This morning, in my quiet time, I started reading Leviticus.
Reading Leviticus is a faith building experience…in more ways than one.
I read about burnt, grain, and fellowship offerings this morning and was struck by something I knew but had forgotten: Sacrificing is a messy process.
During my devotions I stopped and went online to watch some videos of animal sacrifices just to remind myself of what the sacrificial process was really like.
I almost lost my breakfast.
Now that my stomach has settled, 🙂 I want to offer a couple of observations/applications.
1. Sacrificing costs the person making the sacrifice.
I can hear what you’re thinking, “Obviously!” The sacrifice (whether animal, grain, etc.) had to be valuable. Sacrifices had to be the best the person could offer. Are you giving God the best you have? The best of your time? The best of your finances? The best of your family?
Yes, I said the “best of your family.”
Yesterday, as I was perusing Facebook, I came across Thanksgiving pictures from a family I know very well. As I looked at the pictures of their family I was reminded of how much this family loves God and how much that love is expressed in my friends’ willingness to let God have their kids. My friends are very successful by the world’s standards, but that success didn’t hinder them from blessing their kids’ desire to be in vocational ministry. I’m trying to be delicate, but I’d rather say it bluntly: My friends’ kids are following paths that will not result in large incomes and long-term financial security, but my friends didn’t flinch when their kids wanted to enroll in Christian college. My friends didn’t flinch because–for as long as they’ve been following Christ–they’ve always given God their best–even the best of their family.
Is there sacrifice going to cost them? Definitely.
Will the cost keep my friends from giving their best? Absolutely not.
My friend’s sacrifice reminds me of Mary’s sacrifice of very expensive perfume the week before Christ’s death on the cross. Mary anointed Jesus with the best she had: perfume that was worths a year’s wages. On seeing this costly sacrifice, the disciples were indignant saying, “Why this waste?” (Matthew 26:8).
Some may privately think that my friends’ and their children’s sacrifices are a waste, but–with Jesus–I say, “They have done a beautiful thing for Jesus” (Matthew 26:10).
2. Sacrificing costs the person receiving the sacrifice.
The priests, who received sacrifices under the Old Covenant, had to pay a price for receiving sacrifices.
First, during the sacrificial process the priests would have been completely covered in blood. I didn’t realize how messy the sacrificial process was for the priests until I watched videos of animal sacrifices. Cutting the neck of a living animal results in blood spraying everywhere. I’m not trying to be gross; I’m trying to communicate that their was a cost to the priests as well. They were fully invested in the sacrificial process.
To my fellow ministers, I ask these questions:
Are we making sacrifices for the people in our congregation?
I know that we’re calling our people to fully invest themselves in the ministry of the church. Are we fully invested in the ministry of the church?
Are we getting messy in the process of sacrificing or are our people the only ones getting splattered by the residue of their sacrifices?
Second, the priests had to pay the price of being good stewards of the sacrifices. The priests were to follow strict rules in receiving the sacrifices, making the sacrifices, and processing the remains of the sacrifices. They couldn’t overlook any aspect of the process. I can’t imagine how exhausting the Day of Atonement was for the priests. No matter…they paid the price because God deserves our best.
As leaders in the church, we must be good stewards of the sacrifices our people are making. Our people deserve our best. God deserves our best. Ministry should be exhausting. Ministry should cost us something.
Here are some questions I think ministers should routinely ask themselves:
Am I earning my paycheck?
Am I cutting corners when I shouldn’t be?
Am I asking my people to make sacrifices that I’m not making myself?
Am I being a good steward of this ministry?
Am I giving God my best?
Sacrifice is always a messy process, but answering these questions properly will help to keep us from making unnecessary messes of our ministry.