In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy from this past Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, Moses makes reference to the practice of giving of one’s first fruits to God in thanksgiving and reverence. Stewardship embraces that kind of giving.
I grew up in farm country in northwestern Illinois. Many farmers would give one load of grain to their church (both Catholic and Protestant). And some of them would make it the first load of grain. It was a different era, of course, and after they had picked the first wagon of corn or soy beans (the two major crops), they would haul that load to the local elevator (sometimes a four- to six-hour round trip with tractors and wagons), sell it, and either have the value credited to a church or receive the cash and give that to the church.
The term “First Fruits” appears 27 times in the Old Testament, and nine times in the New Testament. In some instances, the reference is not only to “First Fruits” but also to “Best Fruits.”
This is a reminder to us as good stewards that we, too, are called to consider giving — in gratitude, in proportion, and with a particular regard for the value of the gift. As is always the case, we are talking about giving all of our gifts — the best of our time, the best of our talents, and the best of our treasure.
This can be a challenge, and it is certainly not the type of giving which is emphasized in the secular society in which we live. In a sense, we all sort of know that this is the way we are supposed to give; this is what we are called to do, but to actually do it requires great faith and trust.