What would you say if someone told you that Jesus is the first fruit in God’s work in saving the lost? What if that same person said Jesus is God’s tithe?
The Big Difference Between First Fruits and Tithes
“First fruit” is a concept from the Old Testament that said God’s people, the Israelites, were to trust him to provide for them. They showed their trust in God by sacrificing the first fruits of all they produced – whether the first sheep of a new spring, the first portion of a new crop being harvested, or whatever it might be. They sacrificed before the rest was fully produced, trusting that God would continue to bring to his people all they needed beyond what came first.
Can you imagine being a subsistence farmer seeing the grain begin to struggle from the ground, or a shepherd on a lonely hillside who sees the first lamb born and hopes the other sheep will not miscarry? How could you turn right around and take the early crop or first lamb and sacrifice it when you don’t know how much more will come after it?
Yet God told his people to sacrifice the first and trust him to continue providing for them. And we are also told that Jesus truly is the first fruit of God’s plan to being people into a rich and eternal relationship with himself. (1 Corinthians 15:20-13.) So it’s true that Jesus is God’s first fruit.
While tithing is related to the concept of first fruits, it is also fundamentally different. The tithe (or 10%) is based on the total income an Israelite received throughout the year, whether from farming, ranching, textiles or anything else.
All the people of Israel were to give 10% of their income to the priests in charge of the temple so that the people serving in the temple did not have to go out and earn their own living from crops and herds and commerce. It’s a tax, and one that was supposed to come before any tax the king would impose on the people for running the country itself. The person could then use whatever remained after paying those taxes, just like we do today.
But tithing is not first fruit sacrifice. Tithing funded the temple and its work. The first fruit had nothing to do with funding temple workers and their duties. It was about trusting God to provide for you after you gave him the first thing that came into your hand from your work.
The Heresy of Calling Jesus “God’s Tithe”
When mega-pastor Robert Morris (in the short video linked at the top of this post) told his congregation that Jesus is God’s tithe, it appears to have been an effort to get his listeners to decide that if God tithed Jesus to the church then the least the people of God can do is tithe 10% of their income to the church too.
There are two problems with this, both based on bad doctrinal understanding. First, tithing is not a part the New Covenant between God and his people. (You’ll find my reasoning on tithing about half way down this post: The Cross of Jesus Divides Everything in Two.)
Second, tithing is by definition only 10% of what one has. Jesus is not 10% of what God has. Jesus is 100% God himself. Jesus is the one who said so and his listeners knew exactly what he meant when he said it:
“I and the Father are one.”
Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:30-33.)
The Apostles knew this too and considered it the foundation for all truth about who God is. For example:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14.)
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. (Colossians 2:9.)
Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7.)
So you can see that Jesus is not 10% of what God possesses but is God himself. Why a person as well-read in the Bible as Mr. Morris would have said otherwise is between him and God. But the fact that he said so is also between Mr. Morris and God’s people.
Jesus is God. Not part of God, not a 10% offering from God, but God himself.