Giving Gifts the Receiver Wants

I am reading through the Bible with my local church, and we are just starting Leviticus. It is not an engaging read, but I was struck this morning reading from Leviticus 2.

11 “No grain offering that you present to the Lord is to be made with yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey as a fire offering to the Lord. 12 You may present them to the Lord as an offering of firstfruits, but they are not to be offered on the altar as a pleasing aroma.

This struck me today as I also contemplate the gift I am giving my mother for Mother’s Day. I bought her a purple plant for her porch, but the next day she told me (without knowing I had already bought her one) that she prefers red plants to attract hummingbirds. I thought too of my sons who want to know what I want for Mother’s Day. I told them how I like candles, and I’ll probably go a step further and tell them specific scents I like as well. Givers generally want receivers to like the gift they are given. We avoid giving breads to celiac sufferers, perfumes to those with scent allergies, Baskin Robbins gift cards to diabetics, and even purple plants to those we know prefer red.

I have, at times, received a gift that I knew a giver liked but which I didn’t like at all. When I receive such a gift, it makes me feel distant from the giver. Maybe they just don’t know me. But sometimes, they do know me, and their gift that is something they like, not me, sends the message that they don’t think my personal desires are good enough. They want to expand my borders, push me to like what they like. In the end, it often feels narcissistic and self-absorbed. Don’t bother giving me a gift if you know what I prefer and give me the opposite anyway.

Of course, if my children give me a candle, I’ll receive it thankfully no matter what the scent. Unless it is poop. If they give me a candle filled with poop, I would discipline them for their disrespect. Some gifts are off the mark by accident. Some gifts are off the mark because of the selfishness of the giver. But some gifts are blatantly offensive and disrespectful.

These categories help me think through the opening chapters of Leviticus. Here, God gives His children extensive instructions for the gifts they should bring Him in relationship to Him. In chapters 1 and 2, Moses refers again and again to offerings that are “a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” “These aromas from these meats and grains prepared this way smell good to me,” God instructs Moses. I think of my father on his birthday, as I prepared a meal of the foods I knew he most enjoyed. He opened the oven to smell his favorite baked beans, and the aroma made him happy. The smell of food he enjoyed was part of the love of relationship he received on that day.

It blesses me to think of God finding pleasure in the aromas of the offerings He prescribed in Leviticus 1 and 2. It also saddens me to think of the ways God’s children walked away from God’s clear instructions of what pleased Him again and again. But, now, God’s pleasure is fulfilled in Jesus, the One through whom He was well-pleased (Mt 17:5). And through Him, God transforms us too to please Him.

I Thessalonians 4 gives a helpful look at God’s sanctification of us to please Him.

1 Additionally then, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received instruction from us on how you should live and please God—as you are doing—do this even more. 2 For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

I am struck how much of these instructions on living as children of God who please Him is then tied in the following verses to the sexual ethics God first taught in the Old Testament Law.

3 For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality, 4 that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not with lustful passions, like the Gentiles, who don’t know God. 6 This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother or sister in this manner, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. 7 For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness. 8 Consequently, anyone who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

When I started studying this passage and writing this post, I didn’t realize it would lead me back to sexual abuse and misuse in the Church. But it did, and I can’t ignore that. Every day our sexually deviant president remains supported by evangelicals (he is giving the commencement address at Liberty University today), we do not please the Lord. Every day that we pretend God doesn’t speak against sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman, we do not please the Lord. Every day that we excuse those who take advantage of others sexually in our churches, we do not please the Lord. Praise God that Christ has fully pleased God on our behalf. But never forget that God will sanctify His church on this issue, and we must submit to Him as He does. The warning of I Thessalonians 4:8 is sober, and may we all reflect on it for ourselves, submitting to what we know pleases the Lord, because we love Him.

14 Responses to Giving Gifts the Receiver Wants

  1. Michele Morin May 13, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    It amazes me every time that truth enhances my love for the Lord. These words are gift of guidance in expressing that love in a way that is meaningful.

    • Wendy May 13, 2017 at 11:39 am #

      I’m so glad, Michele!

  2. Erin Lembke May 13, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this passage. It was encouraging and instructive.

    • Wendy May 13, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

      Thanks, Erin!

  3. Mother Of Hope May 13, 2017 at 7:37 pm #

    Please keep politics out of your fine work. This sentence detracts from the effectiveness of your piece and is simply not necessary: “Every day our sexually deviant president remains supported by evangelicals (he is giving the commencement address at Liberty University today), we do not please the Lord.”

    • Wendy May 13, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

      I believe that is the implication of this Scripture, and I can no more leave that out of my writing than I can deny the sin of homosexual practice.

