It’s the life that qualifies the offering

By Chim  //  Uncategorized  //  No Comments

“You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”

Matthew 23:19 NIV

I’ve been concerned in recent years about the over-emphasis in many churches on money and what looks many times like a continued ‘push’ to get people to give more and more. It’s not so much the call to give that concerns me, but the subtle lie that is being taught that it doesn’t matter how you live as long as you ‘pay your tithe’, God is happy.

God is looking for men and women who can bring to him, and be for him, offerings in righteousness, so that his will may be done on earth. The Bible teaches that the bringing of offerings is always a key part of worshiping God. Yet it is helpful to understand how God looks at offerings, or how he weighs the offerings we bring.

Let me illustrate this by going back to the very first offerings that anyone ever brought to God, in Genesis chapter 4. These were the offerings of the two brothers, Cain and Abel.

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering — fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.”

Genesis 4:3-5 NIV

For centuries theologians and ordinary believers have pondered on and tried to explain why God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. Understanding that God is not erratic and that he is impartial, so many find it strange why this would have happened. Most have concluded that the reason lies in the fact that Cain knew that God required an animal offering to bring a blood sacrifice, but he came all the same with a sacrifice that lacked blood. While I have no problem with this answer yet I see a fundamental issue here as I read this passage that is very instructive for each of us as we seek to bring an offering to God.

Let’s look at the passage again:

“The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour”

Do you see what I see? When these men brought their offerings it was not only at their offerings that God was looking, he was looking at the man and his offering.

“The Lord looked .. on Abel and his offering”

“The Lord looked … on Cain and his offering

Indeed God first looked at the man before he looked at his offering. I want you to get the lesson here – God never receives an offering from any man or woman without looking at the life bringing the offering. It doesn’t matter how huge the offering is. It doesn’t matter how much good the offering is able to do, God will never look at an offering without looking at the man or woman bringing the offering.

I believe that what happened here was that when God looked at Cain, the man’s life disqualified his offering. It is our life that qualifies our offerings not the other way around. It is an error to feel that your offerings to God will make you have a better standing with him. God never looks at what a man is bringing him without looking at the man himself who is bringing it. That’s why I find the message some pastors are conveying today, namely, that your offering qualifies you, to be very concerning.

This was the same error the Lord Jesus spoke about among the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day. You see, the Pharisees were preaching that there was a kind of power in the people’s offering. So much so that they could swear by their offering especially if it were an offering of gold! Apparently the greater the monetary value of the offering, the greater the power it had!

““Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”

Matthew 23:16-19 NIV

The Lord referred to them as blind guides, or blind leaders, or blind ministers, because it is only when leaders are blinded by covetousness that they fall for this lie and teach this error. It’s covetousness that leads to this error. When ministers begin to exalt gain above godliness there is a way they will make the gold and the offerings become exalted above the temple (the worship) and the altar (consecration). Beware of covetousness – it distorts doctrine and introduces error.

Jesus asked;

“You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”

Matthew 23:19 NIV

It’s the altar that qualifies the gift, not the gift the altar. It’s our inner life that qualifies the offering and not the other way around. There are some offerings that God cannot accept because of the life behind the offering. If you first place your life on the altar, then any other gift you place thereon will be holy. If not you are wasting your time.