UPDATE:Jan. 10, 2018: A spokesperson for Paula White released this statement on Jan. 9: "Pastor Paula White's comments were originally reported out of their full context. She was actually speaking of her personal, longtime commitment to 'put God first at the beginning of a new year' and as part of that commitment she has often donated her entire January salary to charity in gratitude to God for his blessings. She encouraged others to also be generous but she does not - and did not - suggest that other people must donate a month's salary to her or her church or face divine punishment. Charity is at the heart of Christianity as it is at the heart of every religious tradition in the world, and anyone who has listened to White's teaching within its proper context should come to this conclusion as well."
Popular televangelist Paula White is urging her followers to donate a "first fruits" offering of up to their entire salary for the month of January to enjoy "blessings" for the rest of the year or suffer the "consequences" of failing to follow God's command.
"Each January, I put God first and honor Him with the first of our substance by sowing a first fruits offering of one month's pay. That is a big sacrifice, but it is a seed for the harvest I am believing for in the coming year. And God always provides!" White explains on her website.
She explained the difference between the tithe, usually 10 percent of earnings, and the first fruit donation.
"The difference between tithe and first fruit, first fruit is all of it," she told congregants at the New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "All of what? Well, if you want to bring God all of one day's salary, one week's salary or one month's salary, that's between you and God. ... I try to bring a month's salary, but at the very least every year I give God a week's salary."
And many of her followers join her in the first fruits campaign with "miraculous" results, she says.
"Every year many others join us and sow a month's pay, a week's pay, others give a day's pay, but everyone gives their best — the results are miraculous! First Fruits has impacted my life personally and the lives of countless others! But First Fruits is more than just an offering, it's a principle," she says, that is ordained by God.
"God claims the FIRST of ALL THINGS! It rightfully belongs to Him. When we apply the Principle of First Fruits, we see that all firsts should be given to the Lord: the first of the day, week (Sabbath), month, and the first of our harvest — be it the wages for the first day, week, or the month," she explains.
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White, who also serves as President Donald Trump's spiritual adviser, lays out in detail on her website how the principle of first fruits "supernaturally unlocks amazing opportunity, blessing, favor and divine order for your life" and how God requires His people to honor it.
"It is the basis or underlying support for your success in 2018. It is GOD'S PRINCIPLE OF FIRST FRUITS. All Firsts belong to God. 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 warns.
She then suggests that the consequence could be "struggle" and giving a first fruits offering can help protect donors from it.
"The Bible says, 'On one particular Sabbath, while teaching in a Synagogue, Jesus healed a woman that had a 'spirit of infirmity' which had bent her over for 18 years!' That which has plagued you IS REBUKED AND DONE FROM YOUR LIFE NOW. 2018 is a year of life and deliverance from struggle. It begins right now with First Fruits," she states.
She also notes, "It doesn't mean you can dictate or manipulate what's going to happen in July or August but it means this, that you have put God first in every aspect of this year."
White's church tweeted in support of the campaign Tuesday. But not everyone is convinced that this is how God intended the principle of first fruits to work.
"The concept of biblical first fruits is real, but as I read your article I can't help but feel as though you're being manipulative. Laying the foundation for first fruits and then launching into a 'financial seed' campaign seems to be a misuse/abuse of the biblical intention," Christian mom Heather Norton told White on Twitter Tuesday morning.
CompellingTruth.org, an outreach effort by a group of trained Christian experts at Got Questions Ministries, agrees. While some preachers today use the concept to encourage their parishioners to give an offering above and beyond tithing, the Bible does not support it as a requirement for Christians.
"The problem is, the first fruits offering was for the Jews for a specific purpose. Nowhere does the New Testament mention that the church is required or even encouraged to give a 'first fruits offering.' Like tithing, giving to the church is left up to the personal convictions of the individual believer. There is no blanket policy for giving," the group explains.
"This presumes that the work of God be understood in a dispensational manner instead of following the teaching of replacement theology. Replacement theology teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan for the world. All of the promises God gave Israel (including material blessings for obedience) are transferred to the church. Dispensational theology claims that God gave Israel and the church different promises, and many of Israel's promises will not come to fruition until the millennial kingdom. It is the belief of this ministry that dispensational theology best interprets the Scriptures. The church cannot claim all the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament," the experts argue.
They note, however, that giving a first fruits offering is acceptable as long as it comes from the believer's personal conviction and "not pressured by church leadership."
"The ways in which churches use the phrase (and the practice) vary in theological truth. To say that 'laying down a seed' so that God will make someone rich, or that you can pay off God to bless future plans, is an abusive lie from adherents of the prosperity gospel. To give sacrificially is to follow in the example of the widow of Mark 12:41-44, and is commendable as long as it isn't coerced. To give an offering in thanks that God provided is perfectly acceptable. But if a church wants to have a period of fund-raising, it would be better to have a specific purpose and not just try to spiritualize the desire to have more capital in the bank," they further explain.