  4. Helen Louise Herndon May 14, 2017 at 8:00 am #

    As to the last posts, I would just remind us that several, if not perhaps even most, of our presidents have engaged in immoral and illicit relationships. Let us not forget David or Solomon either. Just a thought that when it comes to leaders of countries they are not the clergy where sexual immorality is even more abhorrent in a sense.

    There are not a few areas of life where the current leader of our nation does not represent holiness or perhaps integrity; but, unfortunately, that is nothing new either in our nation or “under the sun.”

    • Wendy May 14, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

      That’s a good point, Helen. That’s why I note “evangelical support.” Most all of us voted for someone, and for many, we recognized the moral problems of either choice. But others actively support and defend Trump. I think of Jerry Falwell Jr’s comment that Trump is the “dream evangelical president.” In contrast, Nathan confronted David in his sin. It wasn’t something God or God’s prophets overlooked. And David repented of his sin. It wasn’t something he overlooked either.

  5. Helen Louise Herndon May 15, 2017 at 7:01 am #

    Yes, Wendy, I agree. Christian leaders need to be cautious in their adulation of political leaders. Personally, I couldn’t vote for either due to their greatly reported moral flaws. I realized I couldn’t begin to determine who would be best for this country in light of such character flaws and just told the Lord I would accept whoever would win, as He is always in control. Sometimes, we get not what we need, but what we deserve.

    • Wendy May 15, 2017 at 7:14 am #

      Yes. And evangelicals supporting him now seems as distasteful as Israelites praising Assyria and jumping in with their destruction of the people in Isaiah’s day.

  6. Mary May 16, 2017 at 2:02 pm #

    Thank you for another challenging post.

    I especially appreciate the dialogue in the comments regarding political leaders. It is one thing to acknowledge that all leaders have shortcomings and moral failures. It is quite another thing to celebrate them or ignore them. The example of confrontation of David’s sin is relevant.

  7. P. Johnson May 26, 2017 at 1:17 am #

    I, perhaps, am in a position to know more about our President’s repentence and salvation than some others are. I have first-hand knowledge of his repentence and his deep desire to serve and honor God. King David sinned, yet he repented and was a man after God’s own heart. President Trump, just as all of us, will stand before God someday. Please refrain from putting your human judgement on a brother in the Lord who is striving every day to honor and serve God. Even though this is your personal blog, many people, myself included, have been blessed by it. Please pray for wisdom as you continue in your ministry. And, of course, God commands us to pray for and obey those who rule over us. God bless you and keep you as you continue in your spiritual journey.

  8. muzjik May 28, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

    I didn’t vote for the current president. But I also didn’t vote for the candidate that enabled and covered for her sexually deviant husband for years while attacking and destroying his victims.

  9. Seth Kerlin June 2, 2017 at 7:27 pm #

    I appreciate the restrained tone on some of these posts on a topic that most people go apoplectic on immediately.

    My 2 cents for what they are worth in response to P. Johnson: It is not possible nor even desirable for citizenry to “refrain from…human judgment” when it comes to our political and spiritual leaders. They hold the public trust and with their responsibility and authority comes accountability that necessarily entails judgment.

    So, that said, it may be that you hold information that the rest of us do not with regard to Trump’s spiritual state of mind/faith. Certainly your point to pray for our leaders is well taken and is something that we should all do.

    That said, having seen a number of interviews where Trump struggles to articulate even some basic expression of faith, or Biblical interest, it is difficult for me to believe that he has much concern for Christ or His Kingdom. And of course, the salacious details of his personal life which he has not, to my knowledge, repented of in any public Davidic fashion only lends support to this impression.

    These are, it seems to me, the undisputed facts that the public has access to. If there are private facts that we are unaware of then the motivation for hiding them seems a bit odd, but more to the point it does create a disturbing image for me as Christian when brothers and sisters in the faith appear to embrace and celebrate a man whose faith and morality are a far cry from what one would term ‘Christ-like’.

    Some may prefer his political leanings to others. Some may simply think he is the lesser of two evils. Some may just not care about the morality and faith of a secular leader. All these are somewhat understandable and fair game for reasoned debate. I do balk at these proclamations that seem to baptize Trump into Christian leadership. I see little to no evidence of this and it does genuine harm to our witness as people who value holiness, humility and poverty as marks of sanctification.

    Who am I to say with absolute certainty? Perhaps Trump carries some faith with him and has some humility I’ve not yet seen exhibited. But as a public figure and leader he is rightfully subject to public scrutiny and, consequently, judgment.

    Yes, we should pray for him, and I do. I do not hate him anymore than I would hate anyone else whose lifestyle I might find wanting (such as myself, ha!) but no one should get a free pass from our “human judgment” who has made a bid to be a leader among us.

    End sermon.