The sincere actions of believers include all of themselves.
Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
This is an interesting statement by Yeshua that can be easily missed in a casual reading of the passage. In stating that the believer should be reconciled before offering the sacrifice, Yeshua is placing reconciliation above the sacrifice. In effect, the sacrifice will be of no effect because the offerer’s heart is not right before God.
This is yet another instance in which Yeshua is emphasizing how important the heart is to a faithful worship of God. The law or instruction of God, even if followed perfectly, means nothing if the believer’s heart is not sincere. Notice, he did not say “go and be reconciled and forget about the sacrifice, because reconciliation is more important.” No, he said to go and be reconciled and “then come and offer your gift.” In this manner, Yeshua is upholding the law of God but also highlighting its intent, as well. A heart that is not right, harboring bitterness toward a brother, will only hypocritically be offering a sacrifice to God, and he won’t accept it. This is a heart that has not been fully surrendered to God.
The nation as a whole had been guilty of this very thing, and at one point had been called out by God through the prophet Amos:
Amos 5:21-22 – “I hate, I despise, your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. Even if you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle.”
And why was this that God was rejecting their sacrifices and offerings? Because the leaders and the people were guilty of abusing the rights of those who they instead should have been protecting and helping.
Amos 5:10-12 – “They hate the one who convicts the guilty at the city gate, and they despise the one who speaks with integrity. … you trample on the poor and exact a grain tax from him … For I know your crimes are many and your sins innumerable. They oppress the righteous, take a bribe, and deprive the poor of justice at the city gates.”
They were maintaining an outward appearance of conformity to the instruction of God and yet with every other breath they were taking advantage of those whom they should have been helping, according to the very law of God they had forsaken. This is the type of hypocrisy that God hates.
Reconciliation and forgiveness can be difficult because it means letting go of wrongs and hurts that may have been inflicted on us by others. But to maintain our own righteous anger towards those individuals is an injustice that rises above our attempts at pleasing God through our outward religious actions.
Consider who in your life you may need to be reconciled with before continuing a shallow and meaningless communal experience with God. He desires all of your heart, soul and strength, a combination of your complete self that can’t be divided by expending the energy of maintaining grudges or unforgiveness.
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