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ADD TO YOUR LEARNING - The Philippine Teaching Ministry

ARTICLES

SACRIFICE AND GIVING
By Rolan Monje, Oct 2004

In the Old Testament, the word "sacrifice" refers to the ritualistic ways by which man was to approach God. Sacrifice referred to actions and ways given to man so that he could draw near to God. It seems that the first record of a sacrifice (or offering) is in Genesis 4, where Cain's sacrifice was compared to Abel's. For sure, by this time men knew that in approaching God some sort of offering was to be given. This should not surprise us, since the fall made clear that man is clearly imperfect before the perfect God. The large gap between man and God could not be easily bridged.

The other books of the Pentateuch (Exodus-Deuteronomy) make clear that God expected strict compliance to ritualistic requirements. In Leviticus, God placed the responsibility on men to make sure that they approached God in the proper manner. God considered man's offerings as holy (Lev 2:3; 6:17, 25, 27, 29; 7:1, 6; 10:12; Nu 18:9-10). Offerings were given at specified places and times (Lev 1:3; 3:2; 17:4, 8-9; 1Ki 8:62; 12:27; 2Ch 7:12). All animal sacrifices were to be without blemish (Ex 12:5; 29:1; Lev 1:3, 10; 22:18-25; Dt 15:21; 17:1; Eze 43:23; Mal 1:8, 14; Heb 9:14; 1Pe 1:19). All of this was due to the fact that God is higher and holier than man. Sacrifices reminded God's people that they constantly needed to draw near to God to ask for mercy.

Jesus well understood the OT concept of sacrifice. Among a people whose leaders put ritual first, Jesus agreed with the prophets. Twice he alluded to Mic 6:6-8, which reads: "With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? … He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." In mentioning this, Jesus shows us the true heart of sacrifice - giving to God what is due him. In reality, no one can really give a "perfect offering." However, when we understand that we can never truly please all of God's requirements, the best we can do is to give God our best.

Later on, Jesus challenged his critics and told them to "go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice'" (Mt 9:13; cf. 12:7). And he said that if one who is approaching the altar harbors anger against a brother, he must leave his gift and be reconciled with his brother. Then he can return to the altar and offer his gift to God (Mt 5:23-24). Jesus agreed with the teacher of the law who said that to love God and neighbor is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mk 12:33-34). Again, the point of giving to God any offering is to offer our heart to God. More than any action, the heart is what God observes; and that is what he blesses. This idea is further developed by Paul. He adopts the language of sacrifice to speak of the Christian lifestyle. Believers are to present themselves to God as living sacrifices (Ro 12:1). This "spiritual worship" corresponds to the OT concept of whole burnt offering of consecration. Like that OT sacrifice, our spiritual commitment can come only after the sacrifice of expiation has been offered for us. Using the same symbolism, Paul sees his approaching death as an offering (technically, a libation) added to enrich the full commitment to service demonstrated by the Philippians (Php 2:17). Paul also uses the analogy of the OT offering in speaking of the Philippians' gifts to him: such are fragrant offerings, acceptable sacrifices that please God (Php 4:18). In this way, anything we do and anything we give can be considered a spiritual act of sacrifice.

Points for reflection:

The Sacrifice of Christ
When you take communion, do you really think of Christ's sacrifice?
Are you grateful that the NT does not require calves and goats like the OT?
How can you make communion time more meaningful?
How does Christ's sacrifice impact me on a daily basis?

Special Missions
- Do you see giving to SMC as simply giving money or giving to God?
- Do you see SMC as a chance to give your best to God?
- How can you make this SMC more meaningful?
- How can you inspire others with their SMC?

Giving Sacrificially
- How does God's holiness change our attitude towards giving?
- What does sacrifice mean to you personally?
- How are you teaching your children to sacrifice?
- Does giving help you to become more grateful?


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