Less than a year ago, my family and I gave away our old mini-van to a welfare mom with five little kids. Today, I got an email saying the van had been having trouble, and an attempt to fix it caused it to catch fire. It was totaled.
I’m sad about this, but I had to remind myself–it’s not my van anymore. It was old, I knew it wouldn’t last forever. But my husband and I were talking about it. “You just have to let it go,” he said. “We gave it away, it’s not ours anymore.”
So true. In ancient days, God’s people gave various sacrifices. The most common was a “burnt offering,” (olah in Hebrew) given as an act of worship and devotion to God (see Leviticus 1). The entire animal offered was skinned, then all the meat and parts were placed on the altar with wood, and completely burned to ashes. (Other types of offerings provided food for the priests, but burnt offerings went wholly to God).
So often, I evaluate giving opportunities by asking what the recipient will do with my money (or other gift)—is it a “worthy cause.” Charities typically publish financial information to show the percentage of donated funds that actually go toward helping people. While this accountability is necessary, it brings an investment mentality to our giving.
I’m realizing that in some cases, that’s unbiblical. God calls us to an obedience mentality. We gave our van away knowing it might not be maintained well, knowing that our friend might run it into the ground because she couldn’t afford, or didn’t know how, to maintain it properly. Some people questioned our decision. But God had told us to give it, so we did.
In an almost literal way (since it ended up in flames), we put our van on the altar as a burnt offering—and what I’m wrestling with today is, is that sacrifice “a pleasing aroma to the LORD?”.