‘Not Giving Hesitantly’ in Expression of Thanks to God
JEHOVAH’S dealings with his people of ancient Israel abound with lessons for the benefit of Christians living today. They “were written for our instruction” is how the apostle Paul expressed it. (Rom. 15:4) So, in giving careful examination to the details of Bible history, we can confidently expect to gain deeper spiritual insight into God’s will for his worshipers now.
For example, Jehovah called on each one to bring the firstfruits of produce to His priesthood at the central place of worship that he established. Included were the firstfruits of the womb (human and animal), the firstfruits of each harvest from the ground, yes, and even the first of the shorn wool from the flock. (Ex. 22:29, 30; 23:19; Deut. 18:4) These firstfruits were something distinct from the tithes or tenth parts that Jehovah required for the support of clean, acceptable worship.
Every male firstborn that opened the womb, among humans and animals, was to be sanctified to Jehovah. (Ex. 13:2) However, the firstborn males of humans and of those animals that were not acceptable for sacrificial use were to be redeemed by parent or owner on a minimum payment of five silver shekels, or slightly less than $2.40, United States funds. (Num. 18:15-17) The principle here indicated was later plainly expressed by God through his prophet Ezekiel: “All the souls—to me they belong.”—Ezek. 18:4.
On the other hand, the firstborn bull or lamb or goat could not be so redeemed or purchased back. Their blood must be sprinkled on the altar. The blood of those animals represented the lifeblood of the man Jesus Christ, voluntarily offered as a sacrifice for sinful humankind.—Heb. 9:6-14; Rev. 7:14.
NO FIXED AMOUNT
As to the firstfruits of the ground, and the first shearings of the flock, it is noteworthy that Jehovah left it to each one to determine the quantity. The amount was left indefinite just as in the requirement to leave gleanings of their harvest for the benefit of the poor.—Lev. 19:9, 10.
Each family, each person who had a possession in the God-given land, was expected to bring or send these firstfruits as a recognition of their having received all from their God. The quantity’s being left to each one’s judgment introduced a test of their appreciation. Did they keep in mind that Jehovah their God had liberated them from slavery in Egypt? Did they bear in mind that he gave them a land with wells they had not dug, orchards they had not planted, everything essential for their physical well-being?
Yes, they had a generous God, one who was also concerned about their spiritual welfare, their attitude toward true worship. Referring to the offerings of the firstfruits, Jehovah cautioned them through his servant Moses: “Your full produce and the overflow of your press you must not give hesitantly.” (Ex. 22:29) It was not the amount given that was important, but rather the spirit in which the gift was presented. To be hesitant might well indicate a loss of appreciation on their part, a lack of appreciation for all the benefits conferred on them by God.
INSTRUCTION FOR US
What, then, can we glean from all of this, we who are not under the Mosaic law? There is a wealth of spiritual meaning in this matter of the firstfruits of the ground and of the womb. Does not the apostle Paul say that at his resurrection Christ Jesus became “the first fruits [to God] of those who have fallen asleep in death”?—1 Cor. 15:20.
Then, in an extension of the same thought, we learn that the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel, the anointed followers of Christ, are destined by God “to be a certain first fruits of his [redeemed] creatures.” (Jas. 1:18; Rev. 14:1-4) Continuing faithful to death, these ones are raised as spirit creatures and given to God’s great High Priest in the heavens, Jesus Christ, to be a priesthood under him. God’s acceptance of those firstfruits is a grand guarantee that there will be a joyful harvest, a great host of humans who will eventually enjoy the blessings of everlasting life on a paradise earth. They will be earthly subjects of the heavenly rule by Christ and his 144,000 priest-kings.
Other lessons, too, may be learned from the firstfruit offerings. Is it not true that there are provisions and an organization for pure worship on earth today? Most assuredly. Through that organization come fine spiritual provisions. So it is appropriate that those who share such spiritual bounty give expression to their gratitude by means of their material things.
Notice that Jehovah lays no specific requirement on his worshipers as to these expressions of gratitude. It may be with many as it was with that impoverished widow whom Jesus observed dropping her ‘two coins of very small value’ into the contribution box for the temple. (Mark 12:42) Was it not her unhesitant generosity, her sincere desire to express gratitude to God that impressed Jesus?
Among the ancient Israelites the offering of the firstborn and of the firstfruits was a sanctifying of these representative gifts. Without that eager, unhesitant bringing of such gifts before Jehovah, how could there be an expectation of Jehovah’s blessing on the subsequent family or on the harvesting of the crops?
God-fearing parents such as the parents of Samson and Samuel not only brought up their children “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah,” but also gladly yielded up the firstborn son to even more direct service of Jehovah.—Eph. 6:4, Kingdom Interlinear.
Are Christian parents less appreciative in our time? No, for many parents are consistently bringing up all of their children to be genuine worshipers of Jehovah. They nurture in the young minds the desire to prepare themselves for a future life of devotion to God, for a career, perhaps, as full-time preachers of the good news. Is not that a wonderful way to apply the lesson of the typical firstfruits?
Today, too, Christian worshipers of Jehovah show the same unhesitating spirit in their giving of funds for the advancement of pure worship, a giving that reveals their conviction that all they have is from Jehovah and belongs to him. Here are some fitting remarks that accompanied gifts received either at the office of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 124 Columbia Heights Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201, or one of its many branch offices around the world:
“Being up in years I cannot take this money with me when I die, and I cannot think of any better way to use it than to help publish the good news of the Kingdom.”
“We experience great happiness and joy for all the things Jehovah has given us. All of us in this part of the country, though some distance from the Society’s headquarters, continually appreciate the close communication with Jehovah through his congregation. We especially feel this way when we can have a share in helping expand the worldwide witness.”
The Creator knows that the most appreciative, the most generous of his human creatures, are, in fact, the happiest of creatures. (Acts 20:35) So he inculcates this spirit in his children. He reminds us to keep on developing this fine quality, not by specific requirements, but leaving it to our own hearts largely. How clear this matter is made to us! Just consider these words of the inspired apostle:
“He that sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. God, moreover, is able to make all his undeserved kindness abound toward you, that, while you always have full self-sufficiency in everything, you may have plenty for every good work. . . . In everything you are being enriched for every sort of generosity, . . . because the ministry of this public service is not only to supply abundantly the wants of the holy ones but also to be rich with many expressions of thanks to God.”—2 Cor. 9:6-12.