By Femi Aribisala
An ungodly sacrificial system destroyed by divine providence has been resurrected by covetous pastors, intent on extorting money from naïve and gullible Christians.
Sacrifice is an ancient human expression of worshiping deities. It existed among Jews long before the giving of the Law. It was not instituted by God but by pagan man. However, according to Jesus, what is of man cannot be of God. (Matthew 21:25). Sacrifice has passed away. But what God prescribes does not pass away. (Matthew 24; 35).
As a matter of fact, God denies initiating the elaborate sacrificial system established by Moses: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.’” (Jeremiah 7:21-22).
Law of sacrifices
But why would Moses institute what God did not sanction? He did so for the same reason he established the protocols of divorce, which Jesus says is not of God: “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8).
Moses did not believe the Israelites could obey a divine ordinance that proscribed divorce. Therefore, he decided to limit the tendency to divorce by instituting a series of procedures that must be undertaken before divorces could be granted.
Similarly, Moses was convinced the Israelites would not accept the worship of God without sacrifices. They were familiar with the worship of pagan deities who were always approached through sacrifices. Therefore, Moses concluded the best he could do was to carefully circumscribe and limit the sacrificial practice.
According to the Law of Moses, sacrifices were no longer permissible under every green tree but only in the temple and at prescribed times. They could only be performed by Levites and for specific purposes. Only animals and not human beings could be sacrificed. By these limitations, it was expected that the Israelites would be easily differentiated from their idolatrous neighbours, and might eventually be weaned away from sacrificial rites altogether.
Den of robbers
However, Moses’ regulation of sacrifices was soon subject to abuse. The priesthood passed a law stating that only Jewish money was acceptable for the procurement of animals used for temple sacrifices. Thereby, they set up their own exclusive foreign-exchange bureaus at the entrance of the temple where foreign money had to be exchanged for the so-called “sanctified” currency of Jerusalem for a lucrative fee.
They also controlled the market for the sacrificial animals used in the temple, including the oxen, sheep and doves, and sold them at exorbitant prices to pilgrims. In effect, the sacrificial system soon became very good commercial business for the priests who literally made a killing out of it. This is why Jesus railed at them: “Is it not written: ‘’My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17).
Nevertheless, Moses’ regulation, and not the crucifixion of Jesus, as most Christians mistakenly believe, eventually led to the destruction of the sacrificial system. Moses stipulated that sacrifices could only be offered in the temple. (Deuteronomy 12:13-14). But in AD 70, the Romans attacked Jerusalem and completely destroyed the temple. With the temple gone, sacrifices could no longer be offered.
Divine providence also ensured that the temple could not be rebuilt and sacrifices resumed because two Islamic structures, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are now standing where the Jerusalem Temple used to be. Any attempt to damage these Islamic sites, or to rebuild Jewish structures on the Temple Mount, would presage a world war pitching Muslims against Judeo-Christians.
You might have thought that with the destruction of the temple, the sacrificial system would be dead and buried. Indeed, animal sacrifices ceased among Jews. But the sacrificial system is so profitable that Christian pastors today have simply resurrected it under a different guise.
They now insist that in place of the animals and crops sacrificed in the past, Christians now need to sacrifice their money. This ignores Jesus’ commandment: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13). Thus, an ungodly sacrificial system destroyed by divine providence has been resurrected by covetous pastors, intent on extorting money from naïve and gullible Christians.
Jesus told a “rich young ruler” to go and sell all he has, give the proceeds to the poor and then come and follow him. Pastors now have a modern “new and improved” Christian version. They tell men to go and sell all they have, bring the proceeds to their churches and then come and follow them.
Jesus says: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). But pastors have replaced this with: “If you love God, give him some money.” “If you love God, give him a tithe of your income.” But God is spirit, so how can we possibly give him carnal things? What is he to do with them?
God himself pours scorn on the entire crooked sacrificial system: “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” (Psalm 50:9-13).
David’s inspired understanding should be instructive. He says to God: “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17).
Lovers of money
So why do pastors still insist we give money to God? They do so because they are thieves and robbers. Jesus says money has nothing to do with God but with Caesar or, in today’s economy, with the government: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21). Under the law, God did not even accept money as tithe.
Nevertheless, pastors have found an ungodly way out of this cul-de-sac. Since money cannot be given to God, they insist it should be given to pastors who are said to be God’s chief representatives here on earth.
This is deceitful. Contrary to what Christians have been led to believe, the pastor, the bishop, or the priest is not God’s representatives here on earth. God does not take anything done to them as something done to him. He only takes those things we do for the poor, the widows and the orphans personally. (Proverbs 19:17).
Jesus says: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40). Today’s pastor is not the “least” of the kingdom brothers of Jesus, but the most exalted. Therefore, when you give to your pastor you are not honouring God; you are honouring man.