First Things First

April 8, 2019

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  Matthew 5:23-24

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is Christ’s explanation of true righteousness – righteousness that surpasses that of the super-educated religious elite of His day (scribes and Pharisees).  Throughout His now-famous Sermon, He used the phrase, “You have heard that it was said…but I say to you…” to contrast self-righteousness through the law and kingdom righteousness through faith.  In fact, His whole Sermon might be summed up best by quoting the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman church when he said, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).  These were scandalous words!  How could a commoner’s righteousness surpass a Pharisee’s?  And what does this have to do with bringing a gift to the altar?  Throughout His ministry, Jesus emphasized the importance of the unseen.  The Father is seeking worshipers who will worship in spirit and in truth.  So drawing near to God involves much more than a physical offering.  True worship requires a pure heart.

It is impossible to have a pure heart if you are holding a grudge or harboring ill feelings or bitterness towards someone else.  But notice that the passage says, “…and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you…”  This places the emphasis on our relationships with others…not only on how we feel, but also on how others feel about us.  This does not mean that we can’t worship unless everyone likes us.  Rather, it means we must examine our hearts to see if our actions or attitudes have caused a broken relationship.  If so, we must go and humbly attempt to be reconciled.

God desires unity in His Body.  Therefore, in order to draw near to Him, we must be right with one another.  Nothing will ruin our witness more quickly than dissension in the Church.  So lets examine our hearts.  Is there anyone you need to be reconciled to before you approach the throne of grace with your offering?  If so, go now and seek restoration.  Then your worship will surpass that of the Pharisees.

Dear Father, Please bring to my conscience anyone that I am not in right relationship with so that I can be reconciled.  I want my worship to be acceptable and pure in Your sight.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Topics: Worship

Bible Reference

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”