Friday, November 21, 2014

ICF Devotional

if you are offering your gift at the altar 
and there remember that your brother has something against you,
leave your gift there in front of the altar.
First go and be reconciled to your brother; 
then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24

I have never taken an animal to an alter as an offering to God.  Have you?  Because this act, which was known to every Jew in Jesus’ audience, is so foreign to me, I need to spend some time thinking about what Jesus was looking for when He taught this to the people.  
There are many things I give to God, they fall mainly in the categories of time, talents and money.  It pleases God when we take what He has blessed us with and make a choice to give it back to Him.  But Jesus was basically saying Stop, there is way more going on here than giving gifts to God like a robot.  In fact, if we back up a few verses we see that Jesus said the old command was do not murder.  Then He took it a step further and said if you are angry at your brother you are worthy of judgment.  Now Jesus takes it even one step further to the ultimate place of humility and a pure heart before Him.  He says that if someone has something against you, go and make peace before you give God a gift.  This takes humility because what if I don’t believe I have done anything wrong?  I’m still supposed to do what I can to restore the relationship.  That is another gift I can give God.  It’s putting aside my pride for the sake of another person.  It’s showing God that others are more important to me than my feelings of  self-righteousness.   It’s taking a risk without the guarantee of a restored relationship.
But it’s like God is stopping us part way through the act of giving.  Jesus said Go ahead and put the gift on the alter, leave it there, make reconciliation then return to the alter and complete the process of giving.  I think Jesus didn’t want the giver to tuck his sacrifice under his arm and carry it around for everyone to see while he was in the process of reconciling a relationship.  God is always concerned about our heart.  
This is personal because while I was writing this devotional an individual came to mind.  I continued to write.  I continued to bring my talent to the alter until I could go on no further.  The conviction was too great.  So I had to stop.  I had to leave my writing on the alter and instead take the time to email a person I have struggled in relationship with.  God cares way more about this relationship than He does if I write this devotional on time.  He cares way more about my heart and the struggle it has gone through in a broken relationship and seeking resolution than He does about words on paper.  BUT, when I stop and take the time to continually work towards resolution, I can lay my written words at His feet and offer them as a pure offering.
Is God asking you to leave your offering on the alter and go talk to a person instead?  Don’t waste time.  Do it immediately then return to the alter and give God your gift.

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