First Fruits Living

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FruitsOkay, so our financial lives have been stretched greatly in this worldwide recession – and some people a whole lot more than others. But here’s one lesson hopefully all of us have learned: Whatever money we do have, we can choose to put it on God’s priorities instead of into greedy speculation, tight-fisted hoarding, or an endless line of possessions.
This is a particularly tough lesson for people living in the consumption-oriented U.S. society. But Christians everywhere have a time-honored, thoroughly field-tested way to make sure we put first things first: through first fruits living.

What a thought, that we could be intentional about where “our” money and resources go! Mark Vincent, lead partner and consultant at Design Group International,1  describes it this way: first fruits living is “giving the first and the best to God, and managing all the rest according to God’s generosity.” That is, according to God’s priorities, not someone else’s. So when we do first fruits living, we give the first of our day in devotions, the first of each week in worship, the first of our relationships in community with other Christians, and the first of our income in gifts for God’s work in the world.

There are at least two great things about this first fruits practice. First, it prompts us to be proactive in our giving of money, time, relationships and all the rest. This reduces our anxiety when a huge number of money requests come in the mail in times like these. If we’ve already noted where God is at work in the world and calling us to take part, we have chosen to support our top-priority initiatives already. So we don’t have to feel guilty and stressed when lots of secondary requests come to our door. Second, first fruits living focuses on what we do with all of what we have received, not just the percentage that we give to others. It challenges us to manage “all the rest” according to God’s priorities, including how we earn money, spend our time, save assets for the future, share generously right now with others, and participate in human community.

So first fruits living does a whole lot more than just help us deal with financial demands. It helps us put first things first, allow God to be in the center of our daily living, and engage our faith-in-action with 100 percent of what we have received.

Your partner in ministry,
Betsy Schwarzentraub

Written 6/10/2010 for the General Board of Discipleship
of the United Methodist Church
1 = See http://www.designgroupintl.com

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