We live in an age of substitutes and surrogates. A quick look at our TV Guides and browser histories tell us that: we live our dreams through surrogates—otherwise why do we watch so much “reality TV?” It may be your dream to dance like that, but you don’t do it. You just watch someone else do it. You might dream about your survival skills or your singing skills or your cooking skills….but you don’t practice them or develop them or test them. You watch others do that.
And these are the lighter, fluffier issues of our problem with substitutes. We need relationships but we sub out Facebook. We need intimacy but we sub in pornography, whether visual or textual. We see a world in need of justice but we can’t bring it, so we watch shows where the perfect crime meets the better-than-perfect crime solvers. We want substitutes.
We want to learn, but we don’t want the trouble so we hit the wikis. We want spirituality but without difficulty, so we stack up on podcasts of gurus or preachers or teachers. Why bother with really trying when we can just substitute more? After all, 6 hours of John Piper and reading a good Christian feminist blog have got to be better for me than spending just a few hours with a small-town church, right?
Yet some things cannot be replaced. Some things you cannot send a substitute to handle: you must do it yourself. Leviticus 7 (link) highlights one of those moments.
If you look down at Leviticus 7:29-30, you should note that the person who brings the offering is not to be a substitute. It is by “his own hands” that the sacrifice is brought. It is the one who wants to offer sacrifice who brings. The one who needs to offer sacrifice who brings it.
It can be no other person. No matter how busy or how crazy your days are or how much you loathe the idea of getting involved, you have to.
There is no substitute for your own involvement in life. You cannot keep mailing it in, or worse, e-mailing it in.
If you want to see things change, you have to step up and be a part of that.
It starts with your own involvement in your own growth. Spiritual first, but all things as they come. No one can read your Bible for you, pray your prayers for you, or learn to walk in obedience for you.
Building on it, you also cannot send someone else to make the world right for you. Do you know of needs or issues that you can correct? Do it. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.
While this passage is truly about how the sacrificial system worked and about who got what, one of the keys about that whole system is that everyone had to be involved. Even though there were priests to handle certain specialty tasks, there were no idle worshippers in proper religion. Each person had a part in what happened.
Can you say that about your worship? Can we say that about our churches?
If not, then we have missed an important point seen in the Old Testament. It is not merely about avoiding idol worship. It is also about not thinking we can call being idle, worship.