Bright juicy strawberries peep through luscious green leaves, fulfilling my long-held dream to grow my own strawberries.
Our very first “harvest” day, we picked one ripe strawberry that we cut into tiny sections. The next day we each had half a strawberry. By the fourth day, there were enough berries for each of us to enjoy our own. After a week, we filled a small bowl full each day. Two weeks have passed now, and each morning there are enough ripe strawberries to fill another small bowl. Most of the time, the berries last less than five minutes as the kids divvy them up to enjoy.
Every few days, I’ll gather a few to freeze for shakes. As I was rinsing fresh strawberries, the verse from Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees came to mind. The Pharisees were so scrupulous about obeying tithing laws that they even brought tithes of their herbs!
Jesus rebuked them saying, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matt. 23:23)
So, tithing herbs was good, but needed to be accompanied by justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
Times have changed. Though tithing still seems to be clearly commanded, I’m fairly certain Jesus didn’t mean we should put mint (or fresh strawberries) in the offering plate at church.
As I snipped off the green tops of the strawberries, the thought came that maybe we could share some at Sunday’s potluck. Immediately, I started talking myself out of it. After all, I already had food planned to bring and no one there would care whether I brought my own strawberries or food I’d purchased. They probably wouldn’t even notice. Wasn’t I just being too concerned about the letter of the law? Besides, I really wanted to save enough strawberries to make jelly.
I thought that was the end of the matter.
Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church, Rose burst inside. “Mama! Look at all the strawberries I found this morning! Can we PLEASE take some to church to share for lunch?”
And once again, God used my little girl to teach me a lesson. Whether or not modern Christians are bound by ancient Jewish tithing law is beside the point. Jesus wants to work in us a heart of generosity. Sometimes that even means sharing our little bowl of fresh strawberries.
(Much to my surprise, two friends asked if the strawberries were from our garden and commented on my generosity. I had to laugh, tell them my story, and pray that God works in me the open-handed generosity of a child.)
The strawberries are in full-production mode now. We’re filling large bowls each morning and I’ve already made homemade jam. Sharing the berries suddenly got much easier, because they’re plentiful. Which had me thinking again of how God asked for the first ripe fruits. The produce that isn’t yet overwhelming. The produce where each bite is still treasured, and it’s a bit harder to let go because you don’t know whether more will actually grow. As Ann Voskamp so beautifully put it:
We’re not giving what we’re called to give, unless that giving affects how we live — affects what we put on our plate and where we make our home and hang our hat and what kind of threads we’ve got to have on our back. Surplus Giving is the leftover you can afford to give; Sacrificial Giving is the love gift that changes how you live — because the love of Christ has changed you. God doesn’t want your leftovers. God wants your love overtures, your first-overs, because He is your first love.” (from this post)