Last year, Pentecostal televangelist Paula White, who heads up the president’s evangelical advisory committee, is asked people to donate their January paycheck.
According to Newsweek, White “suggested that people would reap the rewards after donating to her. ‘January is the beginning of a new year for us in the Western world. Let us give to God what belongs to him: the first hours of our day, the first month of the year, the first of our increase, the first in every area of our life. It’s devoted… The principle of first fruits is that when you give God the first, he governs the rest and redeems in. When you honor this principle, it provides the foundation and structure for God’s blessings and promises in your life. It unlocks deep dimensions of spiritual truths that literally transform your life. When you apply this, everything comes in divine alignment for His plan and promises for you. When you don’t honor it, whether through ignorance or direct disobedience, there are consequences.’”
White has added to her repertoire of fundraising tactics. Her new equation to elicit millions of dollars into her ministries pockets is: “Seed faith offering” + “First fruit offering” + fear = $$$$
I’ll be posting later this week about the origins of “seed faith” offerings and why they are not Biblical. Today, however, let’s talk about the principles of “first fruit.”
First, fruit offerings were practiced by the Greeks and the Hebrews. The Greeks gave a percentage of their agricultural products, which were then sold to pay for the upkeep of the temple. However, under the rule of Pericles, the State would borrow money from the temple treasury to pay for the war. The temple began to serve the state as a bank with cities under the control of Athens paying a percentage of their agriculture to the temples.
The Hebrews had an offering of firstfruits as one type of offering. Throughout the year, different offerings were given. The idea behind the first fruits was an acknowledgment of God’s claim on the first of everything. This would include first fruits, firstborn cattle, and first-born sons.
In the New Testament, Jesus is described as the “first fruit” of the promised resurrection. The pattern of firstfruits has been reversed. Instead of God laying claim on us, we have a claim on resurrection with Jesus as the “first fruit” offering from God to us.
White takes an Old Testament principle and claims there will be consequences if you don’t follow it. Somehow White has forgotten that after Jesus, the temple sacrifice system was abolished because Jesus was the final sacrifice. Instead, the early apostles asked for offerings to help support the home churches and those in need.
White digs up this dead “principle” and uses it to cause fear. If you don’t give God, meaning my ministry, the first fruits, meaning your entire January salary, then there will be consequences. The people who followed through on White’s instruction didn’t receive any special blessing; they received more letters and emails soliciting donations. Like most televangelist, when you have a fish on the line, you keep reeling them in until you land and gut them.
If you break the idea of firstfruits down as presented by White, it is nothing more than a veiled threat. If you don’t give God money, He will do something to you. This is antithetical to the New Testament teaching: God pours out His grace on you, and he gives you Jesus as the first fruits on His promise of resurrection. It is antithetical to the idea of the Holy Spirit being the down payment on eternal life. (Ephesians 1:14-16)
In the New Testament, God is the giver! In White’s prosperity Gospel, God can’t act or won’t act until you give. You must prove your faith before God can or will act. Again this is antithetical to New Testament teaching, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God is the lover; God is the giver; God is constantly working on our behalf! We don’t need to prove our faith and devotion. The very idea that we must prove our faith and devotion to God is a return to the Paganism of old. People had to sacrifice to keep their gods happy. Instead, in Christianity, we have a God who loves his frail and imperfect humanity and works on their behalf out of love.
I’m sure if you go back and ask all the people who gave a “first fruit” offering of their January paychecks in hopes of hitting the God lottery, you will find they just got deeper in debt. White has managed to turn her ministry into a bank where foolish people deposit their money in hopes of a big payoff. Beware of any preacher promising that God will give you something in return for your offering. God is not a vending machine.
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