First Fruits or Leftovers
The Biblical account of Cain and Able found in Genesis chapter 4 is only 16 verses. As short as it is, I strongly suspect most of you reading this post know the story. Cain and Able were the offspring of Adam and Eve, and Able became a shepherd and Cain a farmer. The Bible doesn’t provide insight into the siblings’ dynamics, but they were cordial enough to go together to present their sacrifices to the Lord. I can even imagine Adam and Eve giving each other that look of satisfaction when they heard their sons were bringing their offerings to God. What a proud parent moment when you see your kids following and honoring God. Those who are familiar with the rest of the story know this feeling didn’t last too long. The Bible tells us, “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” While both brothers presented an offering to God, Able’s offering found God’s favor while Cain’s offering did not; why?
Christians like to use words that are not part of today’s vernacular, like stewardship, fellowship, sanctification, a hedge of protection, and first fruits. Context always helps to understand these terms. The term “first fruits” first pops up in the Pentateuch (the first five books of what Christians call the Old Testament), books written primarily to an agrarian society. I’m not a farmer, but I did grow tomatoes once. I was so excited when the plants finally produced a crop. I can see how the practice was to show honor and reverence to God by presenting Him with the first harvest yield, giving God the first fruit. In the account of Cain and Able, what pleased God was that Able brought portions from the firstborn of his flock.
Interestingly, the Bible says that Cain brought some of his fruits from the soil, not the first fruits. Was Cain holding out on God? Was he giving God the leftovers after he fed himself and his family? Re-reading this story got me thinking about how that story would look in 2022. Inflation is at a 40-year high (8.6% overall), making it more difficult every day to put food on the table, gas in the car, and keep the lights on in the house. Couple that with wage stagnation, and it is suddenly easy to see why Cain, or you, or me, would bring some of the fruit, not the first fruits.
When our world, nation, and personal finances become strained, it becomes more important than ever to have a budget. As John Maxwell says, “a budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” Nothing will help you and your family navigate difficult financial times like creating a zero-based budget where you plan your cash flow before spending a single dollar. (If you want to learn more about building a zero-based budget, I recommend checking out this post on Dave Ramsey’s website.)
We no longer live in an agrarian society, so we aren’t bringing our crops to God as a sacrifice; instead, most of us get a paycheck. When making your budget, what’s on the first line? To a large extent, your budget reflects your faith, values, and priorities. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Luke 12:34. Please notice the order of what Jesus said.
If you are in a tough season financially, don’t let this post heap guilt on you. As a follower of Jesus, you are his beloved child, and he accepts you just the way you are. But, God loves us too much to leave us as we are and will continue to form us into the image of Jesus. If you are ready to offer your first fruits to God cheerfully and from the heart, click here to discover all the ways to get started.