Uniform 12.13.2015: Acceptable Offerings


Leviticus 22:17-25, 31-33

I was the young new pastor at the church. As I walked around the offices, I noticed that every room had a different color carpet, that a lot of it was ugly, and that none of it was what you’d call “nice.” I asked someone about it. He said, “I think somebody donated their scraps.” Such “giving” is not in line with the spirit of Leviticus! (Let me add that during my tenure, we constructed a nice office suite with brand new, nice, matching, pretty carpet.)

The point of the sacrificial regulations in this week’s Scripture passage is that the people of God are to give the best they have to the Lord. They were to give their best because God had given them their freedom from bondage. They were to give their best to God because God had given them the best gift they could possibly receive.

One of our hymns encourages us,

Give of your best to the Master;
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service;
Consecrate every part.
Give, and to you will be given;
God His beloved Son gave;
Gratefully seeking to serve Him,
Give Him the best that you have.

We really should give God the best we have to give since “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16).

There is danger in thinking this way, though. If we think only in terms of giving our best, we might then think that the rest of what we have, be it our money, our time, our energy, or our commitment, is ours to do with as we please.

The truth is, though, that we’re called to give our all to the Master. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said it is to love the Lord with everything we are. He also said the runner up greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mt 22:34-40). So we’re called to give our whole lives to the Lord. And we can’t separate our giving to the Lord from our giving for the sake of other people.

It’s also too easy for us to limit our giving to “material” things. Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees for tithing even the herbs in their gardens while neglecting “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Mt 23:23). If we’re not careful, we’ll give in the same kind of seemingly generous but actually limited way. It’s easier to write a check than it is to give ourselves over to seeking and working for justice and mercy and to trusting radically in God.

So, what would it mean for you to give yourself completely to God?


1. How would our lives be different if we gave our all to the Lord?
2. Our giving is motivated mainly by God’s gift of Jesus. What else has God done for us that should motivate us to be generous?
3. What steps can we take that will help move us toward a more total commitment of our lives to the Lord?
4. Does the pursuit of justice and mercy constitute “giving”? How or how not?
5. Read Hebrews 9:11-14 and Luke 9:18-27. Christ gave himself as the perfect sacrifice. Why, then, is it important that we give ourselves away as well?

Reference Shelf

Without Blemish

The requirement that a sacrificial animal be “without blemish” has been sounded throughout the previous chapters. Here, disqualifying blemishes are defined (vv. 22-24) in terms that recall those for the priesthood (ch. 21). The person who is serious about reconciliation with the Deity will not seek to “palm off ” an inferior animal. The text seeks to prevent self-deception even as the worshiper enters into an act of piety.

Lloyd R. Bailey, Leviticus-Numbers, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: 2005) 272-73.

Leviticus in the New Testament

The NT interprets the laws of Leviticus in two different ways. On the one hand, it singles out the commandment of love for neighbor (Lev 19:18), along with love of God (Deut 6:5), as the essence of the Mosaic law (Matt 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27; Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14; Jas 2:8 . . .). On the other hand, it relaxes the requirements of many Pentateuchal purity regulations (Matt 15:11; Acts 10:9-16; Rom 14:14-23) and ritual laws (Acts 15: 1-35; I Cor 7: 19 . . .). Alongside such legal discussions, the NT also interprets the law typologically . . . as foreshadowing Christ’s work. Hebrews casts Jesus as the high priest on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16), who offered his own blood instead of animal sacrifices to purify from sin (Heb 9:1-14). Like Leviticus, the NT emphasizes the ideal of close communion between God and humans, but that communion is symbolized, not by the presence of the sanctuary in the middle of the camp as it is in Leviticus, but by its absence (Rev 21:22). This image at the end of the NT aptly represents the conscious continuity of theme and discontinuity of practice in NT interpretations of Leviticus.

James W. Watts, “Leviticus,” Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995) 161.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Uniform Series Curriculum Editor.


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