dark and rich.
This year we were just a bit late in planting our tomatoes. Not necessarily a bad thing, it is just that I was getting jealous as my neighbors who were gathering their tomatoes, and mine were just blooming. However, my neighbors must have also noticed my longing looks, because they generously shared with me early in the summer.
Finally, my first tomato began to ripen. I watched it for days waiting for it to ripen enough to pic it. Finally the day came that it was a nice orangey-red hue. I picked it and raised it to my nose to smell the acidic tomatoey goodness.
It was my first fruit of the season. “First Fruits,” I thought. Then it really started to hit me. By Jewish law, in Lev. 23:9-14 there is the institution of the Feast of First Fruits, one is to give the first grain or the first of their harvest to the Priest for an offering to the Lord. This feast is in remembrance of the Exodus and being given Canaan, the land of milk and honey. It is a time to remember that all things come from God, everything belongs to Him and a time to be grateful for God’s provisions.
I thought about Cain and Abel. I wondered why Abel’s offering was acceptable, but not Cain’s. In doing some research, there are theories regarding it not being a blood sacrifice or because Cain did not follow God’s instructions completely. My personal take is that it had to do with the condition of the heart. In Hebrews 11:4 it states, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain.” Abel had offered God the fat sections of the firstborn of his flock. As I pondered on these things the way I thought about first fruits changed.
When you give your First Fruit, it is to be in thanksgiving of God’s provision. In faith, we are to give, believing that God will provide. Abel gave in faith, Cain did not. It is hard to give up that first fruit. It is hard not to keep what you have in order to save up for an emergency so that you can give to God with a grateful, faithful heart.
It is common in Christianity to do some church oriented, community service based work, but I would guess that the majority of people’s efforts are based primarily in tithes. I have always said it is easier for me to give my money than my time. Time for me is what has had value. It is so easy for me to write a check and feel like I have given my fair share of the contribution. There have been years where I have lived by this philosophy and others where I have given of my time and emotional resources greatly.
As I smelled my first tomato, I wanted to be the one to eat it. I didn’t want to share it. I wanted to eat all of it, all by myself. I wanted BLTs with extra T. I wanted salad with fresh tomato. But I knew I didn’t want to share and I defenitiely didn’t want to give it away.
I did not want to give away my first fruit. To do so, I would be giving away something that I truly wanted. I would be giving away something I had been anticipating, something I had been longing for. To give away my tomato would mean I couldn’t have it. It would mean that I would have to wait on the second tomato to come in, and I didn’t want to wait. I wanted the first one.
So is that what our giving is supposed to look like? Not just writing a check, but giving to the point it hurts just a bit? Is giving supposed to be less than convenient? And to top it off, to give with joy knowing that God is going to provide again?
I don’t know, and to be honest, this topic makes me a little uneasy. I want to ask, “isn’t there something else, another way?” I know you can get into debates over first fruits, tithes, and the difference in Hebrew law and what the New Testament dictates. I’m not here for that. I think, simply, that the bottom line is that you give in Faith with your heart.