A Precious Offering
What is the nature of a precious offering? Several years ago, I got to thinking about the practice of giving something up for Lent. My daddy retired from the Marine Corps in New Orleans, LA, and that city, with its Catholic roots, really embraces the church calendar. Everyone I knew was always giving something up for Lent. I was in the minority in NOLA — a Protestant. Neither my church nor my parents required me to give anything up for Lent. So I listened, with interest, every year to what people were willing to give up in order to honor the life and sacrifice of Jesus.
To fast from something that you really love is an offering because, every time you deny yourself, you remember the reason you are fasting. And I see now that it is an honorable practice, a spiritual discipline. But, from the outside, giving up coffee or chocolate for Lent also seems to trivialize the crushing crucifixion of Christ…you know? Have you SEEN the movie The Passion of the Christ??
So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified (Mark 15:15, NLT).
Lent commemorates Jesus’ time of fasting in the wilderness, which served as preparation for His ministry. His ministry was a preparation for His death. His death was a kind of preparation for His resurrection. These events are all inextricably linked. Reflecting on the enormity of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus made me think this: to deny myself nonfat lattes for a few weeks doesn’t seem an appropriate sacrifice to honor the Savior of the world.
So I went back and studied the whole idea of offerings with the post, What’s an Acceptable Offering? Again and again, this was the theme I read:
You must present as the LORD’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you (Numbers 18:29, NIV).
Bring God the best. Give Him the cream off the top. Offer your first fruits, not the leftovers. God has provided richly for us. Every blessing we have is an undeserved gift, generously given, by Him, to us (James 1:17). We are not supposed feast on His kind gifts and then present Him an offering from the remaining crumbs. And yet…
I started to wonder what we could offer to Him that was really precious to us. The Precious — like the creature, Gollum, in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, humans can easily get fixated on little idols, habits or earthly treasures, that threaten to consume us. And so I wrote this post: To Offer What We Hold Dear
I realized that, like Gollum, what we find to be “precious” can actually be our undoing. Sin. I might have shared this definition of Sin from the New City Catechism once, or seventeen times, here.
Somehow, we like our bad habits. The things that aren’t good for us? Those are the things we don’t want to give up! We don’t want to talk much about it at church, but our sins can be quite precious to us. Anger. Greed. Gluttony. Envy. Malice. Lust. Gossip. Pride. But if you look closely, pride is at the root of all other sinful behaviors. It is pride that says we are above God’s rules or above other people.
Pride says, “Me first!” Or, “I am better than you.” Or, “I deserve it!” Or, “It’s really all about me.” Pride looks different in each one of us. And I took a closer look at the different sides of pride — including the kind of pride that leads to “low self-esteem” — in these posts:
So, if we begin Lent with Ash Wednesday, we don’t have to look far to find sin to confess. At our house, we are confessing daily, as part of family worship. We are making worship, and confession of sin, a daily practice. [I am trying to get our daily family worship more streamlined, and when I do, I will be happy to share it here.] As a part of daily confession, we’ve recognized our need to stop being snarky.
Being snarky looks like contempt of others when you are talking to them, or about them. We recognize that diminishing others with our words or actions is a sin. And it is a habit. And Jesus came to break the sins that can become our habits.
The long and the short of it is that we are praying that the Lord would find this offering acceptable, this Lenten season:
Lord, we give You our snarkiness. You know how we have enjoyed looking down on others for not thinking like us or for acting in ways that we disagree with. You see how we resent being put down by others and stay thirsty for revenge. The coward’s revenge? Snarkiness. Please forgive us for putting others down with our words and our thoughts. Replace the prideful and bitter thoughts and words with humility and kindness. Teach us to honor others and willingly pay the debt of love that we owe (Romans 13:8) . Help us to honor You with all of our thoughts, words, and deeds. You know the treasure that is stored up in our hearts — daily, make it be more and more pleasing to You.