Have you ever been to a conference and at the end of the week, and on the last day everyone rallies to give a big offering? I remember one such rally and about midway during the week, a young man got up do a teaching and said with this God is not pleased. Then he showed us this chart of the offerings brought in each night for a traditional conference week:
He had our attention as we recognized that this is fully the case. And what was wrong with that?
Then he told us. When we first come we put a little in the offering each night. Then we save back some to buy food, books, T-shirts, etc… during the conference. At the end of the conference we take what we have left and make a “generous” offering.”
“God is not pleased with this,” he said. “The Bible teaches that our gifts and offerings are to be our firstfruits, not our leftovers.”
I’ve not forgotten this lesson. And when people do canned food drives and take up collections of “leftover” clothes to give to the mission, I tell the Lord I’m cleaning house and that this lima bean donation and 70’s tacky looking dress is me cleaning, not a gift to the Lord. Because it it was truly a gift to the Lord, I would need to give my very best. Not my leftovers.
This is exactly what is taught in the Scriptures. God taught the people that the gifts and offering to the Lord were to be the very best:
- And animal sacrificed for sins was to be unblemished (v. 3)
- Grain offerings were to be of fine flour (2:2)
- Harvest offerings were to firstfruits (2:12)
- A priest was to present a young, unblemished bull for sins(4:3)
- The people were to bring an unblemished goat (4:23, 32)
The offering and the gift had to be sacrificial. Sacrifice as defined as giving up something you love for something you love even more. Sacrifice is hard. By it’s very nature it hurts. It’s not giving up something you didn’t really want anyway. It’s giving up something you care deeply about. It wasn’t that God was needy and greedy. It was that sin was no trivial thing in which to make atonement.
Further a gift and offering to the Lord was to be the very best. After all it was about atoning for sins. The Lord’s forgiveness was not cheap and neither should our gifts.
But most importantly this was to prepare the way for our understanding of the extraordinary sacrifice of God. Jesus was “unblemished” and “without sin.” This was how the sacrifice had to be. And instead of us who paid the ultimately sacrifice, it was God himself.