The Expository Files


 Leaving Your Gift at the Altar

Matthew 5:24

“Leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:24). In the previous verse, Jesus had used the idea of bringing a gift to the altar as a symbol of worship. There, He talks about one who has come to worship but remembers that a brother has something against him. Now, the Lord tells us what to do in such a situation.

“Leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.” I do not know exactly how literally one can apply this advice. If a person has assembled for worship at the appointed time and just then remembers that he has wronged a brother, what should he do? Of course, if the brother is also assembled in the same place for worship, it should be an easy matter to solve. However, if the brother is somewhere else, must the individual leave the place of worship and go to the brother? Perhaps there might be some instances where that would be best. Each one will have to make the application of the principle as best fits his circumstances.

However, the principle is clear. “First be reconciled to your brother.” The point is that making things right with the brother who has been wronged takes precedence over worship. This principle is enunciated many times in the Old Testament. Samuel said it to Saul, Isaiah, Micah, and Malachi all told it to the people of Israel, and David understood it in his own life, that worship to God is unacceptable if one’s heart is not right. When I have sinned against a brother, my heart is not right. I need to take care of that matter before my worship to God will be acceptable.

“Then come and offer your gift.” Worship is truly a gift that we offer unto God. However, unlike the pagan gods who apparently needed the slavish devotion of their adherents, the one true God does not require the worship of His followers to satisfy His ego. While it is true that we honor God in scriptural worship, it seems as if the real purpose behind God’s demand for worship is for our benefit, to remind us that He is infinite, that we are finite, and that in reality we need Him. But again, Jesus is reminding us that for our worship to be pleasing with God, we must strive to have right relationships with others.

By  Wayne S. Walker
From Expository Files 17.9; September 2010