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Sacrifice is a bible topic which I have been wanting to dig into for a long time. Around 10 years ago I trained as an Anglican Reader. We had a number of modules which were assessed with a written piece. One of the choices went something like this:

“If God is a God of love, why would He command animals to be sacrificed?”

I really wanted to tackle this question since I had worked in the industry as a butcher and slaughterman and knew it from the inside. But sacrifice is a very complex subject as you will see in this series, so in the end, I chose an easier question as I was pushed for time.


I didn’t agree with the assumption which the question was making, that there is a conflict between divine love and certain practices which are commanded in the bible. I really wanted to refute that. In fact, I would say now that such a view is largely the result of ‘luxury beliefs’! This is a term which was first used by Rob Henderson to describe 21st century moralising wherein people promote personal beliefs which will have little impact on them. However, their beliefs do impact others considerably. I’m borrowing his term to describe beliefs which are easy for modern technological people to have, but which, if practised in previous generations, would be completely impractical.

For examples of luxury beliefs which skew people's view of the bible, take sex outside of marriage. Historically it was an unwise practice since there was no easy availability of contraception; women would likely become pregnant and this would have serious consequences. Or the case of animal sacrifices which we are studying here. It is easy for modern people to take a patronising view, since in the West, we have easy access to all kinds of food, including that which is imported, whereas previous generations had to toil in the fields for theirs. Naturally, they had to hunt or farm animals which they then had to kill and dress for their families to eat. There are other luxuries we have which previous generations did not have such as being able to access effective health treatments. Life expectancy now is in the 70s or 80s rather than less than 40 which it used to be; and, unlike them, most of us are not really wondering if we might still be alive at the end of the week! 


The fact that ancient societies were largely agricultural in nature is a basic starting point when it comes to understanding sacrifice in the bible. Before money became the medium of trade, a person’s riches would have been tied up in livestock and land. Whereas we might give a tithe of our money as a gift to God, they would have made gifts from their agricultural wealth. And as we shall see, even the cheaper sacrifices made by the poor were to be considered equivalent to those made by the rich, since they were giving according to their prosperity. In the same way that we give money towards the work of the church, then the sacrifices also served to support those whose job was the daily work of the Temple.

The amazing thing about our Christian faith is that sacrifice is reciprocal: we may make sacrificial love offerings to God, but He too acts from the same motive. Central to our faith is the belief that God gave His only begotten Son as a sacrifice to redeem us from sin. This series is an attempt to shine a light on sacrifice so that we may further understand the bible’s revelation and, most of all, be people whose lives are living sacrifices, as the bible says:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

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