Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 20: “Murder, Anger and the Unwanted Offering” 08.28.18

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) “Therefore, 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.”

Picture this extremely unlikely scene. It is Communion Sunday at your church or Sunday Mass for our Catholic friends. In any case the clergyman has introduced the Lord’s Supper and offered prayer over the bread and juice. You have entered this most precious of sacramental moments. Now, just as he is about to serve the bread he stops. He looks out at God’s people and says “You will have to excuse me. I’m must leave for a while. I will be back.” At that, he turns and walks quickly to the doors and out of the church! Everyone is in shock. “What just happened, they ask? “He walked out in the middle of the sacrament! This is unthinkable!”

Actually, it would be. But here is what Jesus said:

“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.”

To grasp why this instruction is so incredible, we need to know that in the ancient world the offering was considered a sacrament and the rule was that a sacrament must NEVER be interrupted. There could be no reason whatever for such behavior. Yet, Jesus said that the sacrament is less important to God than you or me being reconciled with our brother or sister. In other words, if I am unwilling to seek out peacemaking and go to the one with whom I have a broken relationship, I must keep the offering until I get that right.

The offering is offensive to God when it comes from an unforgiving and murderous heart. Frightening. To put it another way: we must bring our offerings to God on His terms not on our terms. To put it yet another way, our offering is vulgar and repulsive to God if we bring it with unforgiveness and no desire for reconciliation. We CANNOT BUY GOD’S APPROVAL! What a terrible reality that is. An offering from a hateful and unforgiving heart is a defiled and unwanted offering. The man claiming to be a Christian who has no desire for reconciliation needs to examine himself. According to our Lord, he might be in for a shock on Judgment Day. We dare not simply blow off this terrifying teaching:

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

We will consider this verse in Chapter Six in an upcoming article but what does this teaching tell us about God? It tells us that God does not want to hear our hearts say “Well, I forgive him. I just want nothing to do with him.” No. Jesus just said the circle is not closed if my brother has something against me. Or perhaps he has hurt me, but he wants to reconcile. I must go to him. Forgiveness must be lived out. What is God’s highest priority as He looks upon those who claim to be his own? And have we looked closely enough at what Jesus said? Again:

“…and there remember that your brother has something against you…”

Think about this with me. It is possible that your brother does not even know that he has something against you! Here’s what I mean: he may not know you have hatred in your heart towards him. But if your heart…if my heart…is murderously hateful towards my brother, even if he does not know it, God does! The Almighty does not want to see the disciples of Jesus accruing and harboring hatred in their hearts. Even if my brother does not know it, such heart sin is still sin. But all the more if my brother has told me I have hurt him. I MUST go and be reconciled even if I am certain that his complaint is wrong-headed; he is still hurting, and my offering is chaff in God’s eyes unless I tend to his hurt.

I think the person who has no heart for reconciliation scores very low on the Beatitudes and quite high on meanness. No meekness and no longing for righteousness. No impulse towards peacemaking. I wonder if this is the person in danger of the horrifying surprise Jesus spoke of in Matthew Seven when he said that some people will hear him say “I never knew you!”

One thing more. Reconciliation neglected leads to more horrors. Jesus insisted we should “settle matters quickly.” For our own sakes lest we find ourselves under judgment. And if we have Christ-centered hearts we will want to so. But these hearts? They must be monitored. Thus, the Word of God tells us:

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

We must look at exactly how to do that. Before we get to the adulterous heart…we will consider the above verse. God be praised! Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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