Has anyone ever encouraged you to give your best? Perhaps you have encouraged someone else to give their best. Once we have seen the results of giving our best efforts, it stimulates us to even greater potential and achievement. We frequently give our best efforts on the ball field, on scholastic examinations, in the office, or some other secular effort. Yet, it seems that our best efforts are given less frequently regarding our spiritual pursuits.
Last week we saw that in the book of Leviticus God had Moses speak to the average Joe more than twice as many times as the priests. Therefore, it is not by accident that Leviticus opens with God having Moses tell the individual(s) to give their personal best when bringing an offering to God. Not only is the offering to be a perfect male animal from the livestock (1.2-3), the offering was to be voluntary. God was exhorting them to bring the best animal, but He was also encouraging the individual to make the personal choice to give (sacrifice) their best for their God.
When reading Leviticus 1.4-5, we should realize that the one bringing the offering was required to be involved in the sacrifice, they were required to kill the animal themselves. Gruesome to be sure, but the point is made – no sacrifice is made without personal involvement. Our discussion is about offering our spiritual best. In this section (1.1-6) we find that the person has to make a personal choice to give God the best, and that the best is made at a cost of personal involvement. The question is: how does this apply to us today?
Our spiritual redemptive sacrifice has been given and God made that sacrifice long before we accepted the fact of our sins – that sacrifice is the death of Christ. So how do we give our spiritual best today? We give our spiritual best when we sacrifice from our “livestock” to give to God. Our “livestock” partially includes sacrificing from our finances, but it also includes sacrificing from our secular achievements (job promotions, pay increases, and/or occupations themselves). Willful sacrifice from our “livestock” also includes the sacrificing of recreational time, and the sacrificing of educational achievement so that God receives our best spiritual devotion.
The only “flock” from which sacrifices cannot be made is family. God expects one to save his family like Noah (Genesis 6-8). God tested Abraham’s devotion, but He did not require Isaac’s sacrifice (Genesis 22.1-19). One’s devotion to family is codified in Exodus 20.5, emphasized in Deuteronomy 6.4-9, and upheld by Jesus in Matthew 15.4. All God requires is that family receive less devotion than God Himself (Matthew 10.37).
20/20 hindsight allows us to see the beauty of the struggle to give our spiritual best. Our response to the challenge of giving our spiritual best is no different than when others have challenged us to give our secular best. In the beginning, the difficulty of rising to the challenge may make us angry (angry at the one giving the challenge and maybe angry with ourselves); additionally we may be frustrated at the assessment of self. But when you make the hard decision to give 110% – giving the very best of your “livestock” – success is achieved and repeated achievements become both possible and easier. From Leviticus 1.1-6 and Mark 12.30, God expects our best efforts, and encourages us to give our best. May God allow the time for us to willingly give Him our very best.