So if you are about to offer your gift to God at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God.
This is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching about anger and violence. He is explaining to his disciples how they can be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.” (See Day 23).
According to the Law of Moses everyone is required to make regular offerings (gifts) of money or food items to God. Jesus tells his disciples that what God really wants is for us to resolve our conflicts and be at peace with each other. This is what’s important to him. He wants peace on earth a lot more than he wants “things.”
A good gift is something that the recipient wants, which is not necessarily what the giver wants. A good gift should say, “I know who you are, I know what you like, and I love and affirm you.” My dad always liked to get chocolate candy. He never got tired of it. Every time he opened a gift of dark chocolate his face lit up. Simple chocolate like those giant Hershey bars. Decades of chocolate and he always appreciated it. We would of course get him other things he liked – clever gadgets, useful tools, electronics, interesting books, warm clothes – but the only thing that really made him light up was chocolate. I looked through the family pictures and there is only one picture of him opening a gift of candy. It was a giant Hershey kiss, a novelty chocolate. I guess we didn’t think a picture of him with his precious Hershey bars was “special” enough for a photo because it wasn’t what we wanted. I did find, however, that there are lots of pictures of him with gifts of books and socks. There you go.
While we might want food and material things (or books or socks), what God wants is for us to love one another. This is one of the Laws (Leviticus 19:18). When we love one another and work out our differences, we are doing what God wants; we are the peacemakers that God wants us to be (Matthew 5:9). And as I’ve mentioned earlier, the teachings of the prophets say that God doesn’t want our stuff anyway so food and money offerings are all just a waste of time (See Day 19).
So while it may be harder than bringing in a chicken for the priest to kill on the sacrificial altar, baking a loaf of showbread for the temple, or writing a check to put in the church collection plate, making peace with everyone is the real gift, the real offering, the real sacrifice that God really wants. He can never get enough of it, it never goes out of style, and it’s always in good taste.
What does this scripture say to you?