By Femi Aribisala
God’s love and forgiveness cannot be bought. Neither can God be bribed.
A man got his girlfriend pregnant. Therefore, he asked her to marry him. ‘But do you love me?’ the girl asked him. “What’s love got to do with it?” he replied. “Am I not doing the right thing by you?” However, the girl would not be moved. “Do you love me?” she insisted.
Heart of the matter
A requirement fulfilled without love is intrinsically inferior to one done in love. An obligation done without love merely answers the call of duty. But one done in love goes above and beyond the call of duty. We cannot love without giving but we can give without loving. Therefore, believers should be encouraged to love and not just to give money, knowing that if we love we will automatically give.
In any case, what God requires of us is our love and not our money. For this reason, he says: “My son, give me your heart.” (Proverbs 23:26). He does not say: “My son, give me your money.”
What God desires is love (mercy) and not sacrifices. But what our pastors and religious leaders insist on are sacrifices and not love. Indeed, sacrifice is another name for religion. Religious man has always seen sacrifice as a means of appeasing deities, and pastors are quintessentially religious. They will tell you about five keys and seven strategies for obtaining God’s favour. But the true God is not an idol and believers should not be made to act like idol-worshipers.
When God finally sent his Son Jesus as his one true and faithful witness, he validated Hosea’s cry in the wilderness. God says through Hosea: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6). Jesus confirms this by telling us: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13).
Today’s pastors have still not learnt what this means and Christians are none the wiser. Sacrifice is another word for tithes and offerings, for these are ostensibly offered to God. In effect, God says: I desire mercy and not tithes and offerings. I want you to love me. I don’t just want you to give me tithes and offerings.
Fleecing the flock
Pastors have refused to learn what this means because it is not in their interest to do so. If God does not desire sacrifice, how then can they continue to insist on the money they extort from their parishioners in the name of sacrifices to God? How can they continue to have their free lunches and cortege of cars? How can they continue to finance their lavish life-styles from the income of others? How can they continue to get others to bank-roll the religious empires they build as a result of their illusions of grandeur?
Let me ask again: what does God require of the believer? He wants us to love him and to love our neighbour as ourselves. These straightforward requirements are highlighted in a discussion between Jesus and one of the scribes:
“The scribe said to (Jesus), ‘Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but he. And to love him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” (Mark 12:32-34).
But pastors remain far from the kingdom of God; holding others down with them. Let no one deceive you. The payment of tithes and offerings will not guarantee anyone’s place in heaven. It will certainly ensure that men will be in the good books of their pastors.
Wrong teaching in the churches has shipwrecked the faith of many. When affliction comes, some go before the Lord in anger and confusion: “But Father, I pay my tithe and I give my offerings, so why is this happening to me?” Who told you paying tithes and giving offerings safeguards a Christian from anything?
Love covers sins
Sacrifices do not and cannot motivate God. God loves us not because we sacrifice to him but because love is his nature. God is love, therefore, he loves unreservedly. (1 John 4:8). God’s love and forgiveness cannot be bought. Neither can God be bribed.
If God loved us when we were his enemies, would he not love us now that we are his sons? Would he not love us irrespective of whether or not we pay tithes and give offerings? In any case, who ever heard of a son giving offerings to his father? (Matthew 17:25-26). Everything the father has belongs to the son and everything the son has belongs to the father.
God is not worshiped with men’s hands, as if he needed anything. (Acts 17:25). But we worship God with our hands by what we claim to give him. When we give a lot of money to a church, we are convinced we are worshipping him a great deal. However, the one true God is self-sufficient. He does not need our money to build his church.
What we are as believers is far more important to God than what we have. God loves us because of who we are and not because of what we have. He loves us because he is our Father and we are his sons. He dearly loves those who follow the commandments of Jesus and are therefore re-created in his divine image and likeness. God says of himself: “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14). He does not say like men: “I am what I have.”
Sacrifice of fools
Sacrifices for sins are like the flowers a husband gives to his wife after having an affair. It is foolish to presume they would atone for his unfaithfulness. The wife doesn’t need the flowers. She needs a loving husband. She needs a husband who is faithful and committed to her.
Similarly, God needs sons who love and obey him, rather than those who give him ritualistic gifts. That is what Samuel meant when he asked Saul: “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him.” (1 Samuel 15:22).
That is the reason why David observes in the psalms that the sacrifices of God are fundamentally different from those offered by men: “You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart- these, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17).
David should know. He slept with another man’s wife; got her pregnant, had her husband killed, and married her; all in one fell swoop. When God exposed his sin through Prophet Nathan, David secured God’s forgiveness without offering any sacrifice whatsoever. He secured forgiveness by simply repenting of his sins and by appealing to God for mercy.