Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Offerings are Messy!

Oftentimes when we think of offerings with respect to God, we think of the money that we put in the collection plate on Sundays, our tithes and offerings. After all, we're supposed to give God 10% of our money, right? I mean, sure, but if we consider our offering to be only what we put in the offering plate at church, then perhaps we've missed the point behind the offering. And that point can be summed up in three little words: offerings are messy. 

Yup, I said it. Offerings are messy. No, seriously. If you read Leviticus 1-4, where the Lord set up the sin offerings and the guilt offerings and the general offerings and all the other offerings (there were many) most of them involved copious amounts of blood. Parts of the animal being offered are cut off, some parts are totally consumed by fire. While we do not offer these kinds of literal burnt offerings anymore (thank you Jesus!), what makes us think that offering our lives to God will be any less messy? 

Before Jesus made himself the ultimate offering for us all the offerings given to God at the temple were how the people of God worshiped  Because Jesus died as an atonement for sin, we no longer have to burn animals on an altar, but instead, we ourselves become the offering to God (Romans 12:1) when we truly worship Him. Given that most of us don't literally have to pour our blood out as an offering to God, we fall into thinking that our "offering" is easy. We just go to church, pay our tithes, sing worship songs and we're good. Right? 

Uh, no. Sorry dude. 

In fact, despite the what one would think would be the great symbolism of blood being poured out as an atonement for sin, and actually seeing that happen, even the Israelites missed the point. They got into the habit of just giving God something and thinking they were okay. Needless to say God got pretty peeved with them for doing that. Speaking through the prophet Malachi, God lambastes the priests for offering blind and sickly animals as an offering. In fact God said that he'd like someone to shut the temple doors so that they didn't light useless fires at His altar! (Malachi 1:6-10) Yikes! God had to let the people know that he was God, above them all, and he didn't want lip service, in the same way they wouldn't dare do that to their governor. Part of Malachi's mission was to remind the people the offerings were supposed to mean something.

However, they didn't always miss the point. David (bless his heart) totally got it. Once, when he was going to make a sacrifice, he went the buy threshing floor from a man named Araunah. Araunah felt pretty honored that David wanted to build an altar to God on his threshing floor and tried to just give it to King David. David turns Araunah's offer down, telling him "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing." (2 Sam 24:24) David knew that his offering was supposed to be a sacrifice, it was supposed to cost something. 

Alas, in Jesus' day most of the Jews were still missing the point. Let's not forget the infamous temple incident. (Matthew 21:12-13) But perhaps a more significant episode involved a poor widow, whose brief story Luke recounts for us (Luke 21:1-4). While the rich were giving their gifts into the temple treasury, one widow gave two small copper coins. Jesus commended her because even though she had nothing (widows were usually very poor), she still found something to give: she gave everything, in contrast to many of the other temple-goers who had much and still only gave a little bit. 

Okay, so what does all this mean for us today? Well, when we offer our lives to God (I give myself away…) we have to realize that it will cost us. And if it doesn't cost us, then it's not a sacrifice. (duh, right?) But when you think about it, whatever modern comforts we sacrifice, it still cannot compare to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, who though he knew no sin, he became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). So while we have no need to sacrifice animals as an offering to God, to show that we love him and to honor him, we do need to be prepared to step out of our comfort zones.

Be blessed and shine completely!

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