I'm reading through Leviticus right now, all the chapters about the various offerings. There are many: burnt offerings, sin, guilt, wave, grain, and peace offerings. God gives specific instructions for each one. And I started thinking practically about how that all must have worked, for the average sinning Israelite, back in the day.
I mean really. You're a small-time shepherd living a day's walk from Jerusalem. God has said that every time you sin, you must come to the temple and present a sacrifice to the priests, because of your sin. Every time you sin. Thankfully, this doesn't include every sin of the inner heart -- i.e., every feeling of anger, jealousy, lust, or grumpiness. It's outward sins. Still, just think of it: every time you commit a sin, you have to take part of your business, a sheep (or cow, or bull, or goat), lose 2 days of work time, go to Jerusalem, and make yourself a little poorer financially. Because you sinned.
When's the last time you thought of your sin impoverishing you? Yeah, me neither.
I wonder if we'd sin differently, if it cost us like that, instead of simply costing Jesus His life. I hate to say it that way, but aren't we casual about our sinning, as if it doesn't exact a price?
How many times do you think an Israelite considered a little thievery, a little larceny, a little damage to his neighbor's flock or reputation, and stopped himself. "Wait!" he'd say to himself. "That's gonna cost me my last goat, if I get found out!" Or, maybe you're an Israelite woman. Can you imagine going to your husband and saying this: "Honey, I gossiped about Sally yesterday down at the well, and now you have to take a sheep to the temple." His reply: "What! How many times is it this year, so far? I've lost 15 sheep because you can't keep your mouth shut! Plus a month's worth of work! Woman!!!"
And lots of their sins required them to pay hefty restitution to people first, before they brought in their sacrifices. Ouch!! Giving into sin meant an empty bank account. Some of them walked around without eyes or fingers for the rest of their lives, showing their punishments. Many sins were capital offenses.
I'd never thought about what their sins were costing them, practically. What do our sins cost us? Nothing? Are we so smug about Jesus's payment that we don't realize we are impoverishing ourselves still, when we sin?
Our sinning brings so much death. We may well have God's forgiveness (as many Israelites did), but that doesn't keep sin from doing damage to us. It deadens the conscience, strangles love, inhibits ministry, closes the doors of opportunity, and produces more sin. It breaks your life.
And the poorer Israelite had just as much sin as the rich one did, but he had a much smaller flock. If you had to fork over $50 to the church for every sin you committed, how much more careful would you be, regarding sin? It's something to think about. We've totally forgotten the cost. I pray that God reminds me daily of how heavy and ugly my sins are, so I want to rid myself of them.