22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Direct Aaron and his sons to deal carefully with the sacred donations of the Israelites, which they dedicate to me, so that they may not profane my holy name: I am the Lord. 3 Say to them, ‘If anyone among all your offspring throughout your generations comes near the sacred donations, which the Israelites dedicate to the Lord, while he is in a state of uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the Lord.’
Chapter 22 of Leviticus begins an entire section on dealing with sacred donations. These donations included all of the animals, bread, wine, and herbs brought to the temple to be offered as a sacrifice on behalf of the bringer and were to be considered sacred by Aaron and his sons as they prepared them and offered them to God. The penalty for defiling a donation was that of being cut off from the community.
The ways in which a donation could be violated had to do with the state of cleanliness of the priest. There are a number of things that could make an individual unclean. This is not to say that being unclean is a horrible disaster, but rather to recognize those things that make you unclean throughout the day so that you do not pass on that uncleanliness and defile a donation or sacrifice meant for God. Listed in this chapter are a number of normal, everyday things that can cause a person to be unclean. Aaron and his sons were ordered by God to avoid touching anyone with any kind of discharge, dead people or anyone who touches dead people, and swarming things that might defile the body. A strange assortment of things, to be sure, but one only has to wait until sundown and to wash with water, and one becomes clean again.
The prohibition here has more to do with how we approach God and sacred things. With our skill at creating more and more things, from electronic devices to toys of every stripe, it is no wonder that we no longer think about objects being unclean or making us unclean. If we did, we’d be in a constant state of uncleanliness. But, are there times when we should think of certain objects or things as being holy? What about the tithes that we thoughtfully place in the offering plate each week?
Not to make this about money and the church – completely outside the point – but what we offer to God becomes God’s and is holy and sacred as a gift to God. We could easily say this about all the things that we offer to God on a daily basis, such as the gift of song, or the gift of prayer or other spoken word, or the gift of compassion toward the oppressed and vulnerable. Whatever it is that we are offering, God wants us to think about how we handle that offering; how we present it to God. While perhaps a strange question to ask outside of the practice of Judaism, how do we defile our offerings to God?
Several thoughts come to mind.
1. How often do we discount what we offer to God by questioning the value of our offering?
2. How often do we give God seconds or thirds?
3. What are our motivations for giving to God?
4. If we present a gift to God begrudgingly, how does God receive it?
It may be that none of these things matter, or it may be that all of these things matter. The covenant that God established with Moses was designed to get folks thinking about what it means to be holy and to walk every day in that holiness. When we are captivated by the world, we are pulled out of that holiness mindset. The gifts that we offer to God are every bit as important as how we offer ourselves to God; they are an extension of who we are.
May we consider the gifts that we offer God with the fullness of our hearts, and may they be presented to God with gratitude and praise, no matter how big or how small our offering might be.