Short Thought: The Kindness of God in Sacrifice

A short thought inspired by something I learned in my “Christian Biblical Texts in Translation” class–explanation to follow–prompted by a brief discussion of passages like Deuteronomy 12:31, which address child sacrifice: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.”

When we read that we shall not sacrifice our children (Lev. 18:21), two things come to mind. First, God hates child sacrifice because God loves children. But second, God’s favor is not dependent on our actions. “You keep your children,” He says, “because I will shower grace upon you regardless.”

“Politics of hunger” dominated the world of ancient Israel and Canaan. This meant that the most valuable asset of a family was a child, who was a product of the sated hunger of his or her parents, as well as a future contributor to family labors in the pursuit of food. This, explained my professor, is why child sacrifice was so commonplace: logic says that if one believes in a deity or deities, you give it the most important thing you have in the hopes that it will be appeased to the highest degree possible. If you want the longest life, the best harvest, the most children, the brightest future, you give the gods your most precious objects. And so the pagan deities of Molech and the like inspired such terrible fervor.

But our God is not like that. Our God is a God of grace! It means that He gives good things to those who do not deserve it, and that His grace is free means that He gives it without any prerequisite appeasement from its recipients. Jesus says, “[Your Father] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45b). He does not need or want your children for sacrifice. They will not make Him any more favorable. His goodness, His faithfulness, will endure without such atrocities. He will not give you any more food nor length of life if you feed your children to the flame, nor will he give you any less. His grace will persist because He is gracious.

So keep your children–perhaps even your money and time, if you offer them to please Him. He cannot be bought. His kindness does not depend on your sacrifice–our sacrifice responds to His kindness.

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