Today’s reading is Leviticus 11-12 and Mark 7:1-13.
My wife had an unusual childhood. You see her dad was born with several heart defects of which only a couple were known about while he was alive. Her father shouldn’t have lived past age six, but by the grace of God, he was able to grow up and start a family. The defects got the best of him and even a heart transplant couldn’t remedy the situation. Thus, at the age of eleven my wife had to figure out how to live in a family without dad. Finances were obviously a major issue in a new single parent household that had outrageous amounts of hospital bills. My mother-in-law worked three jobs just to keep food on the table and keep the lights on in the house. As a preteen and teenager, there are certain articles that are needed to maintain a “cool” status in high school. One needs to have clothes, the right shoes for track and cross-country, and a hair crimper (did I mention that she was in high school during the nineties). Obviously, these things were not going to be obtained by begging mom. I mean come on. With three jobs mom did good to make it home to sleep a couple of hours. So the natural choice for my wife was to march straight into a government building and demand her fair share of welfare to get what she needed, right? No. Sorry. My wife’s family is no stranger to hard work (need I cite once again that her mom worked around the clock at numerous jobs). What does one need to get a minimum wage job when you live in a rural community? Well, politeness, smarts, and transportation.
Here’s where the path is blocked. You see the death of my wife’s father allowed the household to attain a small amount of survivor’s benefits. However, if she were to get a car to get work, she would need a job, and if she got a job, the survivor’s benefits would cease (don’t ask me why I still don’t understand it all). Consequently, this left the family in a catch 22 situation. There was no way that a vehicle would benefit the family when the government monies were being used to sustain life. The job my wife would have gotten would have given her the resources needed to get her things that the other teens had in her class. Clothes. accessories. extracurriculars.
I know that many of us can look at that situation and think that life is full of disappointments and you need to simply be happy with your health and family. I still find a sadness that someone with the energy and committment to work was not allowed to pursue their dreams. It seems as though that the rules that were setup were working against her.
Looking at Leviticus 11 & 12 you may be overwhelmed with the laws and details there within. I know I was. There was something that caught my eye though. When a mother gave birth to a child they were to make two sacrifices. A sin sacrifice and a burned offering. Generally speaking the sin sacrifice was made to pay the price of the sins of an individual for a whole year. Aren’t you glad that we simply have to believe on Jesus instead of slaughtering a bull every year? Now the sin sacrifice for this situation called for either a dove or a pigeon. This was something that had to be done by everyone across the board. If you had a baby, you had to produce one of these feathered friends. Now the other sacrifice was the burned offering and according to the commentary I read this was the “Thank You God” offering. It was the joyful offering because you were given the gift of a child. Even though this offering was giving thanks to God, it was still a command that it MUST be offered after the birth of a child. A year old lamb was the normal requirement for this sacrifice. However, as we read later in chapter 12, we see that provisions are made for a dove or pigeon to be used in the lambs place should the parents not be able to afford a lamb. In fact I was interested to see in the gospel of Luke that Mary and Joseph had to offer a pigeon as the burned sacrifice when Jesus was born because they were a poor family.
What does this say to me? God is a God that wants all to be involved in his loving plan of salvation. He cares and desires relationship with all of us. When God setup this command of the burned offering He knew that there would be families like my wife’s that would not be able to afford finer things. He still wanted them involved in the process of worship and relationship with Him. God allowed cheaper animals to be used in the process. This story also tells me that all have sinned because all need an atonement sacrifice when they were born. This sacrifice was the same for everyone in the world. It cost the parents little but their faith had to be their to put it into practice. God wants all in a loving relationship with Him.
An interesting thought that I’ll leave you with is this. If God has given you much or done much in your life, are you worshipping and serving him with the higher cost of a year old lamb or are y ou still giving him a pigeon?