What gift does God want?

For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, says the Lord God, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land; there I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred things. -Ezekiel 20:40

Dear members and friends,

Bringing an offering or gift to God (or gods) is as old as the history of humanity. The offerings were often burnt by fire with the belief that they would be delivered to God. In the Bible, there are many references of such burnt offerings as a “pleasing odor to God.” This puzzled me for a long time, because it seemed to be a big waste of food that could have been used to feed people. To a degree, I agreed with the disciple who was upset when the woman poured a jar of costly oil on Jesus instead of using it in a more productive way.

Why did God require people to burn a certain portion of their food? Jesus supplied one possible answer: “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:8) This answer could be interpreted in a number of different ways. To my mind, it reveals the essential necessity in the core of spiritual cultivation: creating a room for the divine by showing a willingness to sacrifice a portion of what is precious. God does not take any of those materialistic things that were burnt. It would even be silly to think that God would be pleased by the odor of burning meat. In my understanding, what was pleasing to God was the willing hearts of people who voluntarily offered their valuables in order to make a room for the divine presence. In other words, the spiritual path requires the removal of a certain portion of one’s life that is filled with materialism. Therefore, a gift to God has to be of something that is precious and costly to the one who is offering it. And, it is pleasing to God not because God is in need of such gifts, but because the heart of the giver has been opened to God’s presence and union. Thus, the giver has made progress toward achieving the everlasting calmness and joy in heaven.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee