What I'm Reading Today: Leviticus 1-3
As I embark on my reading of Leviticus, I realized today that I'm coming into some of the most culturally-bound material of the Scriptures that is perhaps least accessible to modern readers.
Why do I say that?
Well, you don't have to read much further than today's passage before you start tuning some of the material out. The portions of the passage that detail how priests are to slaughter animals and spread their blood around the altar, for instance, are especially offensive to our modern sensibilities and are extremely likely to cause us to tuned out the material.
So what – if anything - do passages such as today's have to offer us on our spiritual walks?
The answer to that question would vary somewhat depending upon one's theological approach. There are many traditionalists, for instance, who would suggest that all of this talk about sacrifice (and how those sacrifices atone for our sins) establishes a context for what Jesus did for us when he surrendered his life on our behalf. As someone who thinks outside the box, however, this is not the route I travel.
I tend to read the material and think of it as a challenge for us to make sacrifices of our own that say, "My relationship with/connection to God IS important – and I'm willing to devote a serious amount of time and resources to nurture that relationship!"
When I talk about making sacrifices, I don't use that phrase within the context of atonement theory (i.e. "we're giving these things to God in order to make up for our shortcomings"). No, when I talk about making sacrifices, I mean that we are going out of our way to make choices that suggest our relationship with God is so important to our lives that it impacts (dare I say, even detracts from!) other aspects of our lives.
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Five years ago – when I needed a new car – I had a lot of options about what I could buy. I made a conscious decision that the car payment I took on would be smaller than the amount I pledge to my church. This decision helped ground me in what is more important in my life. The result of this is I had to do some extra shopping around to find something that fit this parameter. It also meant that I passed up some of the bells and whistles that I could have included in my purchase. I have never regretted that decision, however, as it has helped keep me spiritually grounded.
It's easy for us these days to think to ourselves, "God is loving and grace-filled – so I'll start by devoting my time and resources to things that I want/enjoy and devote to God whatever happens to be left over. God will understand." That can happen in the way we spend our time. That can happen in the way we spend our money. Today's reading invites me to challenge that laissez-faire attitude and perhaps push myself to express my gratitude by putting God first.
Today, I would invite you to think a bit about those sacrifices you make that express the depths of your gratitude and your desire to help meet the needs of God's creation. Do you find yourself devoting to God things that accurately express the depths of those feelings, or do you simply return to God what happens to be left over after you've tended to the other areas of your life?
Til next time …